by David Safier
Imagine my delight at seeing a front-page-with-a-picture, feel-good story about TUSD in today's Star: New TUSD outreach program gives biotech students leg up. It sounds like a great program: 240 students from Pueblo and Tucson High participating in a Biotech Pipeline.
Students will gather information on nearly two dozen local biotech businesses and conduct interviews to make career connections, learn what companies are looking for and how that connects with what they are learning in the classroom.
It looks like TUSD is making a concerted effort to get positive news out about the district, and it appears to be working. That's a good thing. If the district is making incremental progress, which I think it is, and the community is learning about it and lending its support, that's good news all the way around.
With that in mind, here's a grab bag of positive TUSD stories I've pulled together from the media and from Superintendent H.T. Sanchez's Team Member Updates, which he sends out as emails and posts online. I have to admit, I don't have first hand knowledge about all the items on the list, so I'm presenting them without any analysis. Others should feel free to chime in with comments.That's something I don't have to tell regular commenters, but I'm sure others of you in the Tucson community, and especially the TUSD community, have information the rest of us can benefit from.
• Reaching out to dropouts. In July, more than 100 people knocked on doors of students who have dropped out of school. The preliminary results look promising: "Many [of the students contacted] have returned, including 43 out of 50 students who were seniors last year, but who did not have enough credits to graduate."
• TUSD Strategic Plan completed. TUSD has put together a lengthy, ambitious five year strategic plan which was approved by the board. The fact that the process was public and that a wide variety of community members were involved makes it more likely the district will feel compelled to stick with it and show positive results.
• Enrollment has stabilized. It doesn't sound like a good thing to say that TUSD enrollment is down about 200 students this school year until you compare it to a 1,500 student loss the previous year. If the numbers hold, it gives hope that the district will stop losing students and maybe even build up its numbers in coming years.
• Bilingual programs are expanding. A program which has shown success both in educating students and making them fluent in English and Spanish is being introduced in more kindergarten classrooms this year, following the model of Davis Bilingual Magnet School.
• Closed sites are being utilized. The district has a number of empty buildings on its hands as a result of two rounds of school closures. Two schools were reopened as early learning centers. The popular Dodge Magnet Middle School is scheduled to move to the former Townsend campus which will make room for over 200 more students. The former Menlo Park Elementary school is being looked into as a site for a community center, the home of Prescott College or both. One school has been sold and a deal is pending for another. Controversy surrounds some of these moves, but the district is clearly working to put its empty buildings to good use.
Lists like this never give the proper praise to all the teachers in their classrooms, where the rubber meets the road, who are laboring, often under difficult conditions, to love, respect and educate the city's children. Their stories, their small daily triumphs and tribulations too often go unnoticed and unmentioned, so I'm noticing and mentioning them here.