Sahuarita streamlines worker rules; TUSD updates social media policy

The town of Sahuarita will vote on revising its personnel policy and code of ethics this week.

Earlier this month, the Town Council discussed both during a study session and is set to vote “aye,” or “nay” on Monday, or punt the whole thing to another meeting.

One of the interesting things about Sahuarita’s personnel policy changes is that it’s really streamlined. The 2018 guide went on 82 pages and got into detail that’s been stricken from the proposed manual. 

The 2018 document, for instance defined sexual harassment as: any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when: 

A. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term of condition of an individual’s employment; 
B. Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or C. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Then the manual declared that an investigation would be prompt, reprisals and false reporting were prohibited and punishment would range from suspension to demotion to dismissal.

Under the new 25-page manual, the town’s sexual harassment policy gets folded into a broader prohibition.

“The town of Sahuarita, consistent with its commitment to provide equal employment opportunities, will not tolerate any form of employment harassment, including sexual harassment, harassment based on race, gender, national origin, religion, age or disability, or overt or subtle use of language or code words. Harassment is an unlawful activity and is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

It also mentions investigations that could take place under the equal employment opportunity section.

The 2018 manual came immediately after the “Me-Too” movement began outing instances of sexual harassment, so the issue may have been more front-of-mind.

I’m assuming the more “streamlined” and vague language represents a more matter-of-fact stance on sexual harassment that reflects how institutionalized the response has become. If not, lawsuits will pile up.

The council will also vote to install a $1.5 million splash pad at the ANAMAX park.

I keep going back to count the zeros and commas but it keeps coming up $1.2 million to build the splash pad and a $260,000 restroom to accompany it.

Now, I went to the website of Water Odyssey, the Texas company who will be tapped to make the splash pad, and some of them are pretty cool-looking. Others are less elaborate.

But the town is building a park restroom and paying enough to build a house in Tucson. We’ll be keeping an eye on this.

Maybe the cost is in “Texas Dollars,” pretending to be bigger than your regular dollars.

The council will also vote on a much more reasonable-sounding $1.5 million contract with Southern Arizona Paving to provide road maintenance. 

I’m a big fan of paying for pavement preservation and you should be too, dear reader. Failing to do so only leads to more expensive work later. It’s the civil engineering equivalent to changing oil in the car or truck. It’s insane to save money by refusing to pay for it in some misguided cost-cutting measure.

The contract isn’t for any specific plan but will keep the company on call as needed.

A principal is a pal but not a friend

The Tucson Unified School District will vote to update its social media policy, reasserting that work accounts shall be used only to improve the educational experience.

School personnel are not allowed to “friend” or “follow” students on personal accounts and are to limit conversations to school business. A parent or supervisors should be looped in whenever possible if a conversation could be construed as inappropriate.

They are also to refrain from any sort of unprofessional social media chatter on their personal accounts while on the district’s time.

TUSD’s board will also vote on a plan to move 6th grade into the elementary curriculum (as God intended, because that’s how they did it in my day).

The proposal the board will vote on Tuesday would add that grade to Banks, Collier, Davidson, Gale, Henry, Lynn-Urquides, Soleng Tom, Steele, Vesey, and Whitmore elementary schools. 

The schools were picked for this pilot project because they had the capacity and administrators who were most excited/least resentful about the change.

The Amphitheater Unified School District superintendent is up for a for a performance review, which the governing board will discuss during a closed-door meeting.

Todd Jaeger has been around so long, he’s practically a junior high school. He’s been superintendent since 2017 and prior to that he spent 20 years as the lawyer for the district (and TUSD for a while). He helped spearhead the legal fight to get Ironwood Ridge High School built when environmental groups sued to shut the project down because it was built in pygmy owl habitat.

He didn’t argue the case, high-fallutin’ litigators did. But he was the guy responsible for the legal wranglings.

The Amphi board will also vote to approve the preventative maintenance workload for the year.

Maintenance crews do four annual inspections at each district school and comes up with a work list.

The Arizona School Facilities Board, which pays for certain capital projects, has a one-size fits all reporting system. It requires districts to do things like maintenance on metal rooftops. Amphi High School has an asphalt rooftop, with no metal involved.

Still, the district must report its work on the nonexistent roof.

By and large, the work gets done. Given the Vail Unified School District’s troubles finding maintenance workers, Amphi has an impressive record on completing tasks.

I got 13 policies but textbooks ain’t one

The Flowing Wells Unified School District Governing Board will get a rundown of student achievement through the Spring of 2023.

However, the Arizona Board of Education will not have letter grades ready until Monday – a day before the meeting. So those results won’t be available.

On the other hand, the district is crunching their own numbers to give board members.

