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Fisher v. United States

United States District Court, D. Arizona

December 2, 2019

Roy and Josie Fisher, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
Tucson Unified School District, et al., Defendants, and United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor, and Sidney L. Sutton, et al., Defendants-Intervenors, Maria Mendoza, et al., Plaintiffs, and United States of America, Plaintiff-Intervenor,
v.
Tucson Unified School District, et al. Defendants.

          ORDER

          HONARABLE DAVID C. BURY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Family and Community Engagement (FACE): USP § VII

         On September 6, 2018, the Court considered the District's request for unitary status for the USP § VII, Family and Community Engagement (FACE). The Court noted that FACE provisions stretch across the USP, making FACE a multi-provision and multi-departmental program. After considering full briefing by the parties and a R&R from the Special Master, the Court reviewed the FACE Action Plan (Doc. 2101-2) and found: “the only remaining question relevant to awarding unitary status for VII, Family and Community Engagement, is the implementation of a districtwide strategy for family and community engagement services at school-sites and an effective data gathering and tracking program.” (Order (Doc. 2123) at 136.) The Court noted that the FACE Action Plan reflected heavy reliance on the African American Student Support Department (AASSD) and the Mexican American Student Support Department (MASSD), and the Court asked the District to reassess whether these two departments were the most effective means of delivering FACE services. At the time, the District had just engaged an expert at John Hopkins University, who was tasked with developing district-wide guidelines for fostering family engagement at the school level. The Court directed the District to file an update to the FACE Action Plan, subsequent to the conclusion of the expert's work and to cross-reference as appropriate the District's Post-Unitary Status AASSD and MASSD to make it clear there was no interdepartmental duplication of FACE efforts. Id. at 136-37.

         On December 6, 2018, the District filed, what is more accurately described as, a supplement to the FACE Action Plan. (Update to FACE (Doc. 2154-1)). Again, on April 10, 2019, the Court called for further revision to the FACE Action Plan related to its heavy reliance on AASSD and MASSD for delivery of services. The Court found that the FACE Action Plan failed to clearly define the interconnectivity between the FACE Department and the two student support service departments and ordered the District to revise the Post-unitary AASSD and MASSD Plans, FACE Action Plan and the ELL Plan. (Order (Doc. 2213) at 12-20.) The Court called for an executive summary as a means for the District to present a comprehensive overview of the interconnectivity of all the USP plan provisions. The FACE, AASSD and MASSD Plans, and ELL Plan revisions, due September 1, 2019, have been filed. The executive summary is due December 1, 2019.

         Unfortunately, the Post-unitary AASSD and MASSD Plans remained unacceptable to the Special Master as, in his opinion, being wasteful duplications of effort of tasks more effectively performed by other core departments. The Court has directed the Special Master to recommend post-unitary plans for the two departments. (Order (Doc. 2359)).

         As this Court recognized when it extended the time for the Special Master to file the R&R in respect to the ELL Plan revisions, further consideration of these interconnected departments cannot be made until the roles and responsibilities of the post-unitary AASSD and MASSD are clearly defined. The Special Master recommends as much, and therefore, the Court delays the interconnectivity assessment for the FACE Plan. The delay will also afford the District an opportunity to update the FACE Plan to reflect the implementation of a major new FACE initiative with respect to school level family engagement. (R&R (Doc. 2366; 2377 amended) at 2.)

         The scope of the post-unitary status AASSD and MASSD has been a subject pending too long before this Court, and the delay regarding these departments' roles and responsibilities is now affecting review of other core USP department plans, such as the FACE and ELL plans. The Special Master's R&Rs regarding the post-unitary AASSD and MASSD and the ELL Plan are due, simultaneously, on December 6, 2019. The Court will, simultaneously, consider the FACE Action Plan. The Court continues the deadline for the executive summary to be after the Court resolves any objections to the Special Master's recommendations for these plans.

