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TUSD board member: ‘Power play’ occurring on agendas

Citizen Staff Writer



When Judy Burns was on the outs with the majority of the TUSD school board six years ago, it found a way to keep her from getting many items she wanted on the agenda.

The others formed an agenda committee of the board president, clerk and superintendent, and Burns said she often didn’t get her issues heard.

The Tucson Unified School District board agenda committee finally changed to include each board member having a three-month rotation.

Tuesday night, the board majority, now including President Burns, switched to the old format.

Burns voted with newcomers Miguel Cuevas, who sought the change, and Clerk Mark Stegeman. Board members Bruce Burke and Adelita Grijalva were opposed.

The 3-2 vote followed a nearly half-hour discussion which was the culmination of a meeting fraught with innuendo and frosty tension between the two sides.

While there were 5-0 votes throughout the meeting, the same 3-2 split occurred when there was any disagreement.

Before the change, the agenda committee included Burns because she is board president, Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen and a rotating board member.

Under the new policy, the committee will be comprised of Fagen, the board president and the clerk (Burns and Stegeman).

Grijalva said the new policy was like one set up in 2003 “to isolate the minority.”

Cuevas, however, said the policy states “any board member may put an item on the agenda by submitting it to the director of staff services.”

It can’t be rejected by the agenda committee, board president or superintendent and may only be removed from an agenda if the board member who sought it withdraws it, he said.

Still, Burke said it was “a power play” that was the subject of discussion among Burns and Stegeman and Cuevas before they took office in January.

Burns said Cuevas came to her and said he wanted to see the change. “And I asked the board in December if it could be placed on the January agenda.”

Cuevas took issue with Burke’s accusations. “There was no corruption, no coercion,” he said, adding that training for new members advised them to meet with current members.

“I didn’t say you violated open meeting law,” Burke said, “but you met as a group of three on more than one occasion and I think that’s poor judgment. It excluded two board members and is setting a tone here that, frankly, is disappointing.”

Burns said, “I don’t think this is trying to shut out anybody.”

Stegeman said he knows of no large board that rotates like TUSD. He said some board members have had to wait up to nine months to get on the committee.

TUSD board member claims ‘power play’ occurring on agendas

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