9 On Your Side Education Watch
TUSD board members trade places but not votes to ban ethnic studies
Reporter: Steve Nuñez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Two TUSD board members may be trading places as its president, but as 9 On Your Side has learned the vote to end ethnic studies could still favor a ban.
Board Members Adelita Grijalva, Judy Burns and Miguel Cuevas voted to oust Mark Stegeman as president during Tuesday night's regularly scheduled meeting.
The same majority then voted in Cuevas who holds the key vote on ethnic studies.
Grijalva led the charge for change.
"The vote wasn't about ethnic studies as much as people might think," said Grijalva.
Grijalva criticized Stegeman's leadership for creating tension from when students stormed the meeting to allowing an opponent of ethnic studies flip off the board.
Nuñez asked: "In changing the leadership of the board was it a political maneuver to change the outcome, potentially, for the future of ethnic studies?"
"I don't know that its going to change the outcome," answered Grijalva. "My hope is that all of the board members look step-by-step where we are in this process now."
During last Friday's appeals hearing, Stegeman admitted to 9 On Your Side he testified students exhibited "cult-like" behavior while in class.
On Monday, TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone countered Stegeman's damaging testimony. Pedicone testified the program does not teach students ethnic solidarity.
Pedicone said State Superintendent John Huppenthal should respect the administrative judge's ruling, if he rules the program does not violate state law.
Huppenthal recently rejected the findings of his own commissioned audit that found the program to be in compliance of the state law. The independent audit cost taxpayers $110,000.
"And, don't do this thing if the judge rules one way and state superintendent doesn't consider that information I think that would be difficult for us and that would be a mistake," said Pedicone.
But 9 On Your Side has learned, the law that bans ethnic studies is written to give Huppenthal exclusive veto power to over rule the administrative law judge.
Nuñez asked: "Do you believe you have the votes to file a lawsuit?"
"My hope if the law judge finds the district in compliance that at least one other board member would be willing to go that next step," said Grijalva.
If that doesn't happen, the eleven teachers who have already filed a lawsuit against the state claiming the law to ban ethnic studies is unconstitutional, also plan to immediately file a federal injunction to stop Huppenthal from fining the district $15 million.
But, in the end, the board could still call for a vote to end ethnic studies.