The Tucson Unified School District has made costly mistakes - including inefficient business practices and improper insider purchasing practices - but is moving in the right direction, Superintendent John Pedicone said Monday in his third "State of the District" address.
Some of the inefficient business practices have yet to be fully resolved, Pedicone said.
"Mistakes have been made due to a lack of checks and balances, costing the district revenue and credibility," he told about three dozen people at Tucson High Magnet School, 400 N. Second Ave., at a School Community Partnership Council meeting.
He also revealed that oversight of the district stemming from a 2006 procurement investigation was lifted last week.
A state attorney general's investigation found evidence of bid-rigging and conflicts of interest in the purchasing of technology systems and equipment, leading to the ouster of key employees and an agreement that required TUSD to be continuously audited over the years, and to implement strict protocols to eliminate poor practices.
"We're often criticized for bad practices," Pedicone said. "That may have been the way it was, but we cannot allow it to happen in the future."
Other recent achievements, Pedicone said, include a reduction in D-rated schools and an increase in B-rated schools; development of a Common Core curriculum; improved measures to assess student performance and to predict student success on AIMS; increased access to high-level courses for all students; and adoption of a plan to bring racial balance to TUSD schools.
But everything isn't rosy, he said.
In the face of a $17 million budget deficit for the coming school year, the district has been forced to close 11 campuses and is looking for other areas to cut.
TUSD parents Mary Palacio-Hum and Paty Hanzlick were pleased to hear of the improvements, but weren't completely convinced that the trajectory can continue with the looming reductions.
"He's very sincere in wanting to maintain, but if the money is not coming from the state, where do you get it from?" Hanzlick said.
The budget deficit will result in the loss of critical positions like librarians, the pair noted, adding that those employees play a key part in student learning.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea