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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hearing to Determine Fate of Roosevelt School District

A hearing scheduled for later this month will likely determine the future of the Roosevelt School District and whether the state will take over control of the longtime troubled district.

The June 23rd hearing will pit the State Board of Education against the RSD governing board regarding House Bill 2711. Board members Norma Munoz, Betty Thompson, Betty Ware and Jimmie Munoz will be among those defending the school district against a state takeover.

In late April, Governor Janet Napolitano signed HB2711 into law, allowing the State Board of Education to take over a school district if half of the schools in the district are “underperforming” and at least one school is “failing” based on AZ LEARNS profiles.

The Department of Education gave the 11-member education board notice that the Roosevelt School District meets the criteria shortly after the governor signed the bill.

Seven Roosevelt schools dropped below average and four received failing labels on Arizona Learns in 2007. Brooks Academy, Cesar E. Chavez Community, Sierra Vista and T.G. Barr, fell below average for the third year in a row.

According to Norma Munoz, president of the Roosevelt governing board, “the AIMS scores have been improving the past three years and Sierra Vista has recently come very close to achieving standard scoring status.”

Tom Horne, state superintendent of Public Instruction, believes that the district has picked the statistics they wanted to emphasize, but that the overall picture has not improved.

The Department of Education has posted the Roosevelt School District Superintendent job on the main page of their Web site, http://www.ade.az.gov/, as “Exciting Superintendent Opportunity.” According to the posted position, “The successful applicant will have unprecedented and wide-ranging authority to turn an underperforming district into a model of success without the oversight from the local governing board. Recently passed legislation empowers the State Board of Education to appoint a turnaround superintendent, who will report directly to this Board.”

The Roosevelt School District governing members had recently approved a three-year contract for Dr. Mark Dowling.

Though this law states that the current superintendent may immediately be terminated, Gov. Napolitano stated in a letter to Speaker of the House Jim Weiers, “I encourage the State Board of Education to work closely with the Roosevelt School District Governing Board and its superintendent to continue the good trends in the district and raise the academic standards of the individual schools that have particular challenges.”

Horne said he favors a state takeover of the district due to lack of leadership at the top resulting in poor performance, instruction failing to improve even though the district receives more technical assistance and support from ADE than any other district in the state, and the loss of $1 million of assistance from the Reading First program due to lack of direction and leadership.

“I believe that students in the Roosevelt School District need to have excellent schools as many of them don’t get the help they need at home that students in the richer districts get,” said Horne. “This makes it all the more important and I am determined to create great schools for these students to be able to excel academically and succeed to have a better life in 21st century.”
When asked when a final decision would be made regarding the takeover of the district, Horne said that it would be the same day. If approved, the Department of Education will immediately recommend three candidates for the superintendent position.

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