Ok, Special Master, YOU name the Latino Students We Shouldn’t Welcome

A court-appointed special master may soon recommend that a federal judge yank the magnet status from five schools in our open-enrollment district because too many Latino students choose to attend them. My school is one of the five.

A court-appointed special master may soon recommend that a federal judge yank the magnet status from five schools in our open-enrollment district because too many Latino students choose to attend them. My school is one of the five.

The special master decided last spring that any magnet school with more than the negotiated 70% of its students coming from one ethnic group, or earning less than a B on Arizona’s school grading system, should lose its magnet title and funding.

An aside: Arizona has yet to even determine the grading scale by which schools will be judged, but it will be entirely based on our new Common Core standardized test that students took for the first time last year.  

The story has its roots in a 1974 court case. At that time the district was over 50 percent white, school boundaries were rigid, and families had no public school option outside of their neighborhood. This resulted in well-supported white schools, and poorly-supported black schools and brown schools.

Now, in 2015, my district is 64% Latino. Any student may attend any school. Magnet students are provided transportation; open-enrollment, non-magnet students must provide their own. In addition to that, students may attend nearly 60 charter schools, private schools, be home-schooled, and even attend schools outside the district’s boundaries.

An aside: A five-year old kindergarten student in 1974 is now 46 years old. An 18 year senior in 1974 is 59.

Blood boils. With all that competition some 470 magnet students (out of a school population of 784) vote with their feet and choose my school. They, combined with students who live in our predominately Latino neighborhood, give us a Latino school population of 79%. So, even If ALL of our non-Latino students are magnet students, then at least 305 of our Latino students chose my school over their neighborhood school.

That nine percent over the special master’s quota amounts to 71 Latinos too many.

A long aside: According to our district superintendent, HT Sanchez, the special master is from Maryland. He takes his cues from plaintiff representatives who have not had children in the district for decades and only one of whom still lives within its boundaries (and accordingly pays property taxes that pay for the magnet programs). Only one of the plaintiff representatives’ lawyers is local; the rest are from California. The district pays their legal costs which are over $1,000,000, so far. (My school’s magnet budget is just under $900,000.)

My school, in downtown Tucson, offers multiple opportunities to our students. In addition to our demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum that includes a second language, physical education, and fine arts, our inquiry-based units lead students to discover their own approaches to learning as well as the global context in which our academic content lives. We also offer high school credit classes in algebra and Spanish. One of our teachers, Irma Ruth Weber- Guerro, was recently honored as Arizona IB Teacher of the Year. We were also just named and Arizona Civic Engagement School.

An aside: Our teachers have received hundreds of hours of professional development in our specialized curriculum, costing thousands of dollars, all of which will have been wasted if we lose our status.

Our extra curriculum program includes daily tutoring in academic content, weekend hikes to local areas of scientific interest, and Math Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) – an early outreach program whose mission is to prepare underrepresented groups for technical careers. Our sports program is one of the best in the city with our teams nearly always placing high, if not winning titles, in basketball and volleyball.

Maybe we’ve done our job too well. Maybe we shouldn’t be so welcoming to students of all ethnic groups. Certainly, I mean not one word in the previous two sentences, and they bring the tears to my eyes to even write them.

But I reserve pure anger for the special master. He hasn’t even been curious enough about my school to visit and talk to students, teachers, and parents, or go on a field trip, or watch a game. Rather, he earns thousands of dollars to hamstring our schools based on two data points – one of which he could get from three clicks of a mouse, the other of which doesn’t yet exist.

Well-played, Special Master, but if you’re so much smarter than the hundreds of Latino families who see my school as the best option in the district for their own children, perhaps you’d do us a favor and name the ones we should turn away.


Since posting this I emailed the plaintiffs’ legal teams, asking for comments and offering to correct and apologize for any factual errors. The special master replied that the 70% was a negotiated number, not his.

  • Al Garcia

    Special Master

    Well stated… I would like to see this in a letter to the editor of the Daily Star.

    • SandyMerz

      On the way

      I’m in the process of writing a letter that complie’s with the Star’s policies and recommendations.

  • E. Parra

    I hope all our Safford
    I hope all our Safford families rally together and support this petition. If we truly care about our kids and their educational future we cannot let this happen!

