An Abrupt and Controversial Reassignment at the School for Creative and Performing Arts Leaves Parents Angry
By Doug Porter
Mitzi Lizarraga ran San Diego Unified’s School for the Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) for seven years. Test scores improved, the school was named one of the best in the country repeatedly over the past 4 years and students were sought after by prestigious colleges and universities.
On Tuesday, June 10th, two days before graduation this year, she was gone. Students and staff were told Ms. Lizarraga was attending to an urgent and personal matter. “Interim” Principal Dr. Jenna Pesavento would be tasked with handing out diplomas to departing seniors.
Parent Donna M. Silva-Garcia heads up the Friends of SCPA support group and actively volunteers her time at the school:
I arrived at school Tuesday morning. Principal Lizarraga was busy at her desk. The office was a bustle as Seniors were trying to wrap up loose ends, prepare for Grad Night that day and Graduation later that week. I was trying to catch Principal Lizarraga to review the timetable and set-up for Graduation later that week. I noticed her gone from her office mid-afternoon. I returned on Wednesday to hear from the office she was attending a personal and urgent matter. I asked when she was expected back. The office did not know.
A Sad Graduation
But some seniors weren’t buying it. Graduation, usually one the high points in the life of a high school student, was fraught with rumors and dissension. Some seniors were talking about boycotting the ceremony. Other seniors wanted to hold up signs. Students were upset, some even in tears. Parents were in disbelief and did not understand what was happening.
On the evening of Ms. Lizarraga’s last day, seniors boarded busses after school heading to Disneyland for an all-night graduation party. Although the trip was not a school sponsored event, it was part of the institutional tradition. During that trip students witnessed one young man boasting about his mother firing the school principal.
That young man’s mother happens to be on the San Diego Unified Board of Trustees. Marne Foster’s SDUSD sub-district includes SCPA and her family has a long history with the school.
Her mother retired last year from a teaching position at the school. Ms Foster attended and graduated from SCPA, as did her children. She made an inspirational speech about the greatness of the school at the graduation, the same day most everybody was realizing Ms. Lizarraga was gone.
Nobody knew what to think. The abrupt timing of Principal Lizarraga’s departure certainly fueled suspicions that something was seriously amiss.
In the weeks following her disappearance from the school, parents have come to believe that Trustee Foster’s interventions with Principal Lizarraga on behalf of her son were the primary reason for her sudden departure.
Based on conversations with students, it certainly seems as though that young man did get many considerations from the school administration, including being allowed to participate in functions he should have been excluded from based on attendance and disciplinary factors.
Frank Engle: quotes one administrator’s response to questions about these claims:
“Everyone is scared to death!!! I’m keeping my head down and my mouth shut.”
These are serious allegations, and, if true, would seem to put Ms. Foster in the position of violating Board Governance Polices. There are also huge privacy issues coming into play, not to mention that Ms Lizarraga’s dismissal is a “personnel matter” and therefore not a public matter.
It would be easy to write this story off as yet another public official abusing power for personal reasons, but don’t; it gets way more complicated.
On June 20th parents of SCPA students received an automated call from the school district purporting to address the rumors swirling in the community. The caller said Ms. Lizarraga was in fact, on a personal leave of absence and was still principal at the school.
That phone call didn’t stop parents from showing up at the June 24th evening meeting (video) of the SDUSD trustees to make sure the district understood the level of support for Lizarraga. They were instructed to testify during the public comment section of the board meeting since there was nothing about SCPA on the agenda.
What the parents, who’d already started an online petition, didn’t know was that a decision regarding Ms. Lizarraga had been made in closed session at 2pm that afternoon.
Parent Frank Engle was furious when he found out. He’d already started a blog to galvanize supporters. Here’s what he had to say:
The Superintendent and Board sat impassively, lying by omission, already knowing that they had approved the decision to remove Principal Lizarraga and let Students, Teachers, Parents, a former Board member and Community Members make a plea to keep her as Principal.
Your lying was to:
- A student who actually sat next to you on your board as a Student Representative
- A parent who WON the SDUSD 2013 “Volunteer of the Year” award
- A Teacher with a Doctorate that only came to SCPA with his extensive credentials because of Principal Lizarraga
- And one of your own – a former Board Member that served 8 YEARS as recently as 2004 in the very position you now hold.
The District Tries to Make Peace
The school district figured things would blow over. They went ahead and scheduled a meeting with parents and students to discuss criteria for selecting a new principal on July 9th. (You can watch an uncut version of the video here)
Area Superintendent Lamont Jackson brought along the District Relations Department’s Moises Aguirre and Chief Human Resources Officer Tim Asfazadour. It was, to say the least, a rocky session as parents refused to accept the idea the Mitzi Lizarraga was no more.
