Sean Arce was offered an assistant principal job at a middle school, but he declined.

The Tucson Unified School District will not be renewing the contract for Sean Arce, the director of its Mexican American Studies program.

TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone would not comment on why the decision was made, saying only that the Governing Board was "not willing to renew his contract for a number of reasons."

Arce's salary at the beginning of the school year was $84,865.

Pedicone said he had hoped to retain Arce in a different capacity, offering him an assistant principal position at a middle school, but Arce declined.

Though Arce will not occupy the director position, it will remain open to be filled by someone else, Pedicone said.

The Governing Board is expected to address Arce's non-renewal and the non-renewals of a number of other employees at its meeting Tuesday, Pedicone said.

At that time, the names of the other affected employees will be made public.

National award granted

The news of the change in leadership comes as Arce is being honored by a national education group for his work.

The Zinn Education Project selected Arce to receive the 2012 Myles Horton Award for Teaching People's History.

The award honors those who promote democracy through education. The Zinn Education Project says its goal is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of U.S. history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula.

The group commended Arce, co-founder of the Mexican American Studies program, which has been under fire for several years and has been declared in violation of state law.

"Tucson's Mexican American Studies program gets it absolutely right: Ground the curriculum in students' lives, teach about what matters in the world, respect students as intellectuals, and help students imagine themselves as promoters of justice," said Bill Bigelow, co-director of the Zinn Education Project. "Mr. Arce has begun work that we hope will be emulated by school districts throughout the United States."

Though the program itself remains intact, the courses that were administered under it are no longer taught in the Tucson Unified School District. The district's Governing Board voted to eliminate the classes in January amid a threat of the loss of millions of dollars in state funding.

Arce did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175.