Schools chief fires Arizona Board of Education executives

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- The top two officials at the Arizona Board of Education were fired Wednesday by the state schools chief in a move the board president called unprovoked and outside the superintendent's authority.

Board executive director Christine Thompson and deputy director Sabrina Vazquez were fired by the chief of staff for Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, board President Greg Miller said.

Thompson and Vazquez work for the board and not Douglas, and he questioned the legality of the decision.

"The chief of staff and the superintendent are trying to make decisions on staff members that serve the state Board of Education," Miller said. "I'm not sure what the legal capacity they can operate in could be."

Miller is a strong supporter of the state's new Common Core standards and its new assessment test, adopted late last year. Douglas campaigned on her opposition to those standards and has criticized the process where the board chose the test.

A spokeswoman for Douglas declined to comment on the firings or make Douglas available for an interview. She called it a personnel matter.

The 11-member Board of Education is a constitutional office that oversees school policy in the state and operates independently of the elected superintendent of public instruction. Douglas is a board member by nature of her office.

Board members are named by the governor to four-year terms. A spokesman for Gov. Doug Ducey said he is reviewing the situation.

A spokeswoman for the nonprofit education policy group Stand for Children said the group believes the firings were politically motivated.

"The (Douglas) administration has only been in office for six weeks, there have been clear tensions between the policy that the board has adopted and that Sabrina and Christine are responsible for carrying out," said Jennifer Liewer, the group's communications director. "And Diane Douglas' policies are in conflict."

Miller said he, Thompson and Vazquez were only doing their jobs, had done nothing wrong and had no problems he was aware of with the board.

Miller pointed to the firings when asked if he thought the actions indicate a serious rift between the board and Douglas, who took office early last month.

"The answer to that is in their action - totally uncalled for, unprovoked and not at the will of the board,' Miller said.

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