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Fisher v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

August 9, 2019

Roy and Josie Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Anita Lohr, et al., Defendants, and Sidney L. Sutton, et al., Defendants-Intervenors, Maria Mendoza, et al., Plaintiffs, United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Tucson Unified School District No. One, et al., Defendants.

          SPECIAL MASTER'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RELATING TO THE DIVERSITY OF SCHOOL LEVEL STAFFS AND GROWN YOUR OWN PROGRAMS

          WILLIS D. HAWLEY SPECIAL MASTER

         Introduction

         In December 2018, the District filed a notice and report of compliance related to teacher diversity plan and “Grow Your Own” programs. On February 19, 2019 the Special Master filed a report and recommendation specifying actions that the Court should take in order to ensure, to the extent practicable, that students would experience racially diverse teachers and that the GYO programs would result in a more diverse leadership cadre in the District. On April 22, 2019, the Court directed the District to submit a supplemental notice and report of compliance. On May 22, 2019 the District filed a supplemental notice and report of compliance. On June 5, 2019, the Mendoza plaintiffs filed objections to the District's proposal identifying concerns not discussed by the Special Master's February Report. This current R&R modifies the earlier R&R to incorporate some of the concerns identified by the Mendoza plaintiffs and addresses some other issues not dealt with adequately in District's May 22 notice and report.

         In its December 2018 filing, the District outlined how it would address two other related concerns: (1) retention of school staff and (2) centralizing the hiring process. No objections were raised with respect to the District's proposals to deal with these two matters.

         Discussion

         The District's May 22 supplemental notice and report of compliance with respect to teacher diversity and GYO programs is a substantial step forward in spelling out how the District will enhance the effectiveness of its strategies to increase the diversity of teachers and school administrators both at the school level and districtwide.

         In his February R&R, the Special Master did not include recommendations about the diversity of administrative staffs. As the Mendoza plaintiffs point out, the District's proposals focus on the diversity of teachers in each school. The Special Master did not engage the issue of administrative diversity because research tells us that the instability in school level and District level leadership is a major impediment to school improvement. However, the provisions of the USP related to the diversity of school level leaders could and should apply to administrative staff while allowing the Superintendent to exempt particular schools from this requirement when it is in the interest of students to do so. For example: (1) in schools with dual language programs administrative teams might well be entirely Latino; (2) when a principal and assistant principal team that has been working well together is moved to a new school, it may be desirable to maintain that team; (3) when a principal has served in the school two years or less; and (4) and when a principalship becomes open, the District may wish to place an African American or Latino candidate in that position even if it does not affect the diversity of the administrative team. The general point here is that moving school leaders who are effectively guiding school improvement efforts could be counterproductive.

         While the TDP has resulted in movement of a number of teachers and increased the teacher diversity in some schools, a number of schools that do not have sufficient diversity has me not changed very much (10 schools lacked proscribed diversity in 18-19) after two years of implementing the TDP. All of the teachers who agreed and to move wanted only one of the incentives, a $5, 000 stipend. Providing an incentive as large as $5, 000 runs the risk of losing teachers once the stipend is eliminated. Studies of cognitive dissonance suggest that the larger the incentive to undertake a particular task, the more likely it is that the person so incentivized will cease doing the task when the incentive is removed. Some alternatives are:

a. An initial incentive of $5, 000 with $2, 500 in the next two years.
b. Since the idea of having a senior individual with authority to negotiate a package of incentives, specifying that all teachers would receive a monetary incentive of the same amount limits the customization referred to by the Court.
c. Teachers might be given additional incentives other than $2, 500 in cash. Providing cash as an incentive does nothing to increase the capabilities of teachers and the human resources that the District have to improve student performance.
d. The size of the financial incentive might vary with the number of students achieving below the District average.

         In its proposals with respect to GYO programs, the District has focused on school administrators and not teachers. The Mendoza plaintiffs draw attention to the Court's direction to the District to increase its efforts to recruit and support the preparation of “teachers of color” (TOC). Moreover, the GYO programs have not yielded a disproportionate number of African American and Latino or administrators. Given the social context in America in which racial discrimination is common it would be surprising of African American and Latino teachers are optimistic about their chances of attaining leadership positions. The District should not wait on African I American and Latino educators to pursue leadership positions. It follows that affirmative action is required. This means that the race of potential leaders should be taken into account and African American and Latino candidates of high potential to be identified early in their careers and provided with opportunities to demonstrate their capability

         Reco ...


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