The four finalists vying for TUSD superintendent are, from left to right, Gabriel Trujillo, Maria Marin, Stephen Trejo and Donna Hargens.

Tucson Unified School District announced the names of four finalists vying to become the next superintendent, and three candidates have ties to the district already.

The four finalists are:

  • Gabriel Trujillo, TUSD’s interim superintendent;
  • Stephen Trejo, a former principal at C.E. Rose Elementary School;
  • Maria Marin, TUSD’s director of elementary and preK-8 schools;
  • Donna Hargens, the former superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky.

The board, in a unanimous vote at its meeting on Tuesday, opted to invite the finalists to an interview and give them one last chance to back out before their names were announced to the public.

None did, and on Wednesday, the district announced all four would face the public next week in a series of forums designed to give the community their first chance to ask questions of the candidates.

Trejo retired from TUSD’s C.E. Rose K-8 School in July 2016, capping off a 23-year career with the district. In his 13 years as C.E. Rose principal, he turned the formerly failing south-side campus into a nationally recognized school and a gem of Tucson’s largest school district. Since leaving TUSD, he has been working as the chief academic officer for the American Leadership Academy, a Gilbert-based charter school with campuses in Arizona and Nevada.

Trejo’s public forum will be held Monday, Aug. 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Catalina High School auditorium, 3645 E. Pima Street.

Marin has been with TUSD for 24 years, most recently as director of elementary and preK-8 schools, but also as principal of John B. Wright Elementary, Roskruge Bilingual K-8 Magnet School and Carrillo Magnet School. Before that, she was a teacher at several TUSD schools. She is working on her doctorate in education from Northern Arizona University.

Marin’s forum will be held Tuesday, Aug. 15, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Catalina High School auditorium.

Trujillo has been with the district since last September, when he became assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In March, the TUSD Governing Board elevated him to interim superintendent after former superintendent H.T. Sanchez resigned due to pressure from the board. Before joining TUSD, he was director of human resources certified and classified personnel at the Phoenix Union High School District, where he was previously a high school principal. Trujillo holds a doctorate in education from Arizona State University.

Trujillo’s public forum will be held Wednesday, Aug. 16, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Catalina High School.

Hargens is the only candidate who has not worked in TUSD, and the only candidate with experience as a permanent superintendent.

She was superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, from 2011 until this past July.

In that role, she was both hailed as an agent of change and derided as an ineffective leader. Her 2016 performance evaluation was less than stellar, and her resignation came shortly after the Kentucky education commissioner announced an “unprecedented” full-scale audit of the district, which is still ongoing, saying Kentucky’s largest school district suffered from “critically ineffective and inefficient management.”

Hargens holds a doctorate of educational leadership, management and policy from Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

Hargens’ forum will be held Thursday, Aug. 17, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Sahuaro High School auditorium, 545 N. Camino Seco.

The four finalists were announced nearly six months after former Superintendent H.T. Sanchez quit while the Governing Board majority was in the middle of a weeks-long attempt to oust him.

The board received 17 completed applications to replace him, and a board of volunteers winnowed that down to five finalists. The TUSD Governing Board selected four of those candidates to advance.

The new superintendent will be paid a base salary ranging from $180,000 to $230,000 to oversee more than 47,000 students in 89 schools and programs.

The previous superintendent, Sanchez, had a base salary of $270,000, not including performance bonuses and the $200,000 he was paid upon his resignation.

The new superintendent will be the seventh permanent or interim superintendent in the past decade.

Contact reporter Hank Stephenson at or 573-4279. On Twitter: @hankdeanlight