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By FERNANDA SANTOS
The forecast for the year ahead is dire, so officials in the public school district here, the oldest in the state, summoned parents to an urgent meeting one evening to lay out the options: close schools and increase class sizes or impose across-the-board pay cuts, making it harder for the district to recruit quality teachers.Enlarge This Image Samantha Sais for The New York TimesMaria Figueroa, right, leads a program to cut the dropout rates and improve the performance of Hispanic students in Tucson.
In the auditorium at Cholla High Magnet School, Bryant Nodine, the planning program manager for the Tucson Unified School District, peered into the audience and pleaded for suggestions. “We need your help,” he said. The district needs to find at least $17 million in savings, about 7 percent of the money in its general fund, he said, to balance its budget for 2013-14 school year.
Meanwhile, at the district’s central offices, Maria Figueroa was busy sifting through résumés and rearranging her calendar to squeeze in one more interview. As the director of a new program intended to help the district’s perennially struggling Hispanic students, by far the majority of the enrollment, Ms. Figueroa enjoys a rare distinction: she has jobs to fill and money to hire.