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A Community Divided 

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

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Meanwhile, there's an elephant in the room that nobody seems to be addressing: What exactly does a "multicultural curriculum," which Romero may or may not head up, entail?

When I sat down with TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone in January to discuss his first year with the district, he confirmed that the district was looking at a multicultural curriculum. Pedicone said he was talking to staff at the UA College of Education about it. In January, I asked Jeffrey Milem, a professor in the College of Education, about what the curriculum would look like, and said he knew of no one in the college working with Pedicone, but there was interest.

Adelita Grijalva said at a community meeting shortly after the board dismantled MAS in January that she was concerned about what a multicultural curriculum would look like, especially if her fellow board members were part of the development process.

I asked both Grijalva and Romero for interviews on the subject. While Romero discussed his position during a phone interview, Grijalva replied by email and said she wanted to wait before discussing the issue in-depth.

"The more I think about it, I think that perhaps the timing of this article may be a bit off for me," Grijalva wrote.

"I recognize that a few members in the community, many of whom I respect and value their opinion, might feel that Auggie's position is pitting one side against (MAS supporters), but I disagree with that assessment. ... I obviously support MAS and am in favor of all children in our district getting some exposure to multicultural education earlier than when juniors and seniors. I know that the (position of the) current majority of the governing board is one that (a) multicultural (program) will replace MAS and other ethnic studies, but ... that can change with a will of the board."

Campoy says she isn't entirely against a multicultural curriculum. However, Campoy and others worry that the state will only approve watered-down versions of Chicano history, and that the biggest focus will be on culture, like foods, music and folklorico dancing—topics that don't make people feel uncomfortable.

"There really is nothing wrong with (a multicultural curriculum)," Campoy says. "But you can't pretend MAS never existed. MAS is like rib-eye steak, and now we are being offered ground round."

Since the district is moving forward by developing a multicultural curriculum—despite having held no community forums on the subject—is there hope for MAS while everyone waits for Tashima's ruling?

Campoy says yes.

"I have a lot of faith in different elements of what I think is going to resurrect MAS. I have a lot of confidence in our community and in the plaintiffs and them setting the direction in what we need to do—to represent 61 percent of the kids in this district," Campoy says, referring to the percentage of Latino students within TUSD (even though only a small fraction of those students participated in the MAS program).

"What is right on behalf of the kids is also not just MAS—although that is front and center. It is only one element of equal access and equal protection that needs to be manifested and monitored for a period of time. The rhetoric (from TUSD) needs to stop, and action needs to start. For 30-some years, it's been nothing but rhetoric."

Whatever Hawley, the special master for the new desegregation plan, develops will need not only the support of the desegregation-case plaintiffs, but also the support of the community, Campoy says. For that to happen, TUSD officials will need to ensure that all elements of the plan are fully introduced in all areas of the district, from textbook selection to training and professional development, she says.

"There's a lot of talk of having a lot of buy-in from TUSD, but it is much more important to have buy-in from the community. So for those people in TUSD who cannot deliver in good faith, I think their time is up," Campoy says.

More by Mari Herreras

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