Dr. Heliodoro Torres (H.T.) Sánchez seems to have scandal and controversy follow him everywhere he goes.
As far back as 2013, residents of Tucson, Arizona were upset with the way Sanchez had been running things as Superintendent of Tuscon Unified School District.
So much so that he was paid $200,000 to leave before his contract ended in June 2018.
For some, a look back at Superintendent Sanchez’s history starts to explain the gross failings of his leadership during the current Plainview ISD scandal, which involves the cover up of a 6-year-old girl’s sexual assault.
Sanchez started out as an English teacher at Nimitz Junior High in Ector County, Texas. He quickly rose to the rank of Deputy Superintendent and later Superintendent of Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) in 2013.
Since moving back to Texas in 2018, he has served as the principal of elementary, middle, and high schools in Plainview ISD.
Sanchez and his wife, Mary Ann “Maria” Perez Sanchez, were married in Midland County, Texas in 2000 and have both written on illegal immigration issues and bilingual education.
But for all his years in the education system, Sanchez has a track record of deception and scandals.
Before heading to Tuscon, Sanchez served as interim Superintendent in Ector County. By the time he accepted the new role in Arizona, several Ector County trustees were done with him.
Doyle Woodall, who served as the Vice President of the Ector County Independent School District’s Board of Trustees, said that the few months Sanchez served as interim Superintendent were “more than enough.”
Why this was the case is unclear. But, if Sanchez’s behavior and shady practices in TUSD are anything to go by, there may have been similar goings-on in Ector County.
In mid-April, 2014 Sanchez found himself on the receiving end of angry parents and concerned citizens during a Tucson Unified School District board meeting.
One resident spoke up and accused the board of nepotism and illegal practices.
“You’ve come up with transgender bathrooms for six-year-olds. That used to be called child abuse. Now you want to be a destination district for illegal alien children? Wow,” he said.
The resident went on to say that the board are “racist, anti-American perverts.”
Among other complaints were that each child in the district was allotted $.50, with all other money being used for administrative purposes.
At the same time, Sanchez received a 24 percent increase in pay, which amounted to $50,000. Teachers received only a $500 increase.
TUSD refused to comment at the time.
Over the years, parents and residents addressing Sanchez’s failures became commonplace and accusations of deception against him continued to mount.
In September 2015, another speaker addressed the TUSD board. She said she was shocked by the numbers Sanchez quoted on teacher attendance and vacancies.
It turns out, more than 3,000 staff and teachers reportedly left the district during Sanchez’s reign. This high staff turnover piqued the concern of parents and residents yet again.
Only a month later, in September 2015, minority parents sued TUSD. They claimed the district was segregated. The parents won their case.
Sanchez made a statement at the time that the fees being paid to the parents came from taxpayers.
“You’re paying for these fees. There’s no federal grant. It’s not money coming in from Phoenix. It’s money from here and it’s money that if this case weren’t in place would otherwise be going directly to student support, classroom support, student materials,” he said.
Each year, Sanchez’s administration was subject to more and more scrutiny.
In 2016, a citizen confronted the TUSD board. She said there was “a pattern of problem-solving from the district that is very troubling, and it is solving problems by deceiving people.”
The citizen said whenever there is an issue with immigration or discipline, the public got nothing but “smoke and mirrors.”
“We need and deserve a board that exercises oversight of our Superintendent. If you are exercising oversight and this is the result of it, oh boy, are we in deep trouble,” she added.
“You have turned a problem with discipline into a problem of deception. Our schools are hiding the true disciplinary issues that are taking place or they’re minimizing them in order to appear as if we, as a district, are complying with the desegregation order.”
In the same year, a KGUN Channel 9 report showed the TUSD district fudged the number of assaults on school campuses as well as downplayed the extent of these events. This meant there were fewer disciplinary actions taken for each incident.
One anonymous person who spoke with Channel 9 said, “A student recently brought a dangerous ‘weapon’ on campus, a level 4 violation, but a district administrator forced the principal to downgrade it to level 3, a dangerous item.”
According to a 600-page FOIA request by Channel 9, the “dramatic drop in reported incidents reduced the number of pages in the Incident Detail Report from 80 last school year to only six pages this school year.”
A year later, Channel 9 Tucson reported on Sanchez’s resignation.
The report said there were a myriad of issues with Sanchez’s term as TUSD Superintendent. They include pay issues, misuse of Prop 301 money totaling more than $10 million that cost schools their magnet status, dangerous playground equipment, a Pueblo High School administrator who changed the grades of seniors so more could graduate and “alarming stories of severe discipline problems at many school[s].”
The report added that the district downplayed and under-reported incidents to reduce suspensions and expulsions.
A directive had reportedly been sent to all teachers, principals and staff to stop disciplining students for “low-level” incidents and decrease any and all suspension days for any higher-level offenses.
Sanchez accepted $200,000 to resign from his position as superintendent.
That said, Sanchez’s divorce from TUSD was odd.
Bizarrely, a mere 24 hours after his resignation, Sanchez was honored on the House floor of the Arizona State Capitol by Rep. Friese. A short time later, he was chosen as the guest speaker at the TUSD High School graduation.
While it’s unclear why he was invited to both these events, information started to surface about Sanchez’s additional cover-ups.