From the Times of San Diego:
Nearly 100 parents and students gathered with administrators at a meeting that was called for community input on the selection of a new principal. As the meeting began, many chanted, “We want Mitzi.”
“If we have a say in the community, we want Mitzi back,” said one parent.
“This is a difficult transition; I get that,” said Lamont Jackson, area 2 superintendent, explaining that it was a personnel matter, and adding, “I made a decision to move her to a district-level position.”
A number of parents asked at the meeting if trustee Marne Foster, whose son attends the school, was involved in the decision. Some asked for an investigation. Jackson said he couldn’t comment on “speculation and concerns and rumors.”
A few days later Jackson reached out to some of the participants from that meeting, inviting them to a July 16th sit-down with Superintendent Cindy Marten.
Prior to meeting with parents, Marten had a private session lasting at least 45 minutes with a recent graduated student and an incoming senior. No minutes or recording of the meeting exists, but angry parent Frank Engle posted the following:
It is rumored that Marten also interrogated the students about the impact of a statement made by a relative of a Board member. This individual supposedly had no relationship to the removal of Principal Lizarraga. These “relative” questions were ONLY asked of the trusting students and not of the adult attendees. In fact the Students were not even allowed an opening statement…possibly for fear they would rehash the questions they were asked privately by Marten in front of the group.
A parent who was at the July 16th meeting added the following in an email to me:
I can say following the meeting, the students, though professional and respectful of Cindy, were tired and felt she had already made a decision prior to the meeting and was trying to convince them she knew best.
That’s pretty much what Marten said to the parents. She also tried to assure them that
- The district wasn’t interested in changing the school direction;
- Did not want to “water down” SCPA’s vision as an arts focused school;
- Would slow the process down, saying the search for a new principal would most likely be national or even an international search;
- A democratic process will be used to select the principal selection committee as it relates to students, parents and faculty
- She promised to keep communication open and clear about process and updates.
By this time, the district was starting tell people that Mitzi Lizarraga wasn’t merely being reassigned, she was being promoted. The funny thing about that story is the person being promoted has no clue.
From Ms. Lizarraga’s Facebook (Posting to friends from Europe while on vacation):
“I know our paths will cross although the District has not assigned me to a site yet. Oh well!”
One Huge Problem for the District
Here’s what Ms Lizaragga brought to the table as principal and (one would assume) the standard the district has to strive for in replacing her. What follows is the short version of her resume, put together by Frank Engle:
- Clear California Administrative Credential
- Preliminary Designated Subjects Vocational Education Teaching Credential
- Certificate of Completion Principals’ Center for Educational Leadership
- Bachelor of Arts
- Masters of Arts
- 25 years as a Principal in a nationally renowned Arts focused School or Academy
- 5 Years CEO of a nationally renowned Arts Academy
- 8 Years as a performer in an Arts and/or Performance discipline
- 8 years as an instructor in an Arts and/or Performance disipline
- 4 years VP Level – Finance or Banking Corporation
- 14 Appointments to National and Regional Arts Organization Board of Directors as President, Vice-President and Member
- 9 Appointments to a wide variety of Regional, State and National Committees, Advisory Boards and Leadership Organizations including GATE, Performance Artists (Theatre, Dance, Opera) and Black Mayors
The long version of her resume is seven pages long. It’s kinda obvious SDUSD isn’t gonna find a similarly qualified applicant. And it should be obvious more is at play here than a relationship gone bad with a Trustee.
SCPA As a Political Football
There is a great deal of political tension over the issue of SDUSD Magnet schools like SCPA vs. Neighborhood schools. Magnet schools–which were originally a solution to court ordered desegregation– are, in many ways, yesteryear’s solution to what’s perceived as ailing the district.
Contemporary thought on best practices for school districts, especially under Ms Marten (who created a strong school in the face of much adversity) is that every neighborhood should have a great school.
The problem is that many engaged parents like the present set up. From an article in Voice of San Diego, published last fall:
The number of parents opting out of their neighborhood schools in the San Diego Unified School District is only growing. Parents shop around, finding schools with better test scores, magnet schools offering specialized programs, and, more and more, they enroll in charter schools.
The number of students choosing an alternative to their neighborhood school has increased steadily each year. This year, 44.5 percent of students in the San Diego Unified School District – a total of 58,060 – are attending a school other than the one designated as their home school.
