TSON News | This week in Education: PCC, UA and TUSD mid-March Madness

This week in Education: PCC, UA and TUSD mid-March Madness

It is Spring Break for us here at Three Sonorans, but the local education news never rests. Here is an update of the latest.

PCC removed from sanctions by HLC!

Pima Community College was at a low point a few years ago. The former Chancellor left in shame and PCC was put on probation by the Higher Learning Commission, threatening the college’s ability to offer college credits that would transfer.

The good thing about being at the lowest point is that there is nowhere to go but up, and PCC has made many changes to make the progress necessary to be completely removed off of any sanctions by the HLC!

PCC was notified this morning by the Higher Learning Commission, its accrediting organization, that it has been removed from sanction after demonstrating it is no longer at risk of failing to meet the HLC’s Criteria for Accreditation.

The College was notified in an Action Letter dated today from HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley. “During its meeting on February 23, 2017, the Board removed the sanction of Notice from the College. This action is effective as of the date the action was taken. The Board determined that the removal of the sanction was warranted based on evidence provided by the College, including the Notice Report, the report of the visiting team, the staff analysis of the sanction, and the College’s responses to these reports,” the letter said.

In a message to the College community, Chancellor Lee D. Lambert said, “This is wonderful news for current and prospective students. Removal from Notice is a crystal-clear indication to students that their school is operating and will continue to operate at a high standard.

“Pima County residents can rest assured we are an institution that is worthy of their support,” Chancellor Lambert added.

Did the UA botch its President search?

Having known almost nothing about the new President that will be chosen, it was a great treat to listen to last Friday’s Buckmaster Show where the Board of Regents’ Rick Myers was going to be on along with the new lone “finalist” Robert Robbins.

Except Robbins was a no-show.

This was probably for the best since it allowed Buckmaster’s media guest Linda Valdez and Dan Shearer to grill Myers about this process so far. For those of us following the process of choosing new educational leaders in Tucson, we had flashbacks to the debacle 4 years ago that brought HT Sanchez to town. He was the lone “finalist” and the TUSD board gave us just one week to meet him and “decide.”

What a joke!

Well, now we have the same process taking place with Robbins. Perhaps Robbins will be the best President ever, but once again the public is left to simply trust the former SALC presidents (Rick Myers and Ronald Shoopman, the latter who was the Vice-Chair of the presidential search committee) who know what is best for all of us. 

The Arizona Republic has an article today entitled Valdez: University of Arizona botched its president search that you should all check out for more info.

TUSD: Replacing Sanchez, manufactured dissent at Pueblo

SALC has always played an important role in choosing Tucson’s educational leaders. Why a group of CEOs knows best instead of the parents, teachers, and citizens of Tucson remain a mystery, especially when they keep getting it wrong.

The Southern Arizona Leadership Council can be thought of as Tucson’s ALEC for the 1%.  Three superintendent selection cycles ago it was noneother than the SALC President Rick Myers who was a finalist against Elizabeth Fagen to lead TUSD.

Two selection cycles ago brought us the Vice-President of SALC, John Pedicone, to lead TUSD and bringing nationwide attention to the Tucson district that was banning Mexican American Studies and several books.

The last cycle brought us the lone “finalist” from Texas, HT Sanchez. During the last several weeks, members from SALC have been advocating for HT Sanchez, spreading lies about enrollment increases to defend their man. SALC also recruited TUSD board member Kristel Foster to become one of them, and her campaign chair last year was a member of SALC.

We also have the lone “finalist” from Texas, Robert Robbins, being chosen by former SALC President Ron Shoopman, to lead the University of Arizona.

The Pattern of SALC is clear, and hopefully, we do not repeat their methods in choosing the next superintendent of TUSD this year.

The Acting Superintendent of TUSD needs to start acting like a superintendent

What is it with educational leaders from Texas being imported to Tucson as if they know what is best for us?

Last June, HT Sanchez brought yet another friend from Texas to “lead” TUSD:

The Tucson Unified School District has a new deputy superintendent of teaching and learning.

