Meet the TUSD finalists for superintendent: A quick first-level analysis of the race so far

We now know the name of the four finalists for TUSD superintendent.

In alphabetical order, they are:

  1. Dr. Donna Hargens
  2. Maria Marin
  3. Steven Trejo
  4. Dr. Gabriel Trujillo

Since the forums for each candidate will be held next week, we provide a few first-level questions that citizens may be interested in, avoiding depth in dense topics such as desegregation for after the forums and interviews.

First of all, can we safely discount any chance that Dr. Hargens has after it was revealed that she was pushed out and forced to resign by her last school’s district, taking over $200,000 to go away similar to the way HT Sanchez was ousted?

Kentucky news outlets reported that Hargens’ departure after leading the district for six years, effective July 1 after being announced in April, came after months of controversy and a sweeping audit that is ongoing and could lead to a complete takeover of the district by the state.

Immediately after Hargens left, the acting superintendent said that the “culture and morale in our schools is at the lowest level it’s been in years.”

The state’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, called the district an “unmitigated disaster.

Source: Tucson Sentinel.


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It was relayed to us that TUSD board member Kristel Foster said that being pushed out by a district could be a badge of honor, a reference to her deep and undying commitment to HT Sanchez. So maybe Dr. Hargens still has a chance?

Maria Marin is one of the top-ranked administrators in 1010, but she was also not a favorite of the TUSD Whistleblowers. Setting aside her previous relationship with HT Sanchez, being part of the undrained swamp at 1010 that remains from the Sanchez Era, we can assume she is the clear favorite for board member Adelita Grijalva. However, Marin is currently finishing her doctoral dissertation at NAU; would it be better to for her to run Tucson’s largest school district at a later time when she does not have to split her time with graduate school?

Speaking of doctorates, should TUSD have a “Dr.” running the district, especially when many of the administrators and even principals have their doctorate degree? Sometimes, such as in Sunnyside, the best person to run the district has tons of experience that more than makes up for the academic title, but is this the case with TUSD?

This brings us to Steven Trejo who receives lots of praise for his work at C.E. Rose, but he also left TUSD to run a charter school, which may be a controversial topic especially since TUSD keeps losing students. Furthermore, is running one school from one community really well the same as running a large district with drastically different demographics, from the foothills of the Catalina Mountains where the white and more affluent Sabino HS is located to the Southside where minority populations can be over 95% at high schools such as Pueblo?

Race matters are an issue for the superintendent that cannot be ignored since TUSD is currently under a federal desegregation order, now in its fifth decade of existence.  Furthermore, if the Mexican American Studies plaintiffs win their court case — a ruling is expected any day now — then that means the federal court has found racial animus in the banning of the highly-successful MAS program. This program is spreading nationwide but still remains banned at the place where it all began in TUSD. MAS will certainly be an issue in next year’s election, which may include a board-majority change, which will also impact whichever superintendent is chosen.

The answer to the “will you bring back MAS” may even be the litmus test for all three candidates, and if they answer in the affirmative, how they plan to do so and in what timeline and how it will interact with the Culturally Relevant and Multicultural Courses will have to be thought out by the forum next week.

This brings us to the current interim superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo. It appears that he is working with all board members, which is good for a change. On just a very shallow level, if having a “Dr.” is important to TUSD, then Dr. Trujillo will almost certainly win; that is, if Dr. Hargens can be safely ignored as a serious candidate.

Due to the success of his time at C.E. Rose, many community members involved closely with TUSD consider the superintendent race to end up being between Trejo and Dr. Trujillo. However, Trejo has never run a school district whereas Trujillo does have some experience since he took over for H.T. Sanchez. The Trujillo Era has been relatively quiet, at least compared to that of his predecessor. Speaking of relatively quiet, will Grijalva rally the community to support Marin just as they filled the board room to support Sanchez? This may change the outcome of this race also.

Thus, in this very quick and first-level analysis of the superintendent race for TUSD, Dr. Trujillo has the clear advantage as the incumbent who also has a “Dr.” in front of his name. With that said, there are strong groups of people in TUSD that are big fans of both Trejo and Marin. It will be up to these two individuals who have no experience running a district to really shine at next week’s forums.


Also published on Medium.

