A few of us got together last Tuesday evening, February 24, 2015 to recap our work and to view the streamed TUSD Governing Board meeting. We had not planned on writing another letter for several weeks but the display of total nonsense and other current events has brought us to this- our 5th letter.
The Tucson Education Association (commonly referred to as HTEA) “red shirts” showed up at the TUSD Governing Board meeting of February 24, 2015 to “beat up” on Mike Hicks for his statement to the State Senate Finance Committee supporting a bill that will pull the plug on desegregation funding if it succeeds through our anti-public school Arizona Legislature. We are unanimously opposed to Senate Bill 1371. We are in full support of desegregation and the Unitary Status Plan (USP) and desegregation funding.
We are unanimous in our disdain for dysfunction and hypocrisy.
The typical HTEA red shirts (the “leadership” team) were once again summonsed by Board President Grijalva, Clerk Foster, and Superintendent HT Sanchez to show up at the Board meeting and throw stones at Mike Hicks. Dan Ireland, Beth Slain, Jason Freed and Francis Banales (a majority white group of HTEAers) took turns reading their statements, all attacking Hicks. Each of them spoke about the importance of desegregation and insulted Hicks for daring to threaten the 64 MILLION dollars that is attached to TUSD’s desegregation court order. Not one of us can recall any of the red shirts ever standing before the Board in support of desegregation. In fact, we hear them criticize the USP all of the time. Foster’s email blast from the previous week fired up HTEA leadership with the threat of losing jobs. The irony of a predominately white group of union “leaders” standing up to support desegregation did not escape us. Nor did the fact that the union has fought for continued contract language that obstructs the assignment and hiring of minority teachers. We see the obstruction first hand as principals and former teachers; we experience it as teachers; and as parents we continue to see adults serving adults and not our children.
We see a dangerous and vile pattern at work. Grijalva and Foster (perhaps along with mostly-un-engaged Juarez) conspiring with HTEA to publically attack and attempt to humiliate Hicks and Stegeman at any opportunity; instead of sorting out their differences professionally (or shouting it out away from the public eye and ear)? They did the same thing to Stegeman just a few months ago. We see them appealing to individuals such as Steve Farley, on behalf of public education, to take part in their witch-hunt.
We think that the foulest of the cauldron is now Foster. At one time she was assumed to be so caring and progressive. She is the apple-pie darling of the Pima County Democratic Party, after all! Each of us thought she would be an added asset to the Board since she is an educator. But her infatuation with HT and her lifetime debt to Grijalva has corrupted her heart and contaminated her thinking. She is viewed as an emotional wreck, tearful one minute and plotting or going on the attack the next. Her email blast and her Facebook postings from last week, along with her calls and emails incited anger and irrational behavior aimed at one person- Hicks. Her actions are not “political”- they are malicious. Why didn’t Foster focus on a campaign against the dreadful anti-desegregation bill instead of mounting a personal campaign against one of her peers? Why didn’t Foster coordinate a meeting between Farley and Hicks instead of an all-out personal attack in public? And why is she acting like a shameful mean teenage girl on the dais?
What has happened to our liberals on the TUSD Board? What has happened to civility and the concept of a caring Tucson; a caring TUSD? What has happened to checks and balances? As principals, teachers and parents, we are appalled at what we continue to witness from Board Members.
The end result in Foster- fostering rage, instead of sensibility, has been the added fervor by the Republicans in lobbying to pass Senate Bill 1371. She and her clueless political strategist partners- Grijalva, and Sanchez (and perhaps disengaged Juarez)- have done more to harm TUSD than to help it. If we lose the desegregation funding; we can all thank Foster’s antics for fueling support for the bill rather than opposition. She is divisive and hypocritical; mesmerized and manipulated by Sanchez and deeply influenced and indebted to Adelita and her dad for getting her elected. She is between two very hard and self-serving rocks and she has obviously chosen to sell out the kids.
We want to know how it is that she can do her full time job at Sunnyside, theoretically serving children, when she is the busiest of all Board members in attending numerous TUSD functions and civic events, traveling to Phoenix for ASBA meetings and legislative meetings, visiting TUSD schools, making and taking calls all day, attending Democratic party functions, etc. She must have more leave at hand than any TUSD or Sunnyside employee or maybe her lack of being accountable carries over to her job and she is shorting changing them on her actual hours worked.
The video of the Board meeting is worth watching to directly witness the dysfunction that has infused the TUSD Governing Board. The exchanges between members of the Board create nothing but discomfort, the behavior is embarrassing. It all gets in the way of the Board performing at a functional level. None of us would want our youth witnessing the sick dynamics demonstrated during meetings.
Mike Hicks attempted to address the comments that were made against him, offering a concession of withdrawing his support of Senate Bill 1371 if the District would hire an independent finance/budget auditor who reports to the Board. We believe that this statement was critical and yet, his offer went ignored and was totally muffled by all of the whispering, phone noise and interruptions. He was interrupted several times by Board President Grijalva, as she attempted to stop him from speaking, while she argued with him. The TUSD chief counsel also interrupted, instructing Hicks on the fact that he was speaking about issues which were not raised during call to the audience. Other Board members have done the same and she give them full reign. Foster consistently whispered to Grijalva and Juarez as she snickered, while Hicks nervously stumbled through reading his statement. Any display of common courtesy was absent. Then by a strangely timed coincidence, a loud phone dial tone further interrupted and partially drowned out what Hicks said. We do not defend Hick’s position in support of eliminating desegregation funds. We do defend increased accountability and we do defend his right to speak and express his opinion. It was an orchestrated witch hunt and even a worse display of attempting to gag someone to silence.
