Friday, July 10, 2009 | Longtime educator Wendell Bass has probably seen it all — but his belly laugh is still intact as he retires from three decades overseeing some of the most challenged schools in San Diego Unified.
Bass served as principal of both Keiller Middle School and the storied Lincoln High School in southeast San Diego before it was demolished and rebuilt, oversaw a center for kids caught skipping school and ended his career at the helm of a school for students who are expelled from other schools. He also preaches at a local church. And as you can imagine, he has no shortage of stories.
We joined Bass the day after he retired — he was still at school — to dish about suspensions, the toughest kid he ever taught and why he wants us to stop talking about “the achievement gap.”
During your time here you’ve seen Lincoln demolished and rebuilt and now reopened — what do you think has worked so far, from a distance, and what work still needs to be done to make Lincoln successful?
Lincoln has kind of ebbed and flowed. Everybody had a program. When I went there as a vice principal it was called the Lincoln Prep for the Humanities, Foreign Languages and Medical Sciences — it had this long name and it was a magnet. The principal then did a wonderful job with turning the school around. That sort of slipped when she left … We had to create a vision around everything, rebuilding the school from scratch. We put a greater emphasis on professional development for teachers. It was a very adult-centered school even though they swore up and down that it was student-centered — they were in their heart, but in terms of how money was spent, a lot of teachers had time off to coordinate things and I’m like, “Come on now.”
To coordinate things like clubs?