It is no secret that Tucson Unified School District has encountered significant challenges over the past several years. The year ahead will not be different. The district is facing a $17 million deficit in 2013-14, which will require that difficult decisions be made.
As we hold town halls and make our website available for public input into options to close the financial gap, we also see tremendous opportunities to continue the work we have been doing over the past couple of years to raise standards.
Hopefully, you have read about the hard work of our faculty, staff and administration, which resulted in a more than 40 percent reduction of the number of state-labeled "D" schools and a doubling of the number of "B" schools across all academic levels.
Further, we have committed to examining our systems in order to improve business practices and services that support the classroom. One of the clear examples of this effort is for the first time in anyone's recollection we are transporting students with a fraction of the problems encountered in the past.
Our commitment to student success has become the focus of our work as we transform our district and improve our service to our parents and the community.
The School Master Plan process offers a rich opportunity to drive decisions through our priority of increasing the achievement of all students.
As we struggle with decisions that will change the structure of our district, we keep in mind the values that must steer them. The ultimate solution must focus on continuing to improve opportunities for student success and offering quality services to our community.
Doing more with less is a reality. But, doing so while strengthening our effectiveness depends on what we insist upon preserving and how we go about doing so. Simply reducing revenues to meet a financial goal without embracing a long-range vision of what we must do to provide value to our students would be a mistake.
If we approach this task with an eye on how decisions will invest in the future health of our district, we can focus on creating assets rather than deficits. We must commit to ensuring that decisions support sustainable, positive change rather than simply eliminating the programs and services that attract families to our district.
We cannot accomplish this task without community support. In order for the TUSD Governing Board to best approach this challenge, they need ideas that will enrich the decision-making process. We are serious about engaging our community in developing solutions.
Recently, we held three town hall meetings where we heard from hundreds of community members about their ideas and concerns. These forums are available for viewing online at TUSD1.org/SchoolMasterPlan, along with answers to questions that arose during those meetings. We encourage each of you to join in the process by visiting our website or attending one of the upcoming community forums and open houses. Your input will be a valuable source of ideas that can make the difference.
A new reality is being built into the culture of TUSD. That reality is forged by the commitment and resolve of the people who work, lead and govern.
We believe that as we confront this challenge, if we not only do the right things but also do what is right, we will transform Tucson Unified into a school district that will once again lead the region in academic excellence. You can trust that we are committed to that goal and with your help we will succeed.
To learn more about TUSD's School Master Plan process and to take the online survey, visit TUSD1.org/SchoolMasterPlan
John Pedicone is superintendent of the Tucson Unified School District.