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Special Master suspends magnet-change proposal, removes two schools from list

Special Master Bill Hawley has removed Pueblo Magnet High School and Roskruge K-8 Magnet School from the list of schools that he proposes be stripped of the their magnet status. He has also said that he will not take court action to remove magnet status for any schools until after a planned summit in early October.

At the Sept. 8, 2015, Governing Board meeting, principals of seven Tucson Unified magnet schools and programs joined with Superintendent Dr. H.T. Sánchez at Tuesday's Governing Board meeting to address Dr. Hawley’s proposal to strip their schools of magnet status.

At the time, Special Master Bill Hawley's proposal included Cholla Magnet High School, Ochoa Magnet Elementary School, Utterback Magnet Middle School, Bonillas Traditional Magnet Elementary School, Pueblo Magnet High School, Safford K-8 Magnet School and Roskruge K-8 Magnet School. Dr. Hawley was poised to file his recommendation with the court in short order.

The principals of the schools that were on the list at the time of the meeting showed the governing board and the entire city of Tucson what "unified" stands for in the title of Southern Arizona's largest school district.

One by one they told the board why the plan to revoke the magnet program for their schools just seven weeks into the 2015-2016 school year would be devastating.

"We feel that as a school, as a community, as magnet schools together, we need to be given time to put those plans into place," explained Bonillas principal Jennifer Ambrosio, an alumni of the school she currently oversees. "It wasn't a seven-week plan that we wrote. It was a 2015-2016 plan."

The latest revision of the comprehensive magnet plan, approved by the Special Master, Plaintiffs and the TUSD board, focuses on two pillars that serve as the goals: integration and academic achievement.

The integration numbers were Special Master Hawley's focus in the revocation plan. At the Tuesday meeting, the principals and Dr. Sánchez stressed the connection between the two, and advised that pulling out now would do more damage than good.

"If you have academic achievement, then you draw in families. That's what gives the magnets strength," Dr. Sánchez said.

Though the principals presented their own data and made cases separately for each of their schools, they expressed enthusiastic support for one another and for district leadership.

"For the first time in my 20-plus years, we have leadership talking about issues of equity. We have leadership talking about issues of inclusiveness. Things that we would shy away from and run away from in the past are put in the forefront today," Augustine Romero, principal at Pueblo Magnet High School said. "So if you ask me, 'Are we in a better place today to get this work done?' We are."

Each of the Governing Board members patiently listened to the principals as they presented their cases. In the end, they all expressed support for the principals, Dr. Sánchez and the administrators, siding with them against the proposal.

Board President Adelita Grijalva discussed the implications of forcing hard integration numbers on a district with areas that have an extremely high percentage of minority representation. Her position was firm.

"We are going to do … the best that we can to make sure that we continue to support the programs at these schools, because this board voted to do that. I am completely in favor, should the Special Master come forward with a request in court, that we appeal," she said.

For more information about the Unitary Status Plan and the Court Orders regarding its implication and the district's Comprehensive Magnet Plan, see the Court Orders and Special Master Reports & Recommendations (R&R) webpage.