While H.T. Sanchez will be on the hot seat tonight, the sole finalist for TUSD’s superintendent post will be doing an assessment of his own, looking to see how the public receives him.
Sanchez, a 38-year-old native Texan, hopes to come across a community that is “ready to do amazing things for kids, that wants to challenge the status quo in education.”
“Tonight I’ll hear if people are ready for that,” the father of two said Wednesday morning in Tucson. “As much as they’ll be interviewing me, that’ll be my opportunity to interview them and know if this is the right place.”
Sanchez, who currently leads a school district of 30,000 students, says he is committed to leading TUSD only if that is what the community wants.
He is a strong believer in going where he is needed and wanted — you can find proof of that in his resume, which shows six employers over 15 years.
For the most part, he was recruited into every position he has held, Sanchez said.
With two young children, ages 2 and 6, Sanchez is now seeking a “long-time” home for his family.
“In all my reflection, I want a place where whatever talents I’ve been blessed with can match, but also I want a place where my wife and kids can grow up and be part of the community,” Sanchez said. “I’ve always prayed and asked God to take me where he wants me. If this is where I’m needed, this is where I’ll be.”
While there’s no way of knowing if Sanchez will be needed elsewhere a couple of years, he noted that he has already been looking for houses around Tucson and flew his wife and daughter into town — something he has never done before.
Sanchez says he has thought about whether his 6-year-old will attend the University of Arizona or his alma mater, Texas A&M.
What attracted Sanchez most about the Tucson Unified School District was that in researching, he found many parallels with the work that he has done throughout his career. That includes issues of improving academic achievement, enrollment, desegregation and budget crunches.
“It seems everything I have learned as well as taught at the university level, written, published, presented at universities in the U.S. and abroad, seemed to match,” Sanchez said. “I was very interested.”
While Sanchez has never been a superintendent, aside from his current three-month tenure as an interim leader of the Ector County Independent School District, he has been a finalist for the top post before.
He withdrew from the process in El Paso before a decision was made, saying “I don’t believe I would have been the right decision for them. Everything works out the way it needs to be and you know almost instantly if you’ll have a connection.”
That spark was evident when he met with the TUSD Governing Board, praising their selflessness and ability to make tough decisions.
“In meeting with the board, I could hear it wasn’t about them,” Sanchez said. “I could hear that through their questions because they weren’t focused on making TUSD look good, but on doing good things for students and taking care of the community.”
Despite the fact that Sanchez’s experience has been at smaller school district than TUSD — which serves 50,000 students and has twice as many employees as his current district — Sanchez is confident that he can take on the district’s many long-standing challenges.
“I don’t believe in scale,” he said “If you do what’s right for the individual learner, the individual teacher, the individual food service profession or the individual principal, then you do well for many.
“What that means is you have to build relationships and get to know people and be willing to sit down and talk to them. You have to return the calls and the emails. You have to be willing to knock on their doors, walk into their homes, trust them, take a look around, compliment them, shake their hand genuinely and appreciate who they are.”
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea