There is a saying that comes to mind these days. It says, “Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho.” In English the saying goes, “From words to action there is a great divide.”
As a newly elected TUSD Governing Board member, this saying is extraordinarily applicable. On January 8th, when I take my seat on the Board, I will begin crossing that great distance.
TUSD is facing a variety of challenges. Four of the most prominent are: the projected $17 million budget deficit, school closures and consolidations, the implementation of a revised Desegregation Plan and the proposed return of the Mexican American Studies.
The four revolve around one key element –a tenuous faith in the District.
The last five weeks have been increasing difficult for TUSD students, families and staff. The school consolidation process has been very confusing and painful –unbearable for some of our youngest students and those with special needs. In response, I made an effort to visit AS many of the schools targeted for closure or consolidation as possible. My hope was to offer moral support and better understand how this process affected each school and how these schools contributed to our district.
Let me be clear, I did not support school closures; I now understand that some closures were necessary and inevitable, but I felt that felt that this process was rushed. I think the former board made a very difficult decision and now we must move forward.
I pray I never have to vote to close schools. I know we must work together to aqvoid this in the future.
My mother instilled in me that when entering into a new responsibility, one must first watch, listen and understand –then, and only then should one act. Admittedly, my initial plan was simple: I would take action to right many wrongs I perceived within TUSD. However, after becoming more familiar with the inner workings of the Desegregation Plan, the specifics of the District’s budget and TUSD as a whole, I realized I needed to re-evaluate my approach.
This new process would include discussing the issues with a variety of individuals whose counsel I felt could be reliable. Equally important is understanding how what we as a Board determine to be right or wrong affects each and every one of the groups we are attempting to serve at TUSD.
This is why ensuring that we first understand before we take action is so important. We must also make sure TUSD effectivelyy carry out its federal-court-mandated desegregation plan, as it will set forth a blueprint for an equitable education for all.
We must also reognize we are up against some external challenges as well; the Arizona State Legislature has slashed the state’s education budget by about 21 percent since 2008, the highest percentage in the country. Public education is not just a basic right under our state’s constitution; it is a necessity when considering our state’s economic vitality.
It is for this reason that students in our K-12 courses need a strong and exponential understanding of core educational principles in reading, writing, math and science.
It also is imperative that successful programs like MAS have their place in our district; just like sports and the arts are not for every student, the options should be there nonetheless. This is especially true if it means that all of our students will grow, reach and succeed together.
Finally I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year.
Cam Juárez is a newly elected member of the Tucson Unified School Board. He takes his seat Jan. 8.