TUSD shakeup: New member helps return old board president
New board member was swing vote to restore board president Mark Stegeman removed by board members a few months ago Video by kgun9.comvideo
New board member Dr. Alexandre Sugiyama voted with board members Mike Hicks and Mark Stegeman to return Stegeman to the TUSD Presidency the board removed him from in August.
Board members including the late Judy Burns voted Miguel Cuevas in as President in August after complaints about then President Mark Stegeman losing control of contentious meetings
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - TUSD was already shaken up by a judge's ruling against it's ethnic studies program, when it had another leadership shake-up Tuesday night.
There's a new board member to replace one who died, the new board president is a man the board bounced from the president's job a few months ago, and it's still up in the air what the board will do about ethnic studies.
Outside the board meeting demonstrators chanted: "Education is under attack! What do we do? Rise up! Fight back!"
A lot of the signs the demonstrators brought out seemed to have more in common with the Occupy Tucson movement than Ethnic Studies, but Tuesday night they took up the chant of program backers fighting state efforts to shut down Mexican American Studies at TUSD.
State lawmakers passed a law targeted at TUSD that among other things, forbids courses that teach ethnic solidarity above individuality. An administrative judge upheld the state school superintendent's conclusion TUSD's program is breaking the law. The penalty could be a ten percent cut in state money to the district. The question is what TUSD will do about that.
But protestors outside didn't shake things up as much as what board members did on their own.
Roughly an hour after he was sworn in to fill the term of Judy Burns, who died in November, new board member, Dr. Alexandre Sugiyama made the vote three to two to put Dr. Mark Stegeman back in the President's slot Burns, Adelita Grijalva and Miguel Cuevas pushed him out of a few months ago.
They complained Stegeman lost control of meetings including one when Ethnic Studies supporters took over the board room and chained themselves to the board members' desk.
But board member Michael Hicks moved to replace Cuevas with Stegeman, Sugayama seconded, and Hicks, Sugayama and Stegeman voted Stegeman back in as board president.
Cuevas prediction on what the change will mean for Ethnic studies?
"If you can sum that up in one word, chaos."
But Stegeman says, "I think we can avoid chaos. There will be very strong feelings on both sides of this issue and those feeling will be expressed at meetings and those feelings should be expressed at meetings. I strongly feel we don't want to suppress rights of free speech and I think I've been consistent on that."
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Sugiyama: "After being on the board for roughly an hour why did you feel it was appropriate to change the leadership?"
Sugiyama took long pauses as he answered: " One of the things I think we need to do is…to change the district... The district needs to...be turned around and I'm concerned that under the former leadership that that was not going to happen."
Sugiyama says he's still deciding how to respond to the penalties the Arizona Department of Education may impose on TUSD Ethnic Studies but thinks it's hard to support a program found in violation of state law.
Stegeman had favored changes in the ethnic studies program with the idea of keeping it out of trouble with the state. That brought out the protestors last spring, and led to other board members complaining he didn't know how to control a meeting.
Now the board has to figure out what to do with the judges ruling on ethnic studies. It's still waiting for the state superintendent to take official action on the judge's ruling.