Aftermath of another disrupted TUSD board meeting

Published: May. 4, 2011 at 11:16 PM MST|Updated: May. 11, 2011 at 12:27 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The Tucson Unified School District is analyzing what happened at yet another governing board meeting where protesters caused a disruption over the Mexican-American Studies (MAS) program.

The state is doing an audit of the program to see if it violates a new state law.

The district has said the program is in compliance, but TUSD Board President Mark Stegeman wants to make a part of the MAS program an elective, rather than a core course.

He has said he hopes that will be acceptable to the state, and will mean that at least part of the program survives the way it is now.

Students and other supporters of the program want the school board to wait for the audit to be completed before taking any action.

MAS Community Advisory Board member Gus Chavez says, "The school board needs to stand up and be counted. It needs to stand up for the program, standup for local control and stand up for the school system."

After protests at two consecutive governing board meetings,  The MAS Community Advisory Board met to decide how to move forward on the issue.

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone is concerned that students who protested last week by taking over the board meeting and forcing it to be adjourned were influenced by adults.

Pedicone says, "When I look at what happened to those kids. They're facing possible criminal charges. We don't know where we're going to go with that yet. That's just so wrong for people to encourage that kids of dramatic action."

Community activists say the students acted on their own.

"Are we involved with them in their actions that they carried out? Absolutely not. They put forward a 10-point plan last week that we had nothing to do with. The adults," says MAS Community Advisory Board member Isabel Garcia.

Her fellow advisory board member Roberto Rodriguez says, "The suggestion is very insulting."

Superintendent Pedicone has said he supports ethnic studies, and waiting before making a decision on the program.

"We've simply got to bring the tone and temperature of these discussions down. And that's got to happen. I think we're responsible for our part of doing that, Pedicone says.

Garcia says, "Protest is as American as anything else. Protest is a very important mechanism for achieving change."

Pedicone says he will try to solicit help from community leaders with the issues the community is feeling.

"This is as much about ethnic studies as it is about so many of the other issues that the community is feeling that we need to be sensitive to, and this district has to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem, Pedicone says.

The school board tabled a decision on changing ethnic studies.

It will hold a public forum on the issue.

A date had not yet been set.

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