TUSD hires Sanchez as superintendent

His contract and pay will be negotiated; Stegeman dissents
2013-06-19T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T08:48:26Z TUSD hires Sanchez as superintendentAlexis Huicochea Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Tucson Unified School District's governing board voted 4-1 to name H.T. Sanchez as superintendent, with his contract and pay yet to be negotiated.

Sanchez, the interim superintendent of a school district in Odessa, Texas, received the support of board members Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez, Kristel Ann Foster and Michael Hicks in Tuesday night's vote.

Mark Stegeman cast the dissenting vote.

Sanchez was not present for the vote as he had a board meeting of his own to run in Ector County Independent School District in Odessa.

Grijalva, TUSD's board president, called his hiring "a vote of hope for the future of TUSD."

"Overall, if we can give Dr. Sanchez and our administrative team and teachers a lot of support, I think we'll be able to do really great things," she said.

Though Stegeman voted against Sanchez's appointment, he vowed to throw his full support behind him.

"I voted 'no' because I felt that his record did not support his elevation to a job as difficult as this at this point in his career," Stegeman said. "I'm concerned about whether his experience preparation is adequate to come into this job. But this decision is now made and from this point forward I will do everything I can do to make him successful. He clearly has talent. I hope that talent comes to full fruition here and that he can establish a great record here and stay for many years."

Sanchez said by phone later that he was honored to have the board's confidence and the trust of the teachers union.

"I look forward to meeting their expectations and partnering with them," he said. "My hope is that we can establish TUSD as a place where students reach their fullest potential and where team members enjoy coming to work and know that they're valued."

On Stegeman's vote, he said: "I respect his opinion and I look forward to building a relationship and understanding his perspective."

In terms of how long Sanchez expects to be in Tucson, he said his hope is to have his children complete their K-12 educations here.

"I will serve as many years as the board will bless me with," Sanchez said. "At minimum, a five-year plan takes five years and if it takes longer, then so be it, but I plan to work through it."

The board interviewed four people for the post but identified only Sanchez as a finalist a week ago.

Some of the positives noted by Stegeman and other board members include Sanchez's willingness to push for change, his energy and his intelligence.

Margaret Chaney, a Tucson High Magnet School teacher, encouraged the board to give Sanchez an eight-year contract, saying she was impressed by his humor and charm.

"I have to say I understand the issue of lack of experience but there is something to be said about experience - sometimes when you have too much it can be bad if you bring in a lot of baggage," Chaney said. "We truly do eat superintendents for breakfast, and as an employee and as a parent I'm a little tired of it and it would be nice to see someone here for a while."

The first day on the job for Sanchez, 38, is expected to be in early July. Until then, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone, who is stepping down, will remain on board.

Sanchez's contract has not yet been negotiated, but the superintendent position was advertised with an annual salary ranging from $190,000 to $215,000. Pedicone's annual base salary is $211,000.

As the interim leader of the Ector County Independent School District, Sanchez earns $190,000. He oversees 28,000 students compared to TUSD's 50,000. Ector County also has fewer schools - 39 vs. 83 in TUSD - and fewer employees - 3,399 compared with TUSD's 8,500.

Sanchez's 15 years in education have not included any time as a superintendent until three months ago when he was named interim leader in Odessa.

He participated in a two-hour community forum last week in Tucson, discussing a range of topics. Acknowledging that he didn't yet have a deep understanding of TUSD, Sanchez often gave vague answers or spoke about his philosophy on various issues, but vowed to take the time to listen to stakeholders before taking action if selected for the job.

Sanchez, who was was recruited by a professional search firm hired by the district, said he has read about TUSD's challenges with declining enrollment, budget woes and student achievement.

Said board member Foster: "I really do feel this individual has the roots that will be able to be planted here and I do trust he will stay."

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

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