On Tuesday, the Tucson Unified School Board will receive legal advice as to employment of Superintendent H.T. Sanchez, the District’s General counsel, Todd Jaeger, as well as a settlement agreement with former custodian Reginald McClendon.
Newly elected Board member Rachael Sedgwick requested that a discussion and possibly a vote on the employment status of Sanchez and Jaeger be placed on the Executive Session and Regular Session agendas on Monday morning.
Before the agenda was published for public inspection, Sanchez’ sycophants flew into action and began calling Board members begging for a reprieve for the controversial superintendent. From the head of the failing Tucson Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Mike Varney, to TUSD Board member Kristel Foster, the handful of Sanchez supporters were attempting to prevent what has been a long time coming.
The facts alone, as set forth in the McClendon lawsuit, are grounds for Sanchez’s dismissal. Yet, there are so many grounds for dismissal, one can only imagine how long the Executive Session will last if in fact, Sedgwick lays out a case for Sanchez and Jaeger to go.
In the case of Mr. McClendon versus TUSD, it is alleged the District discriminated against the African American disabled veteran and denied him his right to take Family Medical Leave in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act.
McClendon, who started work in the District in 1983 as a bus driver, rose through the ranks and became the manager of the Buildings and Grounds Department.
According to court documents:
In 2013 and 2014, Mr. McClendon’s budget for keeping playgrounds safe was cut and the money was used for other maintenance work that was not a priority.
A few children were injured at TUSD playgrounds and that triggered Mr. McClendon’s severe anxiety because he believed those injuries could have been avoided.
In 2013, Mr. McClendon’s anxiety became so severe that he requested intermittent leave under FMLA.
In 2014, Mr. McClendon’s depression and anxiety were aggravated and, in August of 2014, he needed to take medical leave.
Mr. McClendon applied for FMLA leave and received a confirmation letter from a TUSD Leave of Absence/Benefits associate stating that his request for FMLA leave was approved, but that he would be using his paid time off first.
In the letter, TUSD confirmed that Mr. McClendon’s accrued “Paid begin date” was August 14, 2014 and that his “Paid end date” was May 15, 2015. The letter also stated that Mr. McClendon’s unpaid FMLA begin date was “May 18, 2015=60 days to use.”
Mr. McClendon was entitled to FMLA leave.
Instead, the bungling administrators at TUSD terminated his employment.
Those familiar with the missives of the TUSD Whistleblowers group are well-versed in situations in which critics of Sanchez and his team are systematically targeted for termination. As a result, the claims made by Mr. McClendon are wholly believable, which of course might be why the Board is considering a settlement.
Apart from the abuses by Sanchez and his “cabinet” of employees, are the apparent gifts of public money made illegally to Sanchez’s “cabinet” members. Currently two case in which Sanchez illegally gave bonuses to “cabinet” members, who were not contractually entitled to them, are under investigation.
Disastrous decisions put TUSD and kids at risk
In December 2016, District leaders failed to properly notify law enforcement of an instance of child abuse, according to a report filed by KOLD reporter, Barbara Grijalva. Those records show that Sanchez failed to ensure that law enforcement and education officials were notified in a timely manner.
Sources reported that Cholla’s principal, Frank Armenta, and the accused Government teacher, Eddie Rodriquez, were friends. Because the groping of a student was caught on a security camera, there was little chance of making the issue go away.
Despite the video, TUSD leaders delayed reporting to law enforcement and failed to report anything to Board members for some time.
Relying on inadequate legal advice might be an explanation for skirting the law. It might make the issue of culpability fuzzy, but offers no real cover either.
In May 2016, District was the subject of a scathing expose that revealed that the District’s administration may be actively downplaying the severity of the discipline issues in multiple schools. In response to the KGUN9 report, Board member Michael Hicks called for a full report from Sanchez, while others reportedly contacted the Attorney General’s office.
According to KGUN9”s report: “Insiders say the district’s push to reduce suspensions and expulsions to meet a federal anti-discrimination court order is causing district wide disorder.”
