TUSD’s Pedicone testifies in “Ethnic Studies” hearing

“Too bad, Judy that they are so well meaning and exploited.” – Email dated April 28, from Tucson Unified School District Superintendent Pedicone in response to email from TUSD Board member Judy Burns in which she describes the student takeover as “pretty impressive.”

In the second day of hearings in the appeal by TUSD of the finding by Arizona Superintendent Huppenthal, that the district’s Mexican American/Raza Studies classes violate Arizona law, top administrator John Pedicone stated that “community and national activists” exploited district students.

Pedicone was asked about the exploitation he believes occurs, as a result of the admission into evidence of an email exchange between him and Governing Board member Judy Burns. In that email, he wrote about the students were, “so well meaning and exploited.”

Pedicone was questioned by the state’s attorney about who he believed were exploiting the students, he replied it was Ward Churchill and “some people at the UofA.” He ignored the role that Burns played in the takeover. In the email about the takeover, he wrote, ‘It is part of my concern about the exploitation of these kids.’

Despite the fact that he believed the students were exploited, he prevented charges being brought against the students “exploiters.” School Board member Michael Hicks due to his concern for the students and role of adults in their exploitation had called for an investigation of the protest organizers. Pedicone demanded that charges not be pursued. Judy Burns was an instigator of the student takeover on April 26. Her role in the protest was revealed on her Facebook page:

Jorge Paez: ORGANIZE NOW WHAT The trial of hb2281 where is it going down at and time jefe, digame porfavor Jefe? April 15 at 2:17pm

Joseph Arenas: Are you running for School Board in the next election Sean? April 17 at 7:42am

Sean Arce: Organize! April 15 at 2:20pm

Sean Arce: Backs Against the Wall… What we Gonna Do? April 18 at 11:35pm
Sean Arce: 1969 — 2011 ??? TUSD Headquarters, 1010 E. 10th St., 1969 By: Sal Baldenegro April 18 at 11:30pm


Sean and Judy Burns are now friends.

Joel Garcia: knock down all wall April 19 at 12:09am

Lorena Howard: come out swingin’ hermano April 19 at 12:37am

Georgia Mitchell: regroup April 19 at 3:30am

Cam Juarez: time to kick some nalgas April 19 at 6:51am

Miguel Ortega: ORGANIZE and MOBILIZE! April 19 at 7:22am

Judy Burns: Wait until you see what the board president has proposed for next Tuesday’s mtg. Can’t let it happen. April 19 at 8:06am

Judy Burns: Call me if you want more details 429-XXXX April 19 at 11:24am

David Abie Morales: Our education is under attack, what do we do… FIGHT BACK! April 19 at 12:00pm

Arnold Xikano de Aztlan: Do what we have always done. Survive! April 19 at 4:09pm


Pedicone described two of the six MAS classes he has visited. He visited Government, Literature, and history classes. He testified that he spent about 15 minutes in two of the MAS classrooms he visited, but in four classrooms he spent more time.

He told of a simple project in Jose Gonzales’s classroom in which a cartoon was placed on the board, and students were to identify which political view was represented. He expressed hope that the cartoon project would lead to a more academic lesson, but he left the classroom before finding out if that was the case.

On other occasions, students have described to the Tucson Independent Daily a “fun game” employed by one of Gonzales’s substitutes, in which students are asked to determine the color of a historical figure. When told about nefarious activities in history, the students are asked, “What color do you think he/she was?” The students dutifully and joyfully respond, “White!”

Pedicone did describe Acosta’s classroom, which at the time of his visit was being taught by a substitute, as an average classroom. He saw books including The Tempest by William Shakespeare which was in use by the substitute at the time, Maria Frederico Brummer, and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. Under questioning by the district’s lawyer, Pedicone admitted that he didn’t “delve deeply into the pedagogy being used.” Recently complaints have been made about Ms. Brummer’s MAS approach to non-MAS classes.

Pedicone admitted that the Mexican American Studies classes did not have a coherent curriculum and that he hired Assistant Superintendent Maria Menconi to work on the lack of “vigilance in structure.” Pedicone has previously stated that he is committed to “Monkey Management,” an approach Pedicone says he borrowed from Kenneth Blanchard’s book, The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey. Pedicone’s interpretation of “Monkey Management,” is one that holds that the proverbial monkey on your back needs to be passed on to others who are more capable. Earlier in the year TUSD Board member Adelita Grijalva admitted that the Board had failed in its role to review and approve curriculum in violation of state law.

Pedicone conceded that the classes are based on the pursuit of social justice and that the disjointed curriculum is founded on the “problematizing process.” According to testimony, he did not deny the state’s contention based on the writings of Arce and Romero that this process includes a deliberate attempt to “racismize” students.

Pedicone admitted that he had never been in an MAS elementary class. He admitted that he had not attended the middle school Social Justice classes. He admitted that he only met with students who favored the classes. He admitted that he did not set up similar meetings with students who were opposed to the classes as he had with students in favor of the classes.

