Ethnic Studies supporters concerned about changes to TUSD board

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The TUSD board met for the first time Tuesday night since an administrative judge ruled its Mexican-American studies program violates state law.

The decision has backed the district into a corner as to the future of its program.

Tuesday night no final decisions were made.

A change in leadership could spell trouble for the future of Mexican-American studies.

The meeting started under the direction of TUSD Board President Miguel Cuevas.

By the time things adjourned, former President Mark Stegeman was back in charge.  And it didn't happen without a fight.

A three to two vote thrust Dr. Stegeman back into power.  Ethnic Studies supporters are concerned about what that may mean for the program's future.

"Its a huge step backwards allowing him to return.  Its the wrong message, he's not a trusted figure," said Ethnic Studies attorney Richard Martinez.

A new figure joined the school board too.  Alexandre Sugiyama, took the oath of office and was a critical vote that helped oust Cuevas.

Critics fear Sugiyama will be another vote on the board against Ethnic Studies.

"They now have three votes.  There's a three vote right wing majority to eliminate the program," Martinez said.

"It is hard to support something the state says is in violation of its law," said new board member Alexandre Sugiyama.

But Sugiyama says he hasn't taken a stand on the controversial program.

Outside, supporters rallied. Inside, the mood a lot more tame as the community watches and waits to see what the board will decide in coming weeks.

The district is awaiting a final decision from state School Superintendent John Huppenthal.

If he rules against Ethnic Studies as expected, the district could face a $15 million cut in funding if it doesn't ax the program and start over.