Karen Kopec will come on board as second in command to TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez in July. She is a consultant for the national New Tech Network.

New Tech Network works with schools, districts and communities across the country to develop innovative public schools. Sanchez worked alongside Kopec during his time in Texas at Ector County Independent School District.

While applying for the TUSD post, Sanchez listed Kopec as a reference.

Source: Arizona Daily Star.

We say “lead” with quotation marks because it appears that Kopec did not realize that being second in command means that you take over if the superintendent leaves.

Acting superintendent Karen Kopec refuses to take the superintendent’s seat at the last board meeting.

Kopec was also noticeably absent during the last board meeting last week.

Notice that the superintendent’s chair is empty.

Kopec also did not give the superintendent’s report.

TUSD has not collapsed after HT’s departure or Kopec’s non-leadership.

And yet, these are the two highest paid administrators in TUSD. It is interesting how the highest-paid individuals do the least, while without the lowly-paid teachers, TUSD would shut down immediately.

Kopec was a topic in the latest Whistleblowers’ letter:

One thing is for sure, if we had been able to provide a list of HT’s performance woes to the Board (besides our 51 open letters), we would have added Karen Kopec as one of HT’s top hiring bloopers.

Last Thursday at our weekly meeting she began to sob over Sanchez resignation. She sniffled over how great HT is and that she came to Tucson only because of him. She went on and on and on about his wonders.

This all from an administrator who has contributed nothing since she began her job (given to her by her friend Sanchez). She usually has nothing to say at meetings and she made it overwhelmingly uncomfortable for most of us while she came unglued. Some in the audience applauded her (we think to end the miserable blubbering) which meant that the rest of us had to chime in. After all, notes are taken on who is “in” and who is “out” based on the support shown for the top level clowns.

She was so distraught that she could not run the next meeting. Instead, Abel Morado stood up and ranted about the greatness of HT and since he is the leased employee who got a $34,000 raise without the Board’s knowledge or approval, it is remarkably clear that he owes HT a lot.

(Article continued below)

Kopec told us that she is not planning to stay after her contract is up. She should do herself and the District a favor; ask to be released from her contract and hitch a ride with HT back to Texas, ASAP. With her salary, the Board could allow the interim superintendent to bring in someone to support the immediate work at hand.

Who will be the TUSD Interim Superintendent?

We have spent the last 4 Tuesdays in a row at TUSD board meetings; including Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras. We will never have that precious time back.

It took three meetings to finally get rid of HT Sanchez. This may have been for the best, and Adelita and Kristel’s support for the embattled superintendent may have worked against him.

It appears that HT Sanchez may have been fired with cause at first; this first meeting fell on Valentine’s Day. This would have led to a lawsuit that TUSD may have lost unless they had something like a clear violation. HT Sanchez could have sued for millions for a loss of future earning potential, and looking across the country, fired superintendents win these types of cases.

Then at the third meeting, something was presented to HT Sanchez that made him realize he was in severe trouble, so he resigned that day. The board voted to approve his resignation 3-2; Kristel and Adelita still refused to accept the reality that their hero was also a quitter. HT Sanchez left us on Mardi Gras and now TUSD would have to atone for its sins for the next 40 days.

The following week we learned that it may indeed take 40 days to even get an interim superintendent. Rather than start the meeting with the announcement that they were pulling the item regarding appointing an interim, the board made us sit until the last Action Item when they finally told us they had not made a decision yet.

Today, Monday, March 13th, 2017, the board is having a special meeting that is executive session only. No public meeting, no vote. The only item is the discussion of the interim superintendent.

Finally, they are learning.

A decision of this magnitude should be the focal point, and a month later they finally devote one meeting to this one item. And they have not misled the public by pretending there will be a vote later to reveal their decision.

By the next meeting, they should have made a decision. Since we get asked this all the time, we might as well mention our prediction; Maggie Shafer, assistant superintendent under Pedicone, will become interim.

