Friday, February 03, 2012

TUSD Board Member, Michael Hicks: "if you do not trust your employee, you need to remove the employee."

 [Note: For a chronological and comprehensive list of links to AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies Department at Tucson Unified School District, go here. To go right to information about the National Mexican American Studies Teach-in, go here. The best source for daily updates out of Tucson is blogger David Abie Morales at Three Sonorans.]

On January 10, 2012, the Tucson Unified School District voted 4-1 to shut down the Mexican American Studies (MAS) Department. They passed a resolution (the complete text of the resolution can be downloaded from the TUSD website) that says:

All MAS courses and teaching activities, regardless of the budget line from which they are funded, shall be suspended immediately. 

On January 18, 2012 MAS teachers were given a sheet of "Guiding Principles for MAS Teachers" that says (see the principles here):
  • Assignments cannot direct students to apply MAS perspectives.
  • The teachers cannot use the MAS curriculum designed individually or by MAS staff in TUSD.
  • The focus of student learning must not exclusively trail back to MAS curriculum and issues. 
  • Teachers should balance the use of literature focusing on multiple perspectives and varied literature.
  • Race can be taught and discussed. However, context is important and the focus should be on using literature content as the teaching focus relative to race or oppression.
  • Visitations in class by an administrator will be frequent to insure compliance. (At least one visit per unit of lessons.)
  • Teachers will write and submit a syllabus and/or a curriculum map that demonstrates adherence to common, standards based approach to the curriculum. The due date is January 26.
  • Student work will be collected by the evaluator when he/she comes into the classroom.
  • Teachers can choose to submit student work that would serve as evidence that curriculum is adhered to.

Those guidelines are chilling. Teachers are doing what they can to figure out how they are to go forward. There is an audio recording of Curtis Acosta, the literature teacher, asking his administrators for clarification about how he should teach Shakespeare's The Tempest. As one of the bullet points notes, teachers will be monitored. That is happening. 

In one of his letters, Acosta wrote:
...there have been credible claims that two TUSD Governing Board members have told our district superintendent that any violations by teachers should be disciplined harshly and immediately. Thus, my colleagues and I feel that our jobs are very much on the line...

Yesterday (Feb. 2, 2012), I listened to an internet broadcast of a Tucson radio program in which TUSD Governing Board Member, Michael Hicks was the guest (it is a four-hour program; Hicks was on during the latter part of the broadcast. Update at 7:15 AM--go here to listen just to the Hicks segment.). Again and again as I listened, I shook my head at the things Hicks said, but for now I am focusing on the jobs of the teachers. 

Hicks said that he did not agree with the decision to keep the teachers and students together following the shut down of the program because the teachers are not like "a light switch" that can be turned on or off. His "common sense" tells him that the banned content is still being taught, and that teachers carry the banned materials in with them each morning when they come to school. 

The only way to make sure they don't teach the banned curriculum, Hicks said, is to have monitors sitting in the classrooms, but that he doesn't agree with that. He said "I believe if you do not trust your employees, you need to remove the employee."

Curtis Acosta is right. Their jobs are on the line. 

So far, TUSD has shut down the program and it has banned the books and curriculum. Will TUSD start firing the MAS teachers? 

I've seen videos of teachers in the classrooms, and videos of students talking about the program and what they do. They are inspiring.  Please read Jeff Bigger's profile of former director of the MAS Department, Sean Arce and do what you can to let others know what is going on in Tucson. Turn your outrage into action.

No comments: