Mark Stegeman addresses HT Sanchez possible violation of termination contract: Trespassing on TUSD schools was forbidden

Three Sonorans note: Below is the entire constituent letter from TUSD board member Mark Stegeman. I include a small excerpt here that is related to the last article we wrote about HT Sanchez trespassing on TUSD property without TUSD security escorting him, which is a direct violation of his termination contract where he received $200,000 to stay AWAY from TUSD:

On May 9, Sanchez wrote to TUSD Central Administration, seeking permission to speak at both commencements.

Central did not disclose the request to any board members (that I know of), but on about May 13 it decided to grant permission. Even then, it never told the Board about the request, though it did finally warn several board members on the morning of graduation (May 25).

On May 18, Sanchez nowhere appeared on the list sent to the Board of “Who Will Attend” the commencements.

For UHS, the list showed (in addition to board members) only Deputy Supt. Kopec; for Mary Meredith, it showed only Trujillo, Kopec, and Assistant Supt. Morado.

A concerned teacher had warned me that Sanchez would speak at UHS, but I was startled to see him at Mary Meredith. Also, the security personnel required by the separation agreement were not present.

This was not a good outcome. Some persons have wondered whether TUSD paid any fees or reimbursements to Sanchez, but the Board has been assured that this did not happen.


Dear supporters and correspondents,

I believe that TUSD is on a steady forward path this year. Change has been slower than I had hoped, but it is happening. In addition to the letter, have attached an oped that I published in the Star on April 2, about the path forward.

The end of UA’s semester will help me to catch up on correspondence (including replies that I owe to many of you). I will soon send letters on other issues, but this one concerns only the Superintendent transition.

Summary of the attached letter:

Appointment of the interim Superintendent. The Board unanimously appointed Asst. Supt. Gabriel Trujillo to serve as interim Supt. through June 30, with the likelihood of extension while the Board completes the search for the long-term Superintendent. TUSD’s management culture already shows improvement.

Process for choosing the long-term Superintendent. The Board unanimously appointed former Flowing Wells Superintendent Nic Clement to serve as its search consultant, for an $8,000 maximum fee. The advertisement for TUSD’s Superintendent position was posted earlier this week, and the application process closes on June 30. The Board will appoint an 11-member review committee to help screen applications.

Public input into the search process. Dr. Clement will host several meetings on June 8, to allow community members to provide input on the criteria that should be used to screen applications. The public will have a second chance to provide input later in the summer, when finalists are invited for forums and interviews.

Board member contact with applicants. I have suspended all private contact with known potential applicants. Because of (real and imagined) incidents during past searches, I hope that the rest of the Board makes the same commitment.

Financial impact of the separation agreement (update). As uncertainties, such as the cost of the search, get resolved, it becomes increasingly likely that the net financial impact of the Superintendent’s separation agreement, on TUSD’s budget, is slightly positive or at worst breakeven.

Rethinking the 16-day separation process. The process leading to the separation agreement produced 16 days of inflamed public debate. Some persons in TUSD administration took extraordinary measures to mobilize support for the Superintendent. In retrospect, it may have been better to abandon the model of a closed personnel process by simply dismissing the Superintendent for cause and allowing a fair appeal process to reach its just conclusion.

Sanchez commencement speeches. The Superintendent’s separation agreement prohibited coming onto TUSD campuses or communicating with TUSD personnel; so many persons were startled to see him give two commencement addresses. These exceptions had been approved by Central Administration without advising the Board.

The attached letter provides more details on each of these topics.

Thanks again for your interest in TUSD.

Mark


June 3, 2017

Dear supporters and correspondents,

I hope and believe that TUSD is on a steady forward path, but this should become clearer over the next several months. Over the past five months, change has been slower than I had hoped, but we are moving in the right direction. I attached to the email an oped that I published in the Star on April 2, about the path forward.

With the UA semester finished, I will soon send other letters on other issues, but this letter concerns only the Superintendent transition. Much has happened in the 2½ months since my last letter.

Contents of this letter:

  • Appointment of the interim Superintendent
  • Process for choosing the long-term Superintendent
  • Public input into the process
  • Board member contact with applicants
  • Financial impact of the separation agreement (update)
  • Rethinking the 16-day separation process
  • Sanchez’s commencement speeches

As always, this letter represents only my viewpoint, not that of the Board as a whole.

Appointment of the interim Superintendent.

Summary: The Board unanimously appointed Asst. Supt. Gabriel Trujillo to serve as interim Supt. through June 30, with the likelihood of extension while the Board completes the search for the long-term Superintendent. TUSD’s management culture already shows improvement.

In the last letter, I reported that the leading candidate for interim Superintendent had pulled out the night before the vote was scheduled to vote on her contract. A board member reportedly contacted her in the final hours, and she later explained to the Star that she did not have the full support of all board members. More on that below.

Since then, on March 28, the Board unanimously promoted Gabriel Trujillo, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, to serve as interim Superintendent. His old contract remains in place, but his salary has been supplemented by $62,000 annually, which will be prorated by however many months he serves in the interim position.

