9 On Your Side Education Watch
TUSD pep rally for teachers and staff members calls for a 'unified' district
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It was back to work for TUSD staff members and teachers. But instead of classroom work, the district kicked off the school year with a pep assembly designed to unify its employees who have become unraveled by a divided leadership, growing budget deficits and a battle to ban ethnic studies.
Two pillars that read "Tucson" and "Unified" hung above the stage seemingly to greet all 9,000 TUSD bus drivers, custodians, staff members and teachers.
Fittingly, Ron Barber, January 8th shooting victim and founder of the district-based fund for Civility, Respect & Understanding, a program to put an end to school-yard bullying, delivered the keynote speech.
Barber called on the district to maintain hope and optimism.
"unfortunately, sometime it takes a crisis or tragedy to bring us together," said Barber. "We are small but we contain great things."
But in moving forward, Superintendent Dr. John Pedicone called on his employee's to set aside politics and old frustrations and ,instead, celebrate successes that include the start of all-day kindergarten classes, a district-wide model for training teachers and a $10 million federal grant that'll be used to buy new computers.
"We are all leaders in this effort," said Pedicone.
Yet, Pedicone also recognized the district's many challenges, mainly underperforming schools.
"Student achievement must simply be our priority," said Pedicone. "We're going to be asking each of you to tell us your thoughts."
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nuñez asked Cheryl Cotanche, a teacher at Tucson High School, if she has faith the district can turn its troubles around.
"Tucson is an integrated community," answered Cotanche. "And I think that TUSD can be a part of that integrated community."
But images of Raza Studies students storming the board meeting in a take-over just four months ago is still fresh in the minds of many who attended today's rally.
We asked Pedicone if he's committed on making Ethnic Studies a part of TUSD's future.
"If we are deemed to be legal and the state superintendent abides by that or feels that way then we'll move from there," said Pedicone. "At this point we don't know."
The cost for the assembly: $32,000. However, Tucson Values Teachers, a private group made up of local businesses paid for the event.
TUSD students start school on Monday.