Life Heats Up for Incoming TUSD School Board Members

When former Tucson Unified School District candidate Betts Putnam-Hidalgo stood before the TUSD board at the last special meeting for the closure and consolidation vote on Thursday, Dec. 20, she brought up a recent radio interview with newly elected board member Cam Juarez.

On KVOI's Buckmaster Show with Bill Buckmaster, Juarez said, "You have a different perspective once you are privy to a lot more information." Juarez explained further that he had access to a little more information from TUSD than he had as a candidate, he changed his mind and understood that school closures had to happen for the district close in on its projected $17 million deficit.

"If they don't happen now they will have to happen in the near future. One way or another it is going to be a difficult thing to do," Juarez said.

But what was special about the information Juarez was provided as opposed to the information provided the public through the series of meetings, public hearings and school master plan?

That's what Putnam-Hidalgo asked the board at the Dec. 27 special meeting, especially since the criteria for school closures didn't fit near-high performing schools on the closure list like Brichta and Sewell This past fall, at a TUSD candidates forum in front of a 700 people at El Casino Ballroom (see above video), Juarez and other newly elected board member Kristel Foster both talked about "not closing schools," but then changed their minds — at least according to the interview on the Buckmaster Show.

"What ever that information is, we need it," Putnam-Hidalgo told the board, referring to Juarez's mention of being privy to information they didn't have before when they were running for school board.

You can listen to the Buckmaster interviews with Juarez and Foster here.

The interviews, coupled with the final vote on the closures, have given the incoming board members a public-relations hill to climb in the eyes of the Internet and social media:


Word is the criticism isn't being taken well, and the new board members wish folks would cool it until the district's next regular school board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 8. That's the meeting that could change the course of this district, and possibly the more recent votes, albeit confusing, that the board took on the desegregation plan with several objections, including the inclusion of culturally relevant curriculum core classes, i.e. Mexican-American studies on Tuesday, Dec. 11.

In our interview with board member Adeltia Grijalva, she said she intends to bring that vote back up before the board during the Jan. 8 meeting when there is a majority board in support of MAS — Grijalva, Foster and Juarez.

Maybe, it's what Juarez referred to in his Buckmaster interview as the time "to start the healing process."

It's time to figure out "how to heal from school closures, how we're going to deal with deseg plan ... we can't afford to lose anymore students. If we lose more students we definitely have to close more schools in the future."

Foster, in support of MAS, said in her Buckmaster interview, "I am going in as a supporter. When you put all the politics aside, the data still stands."

"We have to rebuild our image, our trust, bring the community back to our schools. We have to bring our board and community together."

For some in the community, it means this new board has a lot of work to do, and a lot to prove.