Sen. Steve Farley: "This Is Not Your Father's TUSD."

Late Wednesday night at the state legislature, SB 1120, the bill to create a forensic audit of TUSD's desegregation budget, was in front of the House Appropriations Committee. Superintendent H.T. Sanchez made a strong, detailed statement at the hearing. Senator Steve Farley, who represents part of the Tucson district, followed. He began his statement by saying,
"I hope you've been able to see from talking with our new superintendent that this is not your father's TUSD. There is a whole new spirit at TUSD. As a father and parent at TUSD [Farley has a child at Tucson High], I checked it out very carefully. I visited the classrooms. I see the great job the teachers are doing, and the administrators are doing. As a parent, I am very happy with the direction TUSD is moving."
The bill went nowhere, thanks in good part to Sanchez's statement and his detailed answers to questions from the legislators. Unless someone figures out a way to attach it to some other bill at the eleventh hour, the forensic audit is dead.

It did me good to hear Farley's endorsement of TUSD. With so much negativity enshrouding TUSD like a cloud obscuring the daily good work of teachers, support staff and, yes, administrators, the problems in the district are overemphasized and its successes are too often overlooked.

For those who have forgotten or are too young to remember, Farley was paraphrasing an old car ad whose tagline was, "It's not your father's Oldsmobile." Don't dismiss the Olds, the ad urged. Take another look, it's not the car it once was, it's not the car you think it is. That's what Farley was talking about. "There is a whole new spirit at TUSD," he said. Take another look.

I know I'm about to get body-slammed in the comments section (Let the "Naive fool!" "Toady for the administration!" "Grijavalista!" "Sanchez lover!" comments begin), but first, let me add a few conditions to my endorsement of TUSD. Obviously the district has long-standing problems which need to be addressed. Obviously Sanchez, his administrative team and the Board majority have made missteps and mistakes and will continue to make them. But, as Farley said, TUSD is moving in the right direction — slowly, in fits and starts, without enough money to do everything it wants to do, but moving in the right direction, making progress.

TUSD isn't a brand spankin' new car straight off the showroom floor. It's been around for awhile. A more appropriate metaphor for the district might be an ocean liner traveling through uncertain waters, taking on every passenger who shows up at the dock regardless of their readiness, or willingness, to embark on the voyage. The ship must carry them to a variety of destinations which won't be determined until the voyage is well underway, and individual destinations change on a daily basis.

The ship engine is serviceable but could stand new parts and better upkeep, and the living quarters are showing their age, but the company that holds the cash doesn't care much what happens to the ship or its passengers. The crew — some experts at what they do, others still learning their craft — does the best it can with what it has. The captain and his officers try to correct course as the voyage is in progress while voices shout advice and criticism from every direction. The gigantic ship's momentum carries it forward. Changing course is difficult, and abrupt changes are nearly impossible. The ship's speed, direction and ports of call can be changed, but only gradually.

Slowly, the captain and his officers work to improve the ship's efficiency, steer a straighter course and give crew members the support and guidance they need to perform their tasks as well as they can. The changes are never fast or sure enough, and some people will always feel their needs have been slighted no matter what changes are made. No one is completely satisfied. But if the ship is moving in the right direction and making needed changes, that's progress.