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Survey says: TUSD & parents not at odds over new code of conduct

The Tucson agenda

Survey says: TUSD & parents not at odds over new code of conduct

A woke alert for Flowing Wells schools; Sahuarita Town Council holds budget retreat & other news from local gov't meetings next week

  • Tucson Unified School District tackles a new code of student conduct, seeing eye-to-eye with parents. What culture war?
    Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.comTucson Unified School District tackles a new code of student conduct, seeing eye-to-eye with parents. What culture war?

One of the latest fronts ginned up in our ongoing performative culture war is the idea that parents and educators stand at cross-purposes when it comes to how to teach kids.

Well, the Tucson Unified School District has been revising its code of conduct and sought advice from district staff and parents about what kinds of consequences should be meted out for certain infractions.

The surveys say parents and district staff are largely simpatico.

For instance, 55 percent of staff believe students threatening others should face long-term suspension and 53 percent of parents responded in kind. 

When it comes to fighting, 64 percent of parents said the result should be a short-term suspension and 65 percent of staff said the same thing. Yes, I'm with you squinting confusedly that engaging in violence is less of a problem than threats of violence.

Responses on tobacco use, drug paraphernalia and dress code violations showed parents and teachers were either closely aligned or nearly identical in their notions of punishment.

The one area where the two groups split was related to truancy. Just 18 percent of parents want in school suspension for skipping school, preferring less severe in-school contracts promising to improve behavior. Meanwhile 28 percent of staff wanted the somewhat tougher consequence.

By and large TUSD staff leaned a bit more toward stiffer punishments than parents.

So the teachers and staff at TUSD aren't some kind of Marxist lefties who want anarchy and discord. Parents aren't so precious about little Jorge and Kylie that they want them go through school free from any ramifications.

Could it be all just made up to stir up rage over something that's nothing? 

Say it ain't so, Tucker (and don't let the door hit you on the Hannity heading out).

Also, Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo will ask the board for a revision to the district's 2022-23 budget. Final revisions are due by May 15 and the fiscal year ends June 30.

TUSD is falling short in projected enrollment numbers, which will cost $2.7 million. However, the district's maintenance and operations budget will finish $2.4 fatter than expected because of a larger-than-expected balance left over from fiscal year 2022.

The district Governing Board will have to vote to approve the revised budget.

Board members will also be asked to pay for a $250,000 upgrade of its preschool facilities. 

The district will use a state grant and hopes to work with the Tucson-based construction firm CHASSE Building Team, which has a history of working on school projects.

The grant money is related to helping schools get through the coronavirus pandemic and must be spent by September.

Gophers of Wokeland

Red Alert! Red Alert! "Woke" is inbound and Che Guevara is rising from the grave.

The Flowing Wells Unified School District is about to start a 60-day public review of a new Advanced Placement U.S. History textbook.

The textbook is called "American Government: Stories of a Nation" and it's by University of Minnesota professor Scott F. Abernathy. This is the Amazon synopsis:

"In the Second Edition of American Government, author Scott F. Abernathy tunes in to the voices of all Americans, showing how our diverse ideas shape the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face. From the Constitutional Convention to Ferguson, Missouri, each chapter features rich, personal narratives that illustrate how the American political system is the product of strategies, calculations, and miscalculations of countless individuals."

All Americans? Ferguson? Is that diversity? Get the pitchforks ready because Abernathy is from the campus of the Golden Gophers. Minnesota is also home to the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (that's how Dems run in Minnesota). Democrats? Farmers? Gophers? Is it a coincidence that one can draw from those three words the letters G. Soros?

My God, can't you see how deep the plot goes?

Once again, we get to go through this experience where parents (or non-parents) get two weeks to pitch a fit about Marxist indoctrination because they think they get to keep all of their kid's classmates as ignorant as the adult wants to be. State law now gives them that right.

On the other hand, these people aren't known for their "book-learnin'" and the two-week sessions always go unnoticed by FOX Fan Fiction Extended Universe viewers.

SPF-U (cough, cough)

The Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board will change a policy on their code of conduct and they are just putting the finishing touches on the document.

Mostly, it's "Meh. Typical."

However, I found one weird provision. The district doesn't want over-the-counter drugs to be used on campuses without the principal saying OK. I used to take allergy pills all the time starting in grade school because otherwise the sneezing would go on all day.

Still, OK. Whatever. Amphi wants to make an exception for cough drops and sun screen. However, they may not be shared. 

Really? What kind of orgy would follow handing a classmate a Hall's? Is Neutrogena SPF 20 a gateway drug? It's not "better safe than sorry" if some kid dies of skin cancer at age 30 or coughs all over classmates with some nasty influenza.

I sense gym teachers are involved.

Raises and brushbacks

The Vail Unified School District will swat back at a Governing Board suggestion that 4-year-olds be allowed to enroll in kindergarten.

The district staff came back with a series of reasons why this is a bad idea in all cases. Students are too young at age four to match with their peers. The classes are more accelerated than they used to be, so kindergarten for kids today is like first grade for those of us from yesteryear (y'know, when test scores were higher).

Due to the academic and social pressures on kids today "appropriate mental, physical and emotional maturity is thus increasingly important." Maybe because we're turning 1st graders into 6th graders?

There's a list of reasons the district brass wants to keep kindergarten the way it is and nothing about why a board member might have a good point about changing the policy. 

