New TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez is on a quest to take the Tucson Unified School District from good to great.

The first step: challenging district leadership to take a hard look at what practices work and to identify those that are in place only to maintain the status quo.

"Traditions are great if they help us but not if they hold us back from serving our students," Sanchez said. "In essence, those activities are not traditions; rather they are traps."

This type of analysis is the first step in strategic planning - "knowing what you're doing and being real about it," Sanchez said.

Last week, Sanchez stood before TUSD principals and administrators to lead a professional development exercise, focusing the conversation on three questions:

• What worked for our learners or departments last year?

• What worked but could be improved?

• What didn't make the two lists?

The answers to the first question allowed respondents to reflect on what worked to make sure those practices are not lost.

The second question provided insight into what needs to be worked on to take a practice from good to great and creates a work plan for the year ahead.

The final question highlights practices that may have been implemented but do not really add value.

Frequently, organizations tend to continue with routines for years without understanding if they should continue or if they stopped being useful, Sanchez said.

Sanchez asked the administrators to go back to their departments and schools and ask the same questions of their teams to see if their answers align. When responses do not align, it should be considered an opportunity for growth, he said.

"With so much good work that has occurred over the last few years, it is important to capture what has moved education forward in TUSD," Sanchez said. "An organization that is self-aware can continue upon its successes and improve its practice."

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