TUSD’s management culture has become noticeably more professional since Trujillo’s appointment. Many persons have reported that stakeholder complaints and concerns receive more courteous consideration. Board members’ requests for information, which were often simply ignored, now receive mostly prompt responses.

Process for choosing the long-term Superintendent.

Summary: The Board unanimously appointed former Flowing Wells Superintendent Nic Clement to serve as its search consultant, for an $8,000 maximum fee. The advertisement for TUSD’s Superintendent position was posted earlier this week, and the application process closes on June 30. The Board will appoint an 11-member review committee to help screen applications.

On April 25 the Board voted to appoint Dr. Nic Clement, through the auspices of the Arizona School Boards Association, to serve as the Board’s search consultant. The maximum payment is $8,000, much less than a search firm’s typical fee. Dr. Clement, who followed John Pedicone as the Superintendent of the Flowing Wells District, is a respected member of the local education community.

The Board approved the Superintendent job posting on May 23, and TUSD posted the ad on its home page earlier this week. The application deadline is June 30. The Board also approved the structure of an 11-member external committee that will work with Dr. Clement to review applications and send a short list of recommended applicants to the Board. I expect the Board to appoint one member of the committee at its June 13 meeting, and then each board member will appoint two members at their discretion.

This structure is somewhat different from Hicks’s original proposal for a 7-member committee, which I preferred. Foster and Grijalva wanted a 15-member committee, and we reached 11 members as a compromise. My experience with countless committees is: smaller works better.

The Board has cast altogether four key votes on the search process. They were mostly unanimous:


(Article continued below)

Appoint the search consultant 5-0
Approve the job posting 4-1 (Foster dissenting)
Approve the external committee structure 5-0
Approve a tentative timeline 5-0

The Board has split on many votes so far this year, but the vote to appoint a Superintendent will be the most
important. The votes on the process give me hope that a unanimous vote on the appointment is within reach.

Public input into the search process.

Summary: Dr. Clement will host several meetings on June 8, to allow community members to provide input on the criteria that should be used to screen applications. The public will have a second chance to provide input later in the summer, when finalists are invited for forums and interviews.

TUSD has announced on its website several meetings at which anyone can provide input about the criteria that should be used to evaluate applications. Clement will compile the input for the Board. This public input will obviously not affect the already-posted advertisement, but it can affect the external committee’s initial screening and the Board’s subsequent selection of finalists.

All of the meetings are on Thursday, June 8, at the former Duffy school multipurpose room (5145 E. 5th St.). There are three two-hour meetings, from 10-12, 1-3, and 5-7.

Based on the votes and discussion at the May 23 meeting, I expect the Board to name several finalists after it receives the confidential report from the external committee. Clement will organize interviews, public forums, etc., for the finalists. Anyone will be able to submit comments to the Board during this period, which will be the public’s second opportunity to affect the choice of superintendent.

Part of Dr. Clement’s role is to serve as the intermediary between applicants, media, board members, and members of the public. His preferred contact information, for these purposes, is: clementn53@gmail.com; or 520-850-3743.

From this point forward, until the Board has selected the finalists, I plan to forward any inquiries about the search process to Dr. Clement.

Board member contact with applicants.

Summary: I have suspended all private contact with known potential applicants. Because of (real and imagined) incidents during past searches, I hope that the rest of the Board makes the same commitment. Past Superintendent searches have been marred by charges, sometimes justified and sometimes not, of inappropriate contact between applicants and individual board members. A stark example of contact was the blunt intervention that blew up the Board’s first attempt to appoint an interim Superintendent.

I have personally suspended all private communication with known potential applicants, until the Board has finished the process and appointed a Superintendent; or if such contact seems justified then I will discuss it first with Dr. Clement. The interim Superintendent is obviously an exception, if he chooses to apply, but that communication should concern only district administration, not the Superintendent search process. I hope that the Board as a whole will make a similar commitment at its next meeting.

Financial impact of the separation agreement (update).

Summary: As uncertainties, such as the cost of the search, get resolved, it becomes increasingly likely that the net financial impact of the Superintendent’s separation agreement, on TUSD’s budget, is slightly positive or at worst breakeven.

My last letter reported that Dr. Sanchez’s separation agreement, according to its terms as reported in the media, saved TUSD about $257,400, compared to buying out the original contract. The agreement saved even more in comparison to allowing him to serve out the contract. The cost of Dr. Trujillo’s extra duty stipend, through the end of this fiscal year, is about $10,300, and the cost of the search consultant is $8,000. Combining these figures, the separation agreement has saved TUSD over $239,000. This will probably cover
the cost of compensating the Superintendent position through the last year of Sanchez’s original contract,
plus incidental additional search costs.

In other words, the separation agreement will have little net impact on TUSD’s budget. Probably in the end it has a small positive impact.

