Tuesday, October 27, 2015

TUSD Desegregation Lawsuit Plaintiffs: District Should Follow These Guidelines to Save Magnet Schools

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 2:09 PM

Plaintiffs in the decades-long Tucson Unified School District desegregation lawsuit filed last week a stipulation with new requirements the district should follow in order to keep five of its schools from losing magnet status.

The stipulation was filed Friday with the U.S. Federal Court, and it stems from a proposal that was presented to all parties in the after a couple of meetings in the beginning of October, according to a magnet lawsuit update by Sylvia Campoy, the representative for the Mendoza plaintiffs in the suit.

In September, Willis Hawley—the special master appointed by the federal court to oversee the district's progress in desegregating—notified TUSD that elementary schools Bonillas and Ochoa; Safford K-8; Utterback Middle School and Cholla High School were at risk of losing magnet status. The lawsuit says no ethnic group can make up more than 70 percent of the student body, and at these schools Latinos continue to be the majority. For instance, at Ochoa, Latinos make up 77 percent of the student body, according to Hawley. The plaintiffs added Holladay Magnet Elementary School to the list of schools that need "immediate support."

While some focused their frustration on Hawley, others argued that the district has, for too long, neglected its magnet schools, and it was only a matter of time before they got an ultimatum. (I wrote about that in the article Magnet Meltdown.)

These days, the Mendoza's legal counsel has been working with TUSD attorneys to "develop a legally binding plan that will gain the highest level of budget support" for the magnet schools. 

Here's what the stipulation asks of TUSD, including filling all vacancies at the magnet schools by November and allocating the funding that was recently taken away from these same schools:
A. The District shall proceed to fill all vacancies at each of the magnet schools (or programs) specifically referred to above by Nov. 1, 2015.

B. The District shall take steps to ensure that the schools or programs above remain fully staffed (as to certificated staff, administrators, and all teaching aids and other personnel identified in the Improvement Plan as contributing to the school’s effort to improve achievement and close the achievement gap between racial groups at the school) prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year.

C. The District shall give its magnet schools and programs priority in the placing of teachers and certificated staff, such as during the spring hiring process. This priority shall include the opportunity for principals at these sites to have access to applicant lists at least 14 days prior to applicant information being made available to principals at non-magnet programs.

D. The District shall fund each magnet school or program at 1) the funding level set in its May 15, 2015 Improvement Plan; or 2) the funding level set in its June 15, 2015 Improvement Plan; or  3) the amount allocated in the July 2015 USP budget, whichever is higher. The District shall aggressively seek to increase integration at all of its magnet schools and programs and shall work with the principals, magnet coordinators, and all other appropriate personnel to increase the integration of their entering classes.

E. By March 1, 2016, the District shall develop and propose initiatives to increase the number of students attending integrated schools within the District.

F. The District shall continue to target initiatives designed to close the achievement gap between ethnic/racial groups at each of its schools, and shall provide special support (as described in paragraph H) to assist the schools or programs listed above and any magnet school or program reported as a “C” or “D” school or program in its Improvement Plan in meeting the academic achievement benchmarks listed in their respective Improvement Plans.

G. Implementation Committee member Dr. Becky Montano shall monitor the District’s compliance with this Stipulation by visiting each of the six magnet schools identified above as frequently as in her professional educational opinion she deems to be appropriate. If, in her judgment, she identifies specific issues that in her professional educational opinion merit immediate attention, she shall report such findings to the District and the Plaintiffs, and she will, at a minimum, provide a progress report to the District and the Plaintiffs no less frequently than quarterly, beginning with the fourth calendar quarter of 2015.

H. Fulfillment of the terms of this Stipulation shall be a priority for the reallocation of any budgeted, but unspent, funds available pursuant to A.R.S.§ 910(G). Such expenses may include recruiting/transfer/retention stipends for teachers, marketing and recruitment expenses beyond those detailed and funded through the magnet schools’ existing Improvement Plans, and targeted academic interventions for students in addition to those detailed and funded through their existing Improvement Plans; and I. In the fall of 2016, 40th day enrollment data will be used to evaluate magnet schools’ progress toward meeting integration goals.

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