TUSD working hard to help kids
Arizona Daily Star
Jan. 27, 2008
Opinion by Alex Rodriguez
Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/222210.php

In the long view of history, no other element of human activity has had such a dramatic impact upon progress as education.

In today's global economy, it is crucial for our nation to invest in the education of our people. In Tucson, it's equally crucial for the community to invest in and support a rigorous K-12 public education system so our students will achieve academic success and be competitive in the global arena.
When our students graduate, we want them fully prepared for the challenges and opportunities that await them. We want our students well prepared to pursue what their hopes, dreams, talents and ambitions conjure for them.
I'd like to provide an update to our community regarding how the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board is working to support students and student achievement in TUSD.
Fiscal accountability
First, we have established a fully independent Audit Committee to help strengthen TUSD's overall financial acumen and performance. Reporting directly to the Governing Board, the committee is guided by three overarching principles: ● It will restore TUSD's financial transparency and public trust; ● It will help the board execute its fiduciary oversight obligations; and ● It will strengthen TUSD's internal financial controls, allowing the board to focus on the core mission of student achievement.
Next, in collaboration with Superintendent Roger F. Pfeuffer, we have commissioned MGT of America Inc., a national management research and consulting firm, to closely audit the district's business functions. This performance audit is intended to help TUSD realign resources to assure stronger outcomes in student achievement and will be presented to the board in early March.
Also critically important, the board is committed to successfully implementing all facets of the $235 million bond program approved by voters in November 2004. The bond funds allow students to move out of portables and into new classrooms.
In addition, the funds are being used to renovate science labs, purchase new buses, upgrade physical education and performing arts facilities, and make older buildings more energy efficient across the school district's 120 schools and programs.
To assure the integrity and efficiency of the bond program, TUSD created a Bond Fiscal Oversight Committee made up of community members to oversee project selections and fund expenditures.
Superintendent hunt
The Governing Board remains on track to announce TUSD's next superintendent in March. The formal search process began last summer when we retained a consultant to assist us in conducting a national search.
We've appointed community members to a Superintendent Search Advisory Committee to help in the application screening process, and to ensure the search is inclusive, open and thorough.
Our goal is to attract the best possible candidates for what is arguably one of the most difficult jobs in Tucson.
Classroom efficiencies
TUSD is working hard to become more efficient and effective in providing more resources for the classroom. Yet when it comes to funding, Arizona falls behind 48 other states in per pupil education spending. At approximately $6,000 per student, Arizona does not come close to the national average of $8,000.
Despite this fact, TUSD is on a journey of improvement to ensure that resources are maximized and every penny spent helps improve learning and student achievement.
TUSD is living with the negative effects of the No Child Left Behind Act as well as unfunded state legislative mandates. In 2006, Arizona's Legislature mandated that, beginning in the 2008-2009 school year, all students not proficient in English must be enrolled in English language classes for four hours each day.
In TUSD there are approximately 8,000 students who are not proficient in English. This state law will have far-reaching effects on how classroom instruction is delivered in TUSD but we will maintain our unrelenting focus on student achievement, which is our central mission.
Qualified teachers
This board simply will not be satisfied until it has a highly qualified teacher in each classroom, until our students routinely reach record levels of academic achievement, until the community has turned the page on the negative perception of public schools, until the morale of all employees is higher, and until district practices are as efficient and effective as possible in support of learning and student achievement.
Opinions expressed are Alex Rodriguez's and not necessarily those of other board members. E-mail Rodriguez at board@tusd1.org.