    • SandyMerz

      Contact info available

      Thank you E. Parra. Contact information for the judge and plaintiffs’ attorneys is on our webpage

  • Stacie Devaney


    These statistics and observations are so close to Utterback, where we are also on the chopping block.  So frustrating.

  • Abbi Lodin

    Well said Sandy!

    Being the former PYP Coordinator of Safford…I would be deeply saddened to see the Magnet status yanked away!  I wonder if the Master has does his homework and realized the historical context of Safford, let alone Tucson, Arizona formally known as Tucson, Sonora…FYI Master, Tucson was part of Mexico not so long ago, even Wiki knows that!  Please read below to inform yourself, Tucson is strong and no longer capturable…

    The Capture of Tucson was a United States attack on the Mexican city of TucsonSonora, now the present day Tucson, Arizona. The would-be combatants were provisional Mexican Army troops and the American Mormon Battalion. Tucson fell in December 1846 without resistance.

  • Debra

    Im writing one also I went to
    Im writing one also I went to that school That’s why my kids go there its a great school

  • Rebecca Soto

    I’m all for you guys, Mr. Merz! Cholla is going through this as well, and I’m here for you guys as well. I will stand with you guys for that petition, if you would like my presence.

  • Bill Greenberg

    Cholla is With You

    Nicely put, Sandy.  Of course, Cholla is in the same boat.  And discontinuing the magnet status at Safford would directly hurt us, since Saffford's IB programme feeds ours.

  • betts* putnam-hidalgo

    Hopefully your respondents will be interested in this

    Sandy, I have no way to get in touch with you , so I am sending this to you here. I hope it confirms some of what I was trying to say last night and I hope your respondents read it too. 
    Public Education is the New Civil Rights Movement
    Stay Informed and Remain Engaged

    October 7, 2015

    Dear Friends and Colleagues:


           Tremendous news occurred on October 6, 2015 during the meeting with all of the parties involved in the desegregation case- TUSD/the  Respondent and its Legal Counsel; Mendoza Plaintiffs’ Legal Counsel and Representative; Fisher Plaintiffs’ Legal Counsel and Representatives; Plaintiff Intervenor- US Department of Justice- Legal Counsel; the Court-appointed Special Master and an Implementation Committee Member.
           In the September 2015 Desegregation Update (attached for your reference), I stressed that the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ have demonstrated long-standing support for the magnet schools through their relentless insistence that the magnet schools be fully backed through their budget allocations to ensure that adequate and timely staffing, instructional programs, resources, etc. be in place to support success in both meeting each magnet school’s integration and academic achievement obligations. These are commitments made by the District via the Unitary Status Plan to which TUSD jointly stipulated and by each of the magnet schools via the magnet plans developed by each school. The Mendoza Plaintiffs’ position has been consistent.  
          The Mendoza Plaintiffs continue to be cognizant of the fact that many of the magnet schools have not been provided with sufficient support (funding, staffing, resources, etc.) to succeed as schools, in general,  much less meet the obligations outlined in the Unitary Status Plan and in the January 2015 court order pertaining to the magnet schools. One such stark reality is the vacancy rate which exists for magnet schools. (Two magnet schools began the school year with vacancies for about half of their allocated staff. One magnet school experienced the 2014-15 school year with 14 long-term substitutes and now has 18 newly hired teachers. A reality, which has mostly been ignored.) Another such exemplification is the cutting of almost $1,000,000 at TUSD’s own hand of the magnet school plans which were submitted in May 2015.
          In an effort to meet the Special Master's concerns and ensure the magnet schools the resources and support they require, the Mendoza Plaintiffs have been working on a proposal that would immediately accomplish the provision of support which is drastically needed at the magnets schools. The proposal was presented to all the parties on October 6, 2015. We understand that the “devil is in the details” and the District has agreed to immediately begin working on the specifics required to make the Mendoza Proposal work. It is the hope of the Mendoza Party that TUSD will fully embrace the Mendoza Compliance Proposal; will put an aggressive plan together in response to the proposal and will, most importantly, immediately and effectively implement the plan. This is an opportunity to “walk-the-talk” of collaboration. The ball is now in TUSD’s court (figuratively and literally).
        The Mendoza Plaintiffs have never lost focus of what is authentically needed to support the children they represent and have always been focused on what will best promote the opportunities and educational achievement of Latino and African American students and to that end made the following proposal which was met with large degree of support from District and the Department of Justice. It outlines the critical elements of the Mendoza Plaintiffs’ Compliance Proposal. As the parties respond to the Mendoza Proposal, of course, their input will be considered and discussions will be ongoing. 
    Compliance Plan Proposed by Mendoza Plaintiffs for Five Schools Special Master Specifically Referenced as Having Not Met Plan Goals (Elementary schools –Bonillas and  Ochoa;   Safford K-8,   Utterback Middle School,  and Cholla High School) – Plus Holladay Elementary
    1. Push to increase integration in entering grades 
    2. Focus in closing academic achievement gap
    3. Fill all vacancies by November 1, 2015
    4. No vacancies at start of next school year 
    5. Implementation Committee Member to monitor 
      ~In each school once per week 
      ~Report to Plaintiffs and Special Master once per month
    • TUSD to propose plan with the objective of having more students attending integrated schools.
    • Almost $1,000,000 was subtracted from the magnet school desegregation budgets from their May to June 2015 submittals.  
    • ​Each​