For example, he lied about the district’s rate of school enrollment with the help of fellow board member Kristel Foster. The TUSDStats website had reportedly stopped publishing daily enrollment data, leaving information about the issue up to Sanchez and the board.
Kristel Foster, interestingly, is now a sitting judge for Precinct 8 of the Pima County Justice of the Peace (Democratic Party) in Arizona.
She will keep the seat until her term ends on January 1, 2027. According to Ballotpedia, Foster received 95.9 percent of the total votes, with only 4.1 percent going to write-ins.
Foster allegedly had a large hand in spoofing the district’s enrollment numbers, including adding Pre-K students to the roster.
Once he left TUSD, Sanchez made his way back to Texas.
He became the “lone finalist” in July 2018 for the Superintendent position in Plainville ISD. He eventually was offered a three-year contract and accepted the job.
The initial contract was later extended. Since his first term, the contract has been extended several times. Now, Sanchez’s contract expiration date 2027.
According to a 2022 report from My Plainview, Sanchez was named “Texas Superintendent of the Year – a title the school board unanimously nominated him for in 2021.”
The district’s achievements under his “leadership” include the passing of a $125 million bond that “resulted in all the new campuses, implementation of programs to help PHS better prepare for the next step after high school, more career and technical education opportunities and resources, to name a few.”
Sanchez has continued to bank on these accomplishments as a way of maintaining his position.
However, trouble follows the Superintendent no matter where he goes. And issues in Plainview ISD have started to surface.
Given his past failures, it is no wonder he is again in the news with more accusations of lying and hiding abuse.
Due to the power he has gained in his current and past roles, it’s no surprise that once again he would use that to prevent teachers and administrators from talking to the press about the events that occurred at South Elementary.
In April of 2023, a disturbing event happened at South Elementary where a 6-year-old girl was reportedly sexually assaulted by other students. The child’s teacher was allegedly in the room at the time with headphones in.
The Publica reported, “The assault was filmed on a school iPad by a fellow first-grader. Plainview ISD’s South Elementary has come under fire for its lack of transparency and poor handling of the incident.
The girl told her great-aunt, Raquel Castillo Medina, that a boy had exposed himself to children in the lunch line. She also said she was physically pulled under a table and forced to perform oral sex on a male peer while another student recorded the assault on a school iPad.
When her family asked how long this incident went on, the child told them, ‘Until they let me go.’
This occurred on Wednesday, April 19. Initially, the child’s parents were not informed. They were also not told about the iPad recording until the following Friday.
It wasn’t until Medina went to the school in person on April 27 that she was able to make contact with the investigator. The family is yet to see the full video of the incident.”
Medina and victim’s older cousin, Heather Gonzales, have been outspoken in the fight to see school administrators held accountable.
Since they noticed the young girl’s behavioral changes and began to inquire about what happened, the chain of command has not been transparent with the family.
While the teacher involved in the incident was put on administrative leave, both the school’s principal Jennifer Hughey and Superintendent H.T. Sanchez remain.
Other parents and residents have allegedly made claims that this event was not isolated. Medina and Gonzales have made mention of a young boy bringing his father’s phone to school and making the other students watch porn.
The child allegedly wanted other children to reenact the pornographic scenes.
While school administrators claim that there have been no other complaints of bullying or “sexual occurrences”, parents say otherwise.
Reportedly parents in the district have filed complaints of bullying and other sexually inappropriate incidents directly with South Elementary’s principal and other school staff.
The negligence and oversight of Plainview ISD’s staff seems to reflect Sanchez’s actions during his time in Arizona.
Shortly before his resignation from TUSD, his district made headlines when a student reported that her teacher sexually abused her. School officials waited six days before reporting the incident to police.
Plainview ISD’s current predicament doesn’t come as a shock to those who are familiar with this part of Sanchez’s inability to properly report these crimes or even acknowledge parents.
On May 5, protesters gathered together to protest the incident and the school administration’s handling of the issue. Gonzales said that Sanchez has more or less avoided addressing parents.
“Instead, what Sanchez did was drive off in his vehicle and did not want to face the families,” she said.
As a result, he is being asked by residents to step down.
The six-year-old victim’s family has set up a petition to have Sanchez removed as Superintendent. The Gonzales wrote that Sanchez has failed in his role and has caused significant harm to the education system.
“His actions have led to a decline in student performance, teacher morale, and community trust. We demand that he be removed from administration immediately.
He has allowed sexual assault among 6 year olds [sic] go unreported! He refused to speak to parents, and did not issue an apology. He did not step up when needed to address the situation.
Sanchez’s tenure has been marked by poor decision-making and lack of leadership. He has failed to address critical issues facing our schools, including inadequate funding, teacher shortages, and student achievement gaps. Instead of working collaboratively with stakeholders to find solutions, he has made unilateral decisions that have only exacerbated these problems.
Under Sanchez’s leadership, teachers report feeling unsupported and undervalued by the administration. Parents are frustrated with the lack of transparency and communication from district officials.
Sanchez’s mismanagement of funds is also concerning. He has overspent on unnecessary projects while neglecting basic needs such as textbooks and classroom supplies. This misallocation of resources is unacceptable when students are struggling academically.
It is time for a change in leadership at our schools. We call on the school board to take immediate action to remove Superintendent Sanchez from administration before any further damage can be done.”
A rally is also planned at Plainview Texas Educational Complex on May 18 at 6pm.