H.T. Sanchez is poised to take over as superintendent of the unwieldy and often-maligned Tucson Unified School District.
While his appointment faced some opposition, he was selected on a 4-1 vote. Mark Stegeman, the Governing Board member who cast the lone nay vote, quickly put his support behind Sanchez.
The community should do the same for Sanchez, 38, who is the interim superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District in the Odessa, Texas, area. We must also take a deep breath and temper the all-too-quick district bashing that has become community sport.
It's time to focus not on individual egos or select agendas but the education of 51,000 students.
We believe, based on our assessment and the thoughts we sought from the community, that Sanchez should quickly:
• Demonstrate commitment to the district and the community from Day One. If he and the Governing Board successfully negotiate his contract, Sanchez will be the sixth superintendent of the district in 10 years. Teachers, staff and the public are weary and may be wary, considering Sanchez's record of changing jobs every few years.
• Form a strong leadership team. The district has openings for assistant superintendent/elementary leadership, chief information officer (technology services), finance director, general counsel and director of high schools. That gives Sanchez the latitude he needs to recruit his own top administrators to implement his goals.
• Listen to broad points of view and seek advice, including from those who will be frank, even when an idea isn't a good one.
• Focus his goals to make a difference, but to be realistic. He will be pulled by many constituencies and needs to stay true to the main course he and the board choose.
• Recognize the particular needs of a district in which 70 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced-priced meals in the recent school year.
• Partner quickly with Pima Community College and the University of Arizona to tap into their resources and to find ways to increase student readiness to succeed in higher education.
Sanchez has a big job ahead. He's coming to a district that is much larger - TUSD is more than twice Ector's size with a budget of $397 million and 84 schools. Its issues are big.
He will need the community's support.
Arizona Daily Star
Words of advice
"H.T. should start with the end in mind. What will TUSD look like by June of 2018?
"He will serve his tenure well if early on he reaches out to the Tucson community on a listening tour including parents, civic and community groups and the business sector. He will earn critically needed stakeholder buy-in for his appointment and tenure success.
"Finally, focus on student achievement … and deliver better performance results as an organization that started under Dr. Pedicone. And when major distractions of all sorts pop up, please corral us back to the long-term vision and near-term focus on academic achievement!"
- Alex Rodriguez, a former TUSD Governing Board member, leads the Arizona Technology Council in Southern Arizona.
"I'd like to see him build upon Dr. John Pedicone's very strong two-year accomplishments. … Too often we bring leaders in and 'start over' - the white-knight syndrome. Sanchez can change that by engaging with Pedicone quarterly. … It would be a striking change to show two titans - the young up-and-comer, the elder statesman - working together for the best interests of the children."
- Kathleen Perkins, a technology executive, has volunteered more than 1,000 hours at John B. Wright Elementary School.
"We need to figure out how to hand off our students … and see that they are moving successfully through higher education. It's unacceptable that students aren't prepared."
- Larry Aldrich, a businessman with a strong interest in education, moderated the June 12 community forum with Sanchez.
"He should implement the Desegregation/Unitary Status Plan swiftly and effectively in the best interest of the students and community. …
"Additionally, he should acknowledge and respect the student and parent ethnic/racial composition of TUSD … and implement the Mexican American culturally relevant courses, in full, as stipulated within the USP and demonstrate total commitment to this area."
- Sylvia Campoy is a former TUSD civil-rights compliance officer, former TUSD Governing Board member and community activist.
"Choose a focus carefully. The overwhelming temptation is to try do too many things at once, with the result being little observable progress. The counsel we continually give our Beyond Textbooks Program partners is to work with their staff and community to make the critical and difficult decision to identify what is truly most important."
- Calvin Baker has been superintendent of the Vail School District since 1989.