Meet the TUSD finalists for superintendent: A quick first-level analysis of the race so far

We now know the name of the four finalists for TUSD superintendent.

In alphabetical order, they are:

  1. Dr. Donna Hargens
  2. Maria Marin
  3. Steven Trejo
  4. Dr. Gabriel Trujillo

Since the forums for each candidate will be held next week, we provide a few first-level questions that citizens may be interested in, avoiding depth in dense topics such as desegregation for after the forums and interviews.

First of all, can we safely discount any chance that Dr. Hargens has after it was revealed that she was pushed out and forced to resign by her last school’s district, taking over $200,000 to go away similar to the way HT Sanchez was ousted?

Kentucky news outlets reported that Hargens’ departure after leading the district for six years, effective July 1 after being announced in April, came after months of controversy and a sweeping audit that is ongoing and could lead to a complete takeover of the district by the state.
Immediately after Hargens left, the acting superintendent said that the “culture and morale in our schools is at the lowest level it’s been in years.”
The state’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, called the district an “unmitigated disaster.
Source: Tucson Sentinel.

It was relayed to us that TUSD board member Kristel Foster said that being pushed out by a district could be a badge of honor, a reference to her deep and undying commitment to HT Sanchez. So maybe Dr. Hargens still has a chance?

Maria Marin is one of the top-ranked administrators in 1010, but she was also not a favorite of the TUSD Whistleblowers. Setting aside her previous relationship with HT Sanchez, being part of the undrained swamp at 1010 that remains from the Sanchez Era, we can assume she is the clear favorite for board member Adelita Grijalva. However, Marin is currently finishing her doctoral dissertation at NAU; would it be better to for her to run Tucson’s largest school district at a later time when she does not have to split her time with graduate school?

Speaking of doctorates, should TUSD have a “Dr.” running the district, especially when many of the administrators and even principals have their doctorate degree? Sometimes, such as in Sunnyside, the best person to run the district has tons of experience that more than makes up for the academic title, but is this the case with TUSD?

This brings us to Steven Trejo who receives lots of praise for his work at C.E. Rose, but he also left TUSD to run a charter school, which may be a controversial topic especially since TUSD keeps losing students. Furthermore, is running one school from one community really well the same as running a large district with drastically different demographics, from the foothills of the Catalina Mountains where the white and more affluent Sabino HS is located to the Southside where minority populations can be over 95% at high schools such as Pueblo?

Race matters are an issue for the superintendent that cannot be ignored since TUSD is currently under a federal desegregation order, now in its fifth decade of existence. Furthermore, if the Mexican American Studies plaintiffs win their court case — a ruling is expected any day now — then that means the federal court has found racial animus in the banning of the highly-successful MAS program. This program is spreading nationwide but still remains banned at the place where it all began in TUSD. MAS will certainly be an issue in next year’s election, which may include a board-majority change, which will also impact whichever superintendent is chosen.

The answer to the “will you bring back MAS” may even be the litmus test for all three candidates, and if they answer in the affirmative, how they plan to do so and in what timeline and how it will interact with the Culturally Relevant and Multicultural Courses will have to be thought out by the forum next week.

This brings us to the current interim superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo. It appears that he is working with all board members, which is good for a change. On just a very shallow level, if having a “Dr.” is important to TUSD, then Dr. Trujillo will almost certainly win; that is, if Dr. Hargens can be safely ignored as a serious candidate.

Due to the success of his time at C.E. Rose, many community members involved closely with TUSD consider the superintendent race to end up being between Trejo and Dr. Trujillo. However, Trejo has never run a school district whereas Trujillo does have some experience since he took over for H.T. Sanchez. The Trujillo Era has been relatively quiet, at least compared to that of his predecessor. Speaking of relatively quiet, will Grijalva rally the community to support Marin just as they filled the board room to support Sanchez? This may change the outcome of this race also.

Thus, in this very quick and first-level analysis of the superintendent race for TUSD, Dr. Trujillo has the clear advantage as the incumbent who also has a “Dr.” in front of his name. With that said, there are strong groups of people in TUSD that are big fans of both Trejo and Marin. It will be up to these two individuals who have no experience running a district to really shine at next week’s forums.

Originally published at TSON News.

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