by David Safier
Here are some short items about TUSD, some of the positive things happening in the district which deserve to be spotlighted. The district gets plenty of bad press (I sometimes participate in the piling on) while the good stuff is too often ignored. Some of the items below were in the Star. Others are from Superintendent H.T. Sanchez’s regular Team Member Updates. Clearly Sanchez is putting the items in the best possible light, but they look good to me as well. TUSD has a right to crow when good things happen, and the rest of us benefit from hearing about positive developments.
• The Star’s Alexis Huicochea has a good piece about C.E. Rose, a K-8 school with 93% of its students on free or reduced lunch. Its students score far higher on state tests than most students from low income families. TUSD plans to turn the school into a district-run charter — that brings about $1,000 more per student to the school — and to try and replicate its success at two schools that were closed, Wakefield and Richey. They will reopen as charters.
• Another story covered by Huicochea is TUSD’s pledge to support all students no matter their immigration status, which received unanimous support from the board. According to Sanchez, “The designation is the first of its kind in the nation for a school district. It means we pledge to help all students pursue a higher education regardless of immigration status and it supports the April 9 National Educators' Coming Out Day led by the Dream Educational Empowerment Program of United We Dream and Scholarships A-Z, an organization that helps undocumented immigrants attend college.”
• TUSD has stopped its yearly ritual of “firing” teachers because of funding uncertainties, then rehiring most of them later. It’s also beginning the process of hiring new teachers earlier than usual. According to Sanchez, “In the past, TUSD was among the last districts to post openings and take its first group of new candidates to the Board.” This means TUSD will have a better shot at picking up the best applicants before they’re hired elsewhere.
• When TUSD teachers retire, their benefits will continue through August. Previously, retiring teachers lost their benefits when they told the district of their plans to leave, which meant many retirees waited until August to inform the district. That meant replacement teachers had to be hired at the last minute or long-term subs had to fill in until a new teacher could be found. Now the hiring process can start earlier.
• TUSD is working with Pima County to allow county employees to send their children to the early learning centers the district is setting up for its employees. Similar deals are in the works with the City of Tucson and the University of Arizona.