October 3, 2011
Dear Faculty and Staff:
Let me begin by expressing my appreciation for the work you are doing and obvious attention to the things we all know make a difference for our children and families. As I grow to better understand our district and the strengths we possess, as well as the challenges we face, it continues to come down to people, as is the case in every effective organization. Our actions define us. They are the moments of truth when we have the opportunity to respond with a focus on our beliefs and our commitment to doing the "right things." Those times send the message to others that we care, we demand of ourselves the highest levels of service to others and we understand that what defines truly remarkable people are the small and seemingly insignificant acts, which go unnoticed by most people but mean the world to those they impact. This applies to the way we treat each other as well as the way we treat our students and community.
Recently, I received an email from a teacher in the district who, for a number of reasons, was not receiving the correct amount in her paycheck. In fact, it was half of what she should have been getting and this would have placed an unreasonable burden on her and her family. The first response was, due to the systems we have in place, she would not receive the correct amount for almost a month. Two individuals from Human Resources heard her concerns and arranged for an emergency check to be provided pending the "fix" that would come at the end of the month. You would not have heard about that act of kindness and service, but to this teacher it meant everything. I might suggest that we seem to hear about the negative responses to things in this district more than the positive. There is no question we tend to be held under the microscope by the media, who often seeks out "the story" and what sells is too often the train wrecks and not the positive interactions happening by the thousands each day. It is also true that people who are unhappy tend to tell others of their frustrations and before long, if there are enough examples, those stories become the portrait of the place. Once this occurs, recovery is tough. But, I am not prone to making excuses and blaming others for things over which I have control. It is true we cannot control the actions of those who choose to focus on the negative, but it is also true we can re-direct those conversations through our personal commitments, actions and the decisions we make to become what we believe we can and should be.
As discussed during the opening of the year comments, we have engaged in a district-wide survey to collect your thoughts about who we are as a district and how you feel we can improve. Approximately 3,200 of you responded both numerically and in comments that have provided a rich picture of your perceptions. We are organizing that data and will be providing you with a summary of the information which will be used to initiate discussions across the district designed to answer the question, "Based on this information, what do we want to create?" This is an extremely important process that will lead to the ultimate question which is "How do we do it?" You will be hearing more about how this process will work and your critical role in helping us get to the answers and the plan to move this forward.
After we complete our internal process, we will be asking the media to help us collect input from the Tucson community that will help us create the level of engagement necessary for this to be the foundation for positive change. To help us with that effort, we will be hiring a Communications Director who can help with community involvement and the managing of the message we need to send that we are serious about our work, our commitment and our vision to be "that district" which everyone knows we can become. The truth is, across the expansive reach of Tucson Unified School District is evidence of the miracles we know occur every day; children who are challenged to think and grow in ways they would not without us; young people who confront unspeakable challenges on a regular basis and manage to reach the comfort of classrooms where people care and treat them with respect and consistency – something they might only experience there. We know it is not simply through the actions of teachers and administrators who have direct contact with them, but it is through every one of us who provides the support necessary for those things to happen. If any one of us fails in our duties, the process either stops or falters and a child suffers. It is the nature of the system that each of us depends on the other for the success of our collective objectives.
On October 15th, our district is joining with Tucson Meet Yourself to send a very positive message about TUSD and the programs we have to offer. While the Tucson Meet Yourself event is taking place throughout the weekend, TUSD is being featured on Saturday, from 10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. All of our schools will have a chance to boast a bit about the great things we are doing and, unlike previous Festivals of Schools, it is about a collective pride rather than what some described as a chance to compete. We are one district that consists of a constellation of unique and special programs which, collectively, make us strong. In fact, 5,000 of our kids dressed in tee-shirts, donated by Ron Barber's Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, will dance the Tucson MOVE Your Body and create a spirit of unity. We hope you will all stop by.
As we move forward into the second quarter of the school year, please know you make a difference and that you matter. Your example is what inspires students and those around you to do their best. Let that be the impetus for your continued efforts to lift our district for the sake of the work we do each and every day for children.