by David Safier
I posted about the new TUSD desegregation plan last week. I also emailed Curtis Acosta, one of the more vocal and visible teachers who taught in the dismantled Mexican American Studies program, for his thoughts and comments on the plan. Curtis sent a detailed reply which he said I could put on the blog. Here it is.
After reading the plan I am optimistic and energized that we have a real opportunity to see the restitution of our Mexican American Studies program. The language in the court order is in place to usher back the type of education that our students benefitted from in MAS during the last decade. I truly believe that Adelita Grijalva and our new board members will heal our community by reinstating Sean Arce, all our teachers and our program. We need their leadership since they are well aware of how the academic experiences in our classrooms transformed the lives of our students, and put them on a trajectory toward realizing their dreams. Not to mention that no other group of teachers are more prepared to implement the Special Master's plan for each high school to offer culturally responsive classes for Latino students. We are the only group that can be up and running immediately.
Of course, Sean's leadership is pivotal for TUSD in moving toward a more equitable academic journey for students in our district. He has the community support and educational experiences as an administrator and teacher to fully implement the plan. Not to mention that MAS teachers are in solidarity that we need him to lead us in this exciting new direction for our district. We are a team that has endured many difficult circumstances, including a quite hostile working environment over the past few years, and we were still able to provide an excellent educational experience for our students. This has been corroborated, yet again, by the latest study of the effectiveness of our courses by Dr. Cabrera, Dr. Milem, and Dr. Marx from the University of Arizona College of Education. It is important to note that this study measured the most contentious years that we faced during the far too public debate about our classes. This is the third study that has affirmed what my colleagues and I have been saying for years regarding MAS, and if TUSD is serious about being data driven then I fully expect our leader and team to return. Cam, Kristel and Adelita can help reconcile this community, and I hope other TUSD administrators can show the same grace and leadership by bringing our team back together to do the work we had been doing for over a decade with such positive results.
I remember a glorious time before Mr. Horne and Mr. Huppenthal started their crusade to politicize and demonize our students and community – a time before magical burritos, "Rosa Clark," and baseless, mean spirited accusations of cult behavior. For years we were a group of professionals emphasizing two of the "old school" three R's through content that focused on the artistic and historic contributions of Mexican Americans, Latinos, and other diverse voices. We were teachers who loved our community, our craft and were completely dedicated to our youth, who also possessed glowing evaluations from the administrators who observed our classes much more than the average teacher. No politicians or ideologues should ever tear at that fabric in our community and yet they did, and we lost part of Tucson in the process. I still don't understand why.
I think it is important to look at the integrity of Mr. Horne who has allegedly found himself in serious ethical and moral disrepute. Mr. Huppenthal is not beyond reproach either, since he completely ignored his own audit of our program and used inaccurate and hyperbolic characterizations of our students and classes on the campaign stump. Critics of our program need to understand this and come to terms with these facts. What more must these men do to compromise our trust in their judgement and leadership? As Tucsonenses, as a community, who do we want to be? Who should we follow?
Finally, I believe the Unitary Status Plan needs to address one of the more egregious issues in our state, especially in terms of segregation. Currently, students who are designated as English Language Learners are confined and segregated in classrooms throughout our state. The insidious four-hour block of English immersion that these students experience is antithetical to best practices for language acquisition, and is another Tom Horne inspired tactic of educational malpractice. We must demand at the USP forums that the four-hour block be eliminated and that a true bilingual education program return to TUSD. How can we possibly take desegregation issues seriously when each school in our state has mandated segregation?
We have the talent and cariño in this district to offer the educational experiences that we all dream of for our students, but it will take participation at the public forums or comments made through the USP website to ensure that this happens. As a community we must stand together on all of these issues and demand quality education for our children.
In Lak Ech,