Original URL: http://www.azstarnet.com/star/today/30318TUSDFOLO.html

Minority supporters target Paz in changes
18 March 2003
By Sarah Garrecht Gassen
Tucson, Arizona

The TUSD Governing Board must fire Superintendent Stan Paz because he does not value minorities - or board members could face an effort to oust them, a crowd of more than 150 parents, teachers and community members said Monday.

The crowd gathered at the Archer neighborhood center on the West Side to talk about plans Paz announced last week to reorganize top administration.

The change removes three veteran minority Tucson Unified School District administrators - Becky Montaņo, Larry Williams and Eugene Benton - and changed the top five administrators who report directly to Paz.

They were told last week their positions were gone and their contracts would not be renewed for next year. Only one top administrator in the new arrangement, the new chief of staff, Toni Cordova, is Hispanic. Paz is also Hispanic.

"He cut three minority administrators and one was demoted, and there are no minorities holding positions of responsibility," said parent Gus Chavez, who helped organize the meeting. "We don't believe this was done respectfully."

Speakers criticized Paz for removing Montaņo, a Hispanic, and Williams, who is black. Benton, who is Hispanic, had already announced his retirement. None of the administrators attended the meeting.

"The administrators they got rid of were interested in these cultural issues, they were grounded in the communities," said Julio Cammanta, an anthropology research faculty member at the University of Arizona who is working with Cholla High School students in a social justice education class.

"I don't think Paz is connected to those things," he said.

The future of TUSD's ethnic studies programs was also brought up. Under the new arrangement, their programs' directors will report to an Anglo woman, an organization one speaker referred to as an almost colonial setup.

Paz has said that director-level positions also will be examined, and possibly eliminated, in the restructuring, but he has not given details.

Paz was not invited to the meeting Monday but said afterward the ethnic studies departments are not in jeopardy and that he is talking with community members before considering any changes.

UA Africana studies director and professor Julian Kunnie said that people in charge of ethnic studies departments should not report to an Anglo administrator because the structure implies there are no qualified minorities to fill the positions. "This is institutional racism," he said.

Petitions to remove Paz circulated throughout the two-hour meeting.

If the governing board supports Paz's changes or does not rescind his employment contract, board members should be prepared to face an effort to oust them, speakers warned. TUSD board member Adelita Grijalva, who attended the meeting, said she got the message. "I don't feel Dr. Paz appreciates how he affected us," she said.

Paz said that his reorganization plan is not complete. Too many students, especially minority students, are not achieving academically and the district must shake things up and try something new, he said.

Paz said race and ethnicity did not play a large role in selecting his executive team.

"We were looking primarily at what are the roles that are critical, and what are the talents and skills available," he said. "These people were selected based on the new agenda to move forward."

* Contact Sarah Garrecht Gassen at 573-4117 or at sgassen@azstarnet.com.