Superintendent Sánchez delivers 'State of the District'

Presentation Slides (in PDF)

Video of State of Address and Question/Answer session

Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sánchez delivered the yearly "State of the District" address on Monday, February 23, 2015, at Tucson High Magnet School, presenting the accomplishments of the district so far this year and looking ahead to what's next.

The evening started with a message from Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, who told the packed house, "If TUSD thrives, the City of Tucson thrives."

Dr. Sánchez kicked off the evening by focusing on the Five-Year Strategic Plan designed by community members along with district leaders and staff. He asked everyone who was involved in the plan to stand up to be recognized, and much of the audience stood. Dr. Sánchez also thanked the Governing Board members in the audience for their approval of the plan: President Adelita Grijalva, Clerk Kristel Foster, Dr. Mark Stegeman, and Cam Juarez.

Tucson High auditorium

Dr. Sánchez addresses audience in historic Tucson High auditorium.

The Strategic Plan recently won the Common Ground award from the Metropolitan Pima Alliance. The award recognizes community leaders, projects and events with successful collaboration for the overall benefit of the community.

Dr. Sánchez touched on each of the five areas of the plan: curriculum, diversity, facilities, finance and communication and then took questions from the audience.

Curriculum

Dr. Sánchez said that when the district started looking at curriculum last year, there was no district-wide program in place. One of the immediate goals was to develop a comprehensive curriculum for all grades.

"I'm proud to say we have a curriculum now that's district wide and available to all. It's cutting edge. Regardless of what happens at the state level we know what we're teaching and preparing the students from grade to grade and for the real world," said Dr. Sánchez.

He praised all who worked on the project: "Curriculum is of our teachers, by our teachers and for our teachers. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

Dr. Sánchez also discussed class size, giving examples of the gains the district has made toward the goal of 27 students to 1 teacher. For example: At the high school level, 72 percent of classes meet the 27 to 1 goal.

Diversity

Dr. Sánchez hit on several areas:

  • In terms of hiring, Dr. Sánchez said the district is embracing diversity and is actively recruiting across the country to attract more diverse candidates to our schools.
  • He congratulated the Infant & Early Learning Centers for their People's Choice Award from Expect More Arizona Award. Early childhood education programs for teachers' children are now also open to the community.
  • He discussed the Family Centers opening at Wakefield, Palo Verde and currently housed at the Duffy Center and Catalina High School. The Family Centers, which are part of the strategic plan and the Unitary Status Plan, are designed to provide needed support and guides to resources for families.

Facilities

Dr. Sánchez reported that a full facilities study is underway that will analyze data in a multitude of areas. As background, he talked about the age of the district—147 years old. As Dr. Sánchez pointed out, the auditorium where the audience had gathered to listen to this State of the District address was in Tucson High, one of the city's historic sites. TUSD grew up as the city grew up, adding an elementary school every one mile as the population grew.

Dr. Sánchez also stressed that the long-range goal is to craft a bond to address the needs of the aging buildings. He praised the facilities staff for the good work they do to keep the old buildings in the best shape possible. He also said that as the district moves ahead with construction and renovation, 21st Century learning needs will be included.

Dr. Sánchez thanked past leadership for their pioneering work on solar energy, which provides students with a message to be better stewards of the earth.

Finance

One goal under the Finance section the Five-Year Strategic Plan is increased legislative advocacy. Dr. Sánchez discussed his recent testimony in front of a state Senate panel regarding a bill that would cut desegregation funding.  He thanked Sen. Steve Farley, who is a strong advocate for TUSD at the state level.

"I'm very hopeful that as part of our strategic plan, we can begin strengthening as we evolve in this area, our advocacy network so that parents are informed about what's going on," Dr. Sánchez said.

He also discussed the Enterprise Resource Planning process and how it will help improve the district's ability to handle financial business, produce reports so that our work is more transparent and can move into a system that the majority of school districts in the state use.

He discussed financial challenges ahead with projected budget cuts. "Our goal is not to overturn smaller class sizes, or overturn our raise that just went into effect for our staff. We're taking a hard look at where we can cut at the administrative level."

Communications

In communications, Dr. Sánchez highlighted the following positive changes:

  • A new format for the Team Member Update newsletter. Find back-issues on the From the Superintendent page.
  • In media relations, a proactive approach to the media. "As opposed to lagging behind the news cycle, we've spent a lot of the time getting in front of the news cycle by press releases, holding media events and telling the story of what's going on in the district."
  • Social media: Providing "news the way people consume it, as opposed to crossing our fingers and hoping that our message gets out there."
  • Parentlink messaging: Principals use it to get the word out and let their families know what's going on at their schools, and the district uses it to send messages to inform families of events and issues.