Friday, Aug. 28, 2009 | Superintendent Terry Grier is poised to leave San Diego Unified for Houston after less than two years at its helm. His exit has become a flashpoint for parents, teachers, principals and business leaders to ask: Why does the revolving door keep revolving? Is something wrong with the way the schools operate? Or is this simply a matter of one employee moving on?
I sat down with Grier the week after news broke that he was eyeing a job elsewhere to talk about classroom technology, merit pay and what’s so great about Houston.
A few weeks ago we had talked about the Houston job and you had said, “Give me a break.” What changed between then and now? How did you go from thinking this is an idea totally out of left field to this being a real possibility?
Their recruiting effort. They’d just call and I’d say, “Look, I’m working hard here in San Diego, I’ve only been here 16 months, 17 months. We’ve got our test scores coming back and I’ve really got a good feeling about it.”
I just kept saying to them, “The timing isn’t good. It’s too close to the beginning of the school year.” And they kept calling back. And they kept calling back. And then I had other people from around the country — some leading educators and education advocates — calling and saying, “This would be a much better match. This is a real, reform-minded board. They don’t just talk the talk. They walk the walk. And when you look at the struggles that you’re having in California with the funding, and the reluctance of the union leadership here to be more collaborative, that is not an issue there.”
They’ve got a union president there, Gayle Fallon, who has a reputation as a reformer herself. I’m not being critical of what’s going on here, but (there was) a more cooperative spirit and relationship. … She is not someone that is going to rubber-stamp any idea that you walk in the door with. But I think she is a person that is willing to listen and perhaps try to work together and form a good relationship, a relationship like I’ve had in other districts where I’ve worked.