On Tuesday night, Tucson Unified School District Governing Board President Michael Hicks pulled an agenda item that would have allowed a public discussion of the employment of Superintendent H.T. Sanchez. According to sources, the District’s lawyer, Todd Jaeger, recused himself based on a claimed conflict of interest.
It is up to debate as to whether the maneuver by Jaeger was coordinated with Board members, but Board member Kristel Foster did appear to violate Open Meeting Laws by advising the public as to how she would vote on Sanchez’s employment. Foster went so far as to call on the public to come out in support of Sanchez.
Stephanie Boe, the District’s public relations director, used District resources to send out emails on Sanchez’s behalf.
For his part, Hicks has aspirations to run for the Tucson City Council and due to a need for support from groups like the Southern Arizona Leadership Coalition, and chambers of commerce members, a move against Sanchez would have likely jeopardized his plans.
As expected, beneficiaries of the Sanchez regime, such as Mike Varney of the Tucson Metro Chamber, lined up for the Call to the Audience portion of the meeting to read the talking points that had been shared in email campaigns for Sanchez. The Grijalva machine was in full force with Tucson Education Association President Jason Freed, former Board member Cam Juarez, and head of the Tucson Bus Riders Union, Brian Flagg, leading the parade of Sanchez supporters.
When straying from the talking points, the discussion was truly fascinating. Marybelle McCorkle, a reliable Grijalva camp supporter, argued that Sanchez was a “wizard with the Legislature,” who she described as “crazy.”
There was vocal opposition, including activists David Morales, Betts Putnam Hidalgo, and retired teacher Lillian Fox. All urged the Board to bring the agenda item back called for quality in leadership, not the continuity Sanchez sycophants supported.
It was Gloria Copeland, one of the plaintiff representatives in the District’s desegregation case, who offered the most dramatic testimony. Copeland told the Board, “You think you know what I am going to say, but you don’t. Jason Freed,” said Copeland turning away from the Board, “I don’t know who you are talking to, but the deseg lawsuit isn’t going to settle any time soon.” Copeland was referring to Freed’s claim, which had been repeated by others through the meeting, that the desegregation case would be settled soon under Sanchez’s leadership.
Copeland stated, “Ms. Sedgwick you took a big hit tonight, but you keep on keeping on. You keep on keeping on.” Copeland then concluded, “The rest of you are criminals.”
The agenda item had been proposed by Sedgwick.
Putnam Hidalgo said after the meeting, “Continuity is great when there is high quality that should be continued. Unfortunately for the many minority students in the District and others, the current regime does not represent high quality. For the six magnet schools, that were just demagnetized because of willful withholding of funds, quality is not part of the administrative equation. If you are the parent of the child that cannot continue to 4th grade because third grade was a parade of subs, quality is not the first word that comes to mind. And yet, later in the meeting, there was an attempt to make Sedgwick look stupid for calling for exit interviews for teachers, particularly those leaving halfway through the semester. In fact, trying to devalue Ms. Sedgwick is clearly the new meme for the meanest of the mean girls, and the Superintendent too. It all just goes to show that the students of TUSD will benefit if and when Agenda Item 15 returns, especially if the whole community is involved in the selection of HTs successor, and not just the Board majority.”