Rethinking the 16-day separation process

Summary: The process leading to the separation agreement produced 16 days of inflamed public participation and debate. Some persons in TUSD administration took extraordinary measures to mobilize support for the Superintendent. In retrospect, it may have been better to abandon the model of a closed personnel process by simply dismissing the Superintendent for cause and allowing a fair appeal process to reach its just conclusion.

From February 13-28, the Board and district were flooded by discussion of the superintendent separation process, through email, newspaper columns, petitions, speakers at the Board’s audience call, etc. At least 2/3 of those messages supported the Superintendent and were hostile to the Board or at least to the Board’s anticipated action.

At one extreme, the messages I received from current and recent employees were the most likely to support the Board’s direction (though some strongly supported the Superintendent). At the other extreme, messages from community leaders, many of whom had no obvious parental or work connection to TUSD and had rarely if ever attended a board meeting, were almost uniformly opposed.

I entered the process with the fixed viewpoint that personnel processes are internal and not public processes. This practice is partly to protect the organization but even more to protect the employee. The three board members (including me) who ultimately voted for separation succeeded at maintaining discipline and minimizing comment. There were hardly any leaks about the internal discussions.

Externally, however, this meant that everyone (it seemed) was discussing the situation except us. This was not all spontaneous. Some Central administrators worked hard to rally people against the Board’s possible action. TUSD staff used TUSD buses to bring the Superintendent’s supporters to speak to the Board – and bragged about doing so! Public relations activities during this period seemed aimed at defending the Superintendent rather than (for example) boosting enrollment.

I appreciate the many sincere and thoughtful messages that I received, but the surrounding circus confirmed for me how dysfunctional TUSD’s administrative culture had become.

In retrospect, and here I speak only for myself as one Board member, I may have been thinking about the process in the wrong way. Instead of applying the privacy standard of a typical personnel process, it might have been better simply to dismiss the Superintendent for cause, set up a fair appeal procedure, and let any appeal reach its just conclusion. That might (or might not) have lengthened the process and led to expensive litigation, but it would also have appeared less mysterious. All options had costs and benefits, but the balance of those costs and benefits looks different in hindsight than it did in February.

It is important to emphasize that this is self-criticism of my own thinking, not criticism of any other board member. Other members may have been more perceptive, or they may disagree with this entire analysis.

Sanchez commencement speeches

Summary: The Superintendent’s separation agreement prohibited coming onto TUSD campuses or communicating with TUSD personnel; so many were startled to see him give two commencement addresses. These exceptions had been approved by Central Administration without advising the Board.

I have received many questions about Dr. Sanchez’s commencement speeches. His February 28 separation agreement with the Board, as published by the Tucson Sentinel after a public records request, includes the following strong provision:

“Sanchez agrees not to return to his office, and/or any TUSD property or buildings including 1010 E. Tenth Street, without the specific advance permission of the Governing Board or its designee and in the company of TUSD security personnel, and agrees to refrain from any future communication with TUSD personnel, agents, independent contractors, vendors, creditors or debtors regarding TUSD affairs, except as specifically authorized in advance in writing by the Governing Board or its designee.”

HT Sanchez sets foot on TUSD property, not escorted by TUSD security at all times.

Given this agreement, or even without it, many persons were surprised to see Sanchez back in Tucson to give commencement speeches at University High School and Mary Meredith K-12 school.

From various sources, here is what (I think) I know about that:

The schools issued the invitations themselves, before the separation, and renewed the invitations after the separation. They may have been unaware of the relevant provision of the separation agreement.

On May 9, Sanchez wrote to TUSD Central Administration, seeking permission to speak at both commencements.

Central did not disclose the request to any board members (that I know of), but on about May 13 it decided to grant permission. Even then, it never told the Board about the request, though it did finally warn several board members on the morning of graduation (May 25).

On May 18, Sanchez nowhere appeared on the list sent to the Board of “Who Will Attend” the commencements.

For UHS, the list showed (in addition to board members) only Deputy Supt. Kopec; for Mary Meredith, it showed only Trujillo, Kopec, and Assistant Supt. Morado.

A concerned teacher had warned me that Sanchez would speak at UHS, but I was startled to see him at Mary Meredith. Also, the security personnel required by the separation agreement were not present.

This was not a good outcome. Some persons have wondered whether TUSD paid any fees or reimbursements to Sanchez, but the Board has been assured that this did not happen.

My next (shorter) notes will discuss the progress (or not) that we have made since the start of the year, on budget, desegregation, oversight, and other issues, and where I think TUSD is going.

Thank you again for caring about TUSD.
– Mark

4 comments on “Mark Stegeman addresses HT Sanchez possible violation of termination contract: Trespassing on TUSD schools was forbidden
  1. Wonder if the recent UHS diplomas will be replaced/reissued with another signature other than HTSanchez? Are these diplomas even valid with his signature on them, since he is not employed by the district?

    • That is a very interesting question! I hope someone gets a legal opinion from either TUSD’s current General Counsel or the next one.

  2. while his signature on these is disgusting and sickening…..I am sure the district cleared this with the state.

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