TUSD Super. talks Prop 123, Tucson High field and Blenman master teacher

TUSD Super. talks Prop 123, Tucson High field and Blenman master teacher
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - In his biweekly press conference, Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said he was concerned when he woke up Tuesday, March 27 to the details of Prop 123's legal hang up.

"A loss of any revenue stream at this point, for this district, that's over a million, two or three million dollars is very calamitous," he said.

Trujillo explained that most of TUSD's money from Prop 123 was directed to lost capital in an effort to cover building upkeep and school maintenance. He said this news piles onto another year of roughly 1,000 students leaving the district and what's already a tight budget process for the upcoming year.

Without exact numbers for the Prop 123 dollars, he said southern Arizona's largest school district cannot "afford to take this hit".

"What makes this even more devastating is having to pay monies back in an area where we are already struggling, capital" said Trujillo. "That to me, has me very worried."

The superintendent added that administrators will be patient and see what happens legally with this issue before they make any changes.


As of February 5, a long-term substitute teacher was no longer with the district after Tucson News Now reported on video that appeared to show the employee sitting in a chair, away from fighting students at Blenman Elementary.

In a statement, administrators said changes were made to improve the situation and ensure student safety. Questions about what that entailed were not answered.

Tuesday, Trujillo said that they responded quickly to the situation.

He said a master teacher was reassigned to the grade level where problems had been reported at Blenman. Trujillo described master teaches as those employees who are so good in the classroom that they train new hires to teach like them.

The superintendent said the issue behind what happened at Blenman speaks to the need to hire highly qualified teachers to lead their classrooms.

"Those subs are valued and those subs are an important part of our workforce," he said. "Not every single sub is a highly-performing educator that can manage a classroom, manage relationships with kids and deescalate situations and make great decisions."


If the TUSD Governing Board approves a $581,000 budget item Tuesday night at its meeting, Trujillo said Tucson High's damaged field will be replaced after graduation.

He said the estimates for this project increased because it now includes both replacing the turf and the drainage system. When asked if natural grass was considered for the project, Trujillo said school administrators and the Badger Foundation preferred artificial turf. He said he trusted their judgment and didn't want to slow the process any longer.

The district is still working to learn who is responsible. Trujillo said TUSD's own report found that the district is not 100 percent at fault for the damage. He acknowledged a notice of claim filed with the county, but said it was shot down.

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry responded to the claim with a letter that stated he was surprised to see the notice at all after Pima County obliged the district's request for athletic facilities following the flood.

The letter stated that Pima County and the Regional Flood Control District are prepared to provide expert evidence and testimony to prove that it had nothing to do with any problems associated with the flooded field. Huckelberry is recommending the Board of Supervisors deny the claim.

Trujillo said he didn't want to talk about lawsuits or litigation, but he is working with the TUSD legal team to determine what to do next.

He described the flooding at Tucson High's field as unprecedented.

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