They call themselves the TUSD whistleblowers and they are calling out Arizona Daily Star reporter Hank Stephenson for his recent article on Board member Rachel Sedgwick and Mary Alice Wallace, the Board’s office director. The whistleblowers accused Stephenson of being a tool for the well-known “Grijalva Machine.”
Stephenson’s article focused on a complaint filed by Wallace in which she alleged that Sedgwick has created a hostile work environment. The article appeared in the Star as news on September 30, despite the fact that the matter had been covered extensively in the past and long-resolved. In fact, a report produced by the District’s attorney, delivered on July 31, found that Sedgwick had been nothing more than rude to Wallace.
“Rachael is a strong board member who believes in listening to all sides and understands that TUSD needs major reform,” Board member Mark Stegeman told the ADI in an email. “Good Board members also admit their errors (I have surely made some) and become better. I am sorry that her positive statements, which included admitting error and becoming better, were buried so deep in the story. The external investigation of the reported complaint was completed several months ago, and it is unclear why it now becomes a news story.”
While TUSD continues to be mired in corruption and intrigue, Stephenson appears committed to chasing down non-news. After the whistleblowers released their latest missive, Stephenson tweeted a bizarre message: “I finally caught the eye of “TUSD whistleblowers.” And I think I know who it is. What should I do with this info?”
Education activists hope that Stephenson shifts his focus to real issues such as the highly questionable solar contract that the Board is expected to vote on at tonight’s meeting.
We grant our permission to publish this letter and to distribute it widely.
60th Open Letter
From: Whistleblowers– Comprised of a Large Group of Extremely Concerned TUSD Administrators, Teachers, Retired Administrators and Parents, Grandparents
Subject: The Grijalva Killing Machine
On October 1st, the Arizona Daily Star published an article by the newly hired reporter assigned to the education beat, Hank Stephenson. He is new to Tucson, its politics (good and bad), and to covering TUSD. The article covered conflict between a newly elected Governing Board member, Rachael Sedgwick, and the Governing Board Office Director, Mary Alice Wallace, who has been with TUSD since the 1990s. It would take only a meeting or two for any new Board member to figure out that Wallace’s treatment of individual Board members is one riddled with favoritism and bias. Wallace’s hefty $300 contribution to Kristel Foster during her re-election campaign last year simply verified what most of us who pay attention to the Board and its office already knew. Wallace serves the Board based on her personal favoritism.
While Cam Juarez, Kristel Foster, and Adelita Grijalva were Board members and had total rule over the Board as its majority, Mark Stegeman and Mike Hicks were all but frozen out of communication. Members of the public who were not aligned with the majority scoundrels were treated like second-hand citizens and Wallace’s demeanor during this time period became more and more lackadaisical regarding the business of the office. She had solid support and had no reason to have to break a sweat. Wallace never did anything to remedy the skewed degree of information that was flowing through the office (mostly in the direction of Adelita and Kristel) even though it is one of her key responsibilities is to ensure that all Board members receive all information going into the office. (One great example of this goes back to the TUSD candidate forums that took place in 2016. Kristel Foster showed up with TUSD enrollment data and claimed that enrollment had increased since the year prior. Mark Stegeman had no such data available to him. Foster said she had “just received” the data. The data should have been provided to all Board members at the same time. All responses to Board member requests are supposed to go through the Board office.) Sedgwick must have picked up on the wayward dynamics involving Wallace’s habits and her obvious partiality for Adelita and Kristel. From what we have been able to assess, all Sedgwick was attempting to do was to correct the problem. Yes, her approach was not the best, but at least she was trying to jolt some behavior change in the Board office. Remember that at the same time this was taking place, HT Sanchez was dismissing Sedgwick and attempting to instruct her on what she could not do as a Board member (such as visiting schools) (Adelita came to one of our schools with pizza when she ran for office last time and she frequented several schools without any Sanchez prohibitions. Foster has also visited a number of our schools.) Sedgwick simply would not take direction from someone who she did not report to in the organizational structure. She resisted his comfortable domination over the Board. It was a new day with a new Board majority and within a short time Sanchez had shown enough of his dishonest and insubordinate behavior to be prompted by the Board majority to leave the District.