         Interconnectivity

         While, as explained above, the Court does not have sufficient information to address the interconnected relationships between core departments carrying out FACE responsibilities, it can provide some direction for the what should be the final revision. First, the Court accepts the overall structure for the FACE Department's administration of FACE services, which are either 1) school-based activities or 2) central district activities. School based activities are provided on-site by school staff, with primary responsibility placed on school principals. Central district activities are provided either directly by the FACE Department or by “other departments.” The interconnectivity issue involves the FACE activities provided by other departments. The Court accepts the District's reference in the FACE Plan to the “other departments, ” with “[e]ach of these departments [being] primarily responsible for the specific family engagement activities identified in those plans.” (FACE Plan (Doc. 2262-1) at 13.) The District identifies these other departments' plans as AASSD and MASSD Operating Plans, the ELL Dropout Prevention Plan, the Magnet and ALE Departments. Id. at 13. The Court believes that this is not a complete list. The FACE Plan shall be revised to expressly identify each USP Plan being relied on by the District for the purpose of identifying primary FACE activity responsibilities, where the FACE Department plays a supporting role. The FACE Plan provides for the FACE Department to provide “guidance and support for events and needs, event coordination, use of Family Resource Centers, child care and transportation services.” Id. at 12.

         The District's FACE Plan, likewise, reflects that the FACE Department plays a supportive role for the following departments: language acquisition, health services, counseling, and curriculum and instruction. Id. at 12. The District shall clarify where these other departments' FACE activities fit into the USP and revise as necessary the related USP Plans to reflect the context of the primary FACE responsibilities being performed by these departments.

         For the purpose of this review, the District shall attach the excerpted portions of all referenced USP Plans identified in the FACE Plan.

         Once clearly identified in the FACE Plan, the Court is willing to rely on those other departments' plans to “detail the [FACE] activities undertaken by each of those departments, ” id. 13, but the District must ensure that each of these “other department” USP Plans do in fact include a FACE section detailing the activities undertaken by that department. For example, as this Court has repeatedly noted, the District's FACE Plan fails to include ELL FACE activities. The FACE Plan only once references ELL FACE activities, by referencing the ELL Dropout Prevention Plan. Id. at 13. The Supplemental Notice of Compliance, Goals for ELL Dropout and Graduation Rates does not include a FACE provision (Doc. 2310-1); it does not include any reference whatsoever to FACE activities. Assuming the ELL Supplement is considered in conjunction with the ELL Action Plan: Graduation and Dropout Prevention (Doc. 2261-1), the plan includes a FACE section, § D, Family Engagement Strategies. Accordingly, both documents are relevant to the inquiry regarding the sufficiency of FACE activities for ELL students and should have been referenced by the District.[1] Both shall be considered in the context of the ELL R&R due December 6, 2019. Likewise, the Special Master shall include a FACE section in the AASSD and MASSD, due December 6, 2019.

         The Court's review of the ELL Plan, FACE section, reflects that the FACE Department works with the Language Acquisition Department, which as noted above the FACE Plan identified as an “other department” providing FACE services to ELL students. More accurately described the FACE Department in part uses the Language Acquisition Department to identify FACE-service needs and to provide FACE activities to ELL students and families. This should be reflected in the FACE Plan, District FACE Activities for both School-based Activities and Central-district activities for providing FACE to ELL students and families. Clarity is especially important in the FACE Plan for any “other departments, ” like the Language Acquisition Department, if there is no USP Plan expressly referenced for details.

         The District shall also revise the cross-departmental FACE activity chart, Exhibit 4. First, it shall be in large enough print, at least 10-point font, to be read, and include a key defining the various abbreviations and explain any chart categories that are not self-evident. The District in some instances identifies multiple departments as the primary department responsible for an activity. There may only be one Primary Department, and the District's definition of “Primary Department' shall coincide with the FACE Plan's identification of District FACE activities or some “other department” by reference to a USP Plan for details of those FACE activities. Finally, the FACE Plan needs to be updated to ...


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