My confusion over TUSD’s deseg progress (or lack of it)


by David Safier

I have to admit, I'm confused about the whole TUSD deseg thing, and Mari Herreras' cover story on the subject in the Weekly confused me still more, because it makes it clear just how complex the whole thing is and how important the next few years are in what we hope will be a movement toward greater desegregation and better education at TUSD.

Naturally, I'm all for the deseg effort — "What do we want?" "Desegregation!" "When do we want it?" "Now!" — and I support the main points of the court-ordered Unitary Plan the district has to follow. But should special master Willis Hawley be putting so much pressure on the district so soon after the plan has been ratified? Shouldn't he give the new guy and his newly constituted board a little breathing room?

I admit I have a soft spot for H.T. Sanchez and the two new board members, Cam Juarez and Kristel Foster. And I understand soft spots make you soft hearted which can make you soft headed. So maybe I'm giving them too much latitude by saying, "Take the school year and get an idea of what's going on before you make any big decisions. It's been 40 years. What's another year?"

In Herreras' article I hear from the people who have been laboring over deseg for 40 years, and they're absolutely right to be impatient. What's just another year to me is year 41 to them. I imagine what Sanchez is doing looks like another stall. He's just another slick Superintendent who's trying to finesse his way out of doing anything important. And they're right to be concerned. Hawley has given the district some clear orders, and the district looks like it's trying to worm its way out of them.

That's why I'm confused. It's a tough call for me.

So here's where I stand — or where I wobble is probably more like it. The deseg activists are right to push, and push hard. They have to make sure the district doesn't slow walk the deseg issues. But on the other hand, if the district pushes forward rashly and blindly — ripping deseg money away from magnet schools where the racial balance hasn't been moving forward, for instance, and destroying the programs in the process — they'll end up taking the district backward rather than forward. So I'm OK with the new folks trying to get the district's administrative house in order and taking some time to look things over before rushing into any irreversible decisions. The current administration and board haven't been around for 40 years. They need a little time to assess the current situation.

If my guarded faith in Sanchez and the board is correct, if their hearts are in the right place and they plan to take bold action in the future, then taking their time will yield more thoughtful planning and better results in the long run. The long time deseg folks won't be happy even if the district makes clear progress, of course, and they'll continue to push, which is just fine. That's their job, to keep the district uncomfortable so it never takes its eye off the deseg prize. But if the district keeps putting roadblocks in front of the special master and the deseg efforts, then my faith is poorly placed, and I'll join with those complaining about the district's inaction.


  1. Integration is still a priority to some folks, myself included. When the civil rights struggles in the schools began in Milwaukee, and the magnet school concept was begun, there were those who felt that African American only schools were the best way to educate African Americans. If people feel that way, thats fine–but its separate but equal and certainly not desegregation, which was the central point of the lawsuit. History buffs may recall that separate but equal didn’t work–in fact in most places it quickly became separate but INequal, and that failure led to the idea of integrating the schools. If the feeling is so strong that in this tiny possibly progressive island amid a sea of Tea Partiers whose hands are on the purse strings, history can be turned on its head and separate but equal WILL work (i.e. separate really WILL be equal) thats a different issue. And its an issue that can’t be paid for by DEsegregation funds–whose intention is supposed to be to integrate.

    Re: my “fiddling with the numbers” comment. I object to the intent of that comment being twisted around to imply that I am somehow dissing those magnet parents. To begin with, I am one of them, so I certainly can empathize with their struggles for self-identification for their kids. I feel that the USP is an effort to protect the rights of kids who have the CHOICE of how to identify and those that don’t because they are not multi-racial/ethnic. I’m simply worried that the very valuable protections afforded by the plan for the second group of kids may be eroded by the timing of the self-identification desires of the first. Already we are focusing on re-working the very basis of these categories while the differential treatment and achievement of kids of color in our public schools becomes secondary.

    I am simply suspicious of attempts to make the district appear to be integrated through changes that do not fundamentally improve the treatment/discipline of kids of color, increase both the language and cultural diversity of our teachers, improve achievement through programs like MAS throughout the schools and district-wide dual language programs, etc.

