A controversial member of an audit team selected to review TUSD's Mexican American Studies courses has stepped down.
Steve Gallon III was contracted to work as part of the team in reviewing curriculum, conducting interviews, observing staff workers and getting feedback on the program, which has been accused of being out of compliance with state law.
However, Gallon came under scrutiny when program supporters revealed he was barred from working in New Jersey public schools amid an accusation that he conspired to commit theft of educational services.
Cambium Learning Group - the company that contracted with Gallon to serve on the audit team - was unaware of his past, saying it conducted a background check and no red flags popped up.
Gallon voluntarily removed himself from the team after the company said it would review his selection.
"He basically said he felt his involvement would be too big of a distraction," said Arizona Department of Education spokesman Andy LeFevre. "He didn't want the integrity of the audit to be compromised."
The audit was ordered by Arizona schools chief John Huppenthal, who will make a determination as to whether TUSD's program is in compliance with a state law that prohibits courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government; promote resentment toward a race or class of people; are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group; and advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.
Huppenthal's predecessor, Tom Horne, now the state's attorney general, helped write the law and has long claimed that the program teaches ethnic chauvinism. Huppenthal has also said publicly that he doesn't support it.
If the district is found to be in violation, funds may be withheld.
The audit process, which will take four to six weeks, is scheduled to begin Monday. LeFevre doesn't expect any decisions to be made on whether funding will be withheld until the process is complete.
Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4175.