This Reporter Found School District’s Secret ‘Blacklist’

Qualified teachers say they were unfairly kept out of Tucson Public Schools’ classrooms (EWA Radio: Episode 156)

For decades, rumors swirled that the Tucson, Arizona, school district had a secret roster of former employees on a “do not hire” list, even though they never had faced serious disciplinary measures. Arizona Daily Star education reporter Hank Stephenson put some mysterious pieces together and brought the list to light. Among the clues: an off-hand comment Stephenson heard by a trustee at the close of a school board meeting.

What did Stephenson learn about the teachers on the “blacklist” after obtaining the actual document? How many educators were kept out of classrooms for frivolous reasons, like having used all their vacation days? And why does this matter in the context of Arizona’s shortage of qualified teachers? The 2016 winner of the Arizona Press Association’s Sledgehammer Award for his commitment to public records transparency, Stephenson discusses ways to make the most of available documents; why small, specific requests can be more effective than fishing expeditions; and what it’s been like to shift to the education beat after a decade covering politics.

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