TUSD Administration Attacks Reporter, Smears Teacher

In an open letter dated September 30, Tucson Unified School District public relations director, Stephanie Boe attacked in the most vicious manner KGUN9 reporter Valerie Cavasos and a former teacher. The attack was sent to former and current employees of the E.W. Scripps Corporation in what many perceived to be an effort to silence the press.

Cavasos, who has produced hard-hitting and well-researched stories about the District, has been targeted by District officials including Governing Board president Adelita Grijalva. The marginalization by implication campaign waged by Boe, Grijalva, and Superintendent H.T. Sanchez against Cavasos has included allegations made privately, from the Governing Board dais, and now in the published open letter.

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Cavasos has remained undaunted. However, witnessing the abuse she has experienced can have a chilling effect on others. Because Boe directed public relations money from the desegregation fund to another local outlet in an amount over $700,000, the District has enjoyed a fairly friendly television news environment.

According to sources, Sanchez had reached out to former KGUN 9 General Manager Jim Arnold in an attempt to stop Cavasos. That effort was unsuccessful, and while other television news outlets raced to air the District’s propaganda, Cavasos pressed forward.

Her coverage of Celeste Aho on Wednesday, September 28 appears to have pushed Boe over the ethical edge. She claims in her screed that Cavasos “made no effort to ensure that she had the full picture of the source she was using as the centerpiece of her story, a former teacher coming forward to represent current teachers.”

Boe then attacked the teacher by claiming:

“Employee records show that Celeste Aho, the source of the September 28 story, resigned her teaching position with the district following months of complaints by the parents of her kindergarteners. The district received complaints from parents alleging Ms. Aho had verbally abused and humiliated their children. In fact, some parents recorded Ms. Aho’s interactions with their children to share with the principal. Records also show Ms. Aho overstepped her bounds by requiring parents to sign contracts dictating decisions that should be made at home, such as when children would brush their teeth and what time they would go to bed.”

In response to the parent complaints, records show the principal took action and launched an investigation. Ms. Aho resigned while the investigation was pending and prior to the end of her contract.

These records were accessible to KGUN 9 and are subject to request by anyone from the public…”

It is unclear under what legal theory or practice, Boe can so freely share personnel information. Retired teacher Lillian Fox stated, “It would be interesting to request the personnel records of some of TUSD’s famous miscreants and see how far that got!”

From the TUSD Whistleblowers:

Steffanie Boe has also revealed who she is to us. She came to us by way of KVOA  as a production manager. It did not take time at all for her to show favor toward her former employer. On April 5, 2016 KVOA was awarded a $750,000 marketing contract, which Boe will oversee. She has also been busy getting her husband, Bradley Boe, an emergency teaching certificate so that he could join TUSD as a teacher after departing from KVOA. She did her “PR” (personal relations) to make this happen. How cozy! It does not bother Steffanie Boe at all to ask reporters to back off from stories because bad press will hurt TUSD’s enrollment figures. This is bogus. What hurts TUSD is the lack of oversight that HT Sanchez has had from the current Board majority. There is no accountability and because there is no accountability, there is no transparency.

Steffanie Boe is in charge of putting lipstick on the pig (HT, Foster, Juarez, & Grijalva). In the process Steffanie has also become the beast. All the lipstick in the world will not disguise HT (his gang of 3) or her. Most of her time is spent on spinning HT stories. What time is spent on the schools results in stories that are all partial truths and blatant demonstrations of favoritism.

What Boe failed to note was a report and Cavasos included in her report was a glowing article written by Sanchez himself in 2014 about Ms. Aho. He wrote:

The Monday following spring break is usually a day to allow students to readjust to the school routine. That sure wasn’t the case at Sewell Elementary in Ms. Celeste Aho’s classroom. I arrived on campus at 12:15 and was greeted by Mr. Kerry Varga and members of his staff. He was moving through the halls, encouraging students, and conversing with his campus team members. After signing in, he walked me to the kindergarten classroom section of his campus.

By design, he has his lower grade students in one part of the building and upper grade students in another.

The entire building was inviting, colorful, and radiating pride. Upon walking into Ms. Aho’s classroom, I had the opportunity to observe the first kindergarten presenter. He was standing in front of the room with his peers on the carpet immediately before him. The kindergarten scholar was using a pointer to draw his classmate’s attention to a poster he had created with key information about his science project. His classmates were listening intently, because one of them would be randomly selected by the presenter to ask him a question.

After the young scholar’s presentation, he randomly selected a student’s name from a jar and called on the student. The student first gave the presenter a compliment and then asked his question. I observed five more presentations, and each one of them was impressive. The students each referenced their posters, provided critical information to their peers about what they learned from their science project, and answered questions. Along with the poster and presentation, the students wrote a non-fiction report! Yes, this is kindergarten, and the reports included a rough draft with phonetic spelling and a final copy with corrected spelling.