6 comments on “Meet the TUSD finalists for superintendent: A quick first-level analysis of the race so far
  1. Here’s what it comes down to. The only one with significant superintendent experience is unacceptable. Bad experience isn’t acceptable. Let alone the question as to whether KY and NC experiences relate to Tucson. So, we have 3 beginners, 2 with strong TUSD ties, and one with 6 months +,- running the district. Trujillo has been honest and has dealt with all parts of the school board in an equitable manner. Trejo has an impressive record in TUSD over a long time. Marin has a good record in TUSD with several blots on her copybook in recent years. The problem as I see it for Trejo and Marin is that both of them were elementary people with no experience at secondary level. K8 is not the same thing as running a high school or dealing with central on high school matters. The major problem in TUSD often centers in the secondary levels, and large middle schools. Trujillo beats both of them on that level. The experience for Trejo and Marin is centered on the west side in minority schools with problems. To deal with a large district with various issues which also happen on the east side and central, a broader experience is called for. Trujillo’s background in curriculum is important, especially at the secondary level. Trujillo also has long experience with an AZ desegregation program in PUHSD. I will try to attend all presentations and see what else is to be considered.

  2. Trujillo has spent a lot of time talking and nothing to show for it. Augie is still principal. Deseg plaintiffs are still pissed. Teachers still are not paid a decent salary. Subs are paid third world wages. Discipline problems are still rampant. Classroom spending has not improved. Administration spending is still too high. District test scores have not improved. No librarians. Teachers still have to buy their own supplies. Transportation operations and food services cost are excessively high. Enrollment continues to decline. District moral is at an all time low. Are we missing anything here? Teujillo’s time as interim has accomplished nothing. At best he represents the status quo. At worst he is in over his head. Time for outside the box board leadership. That won’t happen either with this split 2-1-2 board.

  3. It’s useful to read the resumes of all three of the candidates in addition to going to the forums.

    I was surprised that Dr Trujillo’s resume was more impressive than Mr. Trejo’s or Ms. Marin’s resume. Dr Trujillo has specific accomplishments in several areas where TUSD is in trouble.

    He’s also managed to get along with all the members of a very divided TUSD Board. That’s not easy. If he doesn’t get the job, whoever follows him may find that the hardest part of the job.

    I hope whoever gets the job is up to it. TUSD can’t afford another superintendent who doesn’t know how to run a large school district.

    (I assume, the former superintendent from Kentucky will be out of the running, because of the problems in her prior school district.).

  4. Just a friendly reminder, Trujillo has been in charge since April. None of the items listed by TUSD TAXPAYER AND VOTER were within his power. The Board has been in charge of everything. An interim basically keeps the ship afloat until the new captain is on board, and that is his job.

  5. Hey old timer. Go settle back in your rocking chair. School districts don’t pay six figure salaries to interims only to have them keep the seat warm for the next superintendent. They still are at the top of the organizational food chain.

  6. I don’t understand the definition of “status quo” being used by TUSD Taxpayer and Voter, frankly. Status quo for the last 6 years AT LEAST has been a duplicitous, power-centralizing administration filled with REAL old timers who can (and often do) really negatively affect the District by either incompetence or work slowdowns or unnecessary secrecy or….whatever. Status quo for the last six year at least has been opposition to MAS, and opposition to complying with the larger desegregation case, and aLOT of ignorance of just what it takes to comply. Status quo has meant active retribution against teachers or anyone else who has bucked the tide, and lets not even talk about what status quo has looked like for those who ran seriously against the local political machine for a board position (all of THAT negative energy is now focused on the newest member of the board and it isn’t pretty). Status quo has been board members that sound better on the issues when they are out of power than what they vote for when they are in power (although the mean girls sound as awful out of power as they did when they were in it, so maybe that status quo is changing!) etc.etc.etc. I don’t actually think that the interim superintendent represents any of that. And I guess I didn’t expect him to change all of the super important points brought up above by now–especially COMPLETELY without board direction to do so. But then, for me, knowing how to comply with a deseg order is a huge benefit, and I am therefore totally biased. Bias aside, I will certainly be attending most or all of the forums to see what each candidate brings to the table. With this being the second straight week of M-TH meetings, I will reintroduce myself to my husband and son at the end of the week and hope they will remember who I am.

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