Tuesday night, when the Tucson Unified School District Board of Supervisors voted against closing Ochoa, Rogers, Wrightstown and Corbett elementary schools, I heard a collective sigh of relief, especially among school supporters wearing green Tucson United School Supporter T-shirts and others wearing the red and white Save Our School T-shirts from Ochoa. Through cheers and applause, I also saw a few people crying. This was the end (for now, at least) to an emotional issue for people who mobilized to save their school.
What has impressed me most, however, is the group formed by Ann-Eve Pedersen--Tucson United School Supporters--most of the people wearing those green T-shirts. What I like now is that Pedersen and her crew aren't going home and pretending that everything is back to normal. They are continuing to roll-up their sleeves and do what they need to do next.
TUSS will hold a strategy meeting on Sunday, May 4, to discuss ways to help the district with recruiting students, helping pass the November override package and fundraising avenues to close the budget gap. The meeting is at 2 p.m. at the Ward 6 City Council office, 3202 E. First St. (east of Country Club Road, one block south of Speedway Boulevard).
In an e-mail sent out to TUSS supporters, Pedersen gave her perspective on how the vote went down at the Tuesday meeting and what's ahead for TUSD and its supporters:
I just wanted to pass on the good news that the board decided tonight to keep all four schools open next year. Joel Ireland, who was the crucial third vote, said the desegregation order last week clarified his decision. The lifting of the desegregation order means that the district now can consider all schools for potential closure. The board members are committed to involving the community in any future school closure process. Their decision tonight was very wise because rather than alienate people, the board has motivated parents and community members to get involved to help the district. Thanks so much to all of you who came to rallies, wrote letters, attended board meetings and mobilized parents and community members. It's heartening that the board members really listened. If you have a chance, please email the board members and thank them. Also, if you can, please write a letter to the editor in support of the board or post a message at the bottom of the online news story. They're already taking some hits for this decision and we need to support them publicly. We also must mobilize on several fronts: 1. In support of the override, which would provide $24 million a year for seven years to fund small class sizes, the OMA program and extra pay for teachers in hard-to-fill positions. The board will vote in May on whether to put the override on the November 2008 ballot. 2. To help close next year's projected budget deficit. We have been talking with the Educational Enrichment Fund, a foundation that helps TUSD, about launching a fundraising campaign to help close the gap and show support for the new superintendent. We have been lobbying the board to not cut programs or close schools to save money, so we can show our thanks by helping raise money for the district. We already have a commitment from a local business to donate $10,000. 3. To help the district with PR efforts to encourage more families to attend TUSD schools. The district's image problem is turning families away from TUSD even though we have a large number of excellent schools and programs. These drops in enrollment hurt all of us because it means there's less money coming in to fund education for the students who remain.