Multiple parent volunteers at Sewell also visited the room when their children presented. It was impressive enough that they were committing time to help the staff at Sewell. However, what was above and beyond was they not only cheered and supported their children’s efforts but they stayed in Ms. Aho’s classroom to support and cheer other students in the class.

If anyone wants to see the amazing potential of kindergarteners fully realized through a science project that includes observation, research, non-fiction writing, and a full presentation, I encourage you to visit Ms. Aho’s classroom at Sewell Elementary. If you know parents who live near Sewell Elementary and who are looking for a great school, please visit with Mr. Varga. On my way out, I was signing out, and I had the opportunity to meet a new parent who was enrolling her children at Sewell. She, like any new parent at Sewell, will have her expectations exceeded by the Sewell Elementary team!

Betts Putnam Hidalgo, an education activist and candidate for the TUSD Governing Board stated, “Was the Superintendent making up good PR when he visited the classroom or is he currently making up bad PR after the damning story came out? In either case, the truth is the first casualty. This administration’s record has long been one of half-truths or less. First we had the contract that was supposedly “exactly the same as last year: no raises here” but in fact contained $10,000 raises for each administrator. Then we had the “the money will go to the teachers” Proposition 123 debacle (where only 26% of the money ended up with the teachers). Then the “we didn’t know about the surplus…oops, we meant to hang on to that money to keep teachers’ jobs after 2020″ fraud with the 301 money that ended up in district coffers instead of in teachers’ pockets. Meanwhile, overly compliant Board members continue the trend, first receiving $5,000 with no questions asked until they are caught and the truth is exposed: that the money came from the wife of a TUSD vendor whose 21 million dollar contract they had just awarded. After the newspaper article on the issue reports that both are returning the money, only one actually does… is this a soap opera or is it our largest school district? If TUSD really wants the coverage to stop, it will have to start behaving in a far more constructive manner, and allowing the spotlight to shine on the good work taking place at the schools.”

TUSD Governing Board candidate Lori Riegel stated, “The statement from TUSD amounts to intimidation of the press. I applaud the efforts of Cavasos, Stellar and ADI for bringing these issues to light. Parents and teachers should not have to go to the press to get their issues resolved. I do not know of any other school districts in Southern Arizona where this is continually necessary.”

View TUSD candidate forums here

“This is just more deception from King Sanchez and the G-Crew. For instance, the District’s budget and teachers’ raises and classroom site funds being used to balance the District’s budget. As Ms. Soto indicated, and as the audit report shows, the District has been using the classroom site fund to balance its budget instead of providing well-deserved teacher raises. We have the money to turn out propaganda, but we don’t have money to train teachers to manage classrooms that King Sanchez and the G-Crew’s policies have turned upside down,” stated Board member Michael Hicks. “We have created unrealistic goals to deliberately prevent teachers from earning their performance pay, and now we have gone to the extreme and want to smear those teachers when they expose this insanity.”

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10 Comments

  1. It is not about liberal politics that has ruined education; it is about using students and teachers as guinea pigs in an experiment that has been going on for 30-40 years now. The results are such that kids can’t read or write nor do math at grade level. Parents are not doing their jobs when it comes to teaching their children manners, respect for others and respect for themselves. Parents expect teachers to teach and raise their unruly children and then want to sue because their feelings are hurt. Teachers should never, ever be afraid to go to their classroom in order to do their jobs and if the administration will not have their backs; it is no wonder that they are fleeing the coop. Social promotion was the worst thing that ever happened to education and they need to teach kids at their own level and if that means separating students by their brain power; so be it so that everybody learns to their potential.

  2. For all the laws we have, it seems so many are easily ignored. The cure lawsuits? Maybe. But let’s also try with the election to change the members of the Board. If any Superintendent puts students and teachers in harm’s way by ignoring law,common sense, and expecting others to follow along then the Board can and should fire the Supe. ASAP. That’s part of their duty and in their job description. It is nonsensical that teachers are told to ignore discipline issues. News Flash, the public optics of this is a mess. There is no “cover” big enough to hide teachers and students in harms way daily. Parents and Teachers who have another option, will vote with their feet and leave. Why not encourage voting out the Board to see if they have the will to stand up to HT Sanchez? If not, then the legal system looks like option. How long will a case take to wind its way through the court? The kids in school now will be long gone and these teachers retired. TUSD needed a fix long ago, and there is no time left to wait.

    My heart breaks for the Kindergarten teacher. She was giving her best to students, recognized for her efforts by parents and even HT, only to be disrespected, and physically harmed by a student. What would you do if you were hurt on your job? Would you say “It’s all in a day’s work?” Of course not!

    I’m surprised the kinder teacher hasn’t filed her own suit.

    Finally, think about that 5 year old whose parents think his behavior is normal and charming. TUSD supports that child being the boss over the school system. That child is learning he is the boss over the adults/authorities in his life as he gets away with bad behavior. Hopefully, something will change in that child’s life, because he will only get bigger and stronger and one day, his parents won’t be able to defend “normal” behavior as he grows up.

