A group of well-resourced parents at Gage Elementary, and even the school board member who represents them, say they’ve hit a brick wall when it comes to getting answers from San Diego Unified about school budget cuts. If they can’t get basic info, one parent said, “What chance does the rest of this district have?”
In March, a Superior Court judge ruled in VOSD’s favor that San Diego Unified had improperly withheld emails between district staff, school board members and Superintendent Cindy Marten related to the removal of the former principal for the School of Creative and Performing Arts.
San Diego Unified’s Quality Assurance Office was supposed to be a hub of accountability where parents, students and employees could get their complaints heard and investigated. But hundreds of pages of testimony from one of multiple lawsuits involving the office show decisions about student safety were made without crucial information, and other troubling issues.
School districts up and down the state, including San Diego Unified, have said they’ll work to protect undocumented students. But what do they really mean, and how far do the protections actually extend?
Principals and parents are bracing for cuts as San Diego Unified School District staff prepare a budget for trustees that could include layoffs to close a $124 million shortfall. The superintendent wrote that she would seek creative solutions to make sure class sizes remain unchanged.
Despite warnings from San Diego Unified’s new CFO Patricia Koch last month, some board members held out hope a growing economy would send more money their way. That didn’t happen, and now at least $124.4 million must be cut from the district’s budget.
A San Diego Unified investigation found Serra High’s principal might have lied about his credentials. Instead of dismissing the principal, the district moved him to a “special assignment” position – a lateral move that allows him to keep his $143,000 yearly salary. At least 13 principals have been moved to similar roles, some after experiencing problems.
Next year John Ross, who was appointed to lead Lincoln in 2014, will move to the district’s Placement and Appeal Department, where he’ll work with students who’ve been incarcerated or are facing expulsion. Ross becomes the third principal to leave Lincoln since 2007, when the school reopened with a $129 million campus.
VOSD made a series of requests for emails related to former school board Trustee Marne Foster, the School for Creative and Performing Arts, Superintendent Cindy Marten and former principal Mitzi Lizarraga. The district complied with the requests, but redacted a number of records, arguing the information needed to remain confidential. The relevant legal question is whether the public’s right to know outweighs the agency’s right to protect information that could potentially cause it harm.
To Richard Barrera, his roles as a San Diego Unified trustee and leader within the local labor movement don’t conflict – they complement each other perfectly. On the school board, Barrera led a deal to hire more union workers for school construction projects, helped elect union-backed school board members and selected Cindy Marten as superintendent without a public search.