Roosevelt district improves, avoids takeover
Jul 31, 2008
Betty Reid - Jul.
31, 2008 06:07 PM
The Arizona Republic
The State Board
of Education decided Thursday that it won't take over the Roosevelt School
District because new achievement results show the district's schools have
Arizona lawmakers approved a bill in April that allows the board of education to
take charge of districts that perform poorly on the state's report card, Arizona
Learns. Roosevelt School District was the first district looked at because half
of its 21 schools either dropped below average or failed on the state's report
card Arizona Learns 2007.
Roosevelt's reprieve came because Arizona Learns results coming out this month
show only two schools fell below average, a significant improvement. In
addition, as many as 52 percent of Roosevelt's third graders met AIMS Reading
standards in 2008, up from 32 percentile recorded in 2005.
“This would not have been the right time or the appropriate time to change …
what seems to be moving in the right direction,” said State Board of Education
member Jesse Ary after the unanimous vote.
A burst of applause came from Roosevelt governing board members, educators and
supporters when they heard the decision. They had fought the takeover and
repeatedly told legislators while the bill allowing district takeovers was going
through the legislature that student test scores had improved at Roosevelt.
It means Roosevelt Superintendent Mark Dowling keeps his job and the south
Phoenix district's governing board is still in charge.
Norma Muñoz, Roosevelt governing board president, sighed relief. “I am
overwhelmed and I am so happy,” Muñoz said. “It means that we're given the
opportunity to continue going forward with our improvements. We're not going to
lose sight of what we need to do because we never, ever want to slide back to
where we were.”
The governing board president said in recent days that the ordeal had been “very
stressful” because she felt like the district was “targeted by the state.”
Dowling, who was at Thursday's hearing, was ecstatic about the decision and
credits the district's academic improvement to curriculum, which was overhauled
under his administration and aligned to state's standards in 2006.
Each Roosevelt school used to shaped its own curriculum. Dowling, who arrived
took the helm of the district in 2005, has a contract with Roosevelt until 2011.
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne recommended that
Roosevelt be placed under the state's watchful eye and helped push through the
state law. The decision Thursday surprised him.
He noted that the board of education, in a hearing in June, found educational
mismanagement in the district. Horne believes the best decision would have been
for the state board to take authority away from the Roosevelt governing board
but keep Dowling as superintendent.
“Students who come from the poorest neighborhoods need good schools the most
because often they don't get as much help,” Horne said. “My responsibility is do
everything I can to say, we don't have different standards, we have the same
high standards for everybody.” Four failing Roosevelt schools were already under
the state's watch until 2011 because they dropped below average three times in a
row. They are Brooks Academy, Cesar Chavez, Sierra Vista and T.G. Barr
elementary schools. Three of the four now are doing above average and Barr is
Two schools underperforming in the Arizona Learns results coming out this month
are CO Greenfield and V H Lassen School.
Lawmakers who represent south Phoenix crafted the law that allows the state to
take over troubled schools. Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, Rep. Cloves Campbell Jr.
and Rep. Ben Miranda, said district parents complained about poor management of
the schools, sinking student test scores and alleged board squabbles.
Miranda acknowledged academic improvement at Roosevelt. However, he believes
problems still exist and the bill should serve as a “warning to the Roosevelt
administration and the school board that things have to be run differently.”
Miranda, who served on the Roosevelt governing board between 2001 and 2006, said
it takes courage to say ‘no' to board members. “If Mark Dowling is left there, I
hope he has the courage to say ‘no' to the governing board,” Miranda said.
Campbell echoed Miranda.
“I hate to see the same thing continue to happen,” Campbell said. “I hope that
we put pressure on them to make them do a better job. I would have liked to see
the state to take them over because we can't stand for mediocrity” in our
Taylor agreed with her colleagues.
“If it took this type of action to wake everybody up, whatever they did, I just
hope they continue. …then it was worth every minute of it,” she said. “Our
children deserve the very best education.” The school district has about 12,000