STRATEGIC PLAN FOR TUSD AND THE ROLE OF LOW-INCOME PARENTS

by Cesar Aguirre

It is just after 9pm, the girls are finally settled in bed and my eyes are heavy from a long day. I know I should have gone to the board meeting but after cleaning, finishing the laundry and cooking dinner, the last thing I want to do is drag my girls to a board meeting. Once there I would have to deal with their moaning and complaining about how boring it is and then carry one while dragging the other to the car afterwards, getting home way past their bedtime.

I yawn deep and long as I rewind to the beginning of the meeting. Dr. Sanchez is presenting the Five Year Strategic Plan for TUSD to the board and public. Since Dr. Sanchez has been at TUSD I have seen the district make great progress towards involving the community in the planning and decision making process. I was at the first meeting of the Planning Committee where over 200 people came together to start these conversations. Though I commend these efforts, I do not believe the District has done all it can to actively involve the most important stake holders, THE PARENTS!

Over the summer I attended Boundary Committee meetings and was on the Strategic Planning Committee, both meant to engage the community and provide a forum to give our recommendations to the district. As a single parent I found it very difficult to attend all of these meetings over the summer. The girls hated it and we were not able to hang all summer long. What I noticed when I did attend was the lack of parents. Many of the parents that were there were also employees of TUSD. The few others that were there represented middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods. I know TUSD is trying to reach out for help from the community, but I worry that if the District does not do more to reach out to parents of minorities in low income families our voices will not be heard.

The population of the district is not being properly represented when the only ones able to attend all of these meetings are those with privilege. The reality of the families living in poverty, of the working poor, is that we strongly care about our children’s education and have hopes and dreams for our children but are so often fighting to survive, to keep the rent paid, the lights on and food on the table, that we rarely have the energy to do much else.

There are numerous ways of engaging all parents across TUSD. The Planning Committee originally consisted of over 200 parents, teachers, students and community members. If our community was able to bring together nearly 250 parents and community members from South Tucson and other TUSD neighborhoods to the John Valenzuela Youth center to welcome Dr. Sanchez last summer and was able to bring together over 700 parents and community members for a candidate forum the year before, then I’m sure TUSD can do a better job of reaching parents, especially those of minorities and low income households. To Dr. Sanchez and the TUSD School board I challenge you to work on truly engaging the larger population of TUSD parents, those struggling daily to survive in the eighth poorest city in the country, by making sure they are included in the conversation of a better TUSD for all.

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