Ariz. Chief Douglas Continues Fight With State Board Over Department Control

By Andrew Ujifusa — August 03, 2015 1 min read
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Earlier this year, I wrote about conflicts between Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas and the state school board, including Douglas’ attempt to fire the state board’s top administrators. That big political split shows no real signs of closing.

Douglas has appealed Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patricia Starr’s ruling July 13 that the superintendent does not have the power to fire the state board’s executive and deputy directors, and that state law “establishes that the power to fire board employees lies with the board.”

Starr didn’t issue a ruling on other parts of the appeal because, in the judge’s view, they are political in nature and thus not subject to her judgment.

In her appeal (hat-tip to the Arizona Republic), Douglas asserts that Christine Thompson, the state board executive director, effectively ran a personal policy fiefdom within the state education apparatus: “The creation of this shadow administration and the actions and orders of the Board authorizing its existence and creation are patently illegal.”

Douglas attempted to fire Thompson, along with the state board’s deputy director Sabrina Vasquez, back in February, but the state board objected. Gov. Doug Ducey, who like Douglas is a Republican elected last year, reversed the firings, causing Douglas to take the board to court over the matter. While Douglas has been an outspoken opponent of the common core, Thompson has spoken in her official capacity about the benefits of the standards.

Remember, the legal fight over the state board staff is part of a much bigger issue between Douglas and the state board—when state board President Greg Miller spoke to me in June, he told me there was no communication between him and Douglas on any key issues, beyond what transpired at public state board meetings.

Photo: Arizona Superintendent Diane Douglas has appealed a Maricopa County Superior Court judge’s ruling that she had no power to fire state board staff. --David Wallace/Arizona Republic-File

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.