Friday, March 30, 2012

TUSD Rules Force Cesar Chavez March to New Kick-Off Location

Posted By on Fri, Mar 30, 2012 at 9:00 AM

For the past 11 years the annual César Chavez March has kicked off from Pueblo High School — an organizing point for everyone involved in the march that commemorates the United Farm Workers Union founder on his birthday (born in Yuma, Arizona, March 31, 1927), bringing together community groups, labor folks, youth groups and programs, as well as politicians and would-be politicians.

This year, on Saturday, March 31, the march will start at St. John's Catholic Church a departure that organizers told the Range happened because of demands from the Tucson Unified School District administration never put on the Arizona César E. Chávez Holiday Coalition in previous years.

According to a coalition member, the school district told the coalition that nothing negative could be said about the school district and its school board members. They were also told that political signage and petitions, such as the ones currently circulated by a group called Citizens for Educational Excellence to recall school board member Michael Hicks, were not allowed on school property.

Signage and petitions didn’t worry coalition folks that much — since most of that that happens at Ajo Park. But when it came down to the kick-off and being directed to control what was said — nothing negative about the school district, nothing a Mexican American Studies or negative statements about the TUSD governing board. If comments were made, whoever in charge of the microphone was directed to turn it off if negative statements were made about TUSD or statements made in support of MAS, its teachers and its program director Sean Arce.

“The coalition felt there was this false generosity on the part of the school district,” a coalition member told us. "We never experience this before when Roger Pfeifer was superintendent or when Liz Fagin was here during here short time. This is a form of ignorance and arrogance, and a little bit of fear, as well."

The Range e-mailed TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone for comment. Pedicone was asked if it was true that TUSD high school superintendent Abel Morado communicated to the coalition that the mircophone be turned off during negative TUSD comments or even comments made about Cesar Chavez. The Range was told that Morado acted as the go-between in discussions with Pedicone to the coalition.

Pedicone's response by e-mail:

"Your information is not quite accurate, Mari. According to Adelita Grijalva the committee had decided to kick off on the St. John's site before Abel asked Auggie Romero to talk to the group about Pueblo. They were offered the site to begin the event but they were asked not to make it a political rally on the campus due to the emotions surrounding the program and the recall of a board member. I am copying Abel Morado who carried this message forward, and if you need further clarification he can respond."

Morado did offer further clarification:

"Mari, I think I can shed some light on some of the information you have. My response is as follows:

Dr. Pedicone never made any kind of request regarding the Cesar Chavez march. Dr. Auggie Romero, Director of Student Equity for TUSD phoned me about the march starting at Pueblo HS as it had in past years. I informed Dr. Romero of two areas of concern that I had as Assistant Superintendent for High Schools. First, that the kick off of the Cesar Chavez march from Pueblo should not be a political forum. Second, that the petition drive where organizers would circulate petitions against Mr. Hicks, Governing Board member in TUSD should not occur on district property.

I was informed later by Dr. Romero that the organizing committee decided not to use Pueblo HS as the kick off site for the march.

I hope this helps. Thanks."

Since TUSD school board member Adelita Grijalva was mentioned in Pedicone's response, we asked her to clarify and this was her response:

"They were offered the site with the strings that Dr Pedicone lists below. As I understand it TUSD wanted to control the message and wanted to insure that nothing negative would be said about TUSD. When I was told this, I was also told that The Coalition was thinking of other options. Remembering the drama with OZOMATLI came to Cholla and how TUSD wanted to insure that the message was not Save Ethinc Stuides, etc and how STRESSFUL that was, I suggested that they really look to another venue. We all know that TUSD is getting thrown under the bus for their lack of support of MAS, board members, Pedicone and the lot at this March...and that message CAN'T be controlled. When I was talking with (a coalition member), we started talking about St John's's down the street, parking lot is always open and none of the TUSD employees would be called on the carpet the next day because of what any speaker said."

The march kicks off at 9 a.m. at St. Johns Catholic Church on the northwest corner of Ajo and 12th Avenue, go east on Veteran's Boulevard and then south along South Sixth Avenue to Rudy Garcia Park at Irvington Road. The theme of this year's march is “Remembering the Life of Richard Chavez” who passed away last July.

Despite how Pedicone and Morado look at their demands and what was communicated, others in the community aren't happy about the change (while others also wish more people involved in the march stood their ground rather then cave in so quickly to change locations), according to yesterday's press release from the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board, condemning TUSD's demands for the celebration:

For over a decade, The Cesar E. Chavez Holiday Coalition has worked to plan and coordinate the Cesar Chavez March and Rally. The coalition, since its’ inception, has collaborated with TUSD to celebrate the life and legacy of this civil rights icon by staging the march at Pueblo High School on Tucson’s south side.

The event has become a regular community tradition, yet this year TUSD administration has attempted to block the staging of the event by setting impossible preconditions on public access to Pueblo High School.

TUSD has demanded there be no reference to the elimination of the successful Mexican American Studies program, an issue that has deeply affected the Latino community. They have also demanded that no disparaging comments be made about District administration, and that an emcee of their choice be selected to enforce this inexcusable level of censorship.

The Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board is appalled by the censorship TUSD has elected to impose on this traditional celebration. We sincerely hope that TUSD administration will take the time to reconsider the treatment of all its’ students and the community at large.

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