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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