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Pima Sup't to TUSD: Pick 5th member for committee or she'll call special election

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Pima Sup't to TUSD: Pick 5th member for committee or she'll call special election

The Pima County school superintendent told the Tucson Unified School District to name a fifth member to the committee charged with picking someone to fill a vacancy on the district's Governing Board, or she'll call a special election.

The Governing Board picked 4 to serve on the panel last week, but deadlocked on naming a fifth to the community advisory committee that's to help pick a replacement for Judy Burns, who died last month.

If TUSD doesn't pick a fifth member by next Wednesday, Pima County School Superintendent Linda Arzoumanian will call a special election for May 17, she told the district in a letter Friday.

Arzoumanian can either fill the vacant Governing Board seat by appointment, or call an election.

She had determined to appoint a new Governing Board member, to speed the process and save TUSD the $250,000 cost of a special election. Arzoumanian asked the district to name a 5-member panel to review applicants for the spot and make a recommendation.

"I am disappointed that the TUSD Governing Board is unable to comply with my request," Arzoumanian said in her letter. "As
you are well aware, the option of conducting a special election will come at a significant cost to the taxpayers of TUSD."

"In her 12 years as Pima County School Superintendent, Dr. Linda Lee Arzoumanian has filled 33 vacant governing board seats using a uniform process by which a community advisory committee, selected by the school district, reviews all applicants and provides the superintendent with a recommendation.  The standard at the center of this process has been to have community input in recognition of the fact that each school district is a unique one.  It is unfortunate that the TUSD Governing Board chose not to fulfill Dr. Arzoumanian's request, and she urges the board to act in the best interest of the community," a press release from her office said.

Without a replacement for Burns, the Governing Board is likely to continue to split 2-2, as it did last week.

While board members agreed on a parent, teacher, community member and business leader to appoint to the panel, they repeatedly split on a fifth member.

Those picked for the advisory panel:

  • Parent: Tola Barker, recommended by Miguel Cuevas.
  • Teacher: Michele Harbour, recommended by Mark Stegeman.
  • Community member: Steve Holmes, recommended by Adelita Grijalva.
  • Business leader: Charles Weisel, recommended by Michael Hicks.

When they couldn't agree on the 5th member board members forwarded Arzoumanian a list of names, asking her to pick one:

  • Roxanne Begay-James, recommended by Grijalva.
  • Juan Ciscomani, recommended by Stegeman.
  • Colleen Niccum, recommended by Cuevas.
  • Johnny Renfro, recommended by Hicks.

"Leaving the decision to this office is not an option," Arzoumanian said.

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