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John Pedicone: TUSD 'suffers from an absence of identity'

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John Pedicone, candidate for TUSD superintendent. Courtesy John Pedicone. 2010

The Tucson Unified School District on Monday held the second of four community forums for the superintendent finalists.

John Pedicone answered questions for two hours at Catalina Magnet High School, 3645 E. Pima St.

Pedicone served for 22 years in the Flowing Wells School District before retiring as superintendent. He has since joined the University of Arizona College of Education faculty and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.

He is competing with three other candidates for the top spot in Tucson's largest school district.

The Governing Board will announce its top pick in November, and that person will begin working in January or July, depending on availability.

The remaining forums are scheduled for Oct. 11 with Lupita Cavazos-Garcia and Oct. 18 with Kenneth R. Baca. Both will be held at Catalina from 7 to 9 p.m. Finalist Edith Macklin-Isquierdo already took part in a community forum.

Here is where Pedicone stands on a few of the issues raised during Monday night's forum:

• Student achievement: "We generally look at the students who are underachieving and you look at how you can lift those students to where they are performing well. But often times, we ignore the students at the top of the academic continuum because they are doing well anyway. We need to look at whether or not we're providing the right kind of support for students at all levels, and not just make it words, but really focus on that."

• Declining enrollment: "We've always had an understanding that we're not going to go after each other's talent. Unfortunately school districts are all struggling with this same issue so I know there are marketing campaigns that have been launched by districts that are our neighbors. I have a problem with that, but it's not a problem I can't overcome. There's a way to do this so we feel a level of integrity and we're not harming the very people we ought to be supporting. I think there are ways to do this in the spirit of choice - I believe in choice, we have choice schools in this district and it's a remarkable concept."

• Mexican-American studies program: "If you look at the data, it is hard to argue with the success this program has with a historically under served population. We have not been successful with a number of populations of students and anything we can do that changes that formula needs to be looked at and examined. For me it's not a call to erode the program but it's a call to expand it. We need to look at what they're doing in those programs that is working and expand it to other environments."

• Commitment to TUSD: "I have two good jobs and I like the work I do. I tend to work around the edges hopefully helping to make systems change, but I really am about having a mission - it's why I got into teaching in the first place and why I stayed in the same organization for so long. It's who I am, it's what I love to do. I like to be in the middle of conflict, I like challenges that people say are impossible. That's really what the reason is, it's not because I need a job, I don't need a résumé." Pedicone went on to say that he could commit three to five years to TUSD if selected.

• Job qualifications: "One of the things I think may come across as a weakness to some people is the fact that I haven't been the leader of an organization like this one - Tucson Unified School District has 53,000 students. Maybe one of the things this district may need is, when you get so large, you begin to lose identity. This district doesn't suffer from an absence of talent, it suffers from an absence of identity. It's time to make large small. Perhaps my work in a smaller organization can be a benefit. The question will remain can I handle the complexity ... the issues you confront in this district are issues we confront in all organizations to some extent or another."

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.

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