by David Safier
When I put my recent post, Stegeman proposal: Close a TUSD high school, reopen it as the new University High campus, on Facebook, it generated a long comment stream. Much of it was a back-and-forth between a few people, including me, Mark Stegeman and Ann-Eve Pedersen. In Ann-Eve's comments, she stated in so many words that Stegeman's actions on the board helped chase away the last two superintendents, Elizabeth Celania-Fagen and John Pedicone, and could result in a similarly short tenure for current superintendent H.T. Sanchez. I've heard similar statements from other sources.
I don't know a great deal about the inner workings of TUSD, so I can't verify what Ann-Eve says. But I've worked with her closely on our cable access show, "Education: The Rest of the Story," and I have found her assertions to be both well researched and accurate, so I take what she says very seriously.
Here are some excerpts from Facebook comments she made under my blog post.
"[Stegeman's] dysfunctional behavior helped drive out TUSD's past two superintendents; we need to make sure he doesn't do the same to Dr. Sanchez. If he does, our children will be the big losers."
"Stegeman gets into power struggles with sitting superintendents – that is his modus operandi. It is toxic for the district."
[In response to another commenter saying Elizabeth Celania-Fagen left TUSD because she is a "climber"]. "Liz Fagen had just moved her family here, where she was closer to her mother. She did not leave because she was a climber. She would have preferred to stay. She left, in large part, because she had a problem board member who continues to operate as a solo player and create divisions where they need not exist."
[Commenter Luci Messing backed up Ann-Eve's statement: "Ann-Eve is correct. I know that is what Fagen actually said."]
"Mark, I would say you irritated Dr. Fagen . . . by launching your own investigation into a tricky personnel matter at Rincon High School involving the principal. Clearly, not within the realm of a board member."
"I understand that you don't want the larger public to know the extent to which you make superintendents' jobs miserable through your micromanagement – but it's time to get that information out there. Please let Dr. Sanchez do his job. He's bright, competent and doesn't need extreme interference. No power plays, please."
I've written about my disagreements with Mark on many occasions, especially while the Mexican American Studies program was under attack. But this, if true, goes beyond disagreements about pedagogy and policy. If Mark's actions as a board member make it difficult for superintendents to do their job, if superintendents leave early because of Mark's interference, he is a destructive force in the district who harms the staff, the community, and most important, the children who attend district schools.