On Monday, Sept. 28, a Town Hall meeting was held in Pueblo’s library in order to inform our community of the decisions being made regarding our school’s magnet status.
District officials were present, including TUSD Superintendent Dr. H. T. Sanchez, as well as a dozen Pueblo students, mostly from media classes, as well as several Pueblo teachers.
Dr. Augustine Romero, Pueblo’s principal, began this meeting by giving a brief history of Pueblo’s magnet status, which began back in 1992. The focus of this magnet school back then—as it is now—communications. The effort to transition to a magnet school was challenging, despite the effort to attract students from other regions of Tucson to make our student population more racially diverse.
Fast forward to 2015…
“Equality in our schools only shows what everyone deserves, but equity is what we need in this case,” said Dr. Romero. “The diversity of our student enrollment should not be a determining factor when they have [shown a considerable rise in academic success].”
This year, however, Pueblo was on the verge of having its magnet status removed, but our Native American student population helped meet the integration goal. Pueblo has become restless because of this standing question: What would happen if we lost our magnet status?
“We are already under-funded as it is,” added Romero.
The removal of Pueblo’s magnet status would result in the loss of about $538,000 of funds. This being the money that pays for teachers, student field trips, additional staff, and programs. These magnet funds are generated through local taxes.
“The reduction in funding would be detrimental to Pueblo,” said TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.
Sanchez added, “If you pay rent or mortgage you are [helping fund Pueblo], and these are local dollars.”
Although Pueblo is gradually achieving racial integration, students must accomplish higher academic levels in order to improve our chances of keeping our magnet status.
“Higher grades, AP class enrollments, more scholarships, acceptance to institutions of higher learning, and higher scores on semester exams will help to support our efforts of keeping Pueblo’s magnet status,” explained Sanchez.
Romero echoed the same response.
Dr. Willis Hawley appointed by federal court judge Bury, referred to as the ‘Special Master’, who originally placed Pueblo on a list of schools to lose their magnet status has since removed us. However, our magnet status remains endangered and Dr. Hawley will return in about a year to raise the question once again.
“Lots of advisement is taken into account when making a decision regarding a school’s magnet status, including the community’s and ex-administrators’ opinions,” said Sanchez. “But ultimately the ‘Special Master’ gives his own recommendation.”
“People just want to be a part of something positive, it’s going to be harder to achieve racial diversity with a lack of something positive [our magnet status] benefitting our school,” said Romero.
Pueblo’s magnet coordinator Ms. Laura Gallego, said that if Pueblo were to lose its magnet status, it would result in more students in classrooms because there would be fewer teachers because there are several who are paid out of the magnet money budget.
“It worries me [losing Pueblo’s magnet status] because the communications program is what makes Pueblo unique,” said Skyblue Estrella, a senior at Pueblo, who attended this meeting. “If Pueblo loses its magnet status, we will not only lose what makes it special, but also a part of our community that we students hold dear [teachers and students].”
English teacher Ms. Constance Onsae said, “I think the parent meeting went well. A lot of information was shared about the current magnet status [dilemma] and how parents can work to get around the process and obtain the magnet money Pueblo deserves, even in our current financial state.”
She paused and added, “I do believe that Dr. Sanchez seems to be doing all he can to help the Pueblo magnet status.”
Pueblo will remain on the “Endangered” list regarding its magnet status, and in one year, the issue will be discussed once again. In essence, Pueblo’s magnet status is “safe” for now, but the evaluation process will resume next year to discuss the fate of the school’s magnet status for the 2017-18 school year.
“I am hopeful that we will retain our magnet status after next year and years thereafter,” said Dr. Romero. “The criteria has been established for us and we must continue down a path towards greater integration and elevation of our levels of academic achievement.”