By Rhonda Bodfield
Tucson, Arizona | Published: http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/education/245423
A federal judge has given Tucson Unified School District more time to come up with a workable plan to get out from under its decades-long racial-balance court order.
But at the same time, U.S. District Judge David Bury criticized the district in his Monday ruling for its failure to follow his order and work collaboratively with community advocates and instead unilaterally drafting its own plan.
Bury had lambasted TUSD in an April ruling for failing to act in good faith throughout its 27-year desegregation effort. But he had agreed to lift court oversight as long as TUSD worked with community advocates to draft a plan that sets up benchmarks and adequately measures how well the district is serving its minority population.
The district Monday was prepared to meet the deadline and file a plan that would set up more internal and external audits of its racial-balance efforts.
But that same day, Bury issued his new ruling, making it clear that it wasn't acceptable that the district filed on its own after running into an impasse in negotiations with lawsuit plaintiffs in early June.
Those plaintiffs, Hispanic and black parents, had filed a class-action lawsuit that led to the desegregation order back in 1978. To racially integrate schools, TUSD agreed then to bus students across the city and to establish magnet schools with specific entrance criteria and prescribed ethnic balances.
With TUSD expecting its new superintendent, Elizabeth Celania-Fagen, to start work Tuesday, Bury gave the district four months to draft a new plan to present to the community.
The judge set a number of other deadlines for community response and input, with a final order that the plan be submitted to the court "well before the end of the 2008-2009 school year."
Outgoing Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer maintained the district did negotiate in good faith with the plaintiffs.
Pfeuffer said the deadlines in the court order translate to a final submission in May 2009. "If we're going to implement that plan for the 2009-2010 school year, that doesn't give us much time," he said.
TUSD budget / b3
● Reporter Rhonda Bodfield: 806-7754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.