Shafer decided to leave TUSD after Pedicone decided he would leave also, and it was almost exactly 4 years ago that we wrote this article about her new position at the UA that was never even advertised:

It is interesting that TUSD will require a national search to fill Shafer’s job (in addition to the many other jobs that are opening up since the article above was written earlier this week), and that she is taking the “next logical step” in her career, which currently is pays $113,000 a year. Surely a logical next step would mean a raise in income of some sort.

What is also interesting is that it seems the UA does not have the same standards or desire to look nationwide to fill their own positions; in fact, it hard to find any advertisement or announcements for that UA job Shafer magically found and won. It would be interesting to find out who her competition was for this six-figure position that will be training the future of Tucson’s teachers.

By “interesting” I also mean that these job positions must be open to all and advertised and cannot merely be created for just one person, but so far there is no record of this new position being advertised at all.

Is Maggie Shafer’s “next logical step” in her career to become the next superintendent of TUSD?

Pueblo’s problematic principal

5 years after the banning of Mexican American Studies, the former MAS Director Augustine Romero is finally leaving TUSD after all the supporters of his ineptitude have lost power over the district.

Now the principal at Pueblo High School, Romero was the prime example of Peter’s Principle.

His journey in TUSD after the banning of MAS also gives an example of huge mistake after another until finally, just like his new role model HT Sanchez, he had to quit the job that he was so bad at doing.

First, Romero became the Multicultural Curriculum Director in the summer of 2012. In this role, he made national news by creating a curriculum and book list that contained zero Chicano authors:

The Tucson Unified School District governing board approved a list of 25 books for culturally relevant courses in US history and government Tuesday night.  The vote was close with three members voting for the list and two voting against it.  And those who opposed the district’s termination of Mexican American Studies two years ago had criticism of the list.

We are bringing Mexican American perspectives into this curriculum. There’s not one Chicano author on the list that you’re going to approve tonight. How are you going to have Chicano perspectives with no Chicano authors?” MAS supporter David Morales asked the board.

Source: KOLD-13.

Then at the next board meeting, they had a revised booklist, but it still kept the 7 books that were banned in TUSD banned; in particular was no mention of Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rudy Acuña. This textbook is the foundation of so many Mexican American history courses at colleges across the nation and was one of the books that were banned in TUSD.

From being a director of creating curriculum which he had never done before, Auggie then became Principal at Pueblo High School despite having no experience as even an assistant superintendent.

Within just a few weeks, Romero went to a national conference and had to be escorted out for violent behavior towards a former MAS teacher that called him out for selling out.

Ever since, the list keeps growing. Teachers complain that he’s never around on campus (have they tried looking at Tacos Apson across the street?).

There was a grade-changing scandal where he changed the grade of 6 students who failed a class. Under state law, only the teacher or governing board has the power to change a student’s grade; and after doing so bragged that he raised the graduation rate!  It was another former MAS teacher whose grades he changed. Sin verguenza!

And now he has resigned/quit from Pueblo HS.

Well, not quite.

Now he wants to revive the HT Sanchez supporters group by claiming he is going to “rescind” his resignation after the board voted 5-0 to accept it. He is going to use the race card just as Kristel and Adelita have been doing lately in trying to save Sanchez. After learning of this, we then find out that students had a walkout at Pueblo HS in support of their principal who decided to quit on them.

KGUN-9 was present to capture video of the walkout, along with further information on how it was organized.

Another TUSD administrator is leaving the district less than a week after H.T. Sanchez resigned. Pueblo High School principal Auggie Romero is retiring at the end of the school year. He’s been the center of the illegal grade-changing controversy and pending state probe.

Shortly after graduation last school year Yolanda Sotelo, a highly qualified English teacher, came to KGUN9 claiming Auggie Romero changed the grades of 6 Pueblo High School students without her permission — a violation of state law and district policy. “This is something that has never happened before in my 31 years as a teacher,” said Sotelo.

She said 6 seniors failed her English course, but Romero changed the grades to D’s allowing them to walk with the rest of seniors graduation night. Romero admitted to changing the grades.

So now Auggie Romero will try to live on his knees by begging the TUSD school board to take him back after all his shenanigans.

