Former TUSD superintendent HT Sanchez is the drama that will not just simply go away. After receiving $200,000 to do just that, go away and don’t come back, Sanchez did return and may now be preparing to engage in a legal battle that will continue to hold Tucson’s largest district back instead of moving forward from the trauma of the past 4 years.
We started covering this story last month when we found out HT Sanchez may have violated the terms of his termination contract which strictly forbade him from contacting TUSD staff and being on TUSD school property. From our May 28th article on this topic:
Item 10 regards an “Immediate Exit.” To summarize it says that HT Sanchez must return all keys and property and records, etc. It also says:
In addition, Sanchez agrees not to return to his office, and/or any TUSD property or buildings, including 1010 E. Tenth Street… and agrees to refrain from any future communication with TUSD personnel.
There is an exception that is granted, but it must be granted by the Governing Board, and as far as we can recall no such exception was ever voted upon at any board meeting. Even if such an exception was granted, he must remain “in the company of TUSD security personnel.”
In other words, the contract is saying go the hell away and stay away, and only in extraordinary circumstances may you visit, but you must be with TUSD Security at all times.
Never letting a legal contract that he signed get in the way of doing what he wants, HT Sanchez did contact TUSD personnel. HT must have been in contact with University High School and Mary Meredith leadership with regard to being their graduation speaker. If not, then what was he planning to do, just show up without a plan and hope to be the speaker? This could have been the case since HT Sanchez does NOT appear on any of the lists of speakers for graduation that the Governing Board received.
However, we do have official confirmation that HT Sanchez was indeed contacting TUSD personnel. TUSD board member Mark Stegeman wrote about this in a recent constituent letter:
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.
So we now know of at least three possible violations of Sanchez’s termination contract:
- HT was contacting TUSD personnel.
- HT was on TUSD property.
- HT was not escorted by TUSD security while on TUSD property.
To top things off, all the TUSD diplomas have HT’s signature on them! Many are wondering if these diplomas are even valid, since how can HT Sanchez certify that all these students on “this twenty-fifth day of May, two thousand seventeen” if HT resigned from TUSD back in February?
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Thus we have at least 4 headaches that HT Sanchez has caused during the month of May.
On May 31st, Mark Stegeman was a guest on the Bill Buckmaster Show.
Stegeman was first asked about the diplomas having Sanchez’s signature and then Bill Buckmaster proceeds to ask Mark if there were any mistakes, perhaps even on Mark’s part, made in the process that led to HT’s separation with the district. Stegeman responds “yes… in retrospect I would have done things a little differently… I think I would have, looking back, just voted to dismiss the Superintendent with cause.”
In other words, Mark Stegeman would have fired HT Sanchez. “With cause” means that the board had reasons to fire Sanchez due to something, or many things, wrong that Sanchez did as superintendent.
Bill then asks Stegeman about the separation agreement and the gag order in effect that board members could not talk about the agreement. “Are you breaking that agreement right now by talking with us about that?” Buckmaster asks.
Mark responds “well, I’m talking here about the existence of the agreement… the whole agreement is public record and posted online. I don’t think I’m violating that.”
On June 3rd, Mark Stegeman sends out a constituent letter that has two parts devoted to the district and HT Sanchez.
- 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.
There are strong words used here in Stegeman’s constituent letter. Notice that he doubles down on “dismissing the Superintendent for cause” which, by saying the HT Sanchez should have, and deserved, being fired can be seen as disparaging remarks towards a person that the TUSD board cannot speak negatively about. Remember this part for later.
Furthermore, Stegeman speaks about actions by HT Sanchez in the month of May that were “prohibited” and that the Board never gave permission for any of these.
While on the Wakeup Tucson show on KVOI with Chris Desimone, Mark Stegeman noted that HT Sanchez most likely purposefully waited until the morning of May 9th to contact TUSD’s legal counsel Todd Jaeger to inquire if he could visit TUSD. The significance of this morning is that it was also the day of TUSD board meeting, but since it was the morning of, the board could not put a vote to approve HT’s visit on the agenda since it would have violated open meeting laws by not giving the required 24-hour notice. Had HT contacted TUSD the day before, the board could have voted to allow HT to visit.
Either way, we know that there is no official vote that exists, no permission that was given by the Board to allow HT Sanchez to violate his termination contract. As Stegeman says “these exceptions had been approved by Central Administration without advising the Board.”
Does this mean that current superintendent Dr. Trujillo gave the okay without advising his bosses; the Governing Board? If Jaeger granted permission without contacting Trujillo that would be undermining Trujillo’s authority. Whatever the case, HT Sanchez was still supposed to be escorted by TUSD Security at all times while on TUSD property and pictures show that is not the case. Did legal expert Jaeger even alert TUSD Security that they were to be next to HT Sanchez at all times while he set foot on a TUSD school?
Perhaps Jaeger could care less since he becomes the next superintendent of Amphi in less than a month?
This leads to deeper issues, such as 1010 continuing to undermine the board even to this day, but we will end by focusing on the termination contract and possible lawsuits that may arise from it.
It appears that the TUSD board president is being weak by not investigating this further.
These appear to be clear violations by HT Sanchez of his contract. Shouldn’t he have to return the $200,000 that TUSD gave him to go away and stay away?
The irony is that the opposite may happen; that it will be HT Sanchez who sues Mark Stegeman and/or the board for the violating the contract with Mark’s multiple words that infer that Sanchez should have been fired instead, “with cause.”
Also published on Medium.