Mexican American Studies supporter tells Board “There are soldiers on their way”
Miguel Cuevas, president of the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board began last night’s meeting is a calm manner. Cuevas, age 26, kept that same calm demeanor throughout the meeting despite being verbally abused by a “gang banger” and other Mexican American Studies supporters bent on abusing the Board.
The Mexican American Studies supporters billed their summer protest “The Storm.” However, while Tucson endured a violent monsoon earlier in the day, which left power line poles snapped in half, the MAS “storm” of about 30 people packed no immediate punch.
Despite the fact that their numbers were few, the Call to the Audience was both shocking and bizarre.
One man, who identified himself as Joaquin Castro “gang banger from Detroit,” admitted to terrorizing Hicks and his family in their home. The thugs had come to Hicks’s neighborhood and banged on the windows and doors, while families cowered inside. According to a police report, a group of about 6 to 7 men and women had covered at least one home and a vehicle with fliers and stickers labeled “The Storm.”
Castro said that his mentor, Ernesto Mireles had saved him from a life in Detroit “selling drugs.” Castro abused Miguel Cuevas saying, “You are a Mexican. How can you do what you do? You make me sick.”
Castro then warned the Board, “There are soldiers on their way.”
One man, who identified himself as Fidel Castro, said he was there because he was told people would be dressing up as their favorite revolutionary, and he is an actor. He told the Board, “I don’t have any children in the TUSD, but all children here in the district, on the planet and in this world are my children. You can’t be a student with a passionate to learn because what they are teaching you is not what you want to learn.”
Fidel told the Board that he is “new to this issue… I can’t bring any information to light but I come here as an artist to appeal to you as ministers of state.” He told the unpaid volunteer board members that they were “working for the state, working for money…. You need to do what is right. That is really all I have to say.”
“The Storm” came to protest Dr. Mark Stegeman’s call to return books previously associated with the MAS classes to classrooms. The proposal was viewed by both sides of the MAS issue as a political ploy by Stegeman to win back liberal support.
The proposal read: “The books which were used in the suspended Mexican American Studies courses, including the seven titles which the district removed from classrooms in January 2012, shall henceforth be subject to the same rules for classroom use as are all other books which are not specifically approved by the Board for a specific course. Those rules are defined by statute, Board policy, and the district’s posted regulations.”
One man, who identified himself as a PhD. candidate, warned the Board “You need to surrender now, we are not done and it is not going to be pretty. It is a good time to give up; seriously, pride comes before the fall, and Dr. Stegeman you are on your way. When this is over it is not going to be good. This is part one of Freedom Summer, wait for Part II.
At least two speakers claimed to have some knowledge of the federal Desegregation order, but their statements appeared to defy those claims. They argued that the Desegregation order required the classes, and the court appointed “Special Master” Hawley would order the courses back. However, there is little support among the desegregation plaintiffs for the classes.
The long term plaintiffs have fought for those remedies which are proven to reduce the achievement gap. They are demanding that the district employ highly qualified teachers for every school in the district.
Only one person addressed the district’s failure of all students and the inequity of using unskilled teachers. Lillian Fox reminded that Board that she had come before them before to demand highly qualified teachers. She told the Board, “You should ask how many schools are starting this year with long term subs? If we are starting the year with any, that is an emergency. If you need a long term substitute for Science, you need to identify someone with Science skills, it is inappropriate to have Art and Music teachers teach those classes. We lost 40 teachers (at one school) the first year and we lost 20 the next year,” Fox was referring to Cholla High School specifically.
Adelita Grijalva, who is an expert in political ploys, said Stegeman was engaging in the worst type “of hypocrisy” by calling for the proposal.
When the matter came before the Board, Stegeman asked his “fellow Board members who voted against the classes” to support his proposal. Stegeman said that the removal of the books from the classes led to “theatrics for seven months” because people claimed the district banned the books. He then proceeded to offer his unnecessary proposal, increasing the theatrics for his own political gain.
It was clear that he would not receive the support of any Board members, and the matter was dropped. But not before Miguel Cuevas calmly said, with conviction, that he stood by his decision to remove the MAS classes.
The district is expected to have a upwards of $27 million deficit by 2014. The controversy over the Mexican American Studies classes has driven many parents and kids away, as well as its unwillingness to recruit highly qualified teachers.