TUCSON, AZ (KOLD News 13) - The head of southern Arizona’s largest school district is not proud of the fact a Tucson Unified school violated an AIA policy, but Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo is pleased with the way Sabino High School administrators handled the investigation.
"We want it noted that we played by the rules, that we had an internal investigation, that we self-reported," said Trujillo at his media availability Tuesday.
He said Sabino and TUSD presented their punishment recommendations to the Arizona Interscholastic Assocation. Ultimately, the players forfeited several games and their coach was temporarily suspended, but a statement from the AIA in January said the team was still eligible for the postseason.
Weeks passed without any update from the association, according to Trujillo. He would have agreed with the team being barred from the playoffs, but everyone assumed the issue was closed after the initial punishment.
After a first-round bye and two wins in the playoffs, the top-seeded Sabino team learned the AIA Executive Board decided to pull them from the postseason.
"I think it unfairly subjected the Sabino High School girls basketball team to a level of humiliation that could've been avoided very quietly," the superintendent said.
Trujillo said the move hurt the Sabino community, as well as every other team in the 3A tournament plus whichever school could’ve played instead of the TUSD team. In regards to preventing future violations, Trujillo said since October the district has hired an outside agency for training, coordinated the schedules of coaches district-wide and hosted two opportunities for coaches to learn more about AIA policies. Two more training sessions will be held in the fall.
Teams are removed from post season by the Executive Board, not the AIA itself, according to an association spokesman.
Trujillo believes the board should have held some sort of emergency meeting or quorum to consider something so vital to a statewide sporting event.
The following is the official statement on the situation from Arizona Interscholastic Association, Executive Director David Hines:
"With respect to the conversations that the Arizona Interscholastic Association had with the TUSD, there were options presented to the school and district that were rejected. The AIA gave Sabino the opportunity to pull the team out of the tournament before the brackets were released. The school and district did not want to do that. At that point it was stated to the district that by not withdrawing from the tournament, it was possible that the team could be removed from the postseason in progress due to the timing of the regularly scheduled Executive Board meeting. At that meeting is when the school was placed on probation due to the Board’s observance that the situation wasn’t remedied to their satisfaction.
The AIA does not facilitate special meetings of the Executive Board unless requested. The school and district could have requested the meeting at any time to resolve this matter, but it did not. It was not the association’s responsibility to contact the district in the time frame those administrators were referring to in the recent statement. With a violation report in hand from Sabino only on the eve of the announcement of brackets, the AIA had nothing to go on other than the “what if” scenarios addressed above as the association needs time to review the report and make the request of the Board.
The violation report from Sabino did not arrive at the AIA until after the basketball brackets had been released and teams were making travel plans. With no emergency Executive Board meeting requested prior to the completion of the quarterfinal round, the Board at its regularly scheduled meeting on Feb. 19 took the action to remove Sabino from the 3A girls basketball tournament.
The AIA is here to guide and mentor its member schools. Suggestions on how to proceed after a potential violation is part of the administrators’ jobs. If these suggestions are not implemented by the parties in question in a timely manner, then the Executive Board will come to action as outlined by the Bylaws and Policies."
Administrators have made progress to save the magnet school status of several TUSD schools, according to Trujillo.
He said the latest filing from the Special Master overseeing the district's desegregation situation recommended Borton, Booth-Fickett, Drachman, Holladay and Roskruge should keep their status. A prior report from the Special Master found those schools to be at risk of losing the designation.
Trujillo said the good news was no reason to ease up on improvements at these schools.
"We cannot let up with a sense of urgency around increasing integration and doing everything we can to support the schools with academic achievement, we've got to continue on that path" he said. "It's not just because he pulled the schools out of the danger zone that we say 'okay everything is fine and we're not going to implement additional support measures'."
Even though the Special Master recommended Roskruge Bilingual K-8 remain a magnet school, Trujillo said administrators will recommend that it transition from a magnet school to a two-way bilingual school.
The school already has a bilingual focus, so it should be a smooth transition, according to Trujillo. He said it will be better for the school long term and the new designation will mean Roskruge still meets a requirement for TUSD's unitary status plan.
The school will not lose any money in the process, according to Trujillo. In fact, it may receive more to cover the cost of transportation.