The Arizona state Board of Education has moved its office out of the Department of Education, citing intolerable conditions for its staff members as the reason for relocating.
While executive director Christine Thompson had received approval from board members to make the move last month, the fast-paced move over the weekend was done without notice.
Three months beforehand, state superintendent of public instruction Diane Douglas had fired Thompson her deputy Sabrina Vazquez, claiming the pair had been trying to undermine her plans to improve education in the state.
The move reached all the way to Governor Doug Ducey, who said Douglas did not have the authority to make the call, ensuring that his Department of Administration worked to keep them on staff.
However, problems resurfaced after legislation to make it clear who held power over the board failed.
According to board president Greg Miller, Douglas, who is also on the board, had been trying to control staff members. He went on to say she had been creating an environment “that’s not beneficial to getting the board’s work done.”
Meanwhile at the last board meeting in April, Douglas’ chief of staff Michael Bradley said that both he and Douglas believe they still hold the power to fire staff members.
In an email to Ducey’s chief of staff, Bradley said that “the Board of Education staff are creating a hostile work environment.” Bradley went on to say that several staff members had been the victims of verbal abuse at the hands of Arizona Department of Education staff, and that offering a separate office space would allow workers a non-hostile environment. He said that neither he nor Douglas had been present for any of the incidents, adding that, “had it been anyone else, we would have called DPS, fired the individual and walked them from the building. The staff that were trapped in their office by this person may or may not be filing criminal charges.”
Miller added that moving staff members was an effort to protect them, as they believed people in Douglas’ administration had been monitoring staff phone calls and emails, writes Yvonne Wingett Sanchez for AZCentral.
Meanwhile, the Board of Education is preparing to review the Common Core standards used in the state for math and English language arts. A number of public hearings will be held in an effort to gain input, and provide an opportunity to work with “English and math experts” who will draft the new standards.
“We can learn from others, but at the end of the day the standards need to come from Arizona and they need to help us achieve our objectives,” Ducey told the board. “And in any instance during your review, you find situations where Arizona standards can outperform the ones already adopted, I ask you to replace them.”
Diane Douglas is also planning the creation of a committee to review Arizona’s education code, which she says is full of outdated, unnecessary or harmful sections that need to be removed.