LULAC must refocus on priorities, if it has any 
The Arizona Republic
Jan. 21, 2005

I leave town for a week and the place goes to pot.

So, I took last weekend to catch up to the fiasco that is LULAC in Phoenix.

Over the past year we've become accustomed to LULAC's shenanigans, so to see it embroiled in another controversy is no big surprise, really. But the new missteps raise LULAC's profile in this state to the level of embarrassing as one Latino boss is pitted against another in a silly power struggle.

Early this month, the League of United Latin American Citizens Arizona education chief Silverio Garcia resigned, apparently, after being dumped by the national office, and the head of the state chapter, Sam Esquivel, was suspended - official word is pending.

Esquivel remains defiant and says he won't step down. Garcia has moved on to another organization that will allow him to work unencumbered - to be able to get in the face of people when he sees fit without seeking the OK from any national office.

Badges? He doesn't need no stinking badges.

And that's how this whole mess started. Well actually, you might have to go back 40 years to where it really started in the Roosevelt School District, but that's for another day.

Garcia, and to some measure LULAC, have pressured Roosevelt to clean up its act at Maxine O. Bush Elementary School for months, ever since a Latino girl was assaulted by some African-American students in April. The Roosevelt board and then-interim Superintendent Grace Wright did the Kevin Bacon Animal House act, "All is calm, all is well," for months before reluctantly forming a task force to look into the matter.

Not satisfied, Garcia pushed for more, especially for the dismissal of Bush Principal Walsdorf Jenneford. Roosevelt staff members say Wright has a sweet spot for Bush, where she served as principal for years, and won't come down on the school. Keep in mind that Bush is one of the poorest-performing schools in the state.

So Garcia pushed, and believing that he was doing the right thing, interceded on behalf of Latino kids and their right to a quality education - something that is in LULAC's mission statement. But the straw that broke the camel's back was his getting under the skin of Roosevelt's board members. Then the political stuff ran downhill.

I actually like that Garcia was battling against the grain here and doing what seemed right to him. To be honest, I have no idea what LULAC does in this state. They are virtually invisible and seem to have no definite mission or course here in Phoenix.

Where I differ with Garcia is not in principle but in practice. His idea, er, threat, to pull kids out of Bush to prove a point is pointless if not harmful.

The students at that school are some of the worst performers in the state. That is a matter of record. They miss lots of school and have a high turnover rate. So why would one use them as political pawns and have no viable alternative for them if they were to miss school? Garcia should be doing more to keep them in school and hold the Roosevelt board accountable for its sorry record.

Conservative Anglo politicians in Arizona are busy putting signs up at the border that say if you speak another language besides English or if you are an immigrant, we don't want you. Meanwhile, so-called Latino "leaders" continue to fight over a middle school melee like it was the last round of a title fight with no one watching.

It's called perspective, and if we don't watch out, we're all going to be knocked out before the bell rings.

Teclo Garcia is the editor of ĦExtra! and an assistant city editor at The Republic. Reach him at (602) 444-8281 or