The Tucson Unified School District has selected new legal counsel to handle desegregation issues, parting ways with the firm — DeConcini McDonald Yetwin & Lacy — that has served TUSD for 39 years.
Superintendent H.T. Sanchez announced his selection of the law firm Rusing Lopez & Lizardi to take over the decades-old case.
While TUSD has had what it describes as a “long and successful relationship” with the DeConcini firm, a desire for a “fresh set of eyes” prompted the change, said TUSD General Counsel Julie Tolleson.
Like the DeConcini firm, Rusing Lopez & Lizardi is on an approved counsel list, so there was no need for Governing Board approval, Tolleson said.
“The rationale for selecting Rusing Lopez & Lizardi centers on the fact that they have legal counsel with successful experience with desegregation litigation, their familiarity with our court order and their contacts with lawyers who have helped school districts across the U.S. successfully reach and maintain unitary status,” Sanchez said Monday.
TUSD has been operating under a desegregation plan for decades. The area’s largest school district is still working to get out from under federal court oversight through the use of a unitary-status plan. Despite its efforts, the district continues to face legal challenges over its implementation of the plan.
Since the 2006-2007 school year — when activity on the case increased —TUSD has spent more than $801,000 with the DeConcini firm.
“My commitment is to obtain unitary status for TUSD,” Sanchez said. “I am as old as the court case … If we can’t accomplish unitary status under my tenure as superintendent, the next superintendent may have been born after the original case was filed in 1974. That would truly be a negative reflection on the district and community’s will to move past old grudges to a future filled with hope and renewed opportunities.”
Rusing Lopez & Lizardi was founded in 1992. Other clients include the University of Arizona and the Arizona Board of Regents.