Contrary to that claim, the District, under the leadership of then-Board majority members, Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez, and Kristel Foster, adopted a far more lenient unratified discipline policy than the Court recommended. As a result, chaos has descended on the District in recent years.
An outside consultant was hired to rewrite the Guidelines to Student Rights and Responsibilities and the Board will discuss it at Tuesday’s meeting.
Sanchez management leads to more disenfranchisement
Under Sanchez’s leadership, several schools lost their magnet status. Prior to the Special Master in the District’s desegregation case determining that the magnet status would be revoked, Sylvia Campoy, one of the plaintiff representatives in the desegregation case revealed a campaign by Sanchez to mislead parents and teachers. According to Campoy, a Mendoza plaintiff representative, as part of his campaign against the Special Master, Sanchez met with parents to send a message to Chicanos that the Special Master and plaintiffs believed that students “cannot learn unless they are sitting next to a white person.”
As part of his campaign against the Special Master and the plaintiffs, Sanchez ordered the distribution of a petition to remove Campoy and others who have fought for years to ensure equal access to quality education for TUSD students.
In April 2016, Sanchez was questioned by Hicks about his absence during meetings with the Special Master, Department of Justice officials, and plaintiffs in the District’s desegregation case.
Initially, Sanchez claimed that he would be skipping the meetings due to the need for his presence at the Arizona Legislature. He claimed that he needed to lobby against bills that were coming to a vote. However, once it was revealed that there were no bills scheduled for votes due to the ongoing budget negotiation process and the demand by the governor that no bills be sent to him until the budget issues were resolved, Sanchez then claimed that he would be unavailable due to unspecified school issues.
Sanchez continued to prove he is untrustworthy
As early as 2014, Sanchez demonstrated that he never fully understood the purpose and scope of use of desegregation funds, when he attempted to remove desegregation dollars from classrooms and use them to fund daycare services. For years, the plaintiffs in the case had urged that the money be spent paying for highly skilled teachers in small sized classrooms. Sanchez ignored them.
Sanchez claimed that loans were obtained to fund the centers; however, he had been skimming money from the M&O budget. According to TUSD Board member Mark Stegeman, the loans that Sanchez claimed were obtained to fund the center are “mythical.”
At the time, Hicks said, “There appears to be a disturbing pattern emerging in the District’s leadership. The leadership claimed they were borrowing the money to retain and recruit good teachers, and now because of their recklessness we could be losing good teachers and other schools staff. The disregard by the District’s leadership for the true purpose of the desegregation funds, which is to ensure that all children have equal access to the best educational opportunity we can afford, is really disappointing. Our kids, our staff, and the taxpayers deserve better than this.”
TUSD staff, students, parents and taxpayers deserve better than Sanchez
Education activist and retired teacher Rich Kronberg stated, “It is past time for TUSD to cut Sanchez loose. His entire tenure as superintendent has been marred by lies, half-truths, underhanded financial dealings, and the use of bullying to keep unrest in the buildings underground. Perhaps the main reason he should be let go is the negative impact his tenure has had on student learning. So many TUSD schools had persistent problems with assaults, threats, bullying that went unanswered and was thus enabled. Students simply cannot learn up to their potential in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity. So many students were taught by a parade of substitutes instead of fully qualified licensed teachers. This was the result of the way Sanchez, Grijlava and their amen choir put a priority on talking about student learning, but ignored that same issue when it came time to put their money where their mouths were. Not once during the entire time Sanchez was superintendent did even half of TUSD’s enormous budget go into the classroom. It is no wonder that TUSD has been unable to fill so many of its vacancies. Even dedicated teachers will throw up their hands in the face of a district leadership…both elected and appointed…that does not care a whit for anything other than their own personal, political or financial agendas. Yes, it is more than past time for Sanchez to be gone from TUSD. Anything less than a complete severance of that relationship will mean the continuance of a toxic situation for TUSD’s staff and students. And while he is headed out the door he needs to gather up the sycophants he put on the payroll and take them with him.”