Education chief gives advice to Roosevelt
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 16, 2005
The state education chief told Roosevelt School District leaders this week to
move out of the way of a new superintendent for three years to get
poor-performing campuses back on track.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne made his proposal before
about 200 parents, principals and teachers Tuesday at Ed and Verma Pastor
Elementary School. A three-year contract should spell out specific academic
goals to be achieved by 2008, Horne told board members.
"Then, get out of his or her way," Horne said. "Provide in the contract, and
publicly pledge, that the superintendent will have full authority to hire and
fire, and that neither the board nor any of its members will interfere in any
way with hiring or firing decisions."
That would give a superintendent a chance to "objectively choose" the best
instructional leaders such as principals, Horne added.
After four years of watching Roosevelt schools fall below average on Arizona
Learns, the state's report card, Horne decided to pursue state legislation next
year that would give the state authority to take over districts with poor
Horne came to talk to the board at the invitation of Roosevelt's designee
superintendent Mark Dowling, who wanted to hear his views about how to turn
around nine Roosevelt schools that fell below average under Arizona Learns.
The Roosevelt governing school board members have had a history of micromanaging
the work of the superintendent. The board has the power to veto or approve a
district chief's decision to hire and fire administrators, principals and
Accusations of nepotism, cronyism and decisions based on race also shrouded
But what rankled and shocked governing school board leaders even more are the
numbers Horne brought to Tuesday's meeting to prove his case. Those numbers
showed where Roosevelt's third-grade students ranked in math and reading
compared with neighboring Phoenix Elementary, Murphy and Alhambra school
Board member Norma Muņoz said it was no secret Roosevelt's student test scores
were not great, but the dismal standing shocked her.
The numbers show only 34 percent of Roosevelt third-graders are proficient in
reading, and the same group of students reached 45 percent in math. Those marks
are far below the state average, Horne said.
But third-graders at Phoenix Elementary reached 66 percent, Murphy climbed to 62
percent and Alhambra soared to 72 percent in reading. In third-grade math,
Phoenix Elementary scored 64 percent, Murphy hit 67 percent and Alhambra made 78
Horne told the audience he selected the neighboring districts to make his point
because their children are in worse economic situations than Roosevelt and their
English language learner student population is higher.
"Thirty-four percent is really a distressingly low percentage of third-graders
to be proficient in reading," Horne said. "Furthermore, Roosevelt is in a steep
decline in its reading scores, from 58 percent to 34 percent in the past three