On Wednesday, Rep. Randall Friese stunned fellow southern Arizona lawmakers when he introduced the former superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District, H.T. Sanchez, on the floor of the House. It wasn’t that Friese introduced the former superintendent, it was how he introduced the former superintendent that shocked House members.
Few, if any, southern Arizona lawmakers were unaware that just the day before, the embattled Sanchez had tendered his resignation to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board. Sanchez resigned rather than being fired.
Yet, Friese introduced Sanchez as the “recently retired superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District.” Friese then went on to claim that Sanchez had brought the District to “almost be able to get partial unitary status.” Remarkably, Sanchez nodded as if the statement were true as Friese spoke.
In fact, according to documents recently obtained by the ADI, under Sanchez’s leadership the District had refused to comply with court orders and work collaboratively with the desegregation plaintiff representatives and the Special Master assigned to the case by the federal court . As a result, the Special Master has billed the District over $300,000 in the last 18 months as part of his effort to help the District achieve unitary status.
Rep. Friese did not respond to the ADI’s request for an explanation of his comments.
On Thursday, TUSD Kids First, a group of parents and business owners, issued a statement praising the Board’s decision to terminate Sanchez’s employment. In a statement posted on Facebook, the group said the Board’s decision “provided hope that TUSD will turn around and become an A rated school district rather than an arm of a political dynasty.” The message reads:
During the last year we have repeatedly heard how everything was getting better at TUSD and the embedded Establishment said to judge HT Sanchez on TUSD’s performance. On Wednesday the State of Arizona Auditor General released the performance report for Arizona school districts. So let’s judge HT Sanchez on performance:
The Establishment told us that enrollment was up and everything was getting better. They misled us. The Auditor General and TUSD’s own numbers show a LOSS OF AN ADDITIONAL 300+ STUDENTS. TUSD continues to bleed students and teachers. The turnover rate for teachers is over 40% higher than peer school districts.
The Establishment told us that classroom spending was above 50%. They misled us. The Auditor General states that TUSD SPENDS ONLY 48.8% OF FUNDS IN THE CLASSROOM. The last time TUSD was above 50% was in 2012, prior to the Sanchez administration.
The Establishment told us that administration costs were down. They misled us. The Auditor General stated that ADMINISTRATION COSTS PER STUDENT GREW TO $914 PER STUDENT or approximately $41M. This is $11M more than peer school districts.
So in hindsight it does seem the current Board majority was indeed judging HT Sanchez by his performance and maybe HT was running for the doors before the real performance data came out, before the truth of the 301 funds came out, before the facts told a different story.
But it is Morning Again at TUSD. It is time for the TUSD Governing Board to hire a proper steward for TUSD that will focus 100% on increasing classroom spending for the kids and for the teachers. It is time to make TUSD a performing school district again and focus on the classroom, not politics. We applaud TUSD on its first steps but they need to follow those with aggressive cultural change and laser focus on the classroom.
Simply ask, do these actions help the kids and the teachers? Tuesday’s action did.