       magnet school should be fully funded to support their magnet plan at the amount shown in the May 15th Magnet   Plans.  No decreases should take place. 

    • All magnet schools should be visibly supported.  


    Once again, thank you for your interest and support.

    My best,
    Sylvia Campoy










  • TUSD Taxpayer

    TUSD misinformation campaign

    Dr. Mr. Merz:

    IF the purpose of seeking and maintaining magnet status is to increase classroom-level integration, and – by your own admission – your school has not succeeded in meeting even the very modest goals it set for itself last year for increasing classroom-level integration,

    AND withdrawal of magnet status will not result in "stripping funding" or the elimination of popular or successful programs,

    AND the Special Master Willis Hawley and counsel and representatives for the Fisher and Mendoza Plaintiff Classes ALL – unanimously, repeatedly, clearly, in emails and in briefs submitted to the Court  emphasized the need to continue funding successful programs at schools where magnet status is withdrawn at or above current funding levels,

    AND the TUSD Superintendant Sanchez and TUSD General Counsel Julie Tolleson were well aware of all of the above prior to the GB meeting held on 09/08/15 where TUSD principals – who apparently, like you, were severely (and knowingly) misinformed about the consequences of withdrawal of magnet status – were rallied by the Superintendent to oppose withdrawal of magnet status,

    THEN it is apparent that the TUSD administration is conducting an organized campaign of misinformation in school-site meetings and through the media to agitate TUSD staff and parents to attack the role of the Special Master, the Plaintiffs and their counsel and class representatives in the desegregation process,

    AND now knowing that withdrawal of magnet status will not mean the defunding of the program at your very popular school, but rather the opportunity to redirect funding from marketing your majority minority school to parents of Anglo students to simply increasing the quality of programming offered at your school,

    THEN – perhaps – your anger should not be directed towards the Special Master and the Plaintiffs (for their alleged efforts to defund your school's programming), but rather towards TUSD Superintendent Sanchez for knowingly misinforming you and the rest of the TUSD community to manipulate your understandable desire to see continued funding for the popular program at your school in his campaign to discredit the desegregation process and avoid accountability under the District's remedial desegregation plan.


    TUSD alumnus and taxpayer

    PS – the implied suggestion that the SM's Maryland residence makes him somehow less qualified to serve as a special master in a desegregation case makes no sense.  Willis Hawley has spent his entire career working to help increase the educational opportunities available to minority students around the nation, most recently with the Southern Poverty Law Center.  There is no one of his stature or with his degree of experience in the field of school desegregation residing in Tucson.  Our community is extremely fortunate that he agreed to serve as Special Master in this case and commute between Tucson and Baltimore.  He and plaintiff counsel are paid for their time, as I am sure are you and TUSD Superintendent Sanchez and TUSD General Counsel Tolleson.

  • Steve

    Student life is an amazing life which one can not define in any words even one can not describe it in rushmypapers because a lot of enjoyments are available in students life and student life is just the life in which a people remain tension free, no worries of life. Many years ago student life was tough now a lot of facilities are available for students.