by David Safier
The Star's Sunday editorial proclaims that TUSD should close more schools. Superintendent H.T. Sanchez disagrees — in the immediate future, anyway.
Sanchez begins his May 30 Team Member Update with the headline, "No Schools Closing — Rather, Schools Opening!" He acknowledges the school closing recommendation in the Efficiency Audit report created for the district by Gibson Consulting Group, but he says that's only one of the options suggested by the study. "There is no need for any staff member or parent to fear that their child’s school will not open next year. Our goal is to build enrollment and be the best option in Tucson." He pointed out that the district is moving in the other direction by reopening Brichta and Schumaker schools as early childhood education centers for children aged two to five.
It's important to note, Sanchez only made the guarantee for next school year. No matter how aggressively TUSD pursues enrollment growth, it's going to be a gradual process at best, and the issue of school closings will continue to be on the table. My recommendation to the district and the board is, now is the time to think about strategies to put unused space in schools to work in ways that will serve the children and the community. Sanchez showed he's willing to think outside the box by creating the early education centers. That's a very good start, but more needs to be done.
You can read Sanchez's entire statement below.
No Schools Closing — Rather, Schools Opening!
In May of this school year, Gibson Consulting presented the TUSD Efficiency Audit in open session at a Governing Board meeting. Many great means for saving money to turn back to campuses and the classroom came from the report. There were also recommendations about how to do better work in human resources, operations, transportation, custodial, and maintenance, just to name a few areas.
What caught the media’s attention was the Efficiency Audit’s recommendation to close more TUSD schools. I want to be absolutely clear that this is a recommendation from the audit, not me.
I will not bring school closures to the Board as a means for saving money. I understand that some feel that this is my recommendation. Please know that it is not. To the contrary, we have opened two closed schools to serve as Infant and Early Learning Centers. Both Brichta and Schumaker elementary schools will reopen July 1, 2014 to serve the needs of TUSD team members’ children ages six weeks to five years and community members’ children ages two to five years.
We will host an open house for both sites and will report soon on those dates and times. You can also get more information about the centers, including an application, at www.tusd1.org/earlylearningcenter. Please encourage those seeking quality childcare to consider our centers. We will be offering top-notch service with affordable fees.
Again, I want to be as clear as possible in saying I will not recommend closing schools as an option to save money. There are pages upon pages of recommendations that we need to address before and beyond school closures. There is no need for any staff member or parent to fear that their child’s school will not open next year. Our goal is to build enrollment and be the best option in Tucson.
We have invested in smaller class size, moved support from central office to school sites, and allocated 4.8 million dollars to teacher salary adjustments over the next few years.
My mindset is one of investing in our schools, not closing them. I look forward to the start of a great year in July of 2014 and to our two newly opened Infant and Early Education Learning Centers at Brichta and Schumaker.
Let’s build TUSD, not close it down.