That’s up from 33.1 percent from those who chose a non-neighborhood school during the 2004-05 school year.
The Racial and Sexual Aspects
While the upheaval at Lincoln High School has been the most public manifestations of tensions in the district, the similarities in the leadership crises are all too obvious for many parents at SCPA. Black, Latino and Asian parents have crossed swords in the past in this area, all striving to do what they thought was best for their children. Mostly people don’t want to talk about these conflicts; but they exist.
The debate between the virtues of neighborhood vs magnet schools is considered by some activists to be a proxy for power struggles between ethnic, racial and socio-economic groups. Fights over funding for dual purpose schools along with resentments fueled by “North of (Interstate) 8” parents add to this perception.
Former Board member Shelia Jackson (who preceded Ms Foster) advocated to make SCPA a “neighborhood-only” school, and to eliminate its “magnet” status, drawing students from all over town.
There was in fact a discussion between the central office District and Principal Lizarraga earlier his year concerning the future of SCPA. Here’s how parent Donna M. Silva-Garcia outlined topics covered in those conversations to me in an email:
Top performing arts middle/high schools throughout the US are located in the city’s downtown areas. Shouldn’t SDSCPA be moved downtown where mass transit is centralized? If the SCPA location is an issue, keep the magnet school, move the magnet school where it belongs – central to San Diego increasing access by parents, students and new partners! Downtown is being developed, new art continues to be added, new theatre companies are being formed, Balboa Park is near and there is a new population in San Diego that lives downtown. A new synergy is forming and shouldn’t SDSCPA be a part of it? SDSCPA gets out of a cluster that does not support it and is given the resources and support it needs to grow and thrive.
Another unsaid consideration with SCPA has to do with it’s status as a sanctuary for students with non-mainstream sensibilities who didn’t always fit in at conventional schools. Historically teenagers with an artistic bent have been vulnerable to bullying and behavioral problems associated with being “different.”
SCPA provided a safe haven for parents and students, especially LGBTQ students. The prospect of losing that protected status is one of the biggest fears motivating advocates for the school. The District seems, based on my observations as a parent, not to understand this aspect of the problem. Race and sex are not easy topics of conversation, but fears connected to them run throughout this situation.
I reached out to Superintendent Martin and several members of the School Board, once in June and again just last week as this story started taking shape. In June I received a reply from the District Relations folks telling me that Ms. Lizarraga was taking a personal leave of absence.
As I’ve been told repeatedly that everybody with any inside knowledge of this matter was going to remain incommunicado for a variety of legal reasons, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from Trustee Scott Barnett on Monday:
While I cannot comment on any specifics regarding all you have written, I can say with full confidence that I believe the the Superintendent’s action was the right thing for the right reason at the right time. I believe the facts (many of which are not public) back this view.
I also am confident that if any formal complaints (of any employee, administrator or Board Trustee) have been or are made that they will be fully and appropriately investigated.
I have found at my time on the SDUSD board, when we have been faced with various controversial events, that there are always several sides to each story. The many shades of grey in truth overwhelm the black and white.
That said, I wish to praise the amazing service Ms Lizarraga has performed on behalf of SCPA students. If the Superintendent sees fit, I would whole-heartedly support Ms Lizarraga taking on another significant role in serving our kids.
Barnett is undoubtedly right about the many shades of grey here. But for the students and parents, the proof of SDUSD’s good intentions will be what kind of real support and leadership gets put into place at SCPA. And note that Trustee Barnett’s letter excludes the possibility of any parent or student complaints factoring into any investigation.
Right now many parents and students of SCPA don’t see a bright future. And I can’t blame them. The timing of this whole mess couldn’t be worse: it’s July, nobody gives a damn unless a news story involves zombies.
I’m just glad my daughter graduated from SCPA this year.
POSTSCRIPT: This story took a long time to develop, as those affected were initially unwilling to speak out. Parents feared speaking out would jeopardize any chance of retaining Ms. Lazarraga.
Students actually took an oath not to talk about what they knew, partially out of concern for the ex-Principal and partially because “snitches are bitches,” to quote one. And SCPA faculty–as is true for many district-wide–still fear retribution following years of unrest within the school district.
Eventually I did get about a dozen parents and students to tell me what they knew, or thought they knew. I know there is an effort being made presently to get students who witnessed specific events to sign a petition to the school board.
Principal Mitzi Lizarraga, who was traveling in Europe, was not a source for this story. Given that she has a career and a reputation to protect, I’m told it’s likely she’ll accept whatever position is offered in the District’s Visual and Performing Arts department for the few years she has left until retirement.