The district will also vote to update 13 policies on the following matters: board organizational meeting; school board meetings, notification of board meetings, agendas, emergencies, basic instructional program,  admission of students in foster care, open enrollment, student discipline, suspensions, expulsions and students.

Every year about this time, districts like Flowing Wells approve scads of policy changes on a single vote. Part of this is the Arizona Legislature passing new laws while school boards take summer brakes but not every school district makes these changes all at once.

There appear to be ways to make them more digestible. 

Up in the Catalina Foothills, school are about to add two more courses available for dual enrollment with Pima Community College.

Classes in early childhood development and Early childhood education would be added to the roster of courses the Catalina Unified School District students could take that would count toward credits with the community college.

The CFUSD governing board must approve the intergovernmental agreement with PCC making it possible.

The board will also vote Tuesday on a pair of policy tweaks required by new state laws.

Literacy coaches would count toward staff capable of dealing with dyslexia, to comply with a Arizona Revised Statutes.

Also, schools would expand from five to 10 days to retrieve records for transfer students under the state’s open enrollment program.

A goal by any other name

The Vail Unified School District Governing Board will vote to approve its “goals” for the upcoming school year.

Let’s just say they aren’t setting the bar high.

The goals are more commitments to hold two full-day retreats and two half-day retreats. The board also aims to find out what parents think of their work and hopefully improve over last year. Board members will pledge to hold “Reality Check” visits at each school site.

“My goal is to work on the sink,” is not the same level of aspiration as “my goal is to fix the sink.”

Board members will also get an update on the construction of Rocking K Elementary School.

Bonds and overrides

The Sunnyside Unified School District will ask voters for $15 million in two overrides.

One is an $8.1 million boost to maintenance and operation budgets over the next five years and the other would come in the form of $7 million direct additional assistance for capital purchases.

The district’s board will get an update on the overrides, being voted on through Nov. 7. 

The maintenance override will provide additional money for salaries and vocational programs to prepare students for work after high school. The capital program would pay for improved school security, more technology and better sports and fine arts facilities.

Down in Sahuarita, the district board will get a rundown on past bond and override spending.

This gives us a chance to discuss the upcoming bond and override election.

On Nov. 7, the polls will close on a $50 million bond question and proposal to extend the district’s over-ride.

It breaks down like this:

  • $19 million on new construction for, among other things, building six new classrooms at Wrightstown Elementary School and expanding the early childhood center.
  • $15 million to pay for renovations for flooring, painting and weatherization, throwing in new playground equipment and courtyard landscaping.
  • $9 million for enhanced safety measures, like replacing old security cameras and installing security systems running off identification cards.
  • $5 million in new technology advancements and $2 million for new furniture.

In an interesting twist, district leaders are telling voters that the tax rate won’t have to increase because the district has refinanced previous bond issues creating room for additional financing and rising property values will take in the the money needed to pay off the bonds.

Yeah, OK. Fine but that’s not how bonds work. Districts can’t be telling voters “gives us the authority to take on debt and we’ll get back to you about taxes.” No one would sell a bond that way.

To whit: The bond question on the ballot allows the district to increase taxes by about $290 a year on a house with an assessed value of $355,000. Y’know…  just in case.

The Sahuarita district will also ask for a continuation of the overrides approved in 2014 and extended in 2018. This override actually wouldn’t raise taxes, per se. Taxes would fall if the measure fails but if it passes the current tax rate would simply remain in place.

The override allows the district to exceed by 15 percent its statutory spending limits for maintenance and operations. It works out to $4.5 million a year.

If the proposition fails, the district would have two years to step down its budget to the statutory limit without an override.

The first meeting of the revamped Rio Nuevo Multipurpose Facilities District Board of Directors was rescheduled from Oct. 24 until Oct. 30.

The board’s members are appointed by the governor, who gets five picks, and the leadership of two houses of the Legislaure, who get to appoint four.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, appointed her people last week, removing four members to make way, but kept on Chairman Fletcher McCusker by making him a gubernatorial appointee. The Legislature immediately reappointed two of the ousted four to fill other openings. So that was a thing.

The Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer took control of the Downtown redevelopment effort in late 2009 after it seemed to languish for a decade after voters approved the taxing district that paid for it.

Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Michael Guymon seemed frustrated with Hobbs’ move, offering an “If-it’s-not-broke, don’t-fix-it” take on a pretty partisan move. That’s where my head was at and my love for the Arizona Legislature is well-known. 

The board has worked pretty well over the years. McCusker just keeps pushing stuff along.

On the other hand, the move to grab state control over the board was originally a political play. Republicans in Phoenix were taking over a project run by Democrats in Tucson.

Hopefully, the new board will just focus on the nuts and bolts of moving projects along.