It was almost 5 years ago that TUSD decided not to renew the contract of the last MAS director it ever had, a scholar who co-founded the program in the late 1990’s. He did not quit. He stood up to the end, and the call to the audience was about 3 hours long as the community came out to support him.

Pedicone hated him, and without the support of Grijalva, his contract was not renewed. Now he’s creating MAS classes in California, something we still don’t have here in TUSD because they are still banned.

Also published on Medium.

8 comments on “This week in Education: PCC, UA and TUSD mid-March Madness
  1. If Maggie Shafer becomes the interim superintendent it will be business as usual. Nothing will change, Shafer was involved in much of the Shannon Roberts scandal. If this happens the board will lose my support and TUSD IS FINISHED.

  2. Until this previous comment, I have never heard a criticism of Maggie Shafer’s work in TUSD. She was extremely well thought of as a principal and as an administrative leader in the district until she left for the UA.

  3. What Romero admitted to doing at Pueblo in the grade-changing scandal was illegal in every respect and would have provided ample cause to have his administrative certificate revoked permanently.

  4. I had no idea who Karen Kopec really was until this article! Not only was she Sanchez’s reference, he awarded her a surprising consulting contract with TUSD not long after he was hired. There were articles about it in the Arizona Daily Star. There was even more information about their connection in the newspaper in Texas.

    Sanchez publically attacked the Arizona Daily Star reporter more than once in Board meetings for reporting on the consulting contract. He’s done the same thing to other reporters, columnists and broadcasters. He’s complained to the Arizona Star’s publisher about a reporter. He even took out a half page ad to attack Tim Steller for writing about TUSD’s failure to pay teachers their 301 performance money.

    As I remember it, the request for proposal was only sent to 3 consulting firms. Mr. Awwad came up with the list. He claimed he looked on the internet and could only find three education consultants! The other two firms didn’t bother responding to TUSD’s request for proposal, only Karen Kopec’s firm responded. The amount of money wasn’t huge, but it was amazing, with all the TUSD folks with doctorates in education, Sanchez had a CPA research education consultants.

    With Sanchez as superintendent, there has never been a dull moment.

  5. There are, apparently, a lot of good people who think really highly of Maggie Schaefer. For my part, when the District was once again trying to close Holladay School back in 2008 or so, Ms. Schaefer’s “creativity” at parent meetings became the reason that we started taping anyone who came from the District to talk about Holladay’s future (or lack of it). Perhaps when she spoke to parents she really didn’t know what was planned for the school, but at the Board level, they seemed to know quite well. Unfortunately for us, parents at Holladay, she was ostensibly telling us what the District was doing–by talking a lot and saying very little. Some of us started paying attention to the Board right then and there, and some of us never quit. Lets hope, if she becomes the interim supervisor, that her transparency has improved a lot!

    Oh, and about the job that she ultimately got at UA–I think that I did know someone, now deceased, who applied for that job. A least he spoke of a job that he applied for that she ultimately got–I remember it because I had so little confidence in her honesty at that time, and so much in his! So while it may not have been openly advertised, I do believe that it was at least known to the Tucson educational community.

    Again, that was all many years ago, and as anyone who watches the TUSD Board should know, people, their positions and their transparency level can change RADICALLY over time. (Again, think the “progressives” of 2012 who were going to bring back MAS, even if they admitted that they would have voted against it, and improve the lot of teachers and workers in the district, even if they privatized and withheld funds from them later) Lots of good eggs went sour through the years….can the opposite happen?

  6. Anyone directly connected to HT (and by association Adelita or Kristel) must be removed. These three amigos have proven time and again it is only about politics/$$$ and not the teachers and kids.

    Drain the swamp at 1010 and work your way down the organizational chart!

  7. Why in the world would Maggie leave her job at the UofA? We all have our faults but I don’t think that crazy is one of Maggie Shafer’s. Money isn’t everything and I’m sure that she is getting adequately compensated at the College of Ed without so many of the headaches. Live long and prosper Maggie.

    • Wouldn’t becoming the superintendent of Tucson’s largest school district and doubling your salary be an obvious next step in Shafer’s career?

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