The Main Stream

Aug 3, 2012 1:14 AM

TUSD Mexican American Studies department reinvents role

TUCSON - Tucson Unified School District has renovated its Mexican American Studies Department, with a new director and focus.

Maria Figueroa has taken over the department now known as Mexican American Student Services. Rather than offering classes on the contributions of Mexican Americans to society, Figueroa is going to focus on motivating students outside of the classroom.

"We'll be able to serve a wider group of students," Figueroa said.

Figueroa will use data to pick out the students who are in danger of dropping out.

"School is for them," Figueroa said. "There's a future in education and that there's a purpose for them,"

Teachers like Lorenzo Lopez, who used to teach ethnic studies, think the strategy is not proactive. He does not believe it will work as well as the courses the state legislature banned.

"Unfortunately, there's not much she can do operating under this model," Lopez said. "It's doomed to fail."

Figueroa agrees the classes kept students engaged, but she has to face reality.

"I do think it was very successful also to have the studies portion," Figueroa said. "It's just a dilemma that we're caught in the middle".

She hopes they will still be able to teach some of the history without breaking the law.

Ethnic studies supporters still want the courts to overturn the law that prohibited the curriculum. They also think voters will elect a new school board that will be more supportive of their cause.

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