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All Eyes on Lincoln High

It’s the first day of school at Lincoln High and the place is all smiles.

Some top brass was on hand, including Superintendent Cindy Marten, trustee Marne Foster and Kevin Beiser, the school board president.  Photographer Jamie Scott Lytle was there to capture all the commotion — his images from Lincoln’s first day are below.

In the morning’s excitement, it’s almost possible to overlook the years of sputtering test scores and trench warfare [1] between teachers and the school’s former principal, Esther Omogbehin, who left at the close of last school year [2]. Almost.

Tensions got so bad last year that the central office embedded a full-time staff member on Lincoln’s campus to ease relations between teachers and administration.

District leaders are trying flip public perception that’s soured since this school opened the 2007 school year with a sparkling $129 million campus. Since then, students have fled and test scores sank to the bottom of the district.

But today’s a fresh start, one that means the kickoff of Lincoln’s new program, a collaboration between the district and San Diego Community College [3]. Last spring, U-T reported [4] that the project will cost the district more than $700,000 in its first two years.

The partnership with City College will give qualified students a chance to earn college credits and leave high school with associate degrees. And the district’s hoping that new feature will attract students and help the school rebuild student enrollment.

Lincoln also plans to do more to connect students with careers, like helping them land internships and structuring more class work around long-term projects. As a so called STEAM program, Lincoln’s emphasis will be on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

John Ross, who at one time served as a vice principal at Lincoln, takes the reins [5] as the school’s new principal. Marten called him in to calm the waters when Omogbehin was pushed out, saying he understood the community the needs of the school. But now, in the absence Public Enemy No. 1, it will be interesting to see if the seas remain calm.

There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about Lincoln. But considering its history – it’s become a symbol of everything that’s wrong [2] with public schools – time will tell if the new program means more than a facelift.

Last year, amid one of Lincoln’s battles, Marten told me [6]: “What’s happening at Lincoln is at the heart of the struggle in America,” she said. “When we get Lincoln right, we get America right.”

So, Lincoln High, there’s a lot riding on you.

All photos by Jamie Scott Lytle.
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