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Cheap Shots Fired at Lisa McCorkle

To the Editor,

The Skinny didn't aim accurately with the cheap shots fired at Dietz Elementary and Lisa McCorkle (October 24). True that Dietz was listed an underperforming school in the recent labeling episode from the state. Not true that the cause of this is Lisa McCorkle or her mother (Mary Belle McCorkle, president of the Tucson Unified School District board).

1. Longtime Dietz principal Betty Brown died unexpectedly of the effects of cancer at the beginning of the 2000-01 school year. Two substitute principals filled in the first semester until Lisa McCorkle was appointed. In 2001-02, longtime office manager Judy Mayo died of cancer near the end of the school year after a protracted absence throughout that year.

2. Dietz School has a nearly 50 percent mobility rate, mostly from four large apartment groups on the fringes of the school attendance area. Children from unstable family situations are moving in and out throughout the year, bringing with them in many cases troubled educational histories. Children do not test well under these conditions.

3. I reviewed the 2001-2002 School Quality Survey Responses from students and parents: 76.9 percent of 156 kindergarten through second grade students said the "principal visits my classroom every day" and 47.1 percent of 189 third through fifth grade students said the same thing (Why the difference? The older kids recognize that is physically impossible for the principal to do this); 91.8 percent of 268 parents said, "It is easy for me to talk to the principal" and 92.8 percent of 275 parents said, "I am encouraged to be involved in my child's school." Doesn't sound like a principal who, in the words of the Skinny "needs to get out of her bunker, er, office, and into classrooms and into meetings with parents."

4. Lisa McCorkle has attended every general meeting of the Dietz Neighborhood Association and worked with projects of the same group such as the Median Landscaping Project and the annual Saturday Easter Egg Hunt. She has responded to every neighborhood request and personally recruits parents and neighbors to volunteer at the school and to help tutor children.

5. Finally, most elementary principals do not have prior experience as administrators. Only in the last decade has TUSD had any elementary assistant principals at all. You have to start somewhere. Some experienced folks fail, and some brand-new administrators succeed. There is no hard and fast rule. What the individual brings in terms of knowledge, ethics and integrity make the difference.

As a direct observer of Lisa McCorkle since she became an administrator in my neighborhood, I can tell you she is a good one. Her faculty and her community are behind her.

--Georgia C. Brousseau
Retired TUSD School Principal

Cheap Shots Fired at the Kisers

To the Editor,

Mike, I must admit I was very disappointed when I read your "Full-Court Press" story (October 31). Part of my disappointment is that I believe you are much more familiar with and knowledgeable about my husband Jim Kiser's work at the Star than most other newspaper readers or others in the city. You worked with him at the Star, and you have special knowledge of journalism and publications. Consequently, I think you know Jim stands in a very small group of journalists whose ethics and integrity are impeccable--so squeaky clean he's almost obnoxious! Yet by what you wrote you allowed his integrity to be called in question by those who don't have an "insider's" knowledge of him and his work.

But there's a second reason for my disappointment. Yours is a publication that regularly trumpets itself as being the community's voice and advocate for the underrepresented, for minorities, for women. So it was unpleasantly surprising to find you that you stated--ever-so-clearly--that Jim is trying to "preserve" my career. I find that to be a sexist statement. I have a work history that shows that not Jim, not any family members, not friends have ever eased me into a job, helped me get promoted or preserved a job for me. Since I graduated from college, I have been my own employment agency, and I resent your implying I can't "preserve" my job on my own. In fact, if I felt "preserving" it is what I am doing at TUSD, I would resign: I have too much pride to keep a job for any reason other than the job is important to do and I'm doing it well.

P.S. You had both an omission and an error in your story. You didn't list the fact that I also contributed $20 to Carolyn Kemmeries' campaign, and you promoted me to the position of director, which I'm not. I am a coordinator.

--Shirley Kiser
Coordinator, 4th R program,TUSD

TW Was Vicious...

To the Editor,

I spent 27 years as a teacher in TUSD (14 years at Dietz Elementary) and my last four years as a TUSD principal.

