The TUSD Governing Board decided not to renew contracts for 23 principals and assistant principals as a result of budget cuts and poor performance.
The administrators' contracts were recommended by the district for nonrenewal, which the board approved 3-2 late Tuesday.
Three of the contracts that were not renewed are for principals of schools that are at risk of failing.
Mark Alvarez of Manzo Elementary, Heidi Aranda of Ochoa Magnet School and Rex Scott of Catalina Magnet High School all lead campuses that have been rated "D" two years in a row by the Arizona Department of Education.
If the schools receive grades of "D" again this year, they will be deemed failing.
"The principle upon which we are basing this initial nonrenewal decision is if a principal has been at a school for a significant period of time and we're not seeing appreciable progress," said TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone. "There has to be accountability in leadership."
Various support and intervention efforts have gone on at the schools to try to identify problem areas.
Nonetheless, board members had concerns about releasing the principals, citing widespread support for programs at the schools, socioeconomic issues and other challenges the schools face.
Both Michael Hicks and Kristel Foster voted against the nonrenewals for those reasons, with Foster recommending that the contracts be renewed and the principals placed elsewhere.
Mark Stegeman noted that the decision is highly emotional but supported the nonrenewals along with Adelita Grijalva and Cam Juarez.
"Forcing the superintendent to hire someone who they do not prefer to hire or retain is a place the board should never go," Stegeman said. "I think it would be a big mistake not to give the superintendent this authority."
Because the grades that will be issued by the state Department of Education will be based on test scores under the leadership of these principals, there is a chance that the decision can be reversed if enough progress is made, Pedicone said.
Nine of the school leaders are from schools that will be shut down next school year as part of the district's effort to reduce a $17 million budget deficit. Eight assistant principals are being released because of changes to funding formulas for staffing.
Three others were not renewed because they were serving in interim capacities and their appointments were ending.
Read more about the TUSD's board meeting at azstarnet.com on Wednesday and in the Star on Thursday.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea email@example.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea