Tucson’s largest school district will seek voters’ help to address critical facilities needs, including repairs to heating and cooling systems.
Tucson Unified School District’s Governing Board voted Tuesday night to pursue a $180 million bond election in November.
“We are in a very, very critical situation with regards to capital,” said Gabriel Trujillo, the interim superintendent. State funding to schools for capital projects, including building construction and renovation, has dried up since 2009, he said.
A district assessment of the facilities revealed that nearly 40 percent of the needs are related to heating and cooling systems. The $180 million would address only the most urgent needs. To address all of the repairs and new construction, the district says it would need $509 million.
For an average homeowner in TUSD, the tax levy, if approved, would cost $93.98 a year.
Consultants advising the board on the matter told members to be united on the issue, saying a split vote and divisive climate could worsen the chances of winning voters’ approval in the election.
Board members Mark Stegeman and Rachael Sedgwick voted against the measure, saying the risk for failure is too high at this time.
“If we lose the election, there’s no money,” Stegeman said. “Losing one year doesn’t help your chances the next year.”
Prop0sition 301 money
The Governing Board also approved a new payment plan for Proposition 301, a statewide tax levy put in place to increase pay for teachers.
In the past, teachers and TUSD’s administration have argued over the district’s use of that funding to make up for other budget deficiencies.
This year’s plan includes two payouts: two-thirds of the money paid out first, and another third later based on the teacher’s performance.
For a full-time teacher who is eligible, which does not include substitute teachers, the estimated total payout is about $2,460.
More than 72 percent of 2,814 eligible teachers supported the new plan, according to a survey TUSD conducted. By law, the district is required to have more than 70 percent in support.
Qualities of new leader
Longevity, trust, visibility and problem solving. Those are some of the qualities the TUSD community said it wanted from the new leader of its schools.
Nic Clement, who is leading the superintendent search as a consultant, visited five schools and conducted a community forum to gather public input.
He sent 235 responses to researchers at Northern Arizona University who analyzed them for free. The analysis showed improving facilities, putting students first, supporting middle schools and experience in teaching were also priorities for community members.
From a June 8 public forum, Clement said he gathered an additional 165 responses. Though there hasn’t been a complete analysis yet, he said many people voiced that they wanted a leader who has experience with desegregation, budgets and dealing with discipline issues.
The TUSD Governing Board is working on setting up a superintendent search screening committee, which will forward five top candidates to the board for review.