A email dated September 28, 2015, from Sylvia Campoy, one of the plaintiff representatives in the Tucson Unified School District desegregation case has revealed a campaign by Superintendent H.T. Sanchez to mislead parents and teachers. Campoy’s thoughtful and fact-filled letter was written “to bring clarity to some issues that have become unnecessarily complicated.”
Campoy, a Mendoza plaintiff representative, is referring to the recommendation by the Special Master on the magnet status of certain TUSD schools. According to Campoy, in his campaign against the Special Master assigned to the case by federal Judge Bury and the current plaintiff representatives, Sanchez met with parents. At that meeting Sanchez claimed that the representatives and the Special Master were sending the message to Chicanos that they cannot learn unless they are sitting next to a white person.
As part of his campaign, Sanchez has ordered the distribution of a petition “which requests the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) provide legal representation to parents,” according to Campoy. Sanchez is attempting to remove Campoy and others who have fought for years to ensure equal access to quality education for TUSD students.
Campoy’s letter reads in its entirety:
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
As we enter the fall season, I hope this finds you well and finally cooling down from our hot summer. It has been “hot” in several realms, including in the area of the TUSD desegregation case- with no immediate sign of a “cool-down.” The work involved in the case has been constant and more challenging than ever.
This desegregation update addresses TUSD’s magnet schools and provides:
The compliance status of 5 magnet schools relative to its integration efforts – as determined by the court-appointed Special Master & his clarification/recommendation on the needed and continued funding support for the 5 schools; basic information about the requirements under the desegregation court order; disturbing recent TUSD events and actions (TUSD’s reaction to the Special Master’s determination and an attack on the Mendoza Plaintiffs); the actual FACTS of the matter; and background information with key points pertaining to the magnet.
I have made effort to bring clarity to some issues that have become unnecessarily complicated, thus, the need for the use of many words- which I anticipate will provide clarity and truth. Your time and interest in reading this update is greatly appreciated.
Compliance Status of 5 Magnet Schools and their Recommended Continued Funding
Many of you have learned through recent news coverage that the Special Master is recommending that 5 TUSD magnet schools lose their magnet status. The magnet schools are: Elementary schools –Bonillas and Ochoa; Safford K-8, Utterback Middle School and Cholla High School. In a communication to the Governing Board from the Special Master, he states: “The court order related to the CMP and the resultant magnet plan are quite clear. To maintain magnet status, magnet schools and programs must both be integrated and reach specified achievement goals. In their plans, which were approved by the Board, each school set specific goals for integration for this fall and for the next school year. They were not asked to completely integrate their schools by 2016, but only to integrate their entry classes at a level which would allow them reach the 70% target by next fall. All of the schools set specific targets. Not one of the five schools that I have identified achieved its goal (not one of the goals was close to 70%).” The communication also explicitly states: “In my memo to the parties, I proposed a strategy for maintaining significant support from “deseg funds” for the five schools for the foreseeable future in order to ensure that excellent programs are sustained and the needs students who are struggling are met.”
Basic Information about the Desegregation Court Order
~Desegregation funding (910(g) money) is available only because TUSD is subject to a court order requiring desegregation.
~Desegregation money must be used only for activities required or permitted by that order.
~The order requires that magnet schools be integrated. TUSD agreed to the terms of that order. They are set forth in a consent decree signed by the District — the Unitary Status Plan, which has been in place since February 2013.
Disturbing TUSD Recent Events and Actions
On Tuesday, September 15th, a meeting was held at Ochoa Elementary Magnet School with parents and community members. Approximately 25-30 individuals were in attendance with about 15-20 individuals comprised of parents/community members and the remainder (approximately 6-10) comprised of TUSD administrators, including TUSD legal counsel, which is an 80:20 ratio for a school meeting, which is extraordinary. I have received several accounts of the meeting, inclusive of the attendance information just noted and all have consistently described the meeting and specifically the following points:
-Dr. Sanchez explained that he is forty-one years old, which is as old as the desegregation case. Dr. Sanchez stated that a lot has changed in the 41 year period and that the Mendoza Plaintiffs have been with the case for 41 years; that ‘the Mendoza Plaintiffs no longer have children in the District- nor does Sylvia Campoy, the Plaintiffs’ Representative; that those before him have children at Ochoa now and that the Mendoza Plaintiffs and their Representative are ‘outdated.’
-Dr. Sanchez went onto say that it is current parents that know what is happening and that it should be current parents who are the Plaintiffs along with their Representative. He encouraged everyone to call MALDEF and request that the Plaintiffs and their Representative be replaced with ‘current’ individuals.
-Dr. Sanchez said that as Chicanos we should not be given the message that we cannot learn unless we are sitting next to a white person and that this is what is coming out of the plaintiffs and SM right now.