Wallace filed a harassment complaint against Sedgwick because Sedgwick’s communications to her were impolite and demanding. Sedgwick had also challenged Wallace for having contributed $300 to Kristal Foster’s campaign while she did not, at the same time, contribute to Mark Stegeman’s campaign. Sedgwick believed this showed bias and preferential treatment in Wallace’s role as a Director who is to serve all Board members equally. Sedgwick never said that it was against policy or a violation of any sort. Reporter Stephenson gathered email correspondence involving the issue and spent a considerable amount of article space in quoting from Sedgwick’s email exchanges with Wallace, with little to no attention about the fact that the issue between the two parties had been mediated and resolved. The two now have a workable and professional relationship but this was lost in the non-news story. One has to wonder why would this “green” Star writer decide to do a slam piece on Sedgwick after the matter had been remedied?
Buried in the weeds of this one sided story was Adelita Grijalva’s involvement. A. Grijalva intervened pretty early into the email exchanges between Sedgwick and Wallace. She emailed her judgement on the communications between the two. She immediately sided with Wallace and damned Sedgwick. She did not recommend resolution. She did not suggest mediation. All she did was throw gasoline into a flame which could have quickly been put out, if she had provided any type of leadership. Wallace was prompted by A. Grijalva to report the matter to the Chief Legal Counsel (Todd Jaeger) and to put it in writing. Wallace followed her instructions and promptly filed her complaint. This was just more Grijalva-gasoline on the growing fire. Adelita Grijalva is very quick in telling the world that she is the most senior of all Board members; that she is serving her 4th term but when it comes to demonstrating true leadership, there just isn’t any.
Anyone who has been around for even a few years and watched the TUSD Governing Board’s political and acid interactions would clearly understand that A. Grijalva was laying the ground work for setting Sedgwick up for some kind of negative exposure. When she is not treated as the TUSD Queen Bee, A.Grijalva plots out her attacks which are usually indirect and saturated with the type of scheming seen in this case. It is no secret that she despises Sedgwick as does Kristal Foster. They are each rude and condescending to their fellow Board members, but especially Sedgwick. A. Grijalva had inserted herself in order to conveniently advocate for Wallace (exploitation) and ensure that Wallace documented her grievances as soon as possible. A. Grijalva’s handy work is spelled out all over this situation. All that was left to do was make sure that Star reporter Stephenson was induced into doing a story. Adelita (or her surrogate, Kristel) either directly prompted him into doing the story or they send “concerned” individuals to push him into looking into the matter. (Both the Queen Bee (Grijalva) or her worker Bee (Foster) had seen the Wallace/Sedgwick email exchanges.) He was told that there were a series of email exchanges and he was encouraged to obtain them through a public records request. No doubt, not one tiny sliver of doubt, A. Grijalva was behind the whole thing.
If Adelita Grijalva has learned anything from her dad, it is how he has time and time again to politically sabotaged and attacked enemies. (We also know that those blessed by the Grijalva machine, based on their loyalty, are well rewarded.) The Congressman uses other people to do his dirty work and perhaps A. Grijalva has also learned this strategy. The point is, she, like her father, know how to kill people off politically. You bad mouth them. You discredit them. You make up lies about them. You get your political allies to freeze the person out and do as has already been done (bad mouth them, discredit them, repeat lies about them. You use the media to do your dirty work- knowingly or unknowingly). When community members make reference to the “Grijalva machine” they are referring to the network of politicians and supporters in the Grijalva circle. Those most obvious are: Richard Elias, Richard Fimbres, Regina Romero, Dan Eckstrom, Ramon Valadez, Eva Dong, Kristel Foster and Cam Juarez. It should not be lost on anyone that Raul Grijalva coached and supported Elias, Romero, Dong, Foster and Juarez into elected office. The quid pro quo is GIGANTIC and it is obvious.
We want to see big changes in TUSD. We want reform within 1010 and within the Board office. It is not going to happen when those promoting change are burned at the stake or stoned to death, one large rock at a time.
Sedgwick is not perfect but she is far from what Adelita Grijalva and Kristel Foster have come to represent: corruption, good old boy/girl politics, spokes in the Grijalva machine wheel, incompetency, and yet more corruption. Sedgwick has said herself that she has learned a great deal in the almost 9 months she has been in office. She has no trouble admitting the mistakes she has made while in office since January. The TUSD and Tucson community should not allow for her destruction by those who want to desperately hold on to what has been and is: the TUSD status quo.
We can only hope that Stephenson will not allow himself to be exploited again by the Grijalva machine and that he will consciously attempt to present full information on a matter that goes way beyond email exchanges, such as in this case. He really blew it this time.
(If you are interested in reading the Star’s smear piece, the link is: http://tucson.com/news/local/work-harassment-complaint-filed-against-tusd-s-sedgwick/article_fda3f9b8-39d6-5f52-a42c-b0a9db2e98e4.html )