Most unions would not sit by and watch such abuse of power but HTEA was complicit in the whole thing.
TUSD should hire an independent auditor. It is Sanchez who stands in the way of doing this- fearing that it will cut into his full control over the Board, as well as expose his inappropriate financial management and expenditures.
During the legislative update agenda item, continued attacks on Hicks took place by what we consider to be otherwise responsible, hard-working legislatures. They were duped.
Anyone who is a member of HTEA or qualifies to become a member should pay very close attention to the behavior of its “leadership” along with the strong ties to the administration and Board majority. Sanchez keeps referring to the strong partnership that exists between him (TUSD) and Francis Banales (HTEA). To be in TUSD’s (HT’s) pocket is submission and not a partnership. A union- HTEA- that is in a submissive position is not worth one cent of membership dues. With HTEA’s membership at an all-time low (low enough for decertification) we have seen minimal representation of employees whose rights have been violated. We see HTEA being used for PR purposes by the Superintendent and Board majority. The footsie game that HTEA is playing with the Board (majority) and HT leaves teachers, white collar and blue collar employees out in the cold. It sells them out.
Recently the federal court harshly smacked TUSD for doing a lousy job on its Comprehensive Magnet Plan (CMP). We believe it was justified. TUSD was told they would have to rework their plan; that what was submitted was unacceptable. That is an “F” grade in anyone’s book! But not HTs, who, in his constant state of delusion, believes that if he constantly tells us that the chicken poop we see before us is not chicken poop- that it is really gold- that we will believe him. Chicken poop is chicken poop. During the State of the District shamble oration he gave, he said that he was not disappointed with the court order on the District’s magnet plan because….‘uh, shucks folks, we were heading in the direction provided by the court anyways, geez whiz! So I was pleased.’ Nope! Chicken poop is just chicken poop.
Since the court order was delivered, the magnet schools have received one confusing edict after another from the magnet office administration and staff, with instructions on how the magnet school administrators are to “respond” in developing their individual plans within confined parameters. Just last week, for the first time, the schools received their budgets for this school year- seven months into the school year. But these budgets do not include details on encumbrances, any previous years’ comparisons or projections for the year being planned. The budgets are not line-item budgets; performance budgets; program and planning budgets; zero-based budgets; site based budgets or outcome budgets. They are TUSD figure-it-out budgets. The budgets do not provide any basis for any allocations and do not provide the reality of the cuts which have been imposed at what seems like the whim of the Magnet office or 1010. The budgets that were delivered are in isolation and do not give each magnet administrator a comparison of what other magnet schools are allocated. Yes, it is more than the schools have been provided with in years but it is very distant from being of real benefit, which is disastrous.
The Magnet office has informed some magnet school administrators that they have the option to opt out of being a magnet school. They have also directed that any magnet administrator who is disgruntled about any aspect of the magnet school planning process is to fault only the Special Master; and NOT TUSD. Let’s get this right: the Board and central administration have operated the magnet schools with the most minimum of direction and support; without the provision of their budgets; without real involvement or input in what has been planned for their schools; and without forceful support in assisting ALL of the schools in the area of academic achievement or integration- but they are to blame only the Special Master, who is not responsible for any of this chicken poop? Some of the schools are doing without basic materials and equipment to operate the schools. Their vacancies remain unfilled for months and months.
Magnet school administrators are taking direction from the magnet office; one director and two senior program coordinators who, regardless of their intentions, are doing very little to support magnet schools. (This is an all white team advising schools on integration. Again, the irony does not escape us. The Director, Vicky Callison, a pale toe-head, conveniently and apologetically claims that she is has indigenous American tribal roots but her continued missteps in discussing race and ethnicity give her up as an unknowing novice.) She and her team inform the schools that it is not their work that goes to the Board; that their work is always modified; that they are the victims of the higher-ups. If this is really the case and their work is unacceptable to those above them; why are these three people still in place?
On March 4th an urgent meeting was called with magnet school administrators. Steve Holmes led the meeting and within minutes into the meeting it was clear that the meeting was to clean up misinformation that had been provided to the magnet schools by Callison and her staff. Over the last few weeks heaps of misinformation has been unloaded on the magnet schools, much which is addressed above. The schools were hardly involved in the CMP development- everything was a dictate but somehow the repeated message to the magnet administrators has been that the Special Master was to blame. Steve Holmes outlined point by point, every item that needed to be corrected and clarified and the magnet school administrators were pleased by this. Nonetheless, the magnet schools do not have all of the information and support needed to submit quality magnet plans before spring break and more than that, they now know that they absolutely cannot rely on the magnet office for factual information; much less its support. The situation is beyond dreadful.
We continue to hear one excuse after another about the District’s inability to get much of anything right. Blame is dispersed everywhere with NO internal accountability. Last week’s major payroll glitch was blamed on “old systems” without account for who are responsible operating the systems. “Mistake in” renders “mistake out.”
We are dealing with the highest degree of inefficiency and incompetency under this Board and under this inexperienced-know-it-all superintendent. We have no confidence in the Board or Superintendent.