-At some point a parent asked why the Reggio Studio staffing positions had not been filled or funded. Dr. Sanchez said that he has to ask for permission for all desegregation expenditures and essentially blamed the Special Master and the plaintiffs for having expressly turned down such an expenditure. -Someone asked what was planned for the next step and Julio Moreno, the Ochoa Principal, responded that the Site Council was putting together a “talking points” sheet that could be used in outlining what Dr. Sanchez had talked about and that the talking points would soon be provided. ‘We all want to make sure everyone is on the same page,’ he said.
On Wednesday, September 16th parent/teacher conferences were held at Ochoa. Again, I have received consistent descriptions of what took place. During the conference, parents were presented with two documents and one petition to sign (attached for your reference). Parents were asked to review the documents and to follow-up, as requested. Parents were also asked to sign the petition which was placed before them during the parent/teacher conference, which requests the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) provide legal representation to parents (the petitions remain in circulation). I also have been told that during the parent/teacher conference some parents asked their child’s teacher to explain the petition and were told, ‘to support Ochoa’ and ‘to keep Ochoa’s money’ and that they had been asked by the administration to present the documents and the petition to the parents.
The Actual Facts of the Matter
The documents which were distributed at the Ochoa meeting each contain incorrect information, thus, Ochoa parents are being asked to become involved in a TUSD driven campaign based on inaccurate, incomplete, and misleading information. The following facts counter some of the misinformation: a.) the fact that the Special Master has not recommended that any of the 5 above noted magnet school be “stripped” of their desegregation funding (as indicated in the above quote from his September 11, 2015 communication to the Governing Board); b.) the fact that it is TUSD property owners (not Pima County property owners) whose taxes are levied and then funneled through the State to TUSD as desegregation dollars and that the law permitting that levy says may only be used to comply with a court order of desegregation; c.) the fact that MALDEF represents Latino TUSD students (under the desegregation class action suit), which, of course, includes equal access issues; and d.) the fact that the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ legal counsel have supported the magnet schools both historically and presently – including arguing in legal papers now before the Court that the District has not adequately funded magnet schools.
Misinformation in this particular situation does nothing more than confuse and infuse anger in parents (and community members). One has to question whether it is at all appropriate to impose this type of lobbying, much less, during a teacher/parent conference- where the time should be dedicated to a dialogue about the student. In more general terms, one has to question why parents are being intentionally misinformed.
It continues to be of concern and great disappointment that desegregation is being portrayed in such a distorted, divisive and resentful fashion by Superintendent Sanchez and other TUSD officials. He says that ‘as Chicanos we are being given the message that we cannot learn unless we sit next to someone white.’ This mindset contradicts the philosophical, cultural, and legal reasons for desegregation. It has never been espoused by any desegregation educational or legal expert that one has to sit next to someone of a certain skin color to learn. To frame desegregation in such terms not only perverts its purpose, it incites racial/ethnic resentment. For Dr. Sanchez to publically denounce desegregation through the use of such a simplistic and misconstrued condemnation is damaging to the purpose and implementation of TUSD’s Desegregation Unitary Status Plan. Research shows that for students who experience desegregated education there is a positive effect on their academic outcomes. If this fundamental premise is rejected by TUSD, a multitude of questions surface, including why the institution has so willingly accepted and expended over a billion dollars in desegregation dollars over the life of the court order- of which approximately $130 million have been allocated since the inception of the current court order/Unitary Status Plan. Is the District now publically challenging integration and promoting the doctrine of separate but equal and, if so, shouldn’t this be formally noticed to the Court?
It is very troubling that, based on other reports I have received, the TUSD message-campaign which was conveyed at Ochoa along with the petition, is making its way to other schools.
As referenced above, on September 11, 2015 the TUSD Governing Board received a communication from the Special Master which clarified why he is recommending that the 5 schools, above referenced, lose their magnet status but which also states that he has proposed a strategy for maintaining significant support from desegregation dollars for the 5 schools by supporting those programs in the schools that underpin enhanced achievement by Latino and African American students. However, even with this very pointed clarification, it appears that the District has continued to tell parents that their schools are being “stripped” of funding per the Special Master.
In court filings to this point, the Mendoza Plaintiffs, through their attorneys have informed the Court that they believe that additional funding for the magnet schools is needed and that ample time and support for the magnet schools have not been provided. Ochoa has been specifically named by the Mendoza Plaintiffs as one of the magnet schools needing additional funding and resources. It is disconcerting that the parents have not been informed about this critical fact since they are being encouraged to request MALDEF for legal counsel to make this very same argument.
