April 20, 2011
Faculty and Staff:
One of the benefits of being in a large school district is that you are a member of an extremely active organization which engages in a vast number of events throughout the year. You can trust, with over 53,000 students and 6,800 employees, there is never a time when something is not happening that has an impact on students, families and the community at large. The downside to being in such a complex and large system is that communication about things that might be important is difficult, resulting in people feeling out of touch. One of the goals of the district office is to try to reduce the negative surprises and work at ensuring there is an acceptable level of communication so all of us feel connected to each other and the things that affect us. Additionally, when you find out about things through the media, or perhaps by word of mouth, you are at the mercy of sources which can be unreliable and limit the information in ways that create a less than accurate story.
There are a few major decisions that have been made and some activities are having a serious impact on us this spring. I am sure you are aware the district has made a commitment to funding full-day kindergarten. This is extremely important for our district, which serves a significant number of children who come from low-income families and who need increased educational opportunities to help them prepare for their academic experience. The preparation of our students, beginning with early childhood education, is a moral imperative that we simply must address. Further, we must demonstrate to our community we are resolved to providing the service they should expect from our district and that begins with this commitment.
This decision was not made easily, especially in view of the budget cuts the legislature has made for the next school year. We will be discussing the nature of those cutbacks as soon as all of the details are determined. However, as a result of the decisions the district made last year, including the closure of nine schools, we believe we can manage to address the reductions to our budget and still commit to working at maintaining current levels of salary and benefits.
As most of you are aware, the State Superintendent has initiated an audit of our Mexican American Ethnic Studies Program in order to determine if the District is out of compliance with A.R.S. 15-111/A.R.S. 15-112 (formerly known as HB 2281) and to evaluate the impact of that program on student achievement. This evaluation is on-going and should be completed by the end of this week. The results of that evaluation will be made public sometime in the middle of May. My concern regarding this issue has always been, and will continue to be, on what is in the best interests of our students.
As we prepare to take a few days to enjoy some much needed relaxation, I hope you know you make a difference. From the first moment we decide to work in an educational environment, we all must realize what we do is more about the welfare of others than about our own needs. This is a different life we have chosen than the person who simply goes to work to make a living. Whether we are certified or support staff, our lives are focused on the lives of others. Some of us see that connection each day in the classrooms that define our work, while others serve behind the scenes to provide the foundation for those connections to occur. That is the gift we give and receive each day and what I trust will keep you fulfilled during this holiday weekend.
John J. Pedicone