Group looks to oust board - The Explorer: Import

Group looks to oust board

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Posted: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:48 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Almost two-dozen Northwest residents angered by the resignation of Superintendent Richard Lesko gathered at an Oro Valley residence July 15 to discuss replacing the current governing board and possibly reinstating Lesko.

In a telephone message left July 19, Lesko said he does not support any election or recall effort that has the specific objective of returning him to his position. He said while he has enjoyed his service with the district and would like to continue his career as an educator in Southern Arizona, he has no desire to be reinstated as superintendent.

Even so, Betty Tankersley, who teaches first grade at Desert Winds Elementary, said at the meeting board members must be held accountable for their actions.

"We need to keep up the pressure on the school board," she said. "They need to know we are not just going to be silent and walk away and forget it all."

The positions of Board President Janice Mitich, and board members Dan Post and Debbie Schmich, will be up for election Nov. 2, said Susan Hankinson, the elections administrative assistant for the Pima County School Superinten-dent. Interested candidates have until Aug. 4 to fill out a finance form, collect at least 160 signatures of registered voters who live within the boundaries of the Marana Unified School District and file an affidavit of qualifications, Hankinson said.

Tankersley said the lengthy time requirements of a recall make replacing the three current board members through election the most logical process.

A recall can take up to 300 days from beginning to end, Hankinson said. However, Pima County Elections Director Brad Nelson said in a situation like Marana's, the process could take about half that time.

Replacing the board is necessary because the current one has lost sight of providing an education for the children, Tankersley said.

Board President Mitich disagreed with the argument that the elected officials no longer consider students' needs.

"We feel that, first of all, we serve our community. You know, we don't get paid for this job," she said. "I'm an educator, I taught for 30 years, other people's children have been my whole life. I don't have any children of my own."

Meljeam Kaster, a Marana resident interested in running for the board, said she is concerned the current board might deny her son a decent education. Tensions between the board and the community have existed for some time, she said.

"I think it's been building and people have laid back on it until they attacked Mr. Lesko," she said. "They've forgotten that they're there for the kids."

On the other hand, Mitich cited several examples to show the board always looks at the needs of the children.

"We have made children our priority," she said. The board has kept class size for primary grades under 20 students, there are full-time counselors in elementary schools that previously didn't have them and all MUSD schools have met state performance standards, she said.

"I think it's unfair not to look at how the district was 16 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, when some of us first came on the board, and where the district is now," she said.

Rita Elster, who has two children in MUSD, said one reason she and her family moved to Marana was because of the school district's high reputation. Elster said she does not ordinarily get involved in public affairs, but when this happened she had to act. She doesn't have anything against the board, she said, but she does want them to be more open with the public.

"I don't care if they get replaced," she said. "I just want them to tell the truth."

Her son, Cody, a student at Marana High School, went to the July 15 meeting because he looked forward to shaking Lesko's hand when he graduated. Now he realizes that may not happen.

Tankersley said that the group should establish contacts among parents, teachers and students and uphold their effort to keep the community involved and informed. She said they had ideas about people who might be able to replace current board members, but would not disclose their names until they had been contacted.

Mitich said while she disagrees with the arguments of the group that has set out to remove her from office, she understands their resolve.

"I admire their support of Mr. Lesko," she said.

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