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Open 48th Letter
From: Whistleblowers– Comprised of a Large Group of Extremely Concerned TUSD Administrators, Teachers, Retired Administrators and Parents, Grandparents
·Oh, Oh, Oh Ochoa! Ouch!
·Balancing the TUSD Books Off the Backs of Teachers
·Audit Committee- Obvious Conflict by the Name of Ricky D. Hernandez
·Mean Girl Strikes Again- Votes Against those who Defend the Rights of Latino Students
·Pueblo High School Vandalism
Many from our continuously growing group met on Tuesday night, January 17th , to watch the Board meeting. Some of the lowest of low-lights from the meeting are covered below.
Oh, Oh, Oh Ochoa! Ouch!
Some of us have extremely strong ties to Ochoa. Were it not for this fact maybe the Ochoa circus during Tuesday’s Board Meeting would not have been as obvious. Caesar Aguirre has been designated circus ring master and on Tuesday night he also performed some of his best snake-oil tricks as he stood before the Board and told one lie after another during the call to the audience. Kristel Foster was taken in by Aguirre’s hocus-pocus and applauded intermittingly as his lies rolled out. There is not supposed to be comment or “exchange” between the Board and speakers during call to the audience but Kristel takes “personal political privilege” whenever she damn pleases. Her ridiculous behavior is embarrassing. Aguirre claimed that things have never been better for Ochoa as they have been over the last three years (in other words under his buddy HT Sanchez’ reign). He said that there has never been as much instructional rigor and that it is the best school in the area. Really? Aguirre used his lies as rationale for the Board to continue to fund Ochoa, we are guessing- as if it had never lost its magnet status.
Here are some facts, vs. the lies he presented:
Ochoa recently lost its magnet status because it failed to meet the requirements under the desegregation court order. Those of us at magnet schools know exactly what was required in order for us to maintain our school’s magnet status. We may not have been told much else but we were informed of what was required.
During the last three years Ochoa has had four principals. This reveals lack of stability and consistency at the school. It also exposes the negligence of Sanchez and the former Board majority to do what was needed to have Ochoa meet the requirements to integrate the school and improve academic achievement.
Three years ago an experienced principal was appointed as Ochoa’s site administrator (2014-15). She immediately set out to improve instruction and achievement. Her focus was in promoting instructional rigor in every classroom. She realized that in order to make the needed improvements for Ochoa students, she would have to make several immediate changes. She was stopped from making the changes. Instead of using her expertise to bring reform to Ochoa, she was pressured out of her position by Caeser Aguirre and Brian Flagg (and those who dutifully follow them) because she was making “too many changes” and not consulting with them beforehand. Aguirre and Flagg lobbied to get rid of her and used defaming strategies to convince Sanchez, Grijalva, Foster and Juarez that the appointed instructional leader had to be moved from Ochoa. She was transferred out. This was an enormous mistake. It confused and saddened many at Ochoa and resulted in the loss of good teachers who would have otherwise remained. (The teacher turn-over and vacancy rate has been horrible at Ochoa.)
The experienced principal understood her role as an instructional leader but apparently Sanchez did not. Flagg and Aguirre not only did not understand it, they obstructed it. She was happy to leave an environment which has been taken over by a local political activist/hack who runs a homeless shelter and soup kitchen (Flagg) (the work is honorable work but it is not the likes of running a public school). Flagg’s front-man, Aguirre, is one of his employees. Aguirre also is a shelter occupant, who has one child attending Ochoa. He is indebted to Flagg and pays his debt in political installments.
Following the departure of the experienced principal, an INexperienced principal was appointed to Ochoa by HT. Flagg and Aguirre were involved in the selection process and fully supported the appointment. The selectee’s lack of experience and missing focus on the job set Ochoa even further back as a magnet school. He lasted all of one single school year because he got himself into very, very, very hot personal water that involved a subordinate and he wound up drowning his professional status. The man caused incredible personal pain to a lot of people. Due to the nature of the hot water that was brought to a boil by this very green administrator, Ochoa became consumed by gossip to the point of non-functionality. This bad-hire-inexperienced principal caused a great deal of upheaval. He was so busy with “his” stuff that he had no time or expertise to supervise and improve instruction. Rigor was not on his “to do” list and instruction at Ochoa was absent any leadership. Because of the trouble that he was engaged in, he saw the writing on the wall and escaped to Sahuarita School District during the summer of 2016. TUSD gave him a glowing reference. (In other words, TUSD lied.)