TUSD stringently argued against the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ position for additional funding for Ochoa and other magnet schools in its September 1, 2015 Brief- Document 1840- Combined Response to Plaintiffs’ Objections and Special Master Recommendations Re: 2015-16 School Budget, which states: “Despite that the District has increased funding to magnet schools from approximately $8M in 2014-15, to approximately $11M in 2015-16, the Mendozas feel four schools (Holladay, Ochoa, Robison, and Utterback) have been allocated insufficient funds and therefore have inadequate plans. However, the Special Master has recommended that for “schools at risk of losing magnet status because they are C or D schools, funding should prepare them to engage in continuous school improvement.” The District disagreed with the Mendoza Plaintiffs and even argued that the Mendoza Plaintiffs did not have the right to make the argument. Of course, the Mendoza Plaintiffs believe that they have every right, on behalf of Latino students, to make the argument. It is more than disingenuous for TUSD to now solicit Latino parents to make the very same argument that they claim that the Mendoza Plaintiffs do not have the right to make to the Court. Exactly which of these two very extreme positions is TUSD actually adopting or is one position for the Court and the other for parents?
TUSD is the wrong-doer/the guilty party in the desegregation case. TUSD has failed to show that it has uprooted the vestiges of discrimination which have harmed Latino and African American students during the shameful span of 41 years. Instead of suggesting that it is the Plaintiffs and their Representatives or the Special Master who are at fault when the District fails to comply with provisions or meet goals to which it explicitly agreed, it is this fact should be accented while addressing the more than 4 decades that TUSD has remained under the supervision of the federal Court, which is based on its documented failings (both by the US Federal Court and by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). What would drive a guilty respondent to take it upon themselves to recruit parents to seek to join a lawsuit against it in which to date the plaintiffs have so soundly prevailed? The act itself telegraphs that what it really is seeking is to eliminate or weaken the parties who have most consistently and successfully called them out for failing to comply with court orders and the USP.
Dr. Sanchez has referred to the Mendoza Plaintiffs and their Representative (me) as being “outdated” and has alleged that the data used by the Plaintiffs (all plaintiffs) and the Special Master is outdated. Of course, all of the parties in the case utilize the most updated data made available by the District. TUSD is the data source and what has been provided has been current data. Obviously, TUSD is aware of this. As for the Plaintiffs and Representative being “outdated”- it is not clear exactly what assumptions Dr. Sanchez is making in this regard. Those involved in the Mendoza case are current on case law and research/best practices pertaining to public education. Were this not the reality of the situation, it would hardly be the situation that the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ legal record in this case is as stellar as it is. Might this fact be at the real crux of the efforts being made to undermine the Mendoza Plaintiffs and their Representative?
For months we have heard about the importance of stability and continuity in maintaining the current superintendent. Why then is stability and continuity so easily dismissed as it pertains to the Mendoza Plaintiffs and their Representative? The Mendoza Plaintiffs and I, as their representative, along with their legal counsel possess historical and current knowledge and expertise about the desegregation case and TUSD that greatly enhances the work in representing Mexican-American/Latino TUSD students- the largest population within the District.
When parents ask about vacant positions which have not been filled at their child’s school such as was done at the Ochoa meeting, a response such as was given is simply a “cop out.” The filling of vacancies at the magnet schools is the administrative responsibility of the TUSD administration. Accountability for leaving positions vacant at magnet schools falls solely on the administration.
Magnet Plan Background & Key Points
The District has proposed a number of drafted magnet plans (3 in total- with several iterations of each). The first proposed magnet plan surfaced during the summer of 2013. It was authored by the TUSD administration. It had numerous problems with it and was basically rejected on all fronts, including by the TUSD Governing Board. The plan called for demagnetizing several magnet schools while opening new ones. Prior desegregation updates covered the 2013 magnet plan as well as the current administration’s efforts to place blame on the Special Master and Plaintiffs for the integration requirements referenced in the magnet plan (requirements which the District had already agreed to through the joint desegregation stipulation- the USP).
Subsequently, the administration appointed a magnet school planning committee to guide the magnet plan rework that followed on the 2nd series of drafted plans. The committee did not include any involvement from the Mendoza Plaintiffs, although TUSD’s reported account of the committee states that it did include plaintiffs’ representation. The plan that surfaced from this process included the addition of two designated magnet schools (a carry-over component of the 2013 plan) and five identified “pillars” by which to evaluate the success of a magnet school. The Governing Board approved the plan on July 14, 2014 without serious or perhaps any consideration of the feedback provided from the private plaintiffs- Fisher and Mendoza- as well as the Special Master. Objections to the plan were filed by both Fisher and Mendoza Plaintiffs, who also requested that the Special Master issue a Report and Recommendation (R&R) on the plan. The District disputed the objections and the Special Master’s R &R. On January 16, 2015 the Court issued an order which rejected, almost in full, TUSD’s “Comprehensive Magnet Plan.” It is attached for your reference.
