As superintendent of San Diego Unified, Cindy Marten faces a political balancing act, a delicate dance to appease four sometimes opposing forces: parents, the teachers union, city leaders and the school board.
Tangle with any one of them, and her vision for the school district is jeopardized.
“Very few jobs face that type of pressure — political upheaval, scrutiny from media and the public, neighborhoods fractured by race and language, operational challenges,” said Mike Casserly, executive director of the urban public-school advocates Council of the Great City Schools.
“And that’s all within the context of the community wanting improved student outcomes.”
This also might say something about the turnover rate for superintendents in large urban districts. Nationally, the average tenure for these positions is just under four years.
San Diego Unified has had five superintendents in the past 10 years — more if you count interim leaders.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
To really compare the recent high turnover of superintendents you should go back to Tom Payzant and Bertha Pendleton. Use to be you needed two hands to count how many years a superintendent led our district. It gave you consistency. Bertha really started the short termers.
Kowba's management was more like later Payzant, who introduced site-based decision making. Of course, under Grier and Kowba it was more like passing the buck and getting the schools to do the dirty work. Every Spring was like a reality show, seeing who was going to get voted off the island when staffing decisions had to be made.
We'll see how well Marten and the board get along with the teacher's association once Bill Freeman is finally gone (thankfully). Freeman is in the process of giving away the remaining 5% raise that has been promised to teachers since 2010. He's planning on trading them for lower class sizes, then trying to sell that to the membership as a great victory. Since he's termed out, he may try to get it done and to a vote before the current contract expires and before he is (finally, thank God) replaced.
Considering the district's track record in the last decade, it would be quite the feat for Marten to still be superintendent in eight years.
I appreciate Marten's realistic and honest answer of "Eight years" to revamp the district but, that's my children's whole Elementary and part of Jr. High academic career! This is why as a parent I will strive to be actively involved, informed and empowered.
"San Diego Unified has had five superintendents in the past five years--more if you count interim leaders."
Rating: FALSE San Diego Unified has had three in the past five years. In January 2009 Terry Grier was Superintendent. In fact, Bill Kowba was Superintendent and interim for nearly four of the last five years.
Rating: HUCKSTER PROPAGANDA Exaggeration of the facts to promote the theme of the article.
Rating: MISLEADING because it doesn't mention that the revolving door syndrome ended when Bill Kowba did not retire until he had completed his entire contract.
Facts not included: 1) The Board approved a comprehensive reform plan, Vision 2020 for Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood in spite of Terry Grier. 2) Student achievement improved under Bill Kowba because he empowered teachers and administrators to do their job and did not call attention to himself. 3) Superintendent Cindy Marten has operationalized more of Vision 2020's reforms in the first six months than we have in the past four years. We have been making incremental gains in student achievement, but now we are poised to accelerate those gains.
John Lee Evans, SD Unified Trustee
Thanks, John. I'll address the five years part. I meant ten years, and apologize for the error.
I won't make changes on the other suggestions. Although, I am curious to know what you're considering the "theme" of the article. You just kind of tossed the words "huckster propaganda" out there.
The education agenda is a war agenda. It is class war and empire's wars. Any nation writhing in inequality and promising the youth perpetual war will make odd demands on its schools. In WWI, a top officer demanded: "Turn the schools into human munition factories." Now, we have the perhaps unwitting nice cop replacing the bad and incompetent cops of the past. But the schools will remain, at base, missions for capital and empire. That aside, Mr Wilson is right. This is a extraordinarily shallow piece of work above. VOSD should beg Alpert to return
Thanks, Richard. I'm not quite sure I'm following you on anything except the fact that you want Emily Alpert back. I've spoken with Emily and read her work -- much of it was included in this piece. I have nothing but the utmost respect for her. But she's gone, Richard. It's been about 2 years. Somehow, life will have to go on.
As far as your critique of the article's depth, I'd like to hear more. The article wasn't meant to be comprehensive -- only a look at some of the lessons we can take from past superintendents. I think it would be more valuable if you just said what you think is lacking. Post it here. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Give me a call on my cell at 608.957.6388. I'm more than happy to speak with you about this.
Mario, you have provided a very thin overview of a difficult history of the recent leadership of San Diego City Schools. The substance of the issue is what is meant by reform. Having principals spend more time in the classroom is good, but it in itself is not reform. Ravitch has recanted her testing mantra which was the basis for No Child Left Behind. Again, testing is not reform. Using test scores to evaluate teachers is fraught with unresolvable issues. This is also false reform.
The good question is what really makes a difference in helping kids succeed? The first thing that research shows helps poverty level kids in preschool. Well, Cindy has no way to pay for additional kids to obtain quality preschool. Then we get to what Cindy has the power to actually do. First, she can upgrade the evaluations of principals and other administrators. The present training for these people is woefully inadequate. She can also work with local universities to upgrade their administrator training programs. Administrators must have clear competencies or they must be replaced. The immediate curricular reform that has strong research that Cindy can support is the career academy. Eighty percent of the district students will not go on to graduate from college which means that they need employment skills. Cindy should work with local businesses to expand career academies.
James C. Wilson,Ed.D.
Author, Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon and Kindle.