Tucson Unified School District's Palo Verde High School
has been an eventful little monster these past few days: In the beginning of last week, six students were arrested for fighting in the school's parking lot; and on Friday, there was a lock down over alleged sightings of a young man with a gun on site. At the end of it all, no suspect or gun were found.
TUSD critics, or so-called whistleblowers, are blaming the district's leadership for the Palo Verde mess, saying a series of events that went undisciplined led to what took place last week.
Here are their thoughts on the situation:
The problems in dealing with discipline at Palo Verde High School (PV) have escalated due to the lack of attention and responsiveness by Superintendent Dr. Sanchez and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Abel Morado. 1010 has become an obstacle for the schools rather than any type of support base. PV is not the only school that is being strangled in effectively dealing with discipline. Students are getting a loud and repeated message that they are able to violate one rule (discipline code) after another and get away with just about anything without the administration taking swift and appropriate action. Site administrators have their hands tied. Central administration does not respond promptly to serious discipline matters and 1010 downplays dangerous situations. The problem continues to intensify and has reached a viable threat to both students and employees. The story at Palo Verde speaks for all comprehensive high schools.
About three and half weeks ago several PV students were ditching and wound up at an apartment complex off of 22nd Street and Kolb (behind the car dealership). Students were congregated in front of a young couple’s apartment while smoking marijuana and being generally disruptive during the school day. The couple asked the students to move away from their apartment. When the couple left their apartment, they were followed by the students to the McDonalds’ Fast Food Restaurant on the southwest corner of 22nd Street and Kolb. Once inside the restaurant, the couple was “jumped” (assaulted) by the students. Police were called. The PV administration immediately contacted 1010 and were instructed by Dr. Abel Morado not to do anything until further instruction. Four days later, the students were suspended for three days- each with an abeyance contract. (Yes, we did say four days later!)
While waiting for the 4 day prolonged response, one of the students involved in the McDonalds’ incident assaulted a PV assistant principal (AP). Charges were not pressed since doing so is considered a TUSD career ender (kiss of death). This student’s suspension was kept to 3 days (for the McDonalds’ incident) and the student is now matriculated at another school. The student has learned that assaulting a school official results in no consequences any students who heard about the incidence have learned the same thing . Students and administrators are being given a repeated message by 1010: Students should not be disciplined either swiftly or at a level that is consistent with the violation. Behind this twisted message is the dictate by Dr. Sanchez to “get the discipline numbers down” so that he can get rid of the desegregation court order. In the process, Dr. Sanchez and his cronies are placing the schools, the students and their staffs in great jeopardy!
The students involved in the McDonalds’ incident breached their abeyance contracts due to absences and other on-going violations. One particular student was identified as being the “ring leader.” The student was recognized for instigating much of the disruptive behavior at PV. It was also rumored that this same student had possession of a hand gun. While following up on each of the students, it was discovered that the “ring leader,” had been expelled from TUSD but that discipline information on TUSD’s student data base (Mojave) had not properly shown the expulsion. Again, central administration was contacted by the PV administration, with NO immediate response. Obviously, the expelled student should have never been allowed to register at PV. The mistake has cost PV in obvious ways which are blatant in this account of the PV situation.
Last Thursday, a physical altercation took place outside of McDonalds, involving several students. African American and Latino students became engaged in a physical fight with racial epitaphs being thrown in each direction. At the end of the fight, African American students involved in the altercation had triumphed over Latino students who were involved, with beaten Latino students on the ground being kicked by African American students. These type of episodes do not take place without the anticipation of follow-up retaliatory action.
The following day, Friday, September 18th, the above referenced “ring leader” was seen brandishing a hand gun, across the street from PV. Police were called and the school was placed on lock-down. A weapon search took place from class to class.
Drs. Sanchez and Morado had no choice but to deal with the matter immediately. Dr. Sanchez was furious at the situation getting out of hand, while issuing knee-jerk orders to several 1010 administrators and swearing as he went from office to office. 1010 directed that all male staff from the African American Students Services Department go to Palo Verde to deal with the situation. This is dumbfounding for obvious reasons. Drs. Sanchez and Morado went to PV to meet with its administrators to help “control” the situation. Meanwhile, parents gathered around the PV fence line as did members of the media. Parents wanted to remove their child from the school until the situation was resolved. Sanchez did not want to face the parents or the media and sent his good soldier Dr. Morado out to deal with the mess. Leadership? NOT!
High school and middle school administrators continue to be told that the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program from Texas and in-house suspension programs are the be-all/end-all to TUSD’s suspension problems. Central administration complains that the money has not been released to quickly put the programs in place as they desire, once again blaming and the Special Master and plaintiffs. Those at the schools doubt that PVs discipline problems could have been dealt with by DAEP and/or in-house suspension since it would be volatile to bring two feuding sides together. TUSD central heads would better serve their students by being more inclusive in their problem solving.
TUSD as a system is breaking down at all levels, beginning with its Mojave student data system. How could an expulsion not have been recorded? How many other expulsions or suspensions have been omitted? Will their omission make TUSD appear better to those monitoring the number of suspensions and expulsions?
Dangerous discipline situations are being allowed to get to a boiling point while site administrators await 1010 up to several days for responses that often seem illogical. Dr. Sanchez’ concern over his image and his obsession in blaming the desegregation court order for everything takes priority over all else, including the safety of students and employees.
On the surface, the recent problems at PV may appear to be a specific problem to PV, however, the problems all point to central administration and its systemic unraveling.