Since the beginning of this school year Ochoa has had two interim principals. We guess HT does not believe that Ochoa deserves a permanent principal or any type of consistent instructional leadership. Remember that it was Flagg and Aguirre who were successful in getting rid of the experienced principal and their push to appoint an INexperienced principal is what has driven Ochoa backwards instead of forward.
Morale at the school, as anyone reading this can imagine, is not positive. The current interim principal is keeping the boat afloat but leadership at the school has obviously been unsettled. Many teachers have left during the last three years. Teachers should not be placed in the position of feeling that they must take cues (orders) from Aguirre or Flagg, yet this is exactly what has happened. Last year the principal mandated that teachers have parents sign petitions during parent conferences (having to do with the desegregation case). He told some teachers that it was because Aguirre/Flagg wanted them signed and that Sanchez approved it. Days after this happened teachers were told not to discuss the petitions with anyone.
The current interim principal is the daughter of Mary Bell McCorkle who endorsed Cam Juarez and Krystal Foster to get reseated on the Board. She was one of Cam’s campaign whisperers. Cam’s ties to Flagg and Aguirre run decades deep. Dan Eckstrom and Raul Grijalva have strong interchangeable quid pro qua relationships with Flagg. They need campaign workers; Flagg delivers from his roster of people he has helped through his shelter and soup kitchen. Flagg needs political clout; Eckstrom or Grijalva deliver. The McCorkle daughter is much more than the interim principal at Ochoa, she is part of political exchange club. She recognizes the sorry state she found Ochoa and she will do as much as she can to alleviate the Ochoa crisis but she will never expose the full facts of the situation. She understands that her role is more political than serving as interim principal. Lucky for us Cam lost his bid for re-election, however, the strings that tie the corrupt loyalties in TUSD are all in place. Indeed, it is corruption because the academic well-being of Ochoa students is not issue, it is the political well-being of Sanchez, Grijalva, Foster, Juarez, and Flagg/Aguirre.
Have any of you taken a look at the Ochoa achievement scores? Achievement levels are pretty abysmal and not a reflection of instructional rigor. If you have not seen the scores and you are interested see:
How does Aguirre get off gleefully reporting that there is instructional rigor taking place at Ochoa? (Oh, we should mention that he is also an anti-achievement testing. While there is currently too much testing, most credible educators know that there must be some testing for purposes of instructional planning and accountability. Most parents want to know how their child is performing academically. Without normed academic assessments none of this is in place.) Aguirre probably does not know what he does not know or he is under the spell of his own snake oil (and HTs). Whatever the case, his statements to the Board were wholly false. Aguirre does not think outside of his closed-off mind. How can he possibly brag about instructional rigor at Ochoa when there is evidence that refutes this? So that we were not basing our information on a single year of achievement scores, we even looked at achievement scores from previous years and the comparison shows achievement actually dropping at Ochoa; NOT improving. Aguirre is hurting the very children he is allegedly advocating for at Ochoa. He is all about his own “activist” stardom.
Casa Maria, the shelter and soup kitchen that employs him is part of the Catholic Worker Community. It’s stated mission is “…to practice daily the love and compassion of Jesus and to implement the teachings of his Gospel and the social doctrine of our church. The Sermon on the Mount and the call to solidarity with the poor are the heart of these teachings.” Maybe Aguirre should review his Catholic teachings enough to recall that lying is not part of the doctrine and that his hate for “gavachos” or “gringos” does not serve the Latino community. Where does hate fit into love and compassion? His hypocrisy is a match to Sanchez’.
Instructional rigor is defined by educator Barbara R. Blackburn as “…creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each student is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels.” Instructional rigor is NOT taking place at Ochoa. It is terrible that a so called advocate would claim that it is.
