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.