Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/30319TUSDMEETING.html

Board rebukes Paz for surprise shake-up
Nevertheless, 3-2 vote OKs TUSD plans
By Jennifer Sterba
Tucson, Arizona Wednesday, 19 March 2003

Tucson Unified school board members publicly chastised their superintendent Tuesday for surprising them with his elimination of three top administrative positions.

Their criticism in front of more than 300 Tucson Unified School District employees and members of several minority community groups chanting "Rescind or recall" took more than an hour.

Audience members shouted threats to recall board members if they didn't vote to rescind Superintendent Stan Paz's restructuring plan. The three administration positions cut were held by minority administrators.

Paz spent much of the time looking down at his notes.

"Leadership 101 is no surprises," said board member Mary Belle McCorkle.

"We need to know more than hints," she said, referring to Paz's comments last week that he had hinted to the board that he planned to make some changes.

McCorkle said while the board had no policy calling for the superintendent to bring any administrative restructuring before it, she cited the Arizona School Boards Association's recommendation that a superintendent do so.

Nevertheless, the board approved Paz's plan to revamp the administration and cut more than 200 additional jobs by April 15 in an attempt to revive student achievement test scores.

Board members McCorkle and Adelita Grijalva voted against the plan, saying the board should have been a part of any restructuring process and that Paz's plan failed to bring minority representation in leadership positions.

Paz surprised governing board members Thursday when he announced he was eliminating the positions of Associate Superintendent Becky Montaņo, along with Regional Superintendents Larry Williams and Eugene Benton.

Under Paz's new administrative makeup, five top administrators report directly to the superintendent instead of eight. The remaining assistant superintendent jobs now have different duties.

The new top five are: Senior Legal Counsel Jane Butler, Chief Business Officer Judith Knight, Chief of Staff Toni Cordova, Chief Academic Officer Marla Motove and Chief Accountability Officer David Krueger.

Board President Joel Ireland and board members Bruce Burke and Judy Burns said while they didn't like the way Paz presented his plan, they supported his making difficult changes to cut costs.

"The message was pretty clear that this district had to change, is going to change," Burke said. "I would have preferred to know it. But in the final analysis, I didn't have to."

At stake are more than 200 positions in the central office, including program directors, assistant directors, resource teachers and support staff.

Paz said that by streamlining administration - TUSD devotes 6 percent more of its budget to administrative costs than a similar large school district in Mesa - more money can be diverted into the classroom.

Board members agreed that administrative streamlining is necessary and acknowledged such plans had been discussed at recent board retreats. But McCorkle and Grijalva both said they were under the impression the board would take part in the restructuring process.

"By cutting us out of the process, you cut out the community," Grijalva said.

"This is not the only time he has done this thing," said White Elementary School teacher Isabel Doe. She described Paz's actions as "underhanded" and "backstabbing."

Frank Romero, executive director for charter school Nosotros Academy, sat in the front row with a picket sign mirroring the outside crowd's chants, "Rescind or Recall!" Romero echoed concerns expressed by Grijalva and McCorkle that Paz's new plan didn't put enough minorities in district leadership positions.

"We've fought very hard to get Hispanics in leadership positions," Romero said.

* Contact reporter Jennifer Sterba at 573-4191 or at jsterba@azstarnet.com.