  2. The reality for some students is that they are called Mexican by whites kids and white by Mexican kids. IF they desire, they should have the OPPORTUNITY to reject the contention that they CANNOT EVER be considered to contribute to diversity at predominantly Hispanic schools when they know (along with their peers, teachers and administrators) that they have in fact contributed to diversity. I have heard magnet parents express this heartfelt belief that their children really do contribute to diversity and should be allowed to say so.

    To call the sincere experiences of these people “fiddling with the numbers to make TUSD look integrated” disrespects their right to self-identify and is just plain disappointing. Students with multi-racial/ethnic backgrounds should be respected if they choose to self-identify with one particular group, as well as if they self-identify in a different manner.

  3. Integration is no longer the priority. When the district itself is 60-70% Latino, why make Magnet programs even more exclusive to white students…

    The paradox is that MALDEF would have to support demagnetizing Davis because of the definition they agreed on, but notice that not even the TW article asks whether they support their own definition. To be blunt would expose they side with the Special Master over the community, but he media seems to not ask them directly.

  4. Huppenthal already gave the green light and CRC is already being offered. However neither the Special Master nor MALDEF will advocate for an MAS return since that now conflicts with their work on CRC.

  5. I’m tired of hearing “I jeard abouts” about MALDEF, I have to admit. The damned DISTRICT is no longer interested in MAS and that is alot more important. If they were they would have (yes, you heard it here) hired that director that they have so studiously avoided hiring, rolled out MAS into the middle schools by now, or be preparing to, and instituted it in every high school. If they thought Davis was so important, Davis would have the money that all magnets need to advertise themselves, and the expertise too. If they thought so much of Davis AND MAS, they would be rolling out very very similar programs to Davis’ in non-magnet schools (after all, the Davis message is that of almost the majority of our students now, so what is so hard about incorporating their language and culture into many more schools) because those schools don’t have to be integrated. Then those who believe that separate can be equal (in Arizona or should I say Mississippi? Don’t make me laugh!!!!!!!!!) would have the schools they want and those of us who believe in mixing it up a bit more because thats the planet we want to live on could have the schools that we want too.

    Your confusion, David, comes from focusing so much on the machinations of men (and women) instead of the kids. To a student, an extra year is exactly one twelveth of their public school (mandated) education, and given how long even a consistent, planned and enthusiastic rollout takes to take hold, its probably two if not more before the programs really get some hold. To focus on my little darling, something I try really hard NOT to do because he’s not what I’m in it for, if TUSD hadn’t blocked this whole thing for so long, he would have had a challenging and exciting and focusing middle school experience instead of the one he’s had (which has had its ups and downs, like normal). As it is, he may not even have a chance at taking MAS classes in high school! This is DISCRIMINATION that TUSD is guilty of–do you let the guilty entity off the hook because you like them? –would you have said that about the original civil rights struggle just because you liked John Kennedy? I don’t mean to sound hard-hearted about it, because believe me I know that feeling of enthusiasm for someone’s approach and energy and then the abject dissapointment in the action on the area most importance…..but waiting should not be an option, and fiddling with the numbers to make TUSD look integrated (which, incidentally or not? might drop all those newly reconfigured “multi-racial”kids out of the protection of the desegregation case at all–as they would no longer be members of the class–Mexican Americans/African Americans–for whom the lawsuit was brought) should also not be an option.

    But to my jaundiced eye, speaking of the adults game, if we manage to redefine “desegregated” here in little ol’ TUSD, won’t that be a nice precedent for Horne, Hupe, ALEC and the Goldwater Institute to roll out to drop the bottom out of the very concept of desegregation as we know it? Maybe I am a conspiracy theorist (it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard it) but those characters aren’t waiting a year to roll the clock back to the days before the civil rights struggle took place!

  6. Do you really think Hupp is planning to give CRC a green light? I think more likely he’s biding his time until the right moment in his campaign. “Don’t look at Common Core. Look at CRC! TUSD is at it again!”

  7. I hear that MALDEF is no longer interested in MAS and are going all in on the CRC/Romero compromise with Huppenthal. The only person on the Latino’s side is not MALDEF, but the DOJ.

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