TUSD board shouldn't pick new leader now

Our view: While lone candidate has good qualities, decision is too big to rush
2013-06-18T00:00:00Z TUSD board shouldn't pick new leader nowArizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board will likely decide tonight if H.T. Sanchez - the only candidate the board put forward for the job - will be the district's new superintendent.

The Governing Board should not select a superintendent tonight.

Lest we be accused of raining on anyone's parade, Sanchez comes across as intelligent, quick, motivated and personable. He has charisma, but that's not enough.

The TUSD Governing Board interviewed four candidates behind closed doors. Sanchez is the only one to be made public.

TUSD is refusing to identify the other three finalists. The secrecy undermines the selection process.

Some board members have assured the public Sanchez is head and shoulders above other candidates, but the parents, the teachers, the students, the staff and the taxpayers that comprise TUSD have no way to know that for themselves.

He is an interim superintendent in Texas and has school administrator experience, though he stayed at each position for just a few years.

Sanchez toured parts of the district, met with employees and the Governing Board before holding a two-hour public forum last week.

Sanchez held his own during the community forum, answering questions about curriculum, his plans for the district, communication style, where he would live if he gets the job, if he would send his own children to TUSD schools.

His answers ran the gamut from general education philosophy to examples from Texas and personal anecdotes. He didn't demonstrate, at least publicly, a depth of knowledge about TUSD's history or challenges, such as desegregation or academic achievement.

His specific responses to two questions, however, bolster our position that the hiring decision should wait.

In making the point that educators shouldn't "indoctrinate" students, Sanchez said students need to be taught how to read, write, do mathematics and think critically. All fine and good.

Sanchez uses the example, however, of global warming. Some people believe climate change is connected to the use of fossil fuels, he said, while others say it's a natural heating cycle.

"We present them information, empower them to think critically and come to the right conclusions, which will be their own conclusions," Sanchez said.

He offered his own school experience in Texas, learning as a child about the battle of the Alamo, to support his point. As he grew older and learned more about the events, his understanding changed.

"You can decide what you want, make up your own mind," he said, describing "science, evolution, creationism, global warming" as all being "perspectives."

Interpreting historical events like the Alamo and learning about different points of view is exactly what should be happening in public schools. But encouraging students to view science and evolution as a "perspective" on par with creationism is alarming.

Later in the presentation, Sanchez made references to his Catholic religion. Personal statements of faith are the right of every individual, but bringing one's interpretation of God's will into what is, in essence, a job interview is not a good fit for a public school superintendent.

"My prayer was for God to put me where he needs me," Sanchez told the audience. "You know, this is who I am. I'm not apologizing for this. ... If you fight God's determinative will, it never works out. If you follow, if he gives you permissive will, it works out and he gives you choice.

"And sometimes he has you where he needs you," Sanchez said. "So that's the backdrop. That's who I am as a man.

"Will I be infusing religion into public education? No," he said. "But that's who I am."

Bringing religion into the conversation will resonate with some - but it will also alienate many people in this diverse and complex district.

The TUSD Governing Board has a serious decision to make in choosing a superintendent - it's a complicated decision that requires time and comparison.

The Governing Board should not make this decision tonight. It is too important to rush.

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