December 20, 2009 2:04 AM
Finding out much about the group that has propelled a great deal of change in ECISD through a desegregation lawsuit — with hopes for more change — is a challenge.
Members of the Committee for Redress, Unity, Concern and Integrity at All Levels (CRUCIAL), which is represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF), have forced change in a number of things for the Ector County Independent School District and for students in the district.
From how gifted and talented students are identified to district boundary lines to how many minority teachers are hired — CRUCIAL has changed education in Odessa.
But getting to know who makes up CRUCIAL is another matter.
What is known is that Odessans Gene Collins and Marcia Cleaver are members. Cleaver is the CRUCIAL president, and Collins represents the group in the district’s Tri-Ethnic Committee meetings. What isn’t known publicly is who else belongs to the group — or just how many people actually are in the group that has brought such change to Ector County schools.
ECISD Superintendent Hector Mendez said he wasn’t sure either, but Mendez said Collins and Cleaver represented the group at the meetings that also had about a half-dozen or more Tri-Ethnic Committee members present in addition to district administration and a couple of board members.
Cleaver said more than 25 people belong to CRUCIAL, but she declined to provide a list of those names to the Odessa American citing privacy. Ector County Independent School District lawyer Mike Atkins said he wasn’t sure who all is in CRUCIAL, while MALDEF lawyer David Hinojosa went so far as to say that information was legally something MALDEF couldn’t give.
"We absolutely can’t divulge that information," he said. Hinojosa also told an OA reporter, "I hope you won’t ask that of them (CRUCIAL)."
Austin attorney Bill Aleshire, who works with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas hot line, said CRUCIAL can keep information about the group private. However, CRUCIAL is not legally required to do so and could release its membership list if it chose to do so, Aleshire said.
As an unincorporated association, he said CRUCIAL has what the courts call "associational standing" to represent members in court without divulging the names of individual members.
Discussing the privacy behind its membership, Collins said many people affiliated with CRUCIAL prefer to be behind the scenes and don’t want their names public. Cleaver said members are all Odessans, and the group was started in 1980 specifically to bring together people concerned about how the district was responding to a federal desegregation order. At that time, the majority of minority students attended schools on the south side of town.
She said while the group doesn’t have hundreds of members, those who are in the group often serve on other committees and organizations in town, expanding its reach. The group sometimes discusses town issues not related to schools, but Cleaver said the group is still primarily concerned with the district’s progress on the consent agreement. Hinojosa said CRUCIAL is an unincorporated group with parents and community members.
Cleaver said members are all volunteers, and that no one involved with CRUCIAL receives financial benefit for their involvement. Dues aren’t paid either. The only qualification to become a member is an active interest in community issues, particularly the schools.
CRUCIAL doesn’t expect ECISD to be perfect, Cleaver said. However, she said she wants to see the district doing everything possible in all areas, and CRUCIAL members may differ in what they expect. She said it is hard to say specifically what would be enough for the group to drop its objections, but information on the district’s efforts will come under consideration.
Cleaver said MALDEF represents CRUCIAL, making CRUCIAL the primary driver in the desegregation case that started CRUCIAL’s involvement. Any financial compensation MALDEF receives doesn’t go to CRUCIAL and ultimately is decided by the courts. The federal government is a party to the case along with CRUCIAL, and Hinojosa said he doesn’t charge CRUCIAL for the services. However, that doesn’t mean MALDEF doesn’t seek payment.
Atkins said MALDEF has asked the district for attorney’s fees in the past and could seek additional money from ECISD as the case lingers. Since the 2006 consent agreement, MALDEF has received $63,488 from ECISD.
"I can only answer based on history, but they sought attorney’s fees before, and I would expect them to ask in the future," he said.
MALDEF doesn’t request enough fees to have lawsuits to make money, Hinojosa said. He said many other cases are ongoing, and he only wants to see the district uphold its responsibility to the consent decree. He said getting progress on areas was difficult.
"We tried desperately for three years," he said. "I do hope we can find real resolution to this case."
1945 - 2007
SAN ANTONIO Today, we celebrate the upward journey of Raul Guerrero. Raul proceeded into the Kingdom with our glorious Father on Monday, November 19, 2007. He is survived by his loving wife, Alicia, proud children, Emiliano, Alma, Linda, Adelita, and Vanessa, and admiring grandchildren, Donte, Jasmine, Gavin, Ava and Audrey.
Raul proudly served his country in the U.S. Army from 1962 to 1965. He was talented enough to play for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1965 and viciously defended Hispanic civil rights by founding the organization C.R.U.C.I.A.L. and his service with the Brown Berets in Odessa, Texas. For years, Raul silently endured the trials of his illness to continue on for his family.
Raul was 62, born in Pecos, Texas, in 1945, and also leaves behind his mother, stepfather, 2 brothers, 3 sisters, and 30 nieces and nephews. Rosary took place Wednesday, November 21st, at 7:00 p.m. at Sunset Northwest Funeral Home, with burial services on Friday at 9:30 a.m. at St. Luke's Catholic Church in San Antonio. Published in the Odessa American from 11/21/2007 - 11/22/2007.
Petition to Rename South Odessa Baseball fields:
Raul Guerrero was a hispanic civil rights and community organizer in the 1970's, dedicated his life to the quality of life of West Texan's, founder of many organizations like,The Cinco de Mayo celebration, co-founder of Crucial, the annual Tejano super car show and many youth programs.
Raul was a US Army medic and played baseball with the traveling US team, he also played for the St Louis Cardinals and attended UTEP in El Paso. Rauls legacy must be preserved.
We the undersigned request our city councilmen to support the naming of South Odessa baseball fields at Mckinney Park to 'Raul Guerrero Base Ball Complex'.