Editors Note 

Hear that vacuum suck from 1010?

click to enlarge TUSD Board members Rachael Sedgwick and Mark Stegeman at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Danyelle Khmara

TUSD Board members Rachael Sedgwick and Mark Stegeman at the Feb. 21 meeting.

Hear that vacuum suck from 1010?

Watching Tucson Unified School District implode again and again hurts. I can't help but wonder what the late Judy Burns would think of all this mess. Known for being at times a bit of a superintendent pain in her own right as a governing board member, I wonder if TUSD would be in this current mess if Burns was, well, still around. The current mess of having a board majority go out of its way to get rid of a superintendent wouldn't have happened, I believe, if the last board majority did their job properly: questioning H.T. Sanchez more and not dismissing critics as either being haters, anti-Grijavalistas or ignorant of the bigger picture.

I understand why they stood in his corner so fervently at times. No matter what this new board majority says, Sanchez worked tirelessly for the board and the five-year plan he put together was finally seeing traction through some closure of the achievement gap and seeing important processes take root to address the district's 40-plus year desegregation order. Even if I didn't always like Sanchez, I happened to like the fact he went up to Crazyland to check in with the Legislature. It was about time a superintendent from our belittled district did exactly that. The new board majority could have worked with Sanchez, but they didn't. And now, no matter how Mark Stegeman spins this, there is a real leadership vacuum at TUSD and another crisis unfolding with the people Sanchez left behind.

There are some whose opinions I've respected in the past who wholeheartedly support the new majority's methodology in ousting Sanchez. How sad. Thinking Michael Hicks and Stegeman offer the district real leadership is forgetting a past that, frankly, I can't forget. During the height of the Mexican American Studies fight, I remember a Hicks who'd go outside during the governing board breaks and taunt students and community members standing outside in protest. I saw Stegeman, as president of the board, allow important meetings to go on in the small 1010 boardroom rather than move to a larger space. I saw him lose absolute respect and control at a meeting while professor and activist Guadalupe Castillo was escorted out of the board room by four riot-gear wearing Tucson Police Department officers. I saw Stegeman at a state administration hearing, describe MAS classes as cults endangering students. Oh and don't forget Hicks on the Daily Show earnestly describing bean burritos shared with MAS students as a way to brainwash them while they learned about Mexican-American history.

No, these are not real leaders. To be fooled into thinking so means history is pointless. I'm hoping Burns can reach through the other side with some board lessons of her own to newcomer Rachael Sedgwick: Think for yourself rather then being pulled into majority think. It didn't help Sanchez last year and it isn't going to help the district now.

The whispers coming out of 1010 may not be singing the praises of Sanchez, although many have shared with me that they respected him. The five-year plan was only two years in, they reminded me. It would have transformed the district, they've said. Maybe. I also understand resumes are being typed up as we speak, because a vacuum has been created by this severe lack of leadership on our governing board.

— Mari Herreras, mari@tucsonlocalmedia.com

More by Mari Herreras

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