Tucson Unified School District governing board

From left, TUSD board members Michael Hicks, Mark Stegeman and Rachael Sedgwick.

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

The Governing Board of Tucson’s largest school district was scheduled to vote on an interim superintendent Friday, but the meeting was canceled after the top candidate withdrew.

This is the second time a vote on an interim superintendent has been canceled. The board was scheduled to decide at the March 7 meeting, but the item was taken off the agenda because too many people were suggested for the job, according to board President Michael Hicks.

A special meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Duffy Community Center, 5145 E. Fifth St., to confirm Maggie Shafer, a former assistant superintendent in charge of Tucson Unified School District’s elementary schools. She resigned from the district in 2013 to take a job with the University of Arizona.

Shafer said in an interview she did not feel she had the full support of all the board members.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I care deeply about Tucson Unified,” she said. “I initially thought I could help.”

However, some concerns, including that Shafer could only be interim superintendent until June 30, divided the board in the members’ support for her, she said. She would not name which members were not supportive, saying that would only cause further division.

“What’s most important for that district is unity,” said Shafer, who was offered a prorated salary of $239,200 and a $3,750 bonus for the interim superintendent’s job.

Shafer was not publicly announced as the top candidate until after Tucson Sentinel reported that she would be named for the job and that Teri Melendez, a former TUSD administrator, would be her interim deputy.

Melendez, if approved, would be paid a prorated salary of $144,040. However, TUSD already has a deputy superintendent, Karen Kopec.

Board member Adelita Grijalva said she did not know if the recommendation for Melendez to serve as interim deputy meant there would be a reorganization of the administration.

“It’s really unnerving how unorganized everything is,” she said.

Mark Stegeman, the board clerk, said internal discussions would continue as the board seeks to appoint someone as the interim superintendent while also beginning a search for a permanent one. Shafer was someone he suggested, Stegeman said.

Many other names have been brought forward since Superintendent H.T. Sanchez resigned Feb. 28, and with Shafer’s withdrawal, it’s possible that some of them would be considered again, Stegeman added.

Sanchez, who served as TUSD superintendent since 2013, resigned after a weeks-long effort by some board members to remove him. He walked away with $200,000 in severance pay. He was paid a base salary of $270,000, according to his most recent contract for the 2016-2017 school year.

Regarding the possible appointment of an interim deputy superintendent, Stegeman, an outspoken critic of top-heavy school administration, said no one is suggesting that the existing deputy be removed and that it’s only a short-term position.

“I think that we will, in the end, be streamlining upper administration,” he said.

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