Our entire group is distressed by the recent stripping of magnet status from six of our precious magnet schools. We hold the current administration and the former Board majority responsible for this catastrophe and for Ochoa, we consider Flagg and Aguirre key contributors to the problem. Those of us who are more intimately involved with Ochoa realize that the loss of its magnet status is sadly justified. Aguirre, Flagg and Sanchez publically stated their opposition to integration to the Ochoa community. The concept of integration was abandoned by these individuals along with their 2015-16 rookie principal. It is not surprising to anyone familiar with Ochoa that the requirement was not met. But Ochoa also failed in the area of academic achievement. Aguirre seems to blame the Court and Special Master for the loss of Ochoa’s magnet status but the deficiencies at Ochoa point to Sanchez, Grijalva, Foster, Juarez, Flagg and his side-kick, Aguirre.
Aguirre recently shared that Sanchez has promised him that he will deliver desegregation funding to Ochoa, regardless of what it takes. Aguirre suggested that Sanchez has a scheme in progress to accomplish this. During the Board meeting Grijalva stated that she wants all of the six schools which have lost their magnet status to continue with the programs (and we guess with required funding). What does this mean exactly? Does this mean that the school district can historically neglect half a dozen schools but carry on as though nothing has happened or does it mean that she (and her Bobbsey twin- Foster) are simply going to throw out political platitudes to make each of the school communities involved believe that they care, when, by evidence they DO NOT.
(Article continued below)
The Gross MISmanagement of 301 funding by HT Sanchez and His Crew
The MISmanagement of 301 money by HT Sanchez and the former Board majority exposes the financial instability of TUSD and affirms the information that Yousef Awwad provided to the Board just prior to his departure. Awwad must have figured out that he was working for a shady crook and decided to sever any association with HT Sanchez as soon as he could. (At the time, HT’s response was to defame Awwad by spreading malicious information about him. HT will stoop to the lowest snake level to try to assassinate anyone’s character who disagrees with him. ) More recently HT has again resurrected John Pedicone’ name and reputation. HT said that Pedicone set up the 301 funding system and that all he- HT- was doing was following what had been in place. This is hypocritical rational since HT has had no problem in demolishing other things that John Pedicone had put in place. After four morbid years of HT Sanchez, isn’t it time for him to man-up and own his sh _ _. Kristel Foster not only supports Sanchez in his MISmanagement of 301 monies but at the Board meeting of January 17th, she asked a rehearsed question of one of the accountants from Heinfeld Meech who were there to present on the District’s 2015-16 financial statement. She asked one of the accountants to basically bottom-line his expert opinion on the use of 301 funding. The accountant gave his rehearsed response and basically said that all was kosher with the 301 fund.
Both accountants who addressed the Board were remarkably arrogant. Soto, and perhaps Sanchez, had told them to prepare for questions on the 301 funding and the responses were cold, calculated, and rehearsed. Yet, what is confirmed and shown in the accounting report is that TUSD stockpiled nearly 21 million dollars in its classroom site fund, which comes from Prop 301 dollars. The accountants declared, as did the Pima County Treasurer that TUSD has been borrowing the money to pay negative cash balances. And as rehearsed, the accountants said that all of this is legal. Immorality is not always illegal. Immoral acts often lead to illegal acts. We wonder how many illegal acts have already taken place under the current administration and blessed by Kristel Foster, Adelita Grijalva and – thank goodness he is gone- Cam Juarez
After Awwad gave his assessment about the District’s financial health, Karla Soto, HT Sanchez, and Adelita Grijalva contradicted everything that Awwad reported and bragged about the “reserve” that they had in place, not revealing that the a large portion of the “reserve” (or whatever label they want to place on it) was derived from 301 monies. Soto colluded with HT Sanchez to disguise all of this until it was exposed through various sources, including Lillian Fox, Three Sonorans, KGUN9, the Arizona Daily Independent and Josie Rincon. Meanwhile Jason Freed, TEA President, has done NOTHING to support current and former teachers who have been cheated out of 301 funding that was intended ONLY to go to them; not to pay TUSD bills, such as for expenses incurred for out of state travel, hotel and conference fees for HT Sanchez and his former Board majority.
