On his last business day as Tucson Unified School District superintendent, Dr. John Pedicone remembered how he entered the district in late 2010 with a vision to unify the people who work there.
"They see improvement and they realize we can do this, together," he said about the changing culture.
But he also admitted that work remained to be done and that thousands of employees bring thousands of opinions and attitudes. He and the governing board encountered those views from not only employees but parents and students during the budget process to overcome a $17 million deficit. The solution included closing 11 schools and eliminating hundreds of positions.
"The bottomline is do we have a balanced budget, and can we sustain the balanced budget we put in place this year. And the answer is 'yes,' if we make decisions regarding sustainable change and I think we made a number of those this year," he said.
The work is far from finished. Now, the district's future will likely be in the hands of Dr. H.T. Sanchez when he starts Monday.
"I don't know enough about H.T. I met him and I really think I like him. He's a strong guy with a vision and a commitment and that's what it takes, so I have hope that, in fact, he will do the job," Pedicone said.
"Honestly, it truly has been an honor to serve this district and I don't say that with anything but sincerety. This is the hardest job I've ever done and it's been in some respects the most rewarding on a number of different levels because it is so challenging," he said about the tough choices he had to make.
The state targeted the district's Mexican American Studies program during Pedicone's time as superintendent, and ultimately the district ended the classes. However, under a federal desegregation order to ensure that all students have equal opportunities and chances for achievement, culturally relevant courses must be established. The courses must count toward core credit for graduation. The curriculum is being made public and must be approved by the board.
"There's an opportunity in this if people will give this a chance and if we do it correctly, to be able to provide study for students that will allow them to feel included and a part of this district, and it's really the heart of what these courses should be about and that's that kids see themselves in the work that they're learning about and the history that they're learning about," Pedicone said.
He entered the district with student achievement as a major goal. When middle school achievement scores come out later this summer, Pedicone said that they will show improvement. He admitted that he did not want to have Rincon and Palo Verde high schools go through the turnaround process, where the principal is fired and no more than half of the faculty is rehired; however, he said that the achievement and testimony from Palo Verde graduates who endured those times showed him that it was worth it.
"They said, 'you know, we were concerned about the turnaround. We're so happy that we have a school that we have today and we appreciate the work that was done. We appreciate our teachers, we appreciate our principal. That's exactly-- we did the right thing," he said.
Dr. Pedicone will not disappear. He and deputy superintendent Maria Menconi as consultants to Dr. Sanchez to help his transition into such subjects as the unitary status plan for the federal desegregation order. Pedicone will be paid $1000 for each day that he works.
Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.
7831 N. Business Park Drive