At a San Diego County Board of Education meeting in May, Daniel Lopez stood nervously at the podium, unsure how to explain in only one minute that Tracy Thompson, a former principal in the county’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools system, had changed his life.
“There’s been a lot of stuff in my life that’s just gone wrong,” said Lopez, a student in the JCCS Metro independent study program, who has known Thompson for five years. “When I was 8 years old, my mother died in a home invasion where they shot and killed her. Him and all of the staff at Metro, they’ve just helped me greatly to cope with all this and to see that education is the best goal for me — that education is really going to be where I shine.”
Lopez was one of 17 speakers at the meeting who defended principals who had lost their jobs in a massive County Office of Education shakeup.
For more than an hour, the county school board considered the costs and benefits of reorganization. The exchanges between critics and county officials became heated at times, but at the heart of the debate was a crucial question about how to prepare at-risk students for success after high school.