Sic Transit Gloria Copeland

It's Time For Voters To Say Good-bye To A Lousy TUSD Board Incumbent.


GLORIA CHARLES Copeland may be a champion to some in the Tucson Unified School District. But she has already served too much time on the TUSD Governing Board. We liked Copeland the three times she ran. Many in the community believed in 1994 that it was Copeland's turn at the wheel. But over the last four years, many of those supporters have come to realize they'd made a huge mistake. Gloria is out for Gloria, her family (particularly those on the TUSD payroll), and a few close allies. She's vindictive. She's careless. She needs to go.

There's little doubt that Copeland was an appealing choice in her previous runs for the Board. She was a fighter against the intransigent, ignorant and selfish TUSD bureaucracy. But activists don't usually make good policy-makers unless they realize the demands of their new role. Copeland, despite her efforts at what could be labeled constituent service, never came to that understanding.

Currents The time has long since passed to stop the meddling that each and every TUSD Board member practices. Voters can start with Copeland on Tuesday. Copeland, under the guise of service to students and parents, charges onto campuses and issues orders. We didn't elect an ombudsman and certainly not a bully. She unilaterally reverses actions and policies at schools--such as changing a schedule at Tucson High School in order to make life easier for one of her friends on the Tucson High staff. She unilaterally reverses disciplinary actions taken against unruly and violent students. In some cases, these have hit very close to Copeland's home.

Copeland doesn't let principals and other administrators do their jobs. She, and her Board majority, micromanages campuses and personnel. She and her allies move principals and assistant principals around the district with no regard to the students, parents or staff.

Copeland readily plays the race card by saying she's shut out and excluded and that she's fighting to ensure the TUSD Board and the district is inclusive rather than exclusive. She had a little moral high ground two years ago when James Noel Christ, then the president of the Board, thought he was cute by hanging up the phone on Copeland during a meeting she joined from home. Christ would never have done that to one of his white colleagues.

But despite her contrived antics and affected manner, Copeland is a very shrewd political operator who has found a way to be in the majority in TUSD's treacherous floating alliances. As an activist Copeland complained, as she continues to do so today, about TUSD's backroom deals. But she does nothing to stop the Board's exclusion of the public with overused and abused executive sessions and repeated violations of the state Open Meeting Law.

Copeland does not understand budgets, school finances and taxes. She claims she has consistently voted against TUSD's burgeoning budgets. But in reality she dissented only once. That was this year, when the $330.9 million budget actually afforded property owners with a small tax cut. One year, Copeland provided the necessary third vote for the budget--a spending increase--for the sound public policy reason of: "I need to get on with my life...You leave me in a position where I don't know what the heck I'm voting for."

In her populist stand, Copeland rails against a TUSD desegregation budget that has ballooned from less than half a million dollars at its inception in 1978 to $42 million this year. Despite complaining about a few expenditure items in that budget, Copeland has never moved--despite her majority bloc status--for a complete, legal audit of the desegregation budget. Nor has she made positive motions to cut the budget. Embarrassingly, she doesn't know where TUSD derives the tax revenue for that desegregation budget.

If TUSD does a less than a mediocre job of educating its 64,000 students, it's not for a lack of money. Taxpayers beware. In the four short years since Copeland took her seat, the amount taken from TUSD taxpayers--most of whom are homeowners--has jumped 16.5 percent, from $133 million to $152 million. And some of that money is wasted on lawyers hired to keep Copeland and her colleagues out of trouble. The kind of trouble that arose from their violation of state and federal law when they chose to not fully investigate multiple complaints of sexual harassment filed against one of their darling administrators.

Copeland doesn't have time or concern for most of you. She mugs, frowns, scowls and growls at Board meetings. Mostly, though, she gets up and wanders around, particularly when students, parents and taxpayers are trying to address the Board.

Finally, there's the issue of Gloria Mae Charles Copeland's background. During her four campaigns for office, Copeland has claimed a varying academic background. This includes claims to The Arizona Daily Star in 1990, 1992, 1994, that she earned degrees from the University of North Dakota, or Draughon's College in her native Texas, or Midwestern University in Texas. Draughon's is closed. The other schools have made it clear they have no record of Gloria Charles Copeland graduating. There is no requirement for TUSD Board members to have any college education. Indeed, that made the populist Copeland all the more appealing eight, six or even four years ago. That's not the issue. The issue is her coming clean and telling the truth. But rather than do that, Copeland attacks anyone who inquires. It's a legitimate question. And one that has an easy answer. If you've got the degree or degrees, serve up the proof.

A couple of weeks ago, Copeland told her close friend and ardent supporter, radio talk show host John C. Scott, that because a reporter from The Arizona Daily Star was asking questions about an incident involving her son, a student at Sahuaro High School, she was considering staging a press conference to withdraw from the election. But, she added, a well-wisher sent her flowers, and, newly invigorated, Gloria Copeland went out to campaign once more.

She should have stuck with her original instinct. TW

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