Posted 7:07 PM 6/11/2013 : Dr. John Pedicone's exclusive News 4 exit interview
TUCSON - The current TUSD Superintendent, John Pedicone, is preparing to say goodbye. Since taking the job in December, 2010, it has been a bumpy ride, marred by school closings, a cultural studies program deemed unconstitutional, banned books, protests, declining enrollment and constant funding issues.
Dr. Pedicone took the job of superintendent of TUSD, determined to lift up a failing school district. In the end came the realization that politics and a fractured community would continue to paralyze progress and it was time for him to go.
Even the news conference where John Pedicone announced his resignation was controversial, hastily put together a day before it was supposed to happen because of fear his departure had already been leaked. Unfortunate, but not surprising, just another day in one of the most dysfunctional school districts in the country.
Dr. Pedicone got a taste of that early on just 5 months after taking the job when the district's MAS program was deemed unconstitutional by the state. But critics came after him, even calling for his resignation. Pedicone says if didn't have the experience he had in his career he may have made an early exit, "If i were a young aspiring leader or had a career to worry about I would have left here in six months."
He stuck with it making it his mission, but he says having a hostile community has made any move forward difficult, "This district is an extremely political environment, there is no question about that and when people talk poorly about the district or says something about something the administration did, whether right or not, whether true or not, people applaud", he said, "it's just the most incredible thing to me, because I come from organizations, that are effective because they work together and the community supports the work that is being done.
Over the last two school years Pedicone says there have been many accomplishments, including creating a culture focused on improvement, better aims scores across the district, improved school ratings, full day kindergarten and a vastly better transportation system.
But no matter the progress Pedicone realizes most will only remember the protests that erupted surrounding the dissolution of the MAS program, memories that still sting, "It was terrible, the taking over the dais, and the following week we had to have another board meeting and we had threats to our children and to the people who were in that board room, we had an excessive police presence, and I can't even go in to why that happened. And from there it became this political furor and in the end, honestly, I don't think anybody wins. You tell me who won in that. Some people would argue that the classes were eliminated and that's a win. The collateral damage that occurred as a result of it, to the district i think, perceptions to the community. most importantly for me the students who graduated with that being their experience is a travesty.
Despite it all John Pedicone believes TUSD can one day be a great district, but he says before that can happen the community's mindset has to change."This district is a good district, there are so many positive things going on here. Stop this insanity of people looking to criticize everything this district does and begin to support this district to lift it. This community deserves it and our children deserve it.
John Pedicone's last day with the district is scheduled for June 30, but he has agreed to stay in the interim if the board fails to hire the new Superintendent by July 1.
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