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PORK SERVED DAILY AT TUSD: The administration and governing board of Tucson's biggest school district showed that they remain hungry for political pork over improvement.

The board tapped James Christ as principal of Secrist Middle School on the southeast side.

It is a political payoff for this former Sunnyside High School teacher who served on the TUSD board for two terms. With the help of incumbent Joel Ireland and union reps, Christ upset Sylvia Campoy in 1992. Campoy was brighter and less prone to swallow the administration line. Improbable alliances funded and rescued Christ's re-election in 1996.

Now he's a poster boy for TUSD's incestuous patronage. His new salary is $67,564 a year.

At Tucson High, Francisco Moraga continues his charmed life. In five years, Moraga has gone from an Apollo Middle School teacher (in the Sunnyside District) who got pinched for cocaine and marijuana possession to assistant principal at TUSD's flagship high school.

A get-out-of-jail card, in the form of Pima County Drug Court, put Moraga in a diversion program and allowed him to continue to work. And now the TUSD board has named Moraga a permanent assistant principal at $65,867 a year.

All this second-chance stuff is just great, especially on the public dime, but what about all the qualified candidates who don't schlep Christ's political baggage or Moraga's drug baggage?

There's more. Stanford 9 test results were released last week, and guess what the dailies grossly underreported? Scores for Dietz Elementary School fell in seven of 12 areas. How will Principal Lisa McCorkle and her mother, entrenched TUSD Board Member Mary Belle McCorkle, spin this one? Second-grade measurements are the saddest. After a gain last year, math scores plummeted from 52--two points above the national average--to just 23. Second-grade language arts scores also crashed from 51 to 30. And second-grade reading fell from 42 to 32.

There were gains in third-grade math, fourth-grade math and fifth-grade across the board.

Still, is this acceptable for a principal who has been given all the tools to succeed? Remember that Mary Belle was forced to skirt conflict of interest rules to cast the necessary vote for her daughter.

Here's Dietz's overall rating: Overall test performance? "Below average." Test score improvement? "Below average." Comparison to similar schools? "Well below average."

At Maxwell Middle School, tough guy Principal Ruben Ruiz asserts that he's all about "accountability." A recent TUSD investigation showed Ruiz was abusive toward female teachers. It also faulted him for "concealing" an incident in which a monitor, who is a Ruiz in-law relative, hit a student and pinned him to the ground.

Maxwell managed "above average" in test-score improvement, but the school remains "below average" overall after the release of the Stanford 9s. Scores rose in all three categories for Maxwell eighth grade. They remained the same, a poor 22, for sixth-grade language arts, and stayed at 30 in seventh-grade reading. Scores dropped for both grades in the other subjects.

Business as usual at TUSD.


TICK TOCK KINO CLOCK: Time is running out for the Board of Supervisors--luxuriating on the longest summer recess in Pima County history--and county administration to save Kino Community Hospital from oblivion. The feds have given Kino's chronically inept management until Aug. 13 to come up with an acceptable plan to ensure the safety of its patients, most of whom have no where else to turn. The Department of Health and Human Services put Kino on notice that its noncompliance and deficiencies "posed an immediate and serious threat to the health and safety of patients."

Failure to adequately respond, to adequately train staff and make other changes will result in Kino's loss of Medicare certification.

That's a death sentence--what poor Wendy Gazda, 32, got when she was restrained in her room by so-called professionals and security goons, including one who proclaimed Gazda "is faking it," according to Page 4 of the investigative report, when she went limp and slipped from life.

Most troubling is that investigators found that no procedures were in place in the days after Gazda's terrible death to ensure that Kino's 50 psychiatric patients wouldn't meet a similar fate.

This business of security guards roaming the halls and wards untrained began last year when then-Administrator Scott Floden was nervous about harmless representatives from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. Soon, we know first-hand, these rent-a-cops began snooping through patient rooms and patient charts, and even busted up a doctor's rounds to ask what he was doing.

Acting Administrator Dennis Douglas is not a hospital man. He was a sheriff's major and a respected one at that. He also has been a respected administrator in the county Health Department for 10 years. He needs to clean house and rid Kino of its shabby managers.


RUNAWAY TRAIN: The City Council voted 6-1 Monday to ensure that sales-tax and construction sales-tax increase proposals will be on the Nov. 4 ballot regardless if petition signatures pass review by the county Recorder's Office. Only Vice Mayor Shirley Scott, a Democrat, dissented. She believes that petition rules cannot be suspended. Separate petitions for the light rail, bus and street improvements have been certified.

Republican Mayor Bob Walkup and his handlers sweated this one and are playing games. They want this likely loser on the ballot to stick to Democratic challenger Tom Volgy. But Volgy is way too smart for any ploys. Gotta wonder, though: What happens if the certified petitions are successfully challenged in court?


UPPITY IN CADDYSHACK: While too many elected officials are classic examples of the potted plant syndrome, those in Oro Valley set the standard. There, a 4-1 majority--with Werner Wolff (W is pronounced as V), Richard Johnson, Bart Rochman and Mayor Paul Loomis--rolls over for whatever the bureaucracy led by Town Manager Chuck Sweet desires. That bureaucracy clearly is, as former Democratic Supervisor David Yetman once opined about all of them, a tool of the ruling class.

In Oro Valley, the ruling class is Vistoso Partners, developers who should insist the place be rechristened Oro Vistoso.

The council majority has yet to meet a rezoning or high-density plan amendment it didn't like. They actually ASPIRE to be another Scottsdale.

The lone exception is Councilwoman Paula Abbott. A recent piece in Oro Valley's semi-official publication, the Northwest Explorer, pointed out how she just isn't one of the boys, and how unhappy her colleagues and town bureaucrats are over her performance. It seems the damn woman asks too many questions! They actually discussed some sort of training program for her so she'd know how to behave! Gee, maybe they could call it "de-sensitization to constituents."


DAILY CORRECTION: "The Star wants its news reports to be fair and accurate," announces our favorite morning daily in its corrections space. "We do our best to identify and correct all errors." Too bad so many of those corrections are useless.

Can you tell what the hell these corrections apply to?

· "A story Saturday on D1 referred incorrectly to a hotel adjacent to La Placita Village ..."

· "A story Thursday on B1 contained an incorrect address ..."

· "The title of Lee Greenwood's 'God Bless the U.S.A.' was incorrect Thursday on B1."

First of all, which of the articles on those pages contained the errors? By the time the corrections run, most readers have already found new uses for the pages in question--wrapping fish, training puppies, lining bird cages--so they can't scan the old issues for the admitted errors. And StarNet readers are completely out of luck--there are no page numbers in cyberspace.

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