The latest plan to bring an end to TUSD's desegregation case was filed in court Friday and outlines steps the district must take to free itself of federal oversight.
The proposal, called a unitary status plan, focuses on balancing the racial makeup of schools, improving the hiring and retention of minority employees, and improving educational opportunities for black and Hispanic students.
The 84-page plan also focuses on changes needed in such areas as facilities and technology, discipline, family and community engagement, transportation of minority students, student assignment and extracurricular activities.
It provides specific timelines as to when the district must meet the plan's requirements.
The public will now have an opportunity to comment on the plan online, in public forums and by other means until Nov. 28, said TUSD spokeswoman Cara Rene.
All public comments will be forwarded to Special Master Willis Hawley, who will then submit his final plan to the court by Dec. 10, Rene said. The final plan must be approved by the federal court.
The district had no further comment Friday night.
The plan is the latest step in a decades-long battle to improve racial balance and the quality of education for black and Hispanic students in TUSD's schools.
It began with a class-action lawsuit filed against the district by the parents of Hispanic and black students that eventually led to the district being placed under a federal court desegregation order more than 30 years ago.
In 2009, the desegregation order was lifted and Tucson Unified School District began operating under what is called a post-unitary plan.
Hawley, a University of Maryland professor emeritus who is an expert in race relations and academic achievement, was brought on by the federal court at the beginning of 2012 to create a new plan after it was determined that TUSD did not act in good-faith compliance while it was under the original desegregation decree, and that court oversight would resume.
TUSD receives millions of dollars in funding each year to help pay for programs and policies required under its desegregation plans. The city's largest district has more than 51,000 students, with about 32,000 Hispanic and about 2,800 black students.
Although the district didn't comment, an attorney for the black plaintiffs was satisfied with the most recent plan.
"It's a very well-written, designed plan," said attorney Rubin Salter Jr. "There are some out-of-the-box things in there."
The plan spells out specific steps the district must take during the next two years in regard to hiring, recruiting and retention of minority employees. It says TUSD should take steps to protect black and Hispanic administrators and teachers, as well as any other employees hired to meet the needs of the plan, during any district layoffs.
For example, the plan states, if a black or Hispanic employee is laid off, the district cannot fill the position until the laid-off employee has had an opportunity to apply for the old job.
The plan also spells out ways the district can improve how it provides "advanced education" opportunities to minority students. One step is to hire or designate a coordinator to review those opportunities for minority students, including the gifted program, attending University High School, advanced placement courses and international baccalaureate programs.
The coordinator will assess the district's current advanced education program and prepare a new plan by January 2014 that will be used to recruit more minority students into those programs.
The unitary plan requires the district to review and evaluate its admission policies to University High School, a special admission school for advanced students, to ensure that "all" students have an opportunity to enroll.
The plan touches upon - without specifically naming - the controversial issue of Mexican American Studies.
The plan requires the district to help improve the achievement of black and Hispanic students by creating "socially and culturally relevant curriculum," including courses that center on the experiences of black and Latino communities.
There's also a requirement that the district designate or hire a person who will oversee implementation of these courses. It requires the district to implement this "culturally relevant curriculum" by the beginning of the 2013 school year.
It wasn't clear if this requirement would lead to the reinstatement of TUSD's Mexican American Studies classes, which were dismantled in January after the classes were banned by state law.
The plaintiffs and TUSD had some objections to different aspects of the plan, which are spelled out in separate filings as well as in the main document.
For example, TUSD disagreed with a requirement to provide financial support for black and Hispanic employees who seek certifications and educational degrees needed for promotion.
The district and the plaintiffs seemed to reach consensus on most issues, but Salter said the community must weigh in on the issue.
"We'll wait and see how it's received by the community," Salter said.
Forums scheduled to discuss plan
There will be three public forums to discuss the plan. Each forum will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m.
The meetings will be:
• Nov. 26 - Tucson High Magnet School, 400 N. Second Ave.
• Nov. 27 - El Pueblo Regional Center, 101 W. Irvington Road.
• Nov. 28 - Palo Verde High School, 1302 S. Avenida Vega.
The final version of the plan must be approved by a federal judge.
Did you know?
TUSD has been under a federal court order to desegregate since 1978, following a class-action lawsuit filed by Latino and black parents. To racially integrate schools, the district agreed to bus students across the city and to establish magnet schools with specific entrance criteria and prescribed ethnic balances.
In 2009, the order was lifted and the district began operating under a post-unitary plan. However, in 2011, that decision was reversed - and the federal court resumed oversight of TUSD - when a judge determined the district had not acted in good-faith compliance with the desegregation decree.
Read the plan
The proposed special plan to help bring an end to TUSD's decades-old desegregation case has been filed in federal court and is available for public review.
The so-called unitary status plan is available in English and Spanish.
To read the report online, go to www.tucsonusp.com
The website lists ways the public can comment on the plan. Public comments must be received by Nov. 28.
Also, the plan will be available in the main office of each TUSD school.
Contact reporter Jamar Younger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4115. On Twitter: @JamarYounger