Witnesses push for district takeover
Arizona Republic
June 24, 2008


by Betty Reid

State Board of Education officials heard witnesses Monday who said the state should take over the beleaguered Roosevelt School District because the district failed to improve learning for the school's 12,000 students.
In the first of a two-day hearing at South Mountain High School, attended by 100 people, Jennifer Pollack, attorney for the Arizona Department of Education, said the district has failed to apply for grants and to implement a school-improvement plan.
She described the district as suffering from "systemic educational mismanagement."
Today witnesses for the south Phoenix elementary district are expected to defend their district and superintendent, saying that Roosevelt was on an upward trend and that to make changes now would set student learning back.
Roosevelt is a candidate for a state takeover because 11 of its 21 schools fell below average in 2007 and four are failing on Arizona Learns, the state's report card.
The state Board of Education conducted its first hearing using a 2-month-old law that allows them to take charge of districts that perform poorly.
About 15 witnesses will testify.
Under the law, the state Board of Education would also decide whether that district's superintendent should be replaced.
Roosevelt is the first Arizona district to be a candidate for state takeover.
The Arizona Department of Education placed the blame for Roosevelt's failures on Superintendent Mark Dowling, whom they say must be replaced because he didn't improve student learning in 18 months.
Robert D. Haws, Dowling's attorney, said in his opening statement Monday that his client came to the district when it was in a "crisis mode" in 2006. The superintendent was given three years to make corrections, Haws said.
"This was a huge undertaking of Mr. Dowling," he told the state board. "They (ADE) are here to pull a rope on that agreement."