A Phoenix school district mired in turmoil has placed its top official on leave.
Roosevelt School District’s board voted 3-2 Thursday night to place Superintendent Dino Coronado on “assignment to home,” or paid administrative leave, during a meeting packed with community members and educators. Roosevelt is a school district in south Phoenix with about 9,000 students.
The vote comes amid years of upheaval in the district, which has struggled with student achievement.
The board also will hire an independent law firm to investigate whether there is cause to remove Coronado, board president Lawrence Robinson said. Coronado became superintendent in mid-2017 and his contract runs until mid-2020.
Coronado attended the board meeting but sat silently and did not make any comment.
Why place the superintendent on paid leave?
It’s unclear why the board made this decision.
In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Robinson said complaints he’s heard from the community about Coronado warrant investigation. He did not detail the specific complaints but said some have been published in the media, including a Republic story that included accusations by Roosevelt educators against Coronado.
Several educators accused the superintendent of making false, crude remarks about a school administrator, telling a parent the administrator had sexual relationships with multiple teachers.
Coronado denied the allegations. An investigation concluded the allegations couldn’t be substantiated, the school district said in a statement to The Republic in September.
“This is not punitive,” Robinson said. “This is not an ultimate decision. What we did tonight is to honor the community concerns.”
Norma Munoz, another board member, opposed the decision to place Coronado on leave.
She said the push to oust him is politically motivated, encouraged by a group of teachers who have not liked Coronado since he started when he replaced a superintendent they liked. She said Coronado has worked hard to make improvements in the district.
“I’ve seen politics in action and this is it, right here,” she said. “I’m afraid that Roosevelt is just going backwards.”
She told Robinson during the meeting that placing Coronado on leave is a waste of taxpayer money.
The board voted to appoint Quintin Boyce, executive director of teaching and learning at the Phoenix Union High School District, as Roosevelt’s acting interim chief administrative officer.
The board would still need to approve a contract with Boyce.
Munoz said she does not know anything about Boyce.
School performance and finances
Roosevelt has struggled with performance and finance issues for years before Coronado began in the district.
The state’s auditor general noted in a report in February 2018 that Roosevelt’s operational costs were higher than other nearby districts while its student achievement was slightly lower.
Most of Roosevelt’s schools received “D” or “C” letter grades from the state. Some carry “F” letter grades. The grades indicate that students likely score low in state testing and do not show improvement over time.
According to 2017-18 AzMERIT results, 22 percent of Roosevelt’s students were proficient in reading, and 24 percent of kids in grades 3-8 were proficient in math. Critics of the letter grading system often say the grades are more of an indicator of poverty, not achievement.
In 2016, Roosevelt officials had to make staff cuts after budgeting errors led to overspending by $4.4 million over two years. The district also doled out more than $2 million in performance pay in fiscal year 2016 to teachers without establishing goals for teachers to earn that pay, the auditor general’s report found.
In a presentation this summer, Coronado pointed out that under his leadership, the district finished last school year with $4.7 million in budget reserves.
Reporters Rachel Leingang and Ricardo Cano contributed to this story.
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