Tucson Unified School District governing board member Michael Hicks is calling for an investigation into allegations that African America parents were denied an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the ongoing situation at Utterback Magnet Middle School. Superintendent H. T. Sanchez had scheduled a meeting with parents on Monday after issues surrounding the school made headlines.
Earlier this month, Special Master Willis Hawley recommended to the Court that Utterback lose its magnet status.
Parents report that they had invited Ms. Sedgwick, Dr. Stegeman, and Ms. Copeland to the scheduled meeting. Dr. Sanchez is alleged to have refused to allow Dr. Stegeman, Ms. Sedgwick and Ms. Copeland to participate.
Utterback, as a magnet school, is supposed to attract students. “Not only is Utterback not attracting students, we see the administration driving involved neighborhood parents away,” stated Hicks. “If the allegations are true, and Dr. Sanchez refused to meet with parents, and their invited guests: Fischer plaintiff representative Gloria Copeland, Dr. Mark Stegeman, and Rachael Sedgwick, then we have a problem. Parents should be able to include their supporters in meetings. It can be very intimidating to meet with education professionals, and we should accommodate parents whenever possible.”
In an appearance on the James T. Harris radio show, Sedgwick discussed the situation. “It was kind of a strange occurrence,” said Sedgwick. She explained that she had originally met the parents at a meeting regarding the magnet status. A couple of days later, one of the parents “said she had gotten a phone call from the superintendent and he invited her and a couple of the parents from the school and she wondered if I was willing to join her. So I said yes of course, and she let me know that there would be several other people there; just community advocates. So I said sure. Absolutely. Why not?”
Sedgwick said that she had questions about the handling of Utterback’s issues, and “wondered what Superintendent Sanchez had to say.”
According to Sedgwick the parents were nervous about meeting Sanchez. It turns out they should have been.
The group, which included Stegeman, was addressed by Deputy Administrator Abel Morado, “and they let us know as soon as we walked in that the meeting was for parents only,” stated Sedgwick.
“It just really confirmed any distrust that the parents had,” said Sedgwick. “It was just confirmed because Superintendent Sanchez wouldn’t even come out of the classroom to just tell us himself -something – anything.”
Sedgwick said that the lack of transparency is clearly a real problem. “I wasn’t very surprised that it happened because I’ve been paying enough attention to TUSD.”
“It should’ve been a 30 minute meeting that could have left parents reinvigorated excited and instead it compounded the issue,” said a disappointed Sedgwick.
“This is the kind of situation that alienates parents and the broader community,” stated Dr. Stegeman. “It will be critical for the new board to lead a change in TUSD’s institutional culture. We should treat families as respected customers rather than as adversaries.”