A Community Divided 

The latest casuality in the battle over TUSD's Mexican-American Studies program: family relationships and friendships

Page 3 of 5

Judge Tashima must find himself in an interesting position. At the moment, everyone involved in saving the MAS program is waiting for Tashima's ruling on whether the law that forced the dismantling of the program is constitutional.

If he rules in favor of Martinez and his clients, those championing the importance of Chicano literature and history have said the next step is righting the wrongs of the past year. At the top of their list: reinstating the classes; returning the former MAS teachers to those classes; and returning Arce to his position as MAS director.

But those MAS supporters also note that doing those things would require approval from the TUSD board, no matter what Tashima decides. In January, when the board voted to dismantle the program, Adelita Grijalva was the only board member to support MAS. But at the April 10 meeting, at which Arce's contract wasn't renewed, one of the board votes surprised even the most-ardent MAS supporters.

Board president Mark Stegeman voted against renewing Arce's contract, as did Michael Hicks and Miguel Cuevas. Grijalva supported Arce. But the surprise that night was Alexandre Sugiyama's vote in support of Arce. Some MAS backers wonder if he might become a second vote in favor of reinstating MAS.

Sylvia Campoy is a former TUSD teacher, a former school-board member and former director of the city of Tucson's Office of Equal Opportunity Programs. She also represents plaintiffs in the ongoing desegregation case against the district. (See the sidebar on Page 18 for more information.) Campoy says that what troubled her about the April 10 meeting was that 48 people spoke out in support of Arce—and the board essentially ignored them.

Even if Sugiyama were to support reinstating Mexican-American studies, finding that needed third vote will not be easy. Three of the governing-board members are up for election in November: Stegeman, Cuevas and Sugiyama. And there's a recall effort aimed at Hicks that, if successful, would put him up for election as well. Any potential new board members wouldn't start until the beginning of 2013.

So if MAS supporters want the classes reinstated this year, their only hope is Tashima.

"If he rules that the law is unconstitutional ... the door is open to tell the district: 'You used this law as the only reason to get rid of MAS, so now that this reason has evaporated, reinstate the classes,'" Campoy says. "They would be hard-pressed not to do so."

While everyone waits for Tashima, Willis Hawley is working behind the scenes with consultants and community members as special master, a position he was appointed to by U.S. District Judge David Bury, who also may have a say on the future of MAS classes. Bury appointed Hawley to come up with a new desegregation plan for the district.

Campoy says Hawley's plan is due in June, and that it won't be made public until he's submitted it to the court.

For the past month, Campoy says, she and others interested in saving MAS have been having discussions with Hawley about "what will be included in the plan."

Learning "what the community has to say about MAS—that (must) have an impact on how his work is completed," Campoy says. "But until we have a final product, it will be difficult to see how MAS will be integrated into the bigger picture."

More by Mari Herreras

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