EVEN ASSAULT: As if Tucson Unified School Board President Brenda Even hasn't alienated enough people, she recently attempted to dislocate 44 at-risk high school students--all because of a portable building she wanted.

In an astonishing power play, Even insisted a program she had championed two years earlier vacate a TUSD-owned building on the Pima Community College West Campus. EDGE, a 10-year Pima County Adult Education program which educates at-risk high school students, was told in December to move its program out by January 8.

Two years ago the EDGE program joined forces with PCC and TUSD to run a site for students on the PCC campus, hoping to establish a program where students would be able to complete their high school course work and co-enroll at Pima. PCC offered the land and utilities, TUSD the portable building, and EDGE agreed to administer it. It was a true community collaboration aimed at getting kids who were out of the system, for all kinds of reasons, back in. Reportedly, Even joyfully attended the open house heralding the start of one of her pet projects.

What turned Even against the program is that EDGE became its own charter school in August of last year. Even saw this as competition for state dollars. Acting without other board members, she and TUSD School Superintendent George Garcia met with Anita Lohr, Pima County school superintendent, at the end of November, and told her EDGE had to go.

In a December 1 letter, Lohr asked that the issue be put on the December 19 school board agenda. Garcia denied the request on December 11.

For further arm-twisting, EDGE was then notified by PCC they didn't have a signed lease and needed to move. Hard to call this a coincidence since Even's husband, John, is on the PCC school board.

But TUSD Board Member Joel Ireland, not an Even fan club member, told Garcia he had three board members who wanted the school to stay and wanted the matter on the agenda.

Unaware of their status and fearing for the continuity of the school and the possible loss of concerned and confused students, EDGE negotiated a lease for a new central location the weekend before the board meeting. On Monday they found out they were on the Tuesday agenda.

With a new site in place, EDGE asked to remain at Pima only until the end of January. They got a 5-0 approval and some board members said they were disappointed the school would not stay through May. If only Brenda had mentioned it to them earlier.

Instead, 44 at-risk, struggling students must re-adjust transportation, school and work schedules in the middle of a school year. One more time someone's political agenda has taken precedence over sanity and students.

TUSD claims it will operate its own alternative program at the PCC site. But from all accounts, no program is ready.

As an educator, Brenda Even gets an F for this one, warriors.

Hannah Glasston is a part-time writing skills instructor for the EDGE program. TW

--Hannah Glasston
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