When the Tucson Unified School District governing board meets tonight it could mean several possibilities, including an expected vote to not appeal state Superintendent John Huppenthal's recent ruling on Friday, Jan. 6 that the district's Mexican American Studies classes are illegal. If the district appeals it would force the state to take their case before a Superior Court judge and prevent Huppenthal from financially penalizing the district withholding more than $10 million in state aid.
But if a majority of board members vote against an appeal and begin the process of dismantling the current Mexican American Studies program, some wonder if the district will be in violation of a federal desegregation order and the district's own 2009 Post-Unitarian Status plan approved by court.
Sylvia Campoy, a former TUSD teacher, school board member and director of the city of Tucson's Equal Opportunity Program, has been involved in the TUSD desegregation litigation for more than 30 years and now represents the Mendoza plaintiff's at TUSD desegregation meetings, told the Range that she plans to speak at tonight's meeting to remind the governing board that yes, if indeed they choose not to appeal Huppenthal's ruling, they could be violating the district's federal court-approved deseg plan.
According to the Post Unitary Status plan, the Mexican American Studies Department is described as "an organizational contributor to TUSD’s commitment to greater academic and social equity for Hispanic students."
This is the action plan approved by the TUSD governing board two years ago:
1. The Mexican American Studies Department will be expanded at the middle and high school levels to more adequately meet the needs of the student population, as the budget permits. Within the Elementary level, the department will expand its services by developing systems of support to schools towards the elimination of disparities for Hispanic students in the following areas: achievement, discipline, special education placement, grade retention, GATE placement and IB enrollment, as the budget permits.
2. The Mexican American Studies course capacity established by 2010—2011 course expansions will be maintained and expanded as requested by students each year.
1. Course Offerings
a. High School Level
In the 2009—2010 school year and thereafter, the department will offer these elective courses:
• 11th-grade American history/Chicano perspectives courses at Cholla, Pueblo, Rincon, and Tucson High Schools
• 12th-grade American government/social justice education project at Cholla, Rincon, and Tucson High Schools
• 11th-grade English/Latino literature courses at Pueblo and Tucson High Schools
• 12th-grade English/Latino literature course at Tucson High School
• In the 2010—2011 school year, the following additional elective courses will be offered:
• 11th-grade English/Latino literature at Rincon and Catalina High Schools
• 11th-grade American history/Chicano perspectives at Catalina High School
• 12th-grade English/Latino literature at Catalina, Pueblo, and Rincon High Schools American government/social justice education project at Pueblo and Catalina High Schools
b. Middle School Level
• In the 2009—2010 school year and thereafter, Mexican American Studies will offer sixth- through eighth-grade courses at Hohokam, Mansfeld, Wakefield, and Pistor Middle Schools.
• In the 2010—2011 school year, Mexican American Studies will expand its sixth- through eighth-grade course offerings to Maxwell, Roskruge, and Valencia Middle Schools.
c. Elementary School Level
Beginning in 2009—10 with annual review for continued improvement, the department will provide elementary direct instruction offerings based on the critically compassionate intellectualism model as requested by teachers and site administrators.
2. Teacher Continuing Education
Beginning in 2009—10, with annual review for continued improvement, the department will offer its Institute for Transformative Education in order to support its existing Mexican American Studies team, to prepare additional teachers to serve on the Mexican American Studies team, and to enhance the level of culturally responsive pedagogy (and curriculum) within TUSD.
3. Student, Parent, and Community Involvement
Beginning in 2009—10, with annual review for continued improvement, the department will increase student, parent, and community engagement and empowerment by
a. facilitating quarterly “Parent Encuentros” events at each elementary, middle, and high school where Mexican American Studies classes are being taught. At these “Parent Encuentros” students and teachers will inform parents about what students are learning in the classroom and about their children’s academic progress.
b. asking students enrolled in Mexican American Studies classes to complete pre- and post-course surveys as a way to monitor and adjust these classes and services to best meet the students’ academic needs.
c. monitoring the percentage of students of low socioeconomic status who engage in and succeed in Mexican American Studies classes and offerings, to ensure recruitment, achievement, and retention of disadvantaged students.
4. Equitable Representation of Hispanic Students
a. Beginning in 2009—10, with annual review for continued improvement, the department will conduct activities focused on retention and matriculation rates of Mexican American/ Hispanic students in TUSD.
b. Beginning in 2009—10, with annual review for continued improvement, the department will conduct activities focused on more equitable representation of Mexican American/Hispanic students in Advanced Placement courses.
c. Beginning in 2009—10, with annual review for continued improvement, the department, in conjunction with the African American Studies Department, will develop bibliographies of enrichment resources for the district’s multicultural curriculum, including materials and resources for classroom use as well as information regarding
effective instructional strategies for students of color.
C. Expected Outcomes
The Mexican American Studies Department will make discernible contributions to TUSD equity efforts, especially with regard to Hispanic students.
D. Monitoring and Reporting
Data will be provided to the internal compliance officer each semester documenting the actions of the Mexican American Studies Department in implementing the above-described Action Plan.
On Dec. 18, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge David Bury approved TUSD's Post Unitary Status Plan that was adopted by the TUSD board on July 30, 2009. This meant the district was no longer under federal oversight. But on Aug. 10, 20011, the judge issued an opinion that TUSD was not in compliance with the plan and on July 7, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals remanded the case for further judicial oversight until TUSD could show it has attained unitary status.
Part of the decision said a "special master" would be appointed by the court to make sure the district follows the court order, and the decision also makes it clear that the 2009 Post Unitary Status Plan remains in place.
Campoy says the court appointed Willis Hawley as the "special master" on Jan. 6. According to the court order, Hawley will have to work with the desegregation plaintiffs through their experts. Campoy contends that the TUSD board can't do anything to Mexican American Studies until it begins working with the special master who will monitor the Post Unitary Status Plan.
"I'm impressed by his background," Campoy says about Hawley. "His background is specifically working on school desegregation issues."
Hawley has worked in education at the University of Maryland, Vanderbilt, Yale and Duke. He's also the author of The Keys to Effective Schools: Educational Reform as Continuous Improvement and Effective School Desegregation: Equity, Quality, and Feasibility.
Campoy says she felt the order appointing Hawley was strongly worded and made it clear his role in working with TUSD, specifically to look at any policy or activity the district takes that the desegregation plaintiffs feel "will deprive any student of equal protection of the law whether by intentional segregation or discrimination based on a student’s race or ethnic group."
MAS class supporters have pointed out that registration in Mexican American Studies classes is down this year. Compoy says that has to do with how TUSD has kept teachers from reaching out to recruit students for the classes as they have in the past. In past interviews, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone has told the Range that that didn't occur and that registration is down because of the ongoing controversy surrounding the classes.
"What they are doing, in my opinion, is violating the court order," Campoy says.