As an aside, as it became apparent to Kristel Foster during the Board meeting that there was not sufficient support to approve another junket for her to attend, she spun into a mini-temper tantrum. She had another one of her righteous, condescending moments as she immaturely argued that the entire Board should attend the 77th Annual Conference of the National School Boards Association in Denver, Colorado, March 24-28, 2017 but that no one on the Board should stand in the way of her attending, along with HT and Adelita Grijalva. (These were not her exact words but definitely her message.) The fact that her family lives in Aurora, Colorado, and that she had planned to take advantage of the TUSD-expense-paid trip to visit with her family fueled her indignation even more. She could see her “free trip to visit with family” slip away from her. The whole thing was pathetic. When she gets into one of these rages she forgets to put the brakes on herself, so she then went on the attack and suggested that the Board should add a condition to these type of agenda items, which would require Board members who sign up to attend conferences- but fail to attend- to pay the full amount of the District-paid expenses back to the District. She then turned to Rachael Sedgwick and asked if she was going to pay the District back for not attending the ASBA conference. Sedgwick appropriately ignored her. Mean girl Kristel Foster strikes again!
TUSD Audit Committee and Its Conflict- Ricky Hernandez
Ricky D. Hernandez, who is the Chairperson of the TUSD Audit Committee is married to someone who works for TUSD. He also has other relatives who work for the District. This taints his independence and bleeds the Committee of any legitimate credibility. He currently works for the Pima County Superintendent and his role as an Audit Committee member and current Chairperson also places some particular stresses on the office. The current and former Superintendents have not supported his involvement on the TUSD Audit Committee. But Hernandez insists that he is free to work on the Committee on his own time. We wonder how much Pima County time he is devoting to the Audit Committee. We wonder how much time from his day job he spent working on the report that he presented to the Board on January 17th.
Hernandez used to work for TUSD. He began with TUSD in 2003 and held various positions in grants management, budget management, financial services, and budget compliance. He established work relationships with a lot of people who still work for TUSD. His work concluded with TUSD as the Budget Manager in 2008, when he joined the Pima County Superintendent’s Office.
Ricky Hernandez’ wife works for TUSD in a large department- the Technology Services Department. Scott Morrison, a close ally of Sanchez was appointed Chief Technology Officer after Damon Jackson, the former Technology Chief, abruptly left his position to return to Texas. He was one of HT’s transplants from Texas. Stefanie Boe works directly for Scott Morrison and Hernandez’ spouse, Vanessa Hernandez, is Stefanie Boe’s Administrative Assistant. You can connect the dots for yourself on the October 2016 Organization Chart:
A summary of the critical connected dots that show reporting relationships:
Superintendent Sanchez · · · · Scott Morrison, Chief Technology Officer · ·· · Stefanie Boe, Senior Director of Community Relations and Media Relations · · · · Vanessa Hernandez, Administrative Assistant (to Stefanie Boe) and spouse of Ricky D. Hernandez
Stefanie Boe is TUSD’s “positive communication” queen, often burying information that she perceives as negative to keep it from going public (although all TUSD information should be public). She regularly pokes and prods news reporters not to run with a story for one of her many irrational reasons. She and HT Sanchez have no problem complaining about a reporter who reports what HT and Boe believe to be negative news about TUSD. They intimidate reporters as much as possible so that they can control the news.
Let us revisit the 301 funding. It has been all over the news. It has been discussed at several Board meetings. Teachers have protested outside of Board meetings about how 301 funding has been hoarded rather than paid out to teachers more timely. Many have spoken during Board meetings conveying the same message. The Audit Committee and its Chairperson undoubtedly know about the issue and also are aware about the public concern over the issue. Yet, the Committee has been silent or secretive about any work the Committee has done to investigate the situation. It is more likely that Hernandez has ignored the issue so that he could avoid dealing with such a “hot” issue. This shows lack of regard for public concern over a critical financial matter. But for anyone who has connected the dots, as we have done, and understands the wrath of Boe and/or Sanchez when there is ANY negative information exposed about TUSD, it actually means a hell of a lot more! How could Ricky Hernandez be any part of a Committee that seriously looks into a matter such as the hoarding of 301 funding and its delayed pay-out to teachers with any neutrality? Of course, the answer is that Hernandez cannot be impartial. He would jeopardize the livelihood of his family by showing real leadership on the Audit Committee. His conflict is obvious. We have all witnessed retribution after retribution by Sanchez to those who go against him. Does anyone believe that Vanessa Hernandez would not be harmed/threatened if her husband exposed anything negative about TUSD in his role as TUSD Audit Committee Chairperson and member? ESPECIALLY, since she works directly for the “positive communication” queen. With such conflict, is Ricky Hernandez the kind of leader that is needed on the Audit Committee? We think not.