The Superintendent admitted that he did not know how many MAS classes were offered. He also claimed that he did not know very much about MEChA on campuses or whether the district sanctioned MEChA clubs. This issue arose due to the admission into the hearing record, of an email from Dr. Lupita Garcia to Pedicone. Dr. Garcia is the same brave administrator who put a stop to, and exposed the theft of millions of dollars of Title 1 monies from disadvantaged students’ schools to fund the training of undocumented immigrants as community organizers.

In the email Dr. Garcia expresses her concern about an effort on one of the district’s campuses to recruit students to participate in an “occupied peoples” conference at the University of Arizona and the “vulnerability of Raza Studies students.” Dr. Garcia wrote that at the time of Pedicone’s hiring she had expressed to him, “my deep concern” about MEChA at TUSD. She pointed out the organization’s “anti-Semitic tone and tenor on our campuses.” She went on to state that the some of the district’s students have little support and “our Raza students are ripe for this kind of influence.”

At the recent Governing Board retreat Dr. Pedicone mentioned his disdain for emails for communication, “It really puts us in jeopardy.” Pedicone stated that he prefers phone calls, because emails are public record.

The following press release was issued today by the University of Arizona chapter of No More Deaths / No Mas Muertes:
Palestinian Youth Travel 10,000 Miles to Meet with Local Ethnic Studies Youth in Tucson
TUCSON AZ—Tomorrow (April 21), Arizona youth whose cultural studies programs remain targeted for eradication by state legislators will be hosting a presentation with fellow students also facing cultural destruction 10,000 miles away in Israeli-occupied Palestine.
Local university and high school students have invited fellow Ethnic Studies youth activists from Birzeit University in the Palestinian West Bank — under a 44-year military occupation by Israel — to share and exchange experiences in their common struggle for “Right to Education”.

Superintendent Huppenthal’s recent finding of TUSD’s non-compliance included violations of Arizona statues, 15-112 A (2), 15-112A (3), 15-112 A (4), 15-721, 15-722, and 15-341.

While TUSD was found in violation of five Arizona statues, 15-112 A (2), 15-112A (3), 15-112 A (4), 15-722, and 15-341, testimony has focused on violations of 15-112 A (2), 15-112A (3), 15-112 A (4). Arizona statute 15-112 (A) 2, prohibits classes or courses that promote resentment towards a race or class of people. 15-112(A) 3, prohibits classes that are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic race. 15-112 (A) 4, prohibits classes that advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

The finding included violations of Arizona statutes 15-341, 15-721, and 15-722 which came to light “during the in-depth review of the (MAS) Department and program. Additionally, text and material selection for program courses fail to conform with both statues and the TUSD Governing Board adopted policies. ADE believes these violations contributed to the current controversy and conflict surrounding the Program.”

Arizona statute 15-341 “delineates the powers and duties of school district governing boards. Subsection 2 requires governing boards to exclude from school all books, publications, papers, or audiovisual materials of a sectarian or denominational character.” The ADE found that “much of the curriculum and material reviewed was of a partisan nature: in fact the intent of some materials is partisanship and political organization.”

“Subsection 5 directs governing boards to set the curriculum and other criteria required to promote pupils from one grade to the next and for graduation as long as it conforms to the minimum criteria set by the State Board of education (ARS 15-701 and 15-701.01). Local governing boards may require additional curriculum and criteria. Many of the high school course offerings from the (MAS) Department are offered for credit towards graduation.”

Arizona statutes ARS 15-721 and 15-722 are described in the finding, “These sections of statute govern courses of study for elementary (15-721) and high schools (15-722). Both sections require school district governing boards to approve the course of study and the basic textbook for each course. Additionally, if a course does not include a basic text, the governing board must approve all supplemental books to be used in the course prior to approving the course. Additional duties are prescribed under these sections of statute for governing boards to maintain authority over texts and supplemental materials used in all curses and subject them to public review prior to adoption. For these purposes “textbooks” include all printed materials, digital content and related printed and non-printed material for use by pupils in a classroom.”

“Our review of Tucson Unified School District Governing Board agendas dating back to January 2002 show no review or adoptions took place for the actual courses of study. No evidence was found to support the TUSD Governing Board has reviewed any of the texts or supplemental materials used in many of the Program’s courses.”

“Although district adopted textbooks appear to be used in the courses, official textbook and supplemental materials adoptions for both Language Arts and Social Studies do not include many of the books and materials observed by the auditors or those submitted to the ADE for review.”

“Additionally, this failure to review and adopt material is also a violation of the TUSD governing board’s own adopted policy IJJ which states, in part: The Board will also approve and adopt all new text and supplementary materials.”

The current hearings are as a result of the district’s appeal to the state’s finding. The district did not challenge all of the finding, and has finally decided to follow state law and board policy with regard to oversight of new curriculum.

Just this week, the Governing Board voted to remove Dr. Mark Stegeman from his leadership position as the Board President, in retaliation for his honest testimony that he believed the MAS classes were essentially a “cult.”

Dr. Stegeman was replaced with Board member Miguel Cuevas who has told district employees that he intends to support a court action should the finding of Superintendent Huppenthal hold up under this current appeal. It is now widely believed throughout the district, that the TUSD governing Board will most likely vote 3-2 to accept the 10% cut in funding in order to continue offering the classes that indoctrinate rather than educate.

The final day of hearings will be held on September 19 in Phoenix.