The Tucson Unified School District is planning to offer culturally relevant courses in the fall in at least three of the District’s high schools. Before they can make the classes available they must be reviewed and approved by the Board according to Arizona statute.
This week, in an effort to appear to include the public in the rushed process, the District released a statement inviting “the community to examine and comment on the proposed curriculum” until July 8. The District claims that the public’s comments will be “reviewed and considered in finalizing the content before it is submitted to the Governing Board for approval.”
However, it is clear from emails first made public on the James T. Harris radio show, between the programs’ director Auggie Romero and his curriculum developers, that what the public sees is not what the students will get. In an email dated February 23, 2013, curriculum developer Penelope Buckely wrote Romero:
“Hi Auggie. I added some of your ideas to the latest revision and would love to hear what you suggest. I feel protective of it so can I ask you to send me suggestions before putting them in? I have tried to tone down some of your rhetoric so this passes inspection. Teachers can add their voice easily to the curriculum and I think that being able to spice it up or tone it down will be essential for selling it to teachers.”
Just last month the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) advised the District that the newly proposed curriculum, submitted by the District, did not appear to meet state standards and had the potential to violate state law, which prohibits the promotion of resentment in students.
The District’s old Mexican American Studies curriculum, which employed a pedagogy that relied almost entirely on enticing students with food and other favors, Romero’s critical race rhetoric, and his “Barrio Pedagogy” he developed in graduate school at the University of Arizona.
The ADE also expressed concern that it appeared the new curriculum did not align with the Common Core standards. They noted that the standards appeared to be simply cut and pasted into Romero’s curriculum.
In an email from Romero to Buckley, dated later on February 28, the concern that standards were an afterthought appears to be correct. Romero writes:
“Penny, This look great! I will insert the Common Core. Thanks a bunch!”
With or without standards, the District is determined to offer the classes this coming August.
While the District’s deputy superintendent, Maria Menconi advised the ADE in an email dated January 18, 2013, that “given the need to do this very well, I think it will be wise not to rush it,” this week, she told the Arizona Daily Star that she feels “good about this process. I feel it was a little rushed, but I believe once it gets to the point where we have it in front of the board for approval that it will be a good and fair curriculum.”
Menconi told the Star that the problem with the MAS classes because the District didn’t have “copies of a written curriculum.” According to the Star Menconi said, “The contrast is, now we do and they can see whether what is being taught is in alignment with standards. But at that time, they had observations and information from people in the community, but no documents.”
In the appeal filed by the District last year, Judge Lewis Kowal reviewed over 7000 pieces of evidence including curriculum, lesson plans, student work product, as well as parent and staff testimony before making his determination that the classes violated state law.
The District intends to offer the classes at only three high schools this year, if they are approved by the Board. Contrary to Menconi’s claims, school insiders say there has not been a demand for the classes.
As a matter of fact, MAS supporters were asked to attend last night’s School Board meeting to join a demand that the classes be offered immediately in every school. Only one proponent, Sylvia Campoy, addressed the subject of the classes. President of the Governing Board, Adeltia Grijalva, urged others to come forward, but no one took her up on the offer.
Campoy, a representative in the District’s desegregation case, told the Board that it was unfair that the ADE was allowed to review the classes, and claimed that other classes did not undergo the same scrutiny.
However, it was federal Judge Bury, in the District’s desegregation case, who ordered that the classes be reviewed to, meet state standards, and be in compliance with state law.
A review of Romero’s emails, obtained through a Request For Information by the Arizona Daily Independent, shows that Romero’s focus has been primarily on paying the curriculum developers and “advisors” from the University of Arizona.
TUSD’s MAS classes had been over the years a cash cow for staff at the University of Arizona. It was often criticized as a “jobs program” for former TUSD member, father of Adelita Grijalva, and current congressman, Raul Grijalva’s acolytes and cronies.
The Governing Board is expected to adopt the curriculum at the July 9 Board meeting.
It is unclear how the District will fill those classes since students registered for this year’s classes last year, and only Cholla High School offered the classes as an option to students.
Last month, Adeltia Grijalva pushed through a new policy which will allow the classes to be offered to as few as six students per class. Other classes must have a minimum of at least 15 students to be offered during a semester.
Also, at last night’s meeting the Governing Board voted 4 -1 to spend $300,000 on a marketing to improve the district’s public image. Gordley Group, won the contract to “work with the District’s inside marketing person, who doesn’t have the time to negotiate media buys,” according to Superintendent Pedicone.