January 31, 2011
Last week the Governing Board met with District administration to examine the condition of our district in terms of academic achievement, facilities usage and development, and a number of other topics that will help set our district direction. In the end, our conclusions were as simple as they were clear. In Tucson Unified School District, everything we do must lead to increased student achievement. Anything that does not has no place in our organization. This implies that everyone understands we work for that purpose and it must create the focus for the way we think and behave.
Each academic level was analyzed in terms of results on state assessments, and discussions centered on what we are doing to understand and address the inadequacies we uncover. It is very clear that we are not united in our approach to achievement. It is very clear that we have settled for a system that accepts a culture of separatism and while we acknowledge that there are truly remarkable things happening throughout our organization, we do not honor those things as a part of any type of organized effort. Over time we have accepted a practice best described as one that rewards "work arounds" in order to get things done. When people have to figure out how to get around the system, it is clear the system does not support the objectives. The result is that a level of disconnection has occurred that is reinforced with each decision we make or don’t make. Instead of experiencing the strength that comes from a spirit of interdependency, we have become a constellation of independent operations.
Over the next several months, we will be working hard to examine "the way we do business" and trying to unravel the parts of our system that appear to be getting in the way of all of our success and most importantly that of our students. We will need to do that even as we progress into the second semester and address the challenges that visit us each spring. The legislative process is always an adventure and one that does not hold promise for much relief. The Board will face difficult decisions regarding facilities and budget and program issues. Students will be preparing for the next round of achievement tests. We will all need to consider how we can support each other as we face the challenges ahead. We will have the opportunity to confront these issues together or separately. Our past practice points to the need to acknowledge that we must do things differently if we are to emerge stronger in the end. Our Board and District Office leadership will be working hard to make decisions in the spirit of collaboration and in the best interests of students. Over the next few months, I will be asking you to consider how you can contribute to that effort. There is no question that we can face and overcome any obstacle if we do so together.