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Tucson Unified School District Superintendent H.T. Sanchez isn’t quite ready to admit mistakes were made in the awarding of a ,500 contract to a company he developed ties to while working in Texas, but his actions last week are a good indicator the district is ready to move on from the current controversy.
As reported in the Star, Sanchez spearheaded, and the Governing Board approved, a measure to strengthen internal controls for procuring consultant services in an effort to make the process more transparent and avoid problems in the future.
Although an internal review determined that TUSD did not violate state law or district policy when it awarded a contract to the Center for Reform of School Systems, a company that Sanchez had worked with in the past and whose CEO was a professional reference, this new measure is a welcomed response by the superintendent to help restore the public’s trust.
It is unfortunate, though, that Sanchez continues to portray the reporting by the Star’s Alexis Huicochea — which led to the change in policy — as inaccurate and misleading, and characterized the new measure as a response to an unfair attack.
“My whole thing is, this time it was all fixated on me, and next time it might be another member of the leadership team that’s put in the spotlight, and they and their family and friends and the team they work with are all under this same scrutiny,” Sanchez said during the March 25 school board meeting.
But this isn’t a case where the media made something out of nothing. It was an incident where what Sanchez said were a series of “coincidences” may not have risen to a proven conflict of interest but definitely gave the appearance of one.
You only have to look at the new method for procuring consultant services, which is a virtual point-by-point addressing of the criticism levied at the process that awarded the disputed contract.
The new process includes a clearly defined scope of work; taking current district vendors into consideration; a written quote process with proposed costs and no more than one “no quote” allowed; the use of a broader vendor database in seeking vendors; and a declaration-of-objectivity form to be completed by staff members.
Clearly the superintendent recognizes — in deed if not in word — that he and those involved in awarding the contract failed to consider his relationship with the Center for Reform of School Systems and how the district’s actions would play with a public weary of TUSD’s checkered past.
We commend Sanchez for acting responsibly and improving district policy, but one would hope he would also take responsibility for his actions.
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