TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone has reached out to supporters of the Mexican American Studies program in an effort to improve relations.

Pedicone sent letters Monday to the youth-formed coalition Unidos and to the Mexican American Studies Community Advisory Board asking for an opportunity to speak and listen to one another.

He said he has yet to hear back from them.

Relations between the groups and the district have been strained since former Arizona schools chief Tom Horne declared the Mexican American Studies program in violation of state law.

A resolution written by TUSD Governing Board President Mark Stegeman intensified the situation when he recommended changing some of the program courses to electives.

That proposal drew protests from Unidos students that forced the cancellation of one board meeting and the arrests of several ethnic-studies supporters at another meeting. The board hasn't voted on Stegeman's proposal, opting to hold a public forum on the issue.

"The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for the district," Pedicone wrote. "Actions taken by the district have resulted in high levels of concern and, in many cases, frustration focusing on the ethnic-studies programs.

"The intensity of the discussion has reached a point where it makes it difficult to consider any resolution at this time. ... Moving forward, I am committed to rebuilding our relationship by engaging with you to create an atmosphere of trust, openness and respectful dialogue."

In the letters, Pedicone says he has "strongly recommended" that the TUSD Governing Board table and not consider Stegeman's resolution, and that no action be taken until a ruling is made by current state Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal on whether the program is in violation.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@azstarnet.com or 573-4175.