Looks for all the world like a staff brushback, involving a policy they don't want to entertain changing. 

Superintendent John Carruth is also recommending 4 percent salary increases for teachers and support staff, a year after increasing their wages 3.5 percent. A new teacher will have a minimum salary of $45,344 and maximum pay of $73,581. 

The budget hit will be about $4.1 million for fiscal year 2023-24.

Meanwhile, Marana Unified School District will be looking to start a partnership with New Jersey-based firm TechSmart to provide a curriculum that covers cloud-based computing, big data and the internet, and computer application-based education from ages three to 12.

The first year cost will run $10,400 and be limited to Dove Mountain and Mountain View high schools, with a goal of eventually reaching every student in the district.

The district's board will also vote on an odd little item to establish a partnership with Deer Valley Unified School District to print text materials.

Drexel Heights deal

The Sunnyside Unified School District will vote Tuesday on its food service contract, which comes with a slight bump in price. 

The contractor, Southwest Foodservice Excellence, will charge 8 percent more in fiscal year 2023-24 on the management side of the contract.

The deal will let Sunnyside reimburse SWFE about $68,000 a month to cover costs not recouped through fees for kids and the federal school meal program. A quarter of that is for management. 

The contractor will be providing about 3 million meals throughout the 2023-24 school year.

Sunnyside also has a program that is about to make a class of Sunnyside High School students instantly eligible to work on an ambulance crew. Each student needs 10 patient contacts to qualify.

So the school board will vote Tuesday on a deal with Drexel Heights Fire Department to get students the experience. 

Some budgets are fascinating. Some budgets are less so. Then there's Catalina Foothills Unified School District's fiscal year 2022-23 budget proposed by superintendent Mary Kamerzell. It's a .... zzzzzzz ... sorry! What was that? Must have dozed off ...

Next year's budget is basically this year's budget with about $110,000 more available in operational funding. The district will add $1 million in new funding while taking away $889,000 from the current budget year.

Outsourcing janitorial services is the biggest new expense. Loss in cash from the state's Classroom Site Fund, represents the biggest drop. That's kind of a deal because the site fund gives out money based on gains on student performance and teacher effectiveness based on a bunch of metrics.

Judging a school district's performance is best done over time to see if a trend develops. The whole state is just out of the pandemic in fiscal year 2020-21 so the data will be skewed.

The cost of a Blue Bird

Marana schools use a curriculum called Eureka Math for elementary instruction and have been printing the material themselves. The print job has overwhelmed the district, which will now outsource the job to Deer Valley. No cost is associated with the text material but the Maricopa County district will charge $136,000 for the print job.

Tanque Verde Unified School District needs a bus. 

The price for a Blue Bird 77 yellow school bus will run the school district $200,211 to be paid over five years. That includes the interest.

The board will vote on the new acquisition during its meeting Thursday.

The board will also vote on whether to provide a 5 percent pay raise for staff for all staff under contract. No word yet about how much this will cost, but the new wages won't take effect until July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. 

Expect to see the raises covered in the district's budget. 

Morning budget brief

Now, the Sahuarita Town Council will be holding 8 a.m. study sessions Friday and Saturday morning to go over the budget. 

I've been through something like this but far, far more grueling. The Flagstaff City Council would hold daily line-item budget reviews between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m., for two weeks. Don't call yourself a city hall reporter until you've been following the discussion about the water department's cost allocation to the city manager's office budget at 5:14 in the morning.

Sahuarita does not yet have its budget ready for public review. But the coffee will flow and the donuts will be plentiful.

Rio Opacity

The Rio Nuevo Board of Directors will vote (or not) on list of possible downtown projects: the Country Home project in the 1700 block of East Broadway; redevelopment at Congress and Church; parking on the top floor of a recently completed garage west of the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall; renewing contracts for valet parking at North 7th Avenue and East Toole Street, plus another at 5th Avenue and East Broadway; and the board will get an update on the TCC parking garage project.

Also, the board will also vote on a contract with Boston-based dump truck management firm (yes, dump truck management firm) TruX for services involving work at the TCC, where more capital improvements are also up for a vote.

What's interesting/annoying and a bit funny is how much room the agenda gives the board to operate. Every agenda item gets punctuated with this language: "Based upon such discussion the Board may vote to take action, which action could include directing staff and/or counsel to draft and finalize any and all agreements necessary to implement the Board’s desires and authorizing the executive officers to execute such agreements."

So every discussion can turn into action and any action can just be discussion. Or not, I guess.

That may be how corporate boards work, but the public is supposed to be involved in the discussion and for that they need something of a clear understanding about what's going on during meetings. Rio Nuevo likes to keep that opaque.

Rio Nuevo is happening fast and a lot of work is getting green-lit, but hell will come collecting if anything goes wrong with any of it and the public finds out the projects were slammed through with little public input. 

I gotta get on them about this so that you, dear reader, know what's up. 

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist, who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party.

The Tucson agenda

Government meetings around Tucson this week:

Rio Nuevo District Governing Board

Tucson Unified School District Governing Board

Amphitheater Unified School District Governing Board

Catalina Foothills Unified School District Governing Board

Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board

Sunnyside Unified School District Governing Board

Vail Unified School District Governing Board

Marana Unified School District Governing Board

Sahuarita Unified School District Governing Board

Sahuarita Town Council

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