Tuesday, June 14, 2011
While the morning daily is dedicating an editorial to a Tucson Unified School District human-resource issue, now is a good time to remind everyone that when this entire ethnic-studies issue began, it was all about HB 2281.
Keeping focus on that issue and the teachers fighting the law on their own (remember, TUSD refused to join the lawsuit) is a good way to rise above these distractions.
It's also a good time to go over the Save Ethnic Studies lawsuit. Here is the motion for summary judgment, filed June 2 by Save Ethnic Studies attorney Richard Martinez. Also filed on June 2 is a motion from state Attorney General Tom Horne requesting that the court change the status of the Arizona state Board of Education and its individual members as nominal parties in the lawsuit. The Mexican-American Studies department teachers' original lawsuit includes the Board of Education and its members.
The audit report on the ethnic-studies classes at TUSD, on if and how the classes break the anti-ethnic studies law, is late. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal is now expected to release the report this week.
While everyone waits for the report, Save Ethnic Studies is calling for TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone's resignation based on what they perceive as failed leadership, due to the lack of communication between ethnic-studies teachers and the administration.
After the jump is a piece given to the Tucson Weekly by Chicano-literature teacher Curtis Acosta.
How Dr. John Pedicone has failed us
Over the past semester it has become painfully clear that many concerned citizens of TUSD were unaware of the true relationship between Dr. Pedicone and the teachers within the Mexican American Studies Department and plaintiffs in the Acosta v. Huppenthal lawsuit. The time has come to set the record straight.
Dr. Pedicone has only attempted to meet with the teachers of Mexican American Studies (MAS) on two occasions. The first was a mandatory meeting on January 3rd where we were told that we must comply with HB 2281 and that the program would be dismantled if any fines were levied by the state. The second meeting on March 29th was also mandatory and was simply to inform us of the pending state and district audit of our classes.
During the same time, our classrooms have been under unprecedented surveillance. In my personal case, a high ranking district employee, board member or auditor observed at least one class session from December to May. These included both unannounced and announced visits, yet after each observation there were never any follow-up dialogue or discussions, which is customary in education and my 16 years of service for TUSD. Most of my colleagues have had similar experiences.
In an effort of good faith after the leadership debacle of May 3rd, Save Ethnic Studies an organization that represents the legal defense of MAS, submitted a letter to Dr. Pedicone and the governing board declaring our commitment to help organize a community forum about our classes. We were never given the courtesy of a direct response or formal letter. Over the past six months we have hand delivered nine letters to Dr. Pedicone and have yet to receive any type of response. This is a consistent stance by Dr. Pedicone where arresting elders and youth is a first option and civil discourse is a last resort.
For a true leader, meeting with MAS teachers and responding to repeated formal requests to collaborate should never be seen as an inconvenience — it should be a priority. It is essential to build relationships with teachers and communicate a clear vision for the district, for not only the issue of Mexican American Studies and ethnic studies, but for the entire district as a whole. Yet, the superintendent did not set a clear vision, nor communicate the vision to the community and parties involved. He remained silent for weeks during the building tension toward the Stegeman resolution and only offered to listen to community concerns after protests and arrests, and has displayed confusing inconsistencies toward the Mexican American Studies program, students and supporters.
These actions of our superintendent over the last few months have been reactionary, haphazard and contradictory. Why would he promise community groups that he would meet with the teachers when he had no intention to do so, while simultaneously reprimanding the director of MAS, Sean Arce? If Dr. Pedicone truly supported the teachers, students and standing of the program why would he be reticent to meet with us with our lawyer present as his comments revealed last week? Our lawsuit has been the most proactive step in protecting TUSD from a law that is unconstitutional. If he truly believes the statements he has made publically, should we not be on the same side of this issue? His actions display that he clearly is not.
Meanwhile, this week the results of an audit ordered by state superintendent for public instruction John Huppenthal will be released — an audit that is unprecedented, uncalled for and not authorized by anything in HB 2281 or any other educational statute. Moreover, with legal actions ongoing to determine the constitutionality of HB 2281 — a law that legal scholars at a UA law college forum on the matter in March agreed is of dubious constitutional legality at best — this audit should at very least have been postponed until after the suit had been settled. Pedicone knew all of this and allowed the audit to proceed.
Finally, it is important to note that the plaintiffs of the lawsuit are all career TUSD teachers who have dedicated their lives to serving all students, parents, and members of our community. A few of our colleagues are products of TUSD schools and many of us have children within TUSD schools. We are no strangers to this district and have worked diligently, and for many of us with distinction, at our schools for years. In our view, his opportunity to demonstrate that he is a leader we can follow has been lost. Simply stated, Dr. Pedicone should be held accountable for the actions and treatment of his teachers and the community he was chosen to serve. He needs to recognize his failures and he must resign.