Teachers from the Thomas J. Pappas School for homeless children have planned a protest today to oppose a request by county supervisors to replace the indicted Sandra Dowling as the school district’s budget manager.
Despite Dowling’s legal issues, the teachers — who have not been paid this month because of the Maricopa County Regional School District’s budget problems — don’t want her replaced at this time.
Teachers and students plan to walk from the Pappas school in downtown Phoenix to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ office this morning.
Teachers plan to protest because they want their school to remain open, which they don’t think will happen if Dowling is removed, said Cheryl Travelstead, a Chandler resident and teacher at the Phoenix Pappas school.
“I want to be here for the kids, but I also need to be
paid,” Travelstead said. “I don’t know who’s guilty, but I do know who’s innocent – the kids and the teachers.”
Dowling, the Maricopa County superintendent of schools, is the sole member of the Maricopa County Regional School District governing board, and as such, oversees the district’s budget.
The supervisors have refused to fund the district until they receive an adequate budget from Dowling.
After court-ordered mediations meant to repair disagreements between the two sides failed, supervisors on Tuesday submitted a request to have the district run by another school district, said Lisa Keegan, acting as a spokeswoman for the supervisors on this issue.
Keegan said the district is out of money and needs outside assistance. “They’ve just been spending money faster than the money comes in,” she said.
But the district’s deputy superintendent Steve Zimmerman called the request “premature” and said the finances of the district are sound.
He said the district has enough money to survive through the end of the school year.
The reason teachers haven’t been paid is because the district hasn’t received a funding advance from the state that was recently requested, he said.
Though it’s not taking an official position, the Arizona Education Association met with teachers and district staff Tuesday to offer support and secure a long-term compensation solution for the district’s employees.
Dowling was recently indicted on suspicion of 25 crimes including theft and misuse of more than $1.8 million from a fund she controlled as superintendent.
She is scheduled to appear before a judge today.