Your article concerning the McCorkles and Dietz Elementary (The Skinny, October 24) was deceptive and incomplete. I would like to give facts concerning the placement of Lisa as principal of Dietz that your writers have failed to mention. First, Lisa went through the same steps that any prospective administrator goes through. There were several group interviews, including one that was made up of Dietz's site council (parents, teachers, etc). She was recommended to go to the TUSD board for their approval. Second, when the board members were voting, whether Mary Belle voted or not, Lisa had the votes to get the principal's position.

In my 27 years with TUSD it was my pleasure to work with Mary Belle. She is an educator who is focused on improving education and is extremely child oriented. When hard decisions had to been reached, child agendas always took preference over adult agendas every time.

It's very upsetting to have such a vicious article written by someone who doesn't even know Dietz or Principal McCorkle. The article does not serve the children of Tucson but demoralizes both hard-working principals and hard-working staffs like those at Dietz.

Tucson public schools do a lot of good in this town. The staffs of these schools are taxpayers, business clients, retail shoppers and community supporters. It is time for Tucson's citizens to recognize the excellence provided by many in the field of education.

--Rex Averett
Retired principal

...and Mean...

To the Editor,

I find it both ironic and dishonest that Editor Mike Parnell fulminates about Arizona Daily Star editorialist Jim Kiser's conflict of interest in alerting the public to TUSD Board Member Rosalie Lopez' dysfunctional behavior ("Full-Court Press," October 31).

The Weekly has continued to serve as the mouthpiece rag for Lopez. Don't kid yourselves that this is investigative reporting. The piece on Dietz Elementary School Principal Lisa McCorkle (The Skinny, October 24) revealed clearly that no investigation occurred. A true reporter, as opposed to the masked slasher authoring The Skinny, would have found that Lisa McCorkle is widely respected even by people who disagree with her mother.

There is something unspeakably mean-spirited about your serving as the agent for Lopez to skewer McCorkle via such a personal attack on a family member.

--Caroline Tompkins


To the Editor,

I have been a teacher at Dietz for many years and have worked with four principals. I can assure you that no principal has spent more time in the classroom than Lisa McCorkle (The Skinny, October 24). In fact, she is more frequently seen in the halls, on the playground and in classrooms than in her office. She is never "bunkered down" as the article states.

In addition, Lisa demonstrates outstanding curriculum leadership contrary to the article's implication. The writer has manipulated statistics and used pejorative wording to distort our school's standing and our principal.

--Nancy Nicolet
Dietz Elementary teacher

...and Immature...

To the Editor,

No matter what your opinion of Mary Belle McCorkle, you had no right to launch such a vicious, immature and personal attack on Lisa McCorkle (The Skinny, October 24). Lisa is a very hard-working principal highly regarded by her staff and by parents from the school.

First, the current school labeling system is an irrational formula that doesn't really evaluate what a school is accomplishing.

Second, you apparently know nothing about how the demographics of the Dietz neighborhood have changed in recent years. The school has a very high mobility rate because of struggling, low-income families who move from apartment to apartment and hence from one school to another frequently.

Lisa is a very visible principal. She is on the playground with students before school and at lunchtime. She is frequently in classrooms when not attending required administrative meetings or working with students with behavior issues. She provides a great deal of guidance to staff working hard to meet the needs of a very diverse population of children, many of whom who came to the school from other schools with very low reading skills.

--Anna Montgomery

...And Insensitive

To the Editor,

I have worked at Dietz for 30 years. Our school has had a sizeable amount of heartache this past year with the deaths of our principal, Betty Brown, and our office manager, Judy Mayo. Lisa Mccorkle (The Skinny, October 24) has come in and worked in easing the pain not only for the students at Dietz but for the staff and parents as well.

I can assure you that no principal has spent more time in classrooms, out in the playground during the morning, lunchtime and after school, than Lisa. In fact, she is extremely visible and has an open door policy for those needing to see her. I find the term "bunkered down" to be the exact opposite of how Lisa interacts.

--Lynne Kellner
Dietz teacher assistant

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