Tucson Unified School District's governing board met with a few new faces in the room Tuesday night. The most noticeable was the new superintendent, Dr. H.T. Sanchez.
"Well, really at this point in time, it's just a matter of thanking the board for the opportunity and thanking the district for the opportunity and taking a look at the good work we have to forward. So, dearly and truly, there's a lot of great things to look forward to in the future and so, thank you," Dr. Sanchez said in his first report to the board.
The meeting had plenty of comment from the audience and decisons by the board. They approved the budget that had been set after they cut more than $17 million in order to bridge a funding shortfall. A tax increase was also approved that would raise the primary property tax on a $100,000 home by about a dollar and a half.
The board also reviewed the curriculum for culturally relevant courses that are required by a federal desegregation order. The courses are for credit, and highlight Mexican American and African American studies, and are a measure required by the federal government to make up for the Ethnic Studies courses that the district ended in order to comply with a state law against Mexican American Studies.
One audience member challenged board member Mark Stegeman to get board support to allow the Mexican American Studies materials to be taught once again.
"Dr. Stegeman, you wanted to unban the books before you got protection from the federal government. Now, you have it. What are you waiting for? Unban the books, apologize to the teachers, and let them teach," TUSD parent Jana Happel said to the board, and was supported by applause.
The meeting was complete with a protest from an audience member that resulted in him leaving the meeting with a security escort.
As the board discussed the contract for former superintendent John Pedicone, a man shouted from the audience, "Jump ship, collect ten grand!"
Superintendent Sanchez told the board that it had already agreed to a contract with Pedicone that he would receive $10,000 at the end of the year that he completed. The discussion was part of a measure that involved salaried separations.
Sanchez told the members that voting against it would place the district in breach of contract with Dr. Pedicone.
The board voted four to one to approve salaried separations, with member Mark Stegeman opposed.
During a break in the meeting, Dr. Sanchez had a moment for a few words with Tucson News Now. From a variety of concerns and criticisms of the district during call to the audience, he said that it showed that the community is involved.
"I have to say that I do appreciate that the community does come out and that the community voices its opinion. That means that the community's talking about education, and that's always a plus," he said.
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