Principals at 4 Tucson Unified schools may lose jobs over their schools' performance

Could lose jobs over low ratings on overall student performance
2013-04-08T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:47:49Z Principals at 4 Tucson Unified schools may lose jobs over their schools' performanceAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Unified School District is recommending that contracts not be renewed for four principals in charge of schools that are at risk of being labeled failing.

The principals - Mark Alvarez of Manzo Elementary School, Heidi Aranda of Ochoa Magnet School, Rex Scott of Catalina Magnet High School and Cindy Shepard-Mady of Utterback Magnet Middle School - are part of a list of 24 principals and assistant principals representing 19 schools that will go before the Governing Board Tuesday.

All four schools have been identified as D- schools two years in a row by the state Department of Education, putting them at risk of being labeled failing and having to go through the school improvement process should they receive a D again.

"This is something we have to do," said TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone. "If achievement is not where it needs to be, we're doing a disservice to our children."

Because the grades will be based on test scores from the current academic year under the leadership of the current principals, the district may reverse its decision if the schools improve and are able to shed their D- status.

Scott said he was notified some time ago that he would be "provisionally not renewed" for next year, with the possibility the decision would be reversed if Catalina's grade improves for the current year.

He said that based on test results he has seen so far, and the plan he has in place for improvement, he believes Catalina will be upgraded to a C grade, and he will be allowed to remain as principal.

Aranda has been principal at Ochoa for the last 10 years. When she came on board, she learned Ochoa was under a school-improvement plan. She implemented steps that resulted in some progress. Nonetheless, the school continues to struggle academically.

"Although the scores are not scores that we are satisfied with, there has been significant improvement over the past nine years," Aranda said in an email, citing the percentage of students mastering reading has tripled, and doubled in math.

Other principals on the list could not be reached for comment.

Interventions have been going on in first- and second-time D schools in an effort to identify problems and provide support to correct the issues, Pedicone said.

Not all principals of two-time D schools have been recommended for nonrenewal, however. The leaders of Robison Magnet Elementary, Safford K-8 Magnet and Valencia Middle School are not on the list.

They have been spared because they either haven't been in place at their schools long enough or because the schools have shown improvement as a result of the interventions and are likely to improve their grades, Pedicone said.

The list includes 17 others recommended for nonrenewal as part of TUSD's efforts to close schools and classrooms to eliminate a $17 million budget shortfall.

Nine come from schools that are closing, and eight are being recommended for nonrenewal because of changes to school funding that affect staffing.

The schools that will lose assistant principals due to funding cuts are Pistor Middle, Safford Middle Magnet, Pueblo Magnet High, Sahuaro High, Dodge Middle and Santa Rita High schools. Three other administrators on the list are serving in interim capacities, and those appointments are ending.

On StarNet: Find more education and TUSD news and resources at azstarnet.com/education

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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