Pamela Powers Hannley, a progressive voice for Arizona
On Monday of this week, Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) Superintendent John Pedicone sent conciliatory letters to two groups integrally involved in the fight to save TUSD’s Mexican American Studies (MAS) program from being reorganized– the MAS Community Advisory Board and UNIDOS (the young adult activists group who chained themselves to the school board dias and shut down the April 26 board meeting).
In nearly identical letters which were meant to smooth tensions, Pedicone said he urged the school board to table the controversial reorganization plan and asked to meet with the two groups.
Buried in the middle of today’s Arizona Daily Star is a follow-up story which states that neither group has responded Pedicone’s letters.
TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone has reached out to supporters of the Mexican American Studies program in an effort to improve relations.
Pedicone sent letters Monday to the youth-formed coalition Unidos and to the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board asking for an opportunity to speak and listen to one another.
He said he has yet to hear back from them.
Relations between the groups and the district have been strained since former Arizona schools chief Tom Horne declared the Mexican American Studies program in violation of state law.
In my article about the letters, I stated that I supported Pedicone’s suggestion to table the reorganization plan, and I hoped that UNIDOS and the MAS Board would accept his peace offering. Sadly, five days later, they haven’t.
UNIDOS and the Latino activists, educators, and politicians (Councilwoman Regina Romero and Pima County Supervisor Richard Elias) on the MAS Board should put down their sabres and step up to the table for an open discussion with Pedicone, representatives from the Center for Civility and Understanding, and others. They also should be willing to participate in a community forum– where everyone is allowed to speak– not just those who shout the loudest.
The time for fighting and divisive language by MAS supporters– including their attack dog blogger– is over. This behavior is tearing our community apart.
It has been reported that soon– maybe even later today– State Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal will announce his finding regarding MAS compliance or non-compliance with HB2281 (the legislation that started all of this last summer when governor Brewer signed it). If MAS and TUSD are found to be out of compliance, the district will be fined 10%– in the neighborhood of $15 million. On facebook, MAS supporters are calling for TUSD to ignore the fine and fight the state in court. There are too many questions about exactly what is being taught in the MAS classes; there has been anything but transparency.
I think it would be fiscally irresponsible for TUSD to lose $15 million– enough to fund 500 new teachers– over this battle. TUSD has to think about all of the 50,000 students it serves; they should not bow to the tyranny of the minority.