H.T. Sanchez

Photo courtesy of the Odessa American

Tucson Unified School District named only one finalist for superintendent.

H.T. Sanchez, interim superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas, was approved by the TUSD Governing Board on a split vote Monday night.

Governing Board members Mark Stegeman and Michael Hicks voted no, while Adelita Grijalva, Cam Juarez and Kristel Ann Foster supported the move.

Sanchez will be in Tucson Wednesday to tour the district, interview with the board and TUSD Cabinet members, and participate in a public forum at Catalina Magnet High School, 3645 E. Pima St., from 7 to 9 p.m.

The forum will also be streamed live at tusd1.org

While Sanchez is the sole finalist, the board affirmed that no final decision has been made.

Sanchez was selected from a group of four candidates who were interviewed by the board behind closed doors on Saturday. The board refused to release the names of the others.

Stegeman opposed naming only one finalist, saying, “I think we had some good applicants, and I think we should bring two for the community and the board to look at.”

Aside from his stint as interim chief of the Ector County school district, which began March 26 on a 4-3 board vote, Sanchez has not served as a superintendent before. He was previously chief of staff at that district, which has been searching for a permanent superintendent.

Sanchez, whose full name is Heliodoro Torres Sanchez Jr., has worked in public education for 15 years in Tyler, Waco and Odessa, Texas, and has been an elementary, middle school and high school principal. He also has served as a district-level bilingual services director, instructional support services executive director, and as an accountability and special populations assistant superintendent.

TUSD Governing Board member Juarez agreed with Stegeman that the candidates they met “really stood out.” But Sanchez “stood head and shoulders above some of the other applicants that we had,” Juarez said.

Added Foster: “I would like to echo that as well and say, if I didn’t believe that, we wouldn’t take this risk. I’m confident that the community will appreciate meeting the candidate.”

Grijalva said that many of the challenges TUSD is facing already have been dealt with in the Odessa district.

“I really am optimistic that when he has an opportunity to speak to the community that they’ll be excited like we are,” she said.

Grijalva noted the split vote, saying she hopes it’s not seen as a sign that Sanchez lacks support. Rather, there was a difference of opinion as to the number of candidates that would be brought forward by the board, she said.

The superintendent position has been advertised with an annual salary ranging from $190,000 to $215,000.

Sanchez said his current salary is $190,000, including stipends and benefits.

Read the rest of this story Tuesday in the Arizona Daily Star and on StarNet.