Ricky Hernandez needs to immediately resign from the Audit Committee OR the new Governing Board must take action to remove him from the committee. His resignation should take place immediately OR the new Governing Board should add his removal from the Committee to the next Board agenda. Enough corruption!
In his leadership role as Chairperson of the Audit Committee, Hernandez presented a report to the Boardrecommending that the District create an Independent Audit Departmentinstead of simply hiring an independent auditor. He and the Committee have recommended a bloated bureaucratic department and have ignored the direction that was provided by the Governing Board to hire and an independent auditor. It is a wrench into moving forward and hiring someone who can actually investigate financial issues INDEPENDENTLY, such as Title I funding, 301 funding, etc.
And then there is the rumor that all Hernandez and Sanchez are doing is prolonging the process and setting the situation up for Hernandez to be hired as the Independent Budget/Finance Auditor. Hey, maybe it is just a rumor. But we thought this one might have some teeth.
Mean Girl Kristel Foster Voted “NO” Again to Pay the Attorneys Who Represent Latino Students Who Attend TUSD
We find it distasteful and insulting that Kristel Foster continuously votes “NO” to pay the legal fees of the attorneys who represent the Latino Plaintiffs in the desegregation case. She has no difficulty in signing off on a $5,000,000 contract for TUSD’s legal counsel who work on the case (out of Phoenix), in addition to supporting costs for internal attorneys and their related expenses. We know that Sam Brown and Todd Jaeger both dedicate a lot of time to desegregation and that their salaries are higher than most in the District. And why is it all right for Kristel-Mean-Girl-Foster to vote “NO” for the Latino Plaintiffs’ legal counsel fees, when she has no problem voting “YES” to pay the African American Plaintiffs’ fees. Is this racism from someone who pretends to be so pro-Mexican@? Is this stupidity? Is this more meanness? Is it all of the above and more? Does Foster know the constitutional requirements that are in place for the defendants to pay the plaintiffs’ fees in civil rights cases? Of course not. Mean girl Kristel Foster strikes again!
A standard definition of Corruption which we found is: a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit.
In whose interest or benefit it is that Aguirre and Flagg have acted with Sanchez’, Foster’s, Grijalva’s, and Cam’s full support to have a revolving door of administrators and teachers at Ochoa over the last few years?
Whose interest or benefit is Sanchez serving when he promises funding to a school outside of any public or official process? Why hasn’t Utterback received the same promise?
Ask yourself in whose interest or benefit is it to hoard $21,000,000 rather than pay it out to those for whom it was intended.
In whose interest or benefit is it for Ricky Hernandez to sit on the Audit Committee?
The answers to all of the above: NOT the students and NOT the teachers. You know the names of those who fill in the answers.
Pueblo High School Vandalism
Although nothing was said at the Board meeting about the vandalism at Pueblo we believe that we should address the issue. Recently more vandalism has taken place. The type of vandalism that is occurring seems targeted and motivated by anger. We hope that those responsible for the criminal acts are apprehended but we also hope that the Board looks at the situation as another instance of inept management by the Pueblo administration. The GSRR is not followed at Pueblo and students know that they are free to wonder the halls, ditch classes, be tardy, disrespect their teachers, cause instructional interruptions on a constant basis and, in general, do as they please. Most violations are ignored by the administration and teachers feel abandoned by Auggie Romero. Why would any Pueblo student learn that there are consequences to inappropriate behavior at Pueblo? The recent vandalism is symptomatic of ignoring discipline problems and student resentment that has piled up over too many issues to list.
Even severe violations at Pueblo are ignored (drugs, weapons, etc.). The pressure to change grades is still a part of the culture and students, especially athletes, get a “pass” because teachers are pushed into passing students who are failing. We thought this would change once the problem was exposed but it has not changed and Romero has gotten away with the crime just like the students get away with their violations. Exactly how long is the Board going to ignore the inept administration at Pueblo?
Thanks to those who publish us or reference us: Three Sonorans and Arizona Daily Independent. We also appreciate those who take the time to read our letters. We appreciate it a great deal!