In an interview on the KVOI’s Wake Up Tucson radio show with Chris DeSimone, Tucson Unified School District Governing Board member Michael Hicks admitted that Pueblo High School Principal Augustine Romero should not have been granted a contract renewal this year. Hicks claimed that his unhappiness with fellow Board members Mark Stegeman and Rachel Sedgwick led him to cast the deciding vote in favor of Romero.
Related article: Hicks Casts Key Vote To Keep Pueblo’s Romero On At TUSD
Hicks acknowledged that it was the Board’s responsibility to vote on leadership positions, but between the recommendation by Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo to renew the contract and his spite for Sedgwick and Stegeman, he was compelled to vote for Romero. Hicks stated that although he believed that Romero violated Arizona law, his feelings toward his fellow Board members was compelling in his decision-making.
[Listen to the interview here]
This week, after a vote by the Board to make an investigation of Romero public, KGUN9 News reporter Valerie Cavasos revealed that Hicks “said another matter influenced his decision — Romero “lawyered up.”
Hicks told Cavasos, “I was informed that Dr. Romero does have a lawyer, who is champing at the bit to come after the district if he was going to be released.”
Romero was accused of and admitted to changing grades in violation of Arizona law. According to Cavasos’ report, “The Deconcini Law Firm found two district administrators who investigated the illegal grade changes did not take action, but should have. At the board meeting, Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo explained he put Romero on the renewal list because he could not revisit or change the previous administration’s inaction.”
Trujillo’s claims are specious as administrators’ contracts do not have to be renewed. In fact, statute does not require employers to provide a reason to decline renewal. However, it is widely believed that Superintendent Trujillo is “in over his head” due to his lack of experience in leadership positions. As a result, Trujillo appears to be struggling from inexperience and catering to the Adelita Grijalva faction of the Board, which now includes Hicks.
“The superintendent last night, indicated that everybody he’s bringing forward with his support and none of them are on a work improvement plan, none of them are on any disciplinary actions,” Hicks told DeSimone. “It’s hard for me to say well I don’t believe you. I’m going to let these people go anyway.”
When asked if Romero illegally change grades, Hicks responded emphatically, ”Yes.” Hicks paused briefly and then stated, “At least I think he did. Now the ADE said no. The investigation said no. Whether that investigation was right, wrong, or indifferent, I’ll tell you the honest truth; I don’t believe in that investigation but it is what it is.”
Hicks said that Stegeman “was trying to make me look bad.”
Hicks was clearly indignant when he said, “I am a teacher whether Dr. Stegman wants to realize it or not or Ms. Sedgwick. I don’t care anymore what the hell they think. I’m doing what I think is right.”
Hicks was asked if keeping Romero at Pueblo was a “positive thing for parents and students.” Hicks responded, “I don’t think so, but that’s the superintendent.” Hicks began to more heated, and started raising his voice. “Why do we hire a superintendent? Why doesn’t the Board just run the entire damn district? We don’t need a superintendent! We don’t need any of them,” said Hicks in a childlike temper tantrum.
DeSimone calmly reminded Hicks that it is the Board’s responsibility to approve or disapprove contracts for principles.
“I can tell you that if it had gone down the way it was supposed to go down, Dr. Romero would not have a contract,” asserted Hicks. “We were only going to talk about one principal,” said Hicks implying Board members may have discussed the vote in advance which would be a violation of Arizona’s Open Meeting Law. “We were going to pull only one contract and deal with that one contract, but because Ms. Sedgwick and her friend has a problem with the principal, she brings that up. Then she brings up other principles; the principle of Tucson High and all these other principles. If it went down the way it was supposed to go down’ that it was just… just the one… then Romero would not have a contract.”
When DeSimone said that Romero represented the” same crappy way things have been done in the past,” Hicks responded “absolutely.”
DeSimone told Hicks that Romero “got a contract for all the wrong reasons.” Hicks responded, “Right. And he got a contract renewal last time for all the wrong reasons. Remember the Board voted against him last time. This isn’t the first time this is come up.”
Hicks said he agreed with DeSimone’s assessment that Romero should no longer be employed at TUSD.
Last year, Hicks, Stegeman and Sedgwick had hoped to deny Romero a contract renewal, but Trujillo failed to put forth administrator contracts in accordance with Arizona law, so the Board was denied that opportunity.
“This is very disappointing,” said Sedgwick after hearing the interview. “I’m surprised that Michael Hicks would use his influence over thousands and thousands of people in TUSD, not to help, but to spite Mark Stegeman and me. I do not understand his choice, and I believe history indicates that he’s chosen to support people and ideas that operate contrary to his beliefs. I believe he may be on the ballot this November, if he collects enough signatures. I’m thankful for that at least.”
“I look forward to doing the right thing,” concluded Sedgwick. “I hope a majority of the Board will join me some day. TUSD deserves it.”