    Kudos again to ADI for sharing this and for Valerie Cavasos.
    This is a big deal and it’s crickets in the media everywhere else.

  3. Substantive change in TUSD will NOT come with a Change in the composition of the Board/Administration. It will only come when TUSD Teachers regain Control of their Classroom as given them by Arizona Law: Arizona Revised Statutes 1- 841, A(1)(2).

    TUSD Teachers have been Professionally Emasculated by the Board/Administration. They have permitted such to happen by NOT speaking out under the guise of Job Security and at the expense of their Students and Academic Programs

    It is a responsibility of Citizens in our Democracy to speak out openly whenever they see/experience wrong doing; particularly when such is contrary to Law as it is in TUSD. A exclusive focus on Self Interest is, in the long term, destructive to a our Democracy

    For sure there are risks! TUSD Board/Administration will make every effort to rid themselves of the “trouble makers”. But there are also Laws prohibiting “Retaliation”, and, there is Power/Protection in Numbers…if TUSD Teachers insist on the implementation of Arizona Law ( Arizona Revised Statutes 1- 841, A(1)(2))and speak with ONE voice.

    TUSD Teachers must File a Law Suit against the TUSD Board/Administration for this violation of Arizona Law!!!

  4. Wow! TUSD is sick and unless the board is changed we will lose this generation of students!! Please vote to change the board, educate your family and friends on how to vote, attend the next TUSD candidate board forum on October 6, 2016 at Palo Verde HS at 6:30!

    Change the Board!!

  5. My guess is that it is a violation of state law for the district to publicize pieces of a teacher’s…or former teacher’s… personnel record without express written permission. This is exactly why the district governing board is permitted to go into executive session to discuss personnel matters. But Sanchez and his minions have never let the law stop them from doing dirt. They have tried to kick sand in Judge Bury’s eyes when he had the temerity to try and enforce the desegregation order in a way that would help student’s learn. They have tried to intimidate Special Master Hawley when he tried to stop the use of desegregation money for the so-called magnet schools that neither improve student learning nor reduce the amount of segregation in TUSD. And now they are going after the one reporter in Tucson who has done serious exposes on issues of student and staff safety.

    In response to an earlier comment: Tim Steller has generally done a half-assed job of reporting on TUSD issues, but he did expose the way Sanchez and Grijalva and their amen choir (Foster and Juarez) promised TUSD’s teachers just about all of the Prop 123 money and then, once the proposition passed (even though it failed in Pima County) they gave teachers less than 30% of that money while giving each administrator an undeserved $10,000 raise. That has been his most truthful piece on TUSD to date. When facts are reported without any attempt to disguise them or excuse them it is a good day for TUSD’s teachers and students and a bad day for the cabal running the district into the ground.

  6. I see stellars name in here, what the hell has this idiot done for the kids and community other that promote the slime from the sewer.

  7. It would be quite interesting how the Boe got her hands on personnel records. She has no right to them but do you think HT or the Grijalva clan cares about the rule of law. See now kids why Prop 123 should have been voted down. It is because of cesspool schools like TUSD that used the funds for everything else but teachers. The district where Foster is employed even used all of theirs on teacher’s salaries but not good old TUSD. Me thinks in November the building might come crashing down around HT’s shoulders and bury him and Grijalva. The sewer really smelling and the lies continue at an even greater rate. Wonder why little Cam hasn’t given his quid pro quo money back yet??? Liar. We have a chance in November to make some really big changes in this city and county. I would really like to see the changes come and I know that they will be for the better of all of the taxpayers of the county..

  8. This shouldn’t really come as a shock to anyone who resides here for any length of time, it’s almost standard daily operating procedure.
    Instead of shocking it’s just the reality of TUSD. Academia is nothing short of infected with liberal thinking politics and infested with its byproducts of lies, corruption and mismanagement at all levels from kindergarten to post graduate collage.
    When will the party faithful of Tucson and Pima county finally wake up and vote their conscience instead of blindly following the “D” or the “R”.
    It seems as if corruption only exist at TUSD, if you get caught. These two morally bankrupt lawful campaign retards who have been entrusted to help guide and educate our children are far more concerned about stealing our children’s future by playing district wide politics then even pretending to care about the kids or the teachers.
    I voted no on 301 for the very reason outlined in this report, these clowns are nothing short of liars, political whores and thieves.
    The “G” dream team is nothing short of a multi generational nightmare. A crime family of politics.
    The districts efforts to silence local media speaks volumes as to the extent they are willing to go to protect themselves from being exposed.
    Our local paper is nothing short of biased incompetence. Maybe Sarah what’s her face can hide the truth in another let’s buy new socks and dream about the warm fuzzy feelings under a tree story, or Fritz can draw himself with his head buried in the sand because God knows if it the truth it’ll never be told in the AZ daily star.
    Thumbs up to KGUN9 for not only reporting on this, but for living up to the true responsibly of reporting the news.

    TOoT

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