Monday, January 30, 2012

Steve Leal: How Will TUSD Finally Do What's Right?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2012 at 2:00 PM

The Ninth District Court-appointed special master is in Tucson examining Tucson Unified School District and it's failed desegregation plan. Former Tucson city councilman Steve Leal recently shared his perspective asking "How will TUSD be made to do now what they historically have shown that they do not care about and have refused to remedy?":

Things make sense again. Now that the Ninth Circuit District Court ruled that the prior Federal Court ruling was in grave error regarding Tucson Unified School District relationship and entire handing of the desegregation responsibilities. In fact, the Court of Appeals Opinion states, " The district court's own findings are fatal to its determination that a school district has achieved unitary status." The Opinion made clear that T.U.S.D. has not yet accepted the principle of racial equity.

The Judge further stated, "Accordingly, we do not hesitate to do so here. We reverse the court below and order it to maintain jurisdiction until it is satisfied that the School District has met its burden by demonstrating—not merely promising—its “good-faith compliance . . . with the [Settlement Agreement] over a reasonable period of time.” Id. at 498."

The main question as I see it is, how will TUSD be made to do now what they historically have shown that they do not care about and have refused to remedy?

For years the Independent Citizens Committee provided important data and recommendations on how to be in compliance. TUSD just ignored it. Again TUSD not only ignored the people of Tucson, but they ignored the Federal Courts.

Some times when large institutions are asked or told to do something, they fall into the bad habit of thinking they are too powerful to be made to do anything. They have more money, they can wear you down.

Its tragically clear now that TUSD has never really cared enough to create data sets and measurement tools to be able to evaluate and understand how it was doing and, in particular, if it has remedied the disparity for Latino and African-American students in areas such as student achievement, disciplinary action, special education placement, as well as GATE and advanced placement.

The disparity was pointed out to the District numerous times. They disregarded the Independent Citizens' Committee's reports and recommendations for the life of the Desegregation Stipulation and they buried their own 1995 desegregation compliance review that was conducted by an external expert consultant and which addressed the existing disparities.

One is forced to ask: Is the District's lack of good faith effort due to neglect or is it more sinister; is their lacking or significantly weak effort intentional?

Generations of students have been harmed by this. How many red flags need to go up for the District to pay attention and do the right thing? Is it any wonder that TUSD was not able to verify to the Court that vestiges of past discrimination have been eliminated? Moreover new examples of discrimination have been added.

It needs to be determined whether anyone was truly tasked with the responsibility to overseeing the desegregation efforts. If they were, were they held accountable for this important failure? More over, once whoever asked them to do these things understood that this very important set of tasks was not happening what did they do? So on and so forth.

Now, a real, public, transparent set of evaluation protocols need to be strictly enforced. The current plan that is in place that was agreed to by the District and the Plaintiffs calls for an internal and external compliance officer. Each of these individuals must independently review the District's good faith compliance with the plan or lack there of. The District Court realizes that they must take a more active role in overseeing the District's compliance. Perhaps this is why the Court has appointed a 'Special Master' to oversee the case and have the external compliance officer report to the Court directly.

Anyone in TUSD who has not and does not now cooperate in honoring these responsibilities needs to be fired for either incompetence or malfeasance.

The attorneys that were making truck loads of money had to know that the TUSD was not in compliance, but were always happy to go to war for them. Why? This institutional culture of arrogance, abuse of power, once rooted, may be the cause of much else wrong at TUSD

On a related issue TUSD continues to think we should believe that they will do an honest job of reviewing Ethnic Studies after we have seen how they have acted with gross indifference to the demands of the Federal Court.

Often during my 20 years on the Mayor and Council there would be a complaint or suit against the City. Sometimes staff would tell the Council that their direction needs to be followed to protect the City. However when the staff said protect the city they meant the bureaucracy, not the community. The Councilmember's are supposed to protect and represent the community, not necessarily the bureaucracy.

Over the years some of the Councilmember's got transformed into apologists for the bureaucracy and no longer the community representatives they were elected to be.

The Attorney in this dynamic became the 8th member of the Mayor and Council with veto power. They often told the Mayor and Council that if you do not follow our direction and the City gets sued, you might be personally libel.

After the elected officials on these various bodies get trivialized, marginalized and neutered overtime, then when things go wrong The bureaucracy knows the public will focus their anger on the elected officials and not necessarily the staff. The elected officials are used as sacrificial insulation by the bureaucracies.

The TUSD board may have become to compliant and deferential to the TUSD staff. Many appreciate Adeleita Grijalva's ability to stand up.

The board at TUSD must represent the citizens needs and assert control over the TUSD system by demanding under no uncertain terms that this court order will be honored or people will be terminated.

Now the Federal judge has ordered a Special Master to oversee TUSD. Its is like saying TUSD needs a Probation officer. They can not be trusted to be left to their judgment. In other words, TUSD's judgment, its institutional reflexes are inheritably and endemically flawed and impaired.

I believe we do not find meaning in isolated or events cases. We are more likely to find meaning in patterns.

So following the history of Desegregation Order, we see the arrests of children and citizens, senior citizens on crutches knocked to the ground, TUSD's utter contempt for the people of Tucson, disturbing statements and actions coming from Board members Stegeman, Hicks, Cuevas and Sugiyama, the Superintend Peticone, TUSD's use of Sec. of Ed. Huepenthal, an Attorney Gen. Horn's motivations. All used to simply provide cover for what TUSD wanted themselves.

We now see a pattern coming into view. The image is as disturbing as it is damning. The intellectual and emotion dishonesty that transparently underpins their actions injures our entire Tucson community.

Many know that the most important political question any people can ask themselves is, who are we and what are we doing?

Raising the question that there is something wrong with the present, wrong with the Status Quo. This always takes clarity and courage. Because, unfortunately, it makes some other people very uncomfortable when some use their civil rights to pursue questions and the resolution of injustice.

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