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59th Open Letter
From: Whistleblowers– Comprised of a Large Group of Extremely Concerned TUSD Administrators, Teachers, Retired Administrators and Parents, Grandparents
Subject: The Severe Sickness that the Governing Board Cannot Seem to Shake Off
We are happy that Dr. Gabriel Trujillo has been selected as the TUSD Superintendent. He is focused on instruction, is being totally even-handed in how he deals with each individual Board member and by now has had dozens upon dozens of meetings within the institution and the community. He has been to every school and has learned a great deal in a short period of time. It is not all for show either.
What he has learned, he puts to use in making the best decisions possible. Trujillo has a massive undertaking before him. HT Sanchez left the District in a hazardous state of dysfunction with very low morale. The TUSD Governing Board’s dysfunction has only added to the condition. People remain fearful to speak up. Sanchez placed enough venomous snakes in the system to remain to make it an unhealthy environment. The institution does not allow for concerns to be brought be forward. When they are, it is usually the person who has voiced concerns who suffers negative consequences.
Several critical positions remain filled with Sanchez-filled inepts and the long-term damage that incompetents like Anna Maiden, Karla Soto, Abel Morado, and Steffanie Boe have done may take months, even years, to remedy. TUSD has lost credibility and trust due to what we refer to as the Sanchez Jinx, a curse which was put on the District by, Adelita Grijalva, Kristel Foster, and Cam Juarez- the three mad wizards who brought him to us.
This Jinx followed an era of John Pedicone’s debacle in the way he mis-managed the Mexican American Studies issue. We refer to this era as the Pedicone Poison. Pedicone’s arrogant and superior racial stance on MAS divided the Board and the community. We now know that Pedicone absorbed or at least reflected the racial animus that permeated the anti-MAS legislation that was promoted and applied only to TUSD by Tom Horne and John Huppenthal. Bad enough. But Kristel Foster bought right into it and Adelita Grijalva and Cam Juarez doing nothing in their so-called leadership roles. The Jinx and the Poison have almost been too much for TUSD to get through. What has saved it are the people at the schools (principals, assistant principals, teachers, support staff, etc.) and the services provided to the schools which get the students to our schools (bus drivers), feed them (food services), and other direct support.
We hope that Trujillo will bond with his principals and understand the importance of ongoing and open communication. Most of us who are principals and assistant principals are not Sanchez enthusiasts even though Trujillo has been told we are. Sure, Sanchez still has his empty heads around the District but without him here, they are becoming less harmful (except for Kristel Foster who continues to mourn HTs absence. Her mourning is actually her wrath.) The importance of our teachers cannot be stated enough and it is important for Trujillo to set up a communication line with teachers without relying on TEA. TEA is a dying union with horrible leadership.
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The vote to hire Trujillo-4 to 1, with Mark Stegeman dissenting, as well as the vote on his contract was a real disappointment in Mark Stegeman. Mark made it clear from the beginning that he wanted the former principal of Rose, Steven Trejo, who had no public school central administration experience and who said publically during his forum that he knew nothing about desegregation because it did not impact his school (all principals know that the desegregation order impacts their schools). Trejo used his primarily home-schooled children as examples of how to raise achievement during one of his responses to a question which he was given. Of the five candidates who came before the public he was at the bottom! But Mark does not know how to lose or how to turn one of his negatives into a positive. Instead he begins to scheme out how he is going to prove that Trujillo was a bad choice so that he can arrogantly keep saying, “I told you so!”
As a child, Mark probably did not play well with other children. He was likely a very bright but very lonely child who never learned the importance of sharing, taking turns, and compromising; really compromising. What he does now is announce that he is compromising during a Board meeting on certain agenda items by allowing for the change of a few words in a motion made by him. It is a robotic exchange without any real human dimension. It is far from compromising.
Mark sent out one of his brilliant updates this week, which is the first of several jabs he will be taking at Trujillo. Everyone knows it. He is keeping tally (and/or creating mishaps to “get” Trujillo”). He weathered Liz Fagan in this fashion. It has been repeated many times that the reason she chose to leave TUSD was totally due to Mark’s constant nit-picking. He drove Pedicone crazy with his fault-finding and as much as we agreed with his tireless complaints against Sanchez, we see the pattern for what it is. Mark has to be in control. With a weak and green administrator such as Trejo in the role of Superintendent, Mark would have been in the driver’s seat from the beginning. He could have dictated anything he wanted and Trejo would have delivered quid pro quo style. He did not get his way and God help us, he will make Trujillo’s life miserable along with that of his peers on the Board.
Don’t get us wrong. It is not that we have turned on Mark. We have always seen these characteristics. We just thought that he had become somewhat humbled while he was in the Board minority and had better recognized the need to have a unified Board. We thought that he would recognize the drastic need for Board members to work together and not isolate those who are not part of the majority.
Silly us! He has not changed. Instead, we think he has gotten worse. BUT, no matter how “good” Mark is at his mind games, there is no one more devious on the Board than Kristel Ann Foster. She spends her long days pitting people against Rachael Sedgwick, Mark Stegeman, and Mike Hicks and attempting to get everyone on board with her. Just her. She portrays herself as a martyr, savagely working for the kids, when it is ONLY her power and her influence that she cares about.
Between Mark and Kristel there is really no chance that this Board will ever work well together. Adelita hates Mark. She tells anyone who is within 5 feet of her how much she hates him and she tells them why but Adelita does not like to work too hard so she will never come up with a plan to actually take him on: one on one. She is also a coward because she knows that her 110 IQ cannot go up against his 145IQ (if Mark’s IQ is any higher he has not applied it to anything of value while on the Board). Adelita’ s hate however is used to fuel Kristel’s own rage and plotting against Mark. It is sick. Very sick.
Rachael Sedgwick somehow has managed to get caught in the cross-fire. She is another control freak and she has managed to piss off all of her peers. She too seems not to have a history of playing well with others or with knowing when enough said is enough said. She talks almost as much as Mark and like him, consumes a lot of Board meeting time, with a lot of words and no action. The two of them need to learn how to summarize. The only ally she could have had on the Board, Mike Hicks, she has managed to alienate by acting extremely condescending to him. So Rachael is out in the cold except for when Mark feels the need to use her for a vote. He has and he will exploit her. Here he has put his 145 to use.
With what are we left? We are left with a Board that is more non-functional than functional. A day retreat has never been more needed. Although, we see little hope in making the psychological breakthroughs which are needed to make any real difference. We just do not believe it will take place. No one on the Board wants to change their own behavior. Everyone on the Board wants to change everyone else’s behavior. So the Board will remain as it is and as it is, is extremely dysfunctional and sick!
We plan to continue to watch the Board carefully with a specific tracker on Mark Stegeman’s divisive behavior in once again making the life of the Superintendent as miserable as possible. Hey Mark, if you read this or are made aware of it, we implore you to modify your tactics to those that are positive and productive ones. Put an end to the power-mind-games. Get a grasp on your elitism. Highly intelligent individuals with Asperger’s go through life feeling as though they often have no control. In order to compensate they often attempt to apply as much control as possible in many areas of their life. This takes an incredible amount of time and energy and results in a false sense of control. We are on to you and so are a lot of others!
Also published on Medium.