The Court noted that much of what had been submitted by TUSD in its filing to the Court was disjointed and was absent critical elements. In other words it was anything but “comprehensive.’ The Court agreed with the Special Master and Fisher and Mendoza Plaintiffs on the position that achievement and integration should be the two critical elements (pillars) driving the development of the magnet plan. (This was basically at the 2 year mark into TUSD’s implementation of the USP.) The Court directed the District to address the deficiencies and provided some specific timeframes by which work on the plan was due. Work on its 3rd rendition of a comprehensive magnet plan was initiated following the January 2015 court order. There is great irony in the fact that the January 2015 court order was not generally shared, if at all, with parents or magnet school administrators, since the District now is going through such activity to report (inaccurately and incompletely) about the Special Master’s recommendations and circulating its petition but omitting any reference to the clear directives that were issued to the District in that order, much less the reporting requirements directed to the Special Master. The provision of information is most selective and therefore, limited.
Through the various iterations of the 3rd series of drafted plans, the Mendoza Plaintiffs presented numerous comments/inquiries. TUSD submitted its newly proposed comprehensive magnet plan on May 15, 2015 to the Court. The plan was then amended with the final submittal taking place on June 19, 2015. Of the 20 individual school magnet plans that were included in the submittals, 18 of the magnet schools showed a desegregation budget decrease totaling in excess of $972,000 from the May to June submittal. Ochoa, was cut nearly $54,000. In its July 7, 2015 filing (Doc. 1824 at 6), the District explains that the early magnet plan budget numbers were “extremely early figures and they had not yet been vetted in connection with the final 2015-16 budget.” Yet, TUSD makes the claim that the Special Master is “stripping” five of the magnet schools of their funding, which is untrue. The decreased budgets for the schools was pointed out to the Special Master and the Court by the Mendoza Plaintiffs. The budget reductions made by the District did not seem to have the involvement of the schools. Any stripping of funds to date has actually only occurred at the hand of TUSD.
Many of the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ comments which were submitted to TUSD for their consideration in the development of the magnet plan, were simply ignored, as were many inquiries that were made of the District. The most recent magnet plan is now before the Court. The Mendoza Plaintiffs filed objections and comments to the individual magnet school plans and, as noted above, also repeatedly stressed the need for the District to provide more funding and more support to the magnet schools so that they could succeed.
When Mendoza Plaintiffs refer to the absence of adequate support for the magnet schools they have the following examples in mind. At the beginning of this school year five positions remained open at Ochoa; there are now three. Holladay began the school year absent five positions and has since added one, for a total of six vacancies. These schools are both relatively small, with the vacant positions accounting for almost half of the school’s staff. The vacancies give indication of the lack of attention and support that the schools are receiving. Last year Utterback had 14 teacher vacancies for the entire school year. Long-term substitutes (most of whom are not highly qualified teachers) became part of the fabric of the school and this school year the school has 16-18 new teachers. The situation for the magnet schools has been grim and it is felt by the principals, the teachers, students and parents, yet, rather than acknowledge the lack of central administrative support for the schools, that administration has reached out to blame the Special Master and Mendoza Plaintiffs (as well as the desegregation court order).
The Respondent/Guilty Party- TUSD, the plaintiffs and the Special Master have filed several briefs with the Court pertaining to the TUSD magnet plan. The Mendoza Plaintiffs have been unwaveringly consistent in their legal briefs, arguing that TUSD magnet schools have been grossly neglected for decades, inclusive of the time period under the current jointly stipulated February 2013 Unitary Status Plan. Manifestations of the neglect have been seen in lack of budgetary support & staffing (inclusive of freezing USP related positions), failing to fill positions for extensive periods of time, deficient programmatic development and support (academic, thematic and afterschool programs) , inattention to integration requirements and/or resistance to such requirements, inappropriate use of desegregation funds, such as supplanting rather than supplementing magnet schools/programs, as well as many other areas. TUSD also added two magnet schools during the “planning process” which further distracted from the work, attention and resources that have been and continue to be very much needed at its pre-2013 magnet schools.
In its legal filings to the Court, the Mendoza Plaintiffs have stringently argued for additional funding to enable the magnet schools to address and strengthen their school/programs/themes, improve academic achievement as well as the recruitment and retention of students to accomplish and/or maintain integration. Another very critical component in supporting the success of the magnet schools is the regular external monitoring of their progress, which is the responsibility of the Special Master through the court-ordered USP. In this capacity, he becomes the bearer of either good or bad news. Efforts to shoot the bearer of the news is nothing more than misplaced and misdirected blame.
As I have said many times, information is power. My reference, naturally, has always been about FACTUAL information. May this information empower you to share and discuss the issues presented with others.
For those of you who are new to the list, I hope you find this of interest. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you do not want to receive desegregation updates in the future.
Thank you for your continued interest and support.