Tucson's largest school district now in dire straits as it heads into the new year. TUSD board members are forced to address serious financial shortfalls, lackluster student achievement, a continued teacher shortage, and discipline problems.
In two weeks, the board will vote in the next president who will lead the district. KGUN9 talked with current president Michael Hicks about what's in store for 2018.
Discipline and behavior problems in TUSD schools are pervasive and compromising student learning, according to board president Michael Hicks. It's first on his "to tackle" list and likely the hardest to fix. "Our discipline policy is so messed up. We need to get rid of that room for interpretation. And go, if you do X you get Y. It doesn't matter who you are, what you are and what your doing."
Hicks says the discipline issue is one reason students are abandoning the district -- pulling away about $4.5 million dollar in state funding. "The discipline policy is tied into every aspect of this district. It doesn't matter. We're losing kids. They're leaving because parents are feeling they can't trust the district with their kids."
Though Board member Kristel Foster's priorities are similar, they may differ in delivery. She stated, "The priorities that I hope TUSD can focus on next year are teacher retention, student recruitment and staying focused on this last leg of the Unitary Status Plan. We are on track and should stick to the goals within the plan so we can reach unitary status within the allotted time the court granted all of the parties involved."
The board recently received a big blow -- though expected -- after voters recently rejected a $180-million dollar bond for school upgrades and resources. It will have to find other ways to fix the financial shortfalls. "We may have to do cuts. Who knows. We may have to close parts of schools - temporarily."
Hicks is optimistic the district can dig itself out of its quagmire, but he says the board itself must rise above an internal challenge -- discord on the dais. "You may have interpersonal issues with other members, but when we're on that dais, we should not be showing that," he said.
Despite the mounting challenges, Hicks says he would like to continue as board president -- the decision slated for January 9th.