I’m certain that I didn’t cover every aspect of this complicated story. If you’d like to add to this narrative, please email me (See below) or add a comment.
POST-POSTSCRIPT:The Starting Line Column will resume in its regular role and format on Thursday. Tomorrow my contribution to the “Who Runs San Diego?” series will appear, focusing on the role and ownership of broadcast media.
On This Day: 1958 – The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was authorized by the Congress. 1963 – Peter, Paul and Mary’s “Blowin’ In The Wind” was released. 1970- Following a 5-year table grape boycott, Delano-area growers filed into the United Farm Workers union hall in Delano, Calif., to sign their first union contracts.
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Bruce Fett says
The most important point of this story is that the policy advocated by Shelia Jackson was correct. A strong neighborhood school is what that neighborhood needed. Magnet schools are elitist and fly in the face of everything public education purports to be. This whole SCPA drama aptly demonstrates exactly what is wrong with the charter school concept.
Richard Trujillo says
Bruce and Brent, the SCPA is not a charter school. It was founded as a magnet for the creative and performing arts in 1979. The demographic of the school consists of Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks being in the majority of the student population with about 60% of the student body coming from the surrounding area. The median income per household for SCPA is 36k a year, and the school is Title 1 with about 50% of the students on free and reduced lunch.
The difference that a school like the SCPA makes is that it provides an educational experience, in this case a dual curriculum (arts and academics), that prepares young passionate, artistic students for the post-secondary. These students graduate with as many as 56 credits making them uniquely competitive candidates for post-secondary schools. The staff actually votes each year to add a period to the school day. Hardly a case of just punching a timecard. They are dedicated to these students and their success, and should be commended highly for their work. The Juilliard School, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and USC all requested the SCPA last fall as a place of recruitment, as well as at least 50 other institutions from around the country.
The scholarship money following many in the class of 2014 is inspirational. The arts at the post-secondary are like sports. Colleges, conservatories, and universities rely on recruiting the best talent internationally because that is how they keep their reputations. And, they will pay for that talent, which is a big incentive for parents in these current financial times.
The SCPA in the ONLY magnet school for the creative and performing arts in SDUSD at the high school level. The school has a responsibility to prepare these young students for post-secondary and it does just that. This year alone SCPA had a Young Arts Winner, A Gates Millenium Scholar, and a Broad Scholar. Given the demographics above I would call this school elite, but not elitist. A public school where all stakeholders are dedicated to the future of the students they teach. Where each student has a shot at a great post-secondary education studying what they love and are passionate about regardless of their socioeconomic background. That is what public schools are supposed to be about. And, this one is.
Frank Engle says
Well said Mr. Trujillo!
I toured at least 12 middle schools with my Daughter (who just graduated) who was entering 6th grade.
Although many of them had admirable qualities, SCPA stood far above the rest. Ironically, my daughters 6th grade year was the 1st year for Principal lizarraga at SCPA. However good SCPA was when my daughter entered, it is tenfold better now with the excellent leadership of Principal Lizarraga and Mr. Trujillo and ALL of the extremely talented and dedicated educational and artistic professionals in the teacher and administrative ranks at the school. As SSC Chair I have seen all the planning and development that has gone into creating this exceptional environment for learning. We ALL truly collaborate.
As a footnote: This unfortunate reassignment was doubly hurtful to the graduating seniors and to Mrs. Lizarraga because this was her first class that had her from beginning to end and they did not get to say thank you or goodbye.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Unfortunately former School Board trustee Shelia Jackson left with a cloud over her reputation for having abused her office. Her ideas for the schools in her area were usually limited by race-based politics and self-interest. Her own daughter attended
Scripps Ranch High School.
But Jackson’s longtime wish to eliminate SCPA’s magnet status has historical precedent in an earlier time when another area School Board member dismantled the high-performing Gompers Academy math/science magnet-school-within-a-school. In the name of racial equity, Gompers became a “neighborhood school,” lost its pre-eminent standing as an academic powerhouse in the County, lost its strong faculty to diaspora and became an unmanageable mess.
After years as sinecure for politically savvy but weak principals and frequent incidents of gang-banging, fighting and vandalism, Superintendent Alan Bersin cut Gompers loose to become an independent charter school. Today Gompers Academy thrives with a strong and charismatic principal Vince Riveroll, devoted teachers, a living philosophy of education, deep community support and continuing commitment from UCSD faculty. Gompers is an independent charter school in the neighborhood, but it is not a “neighborhood school.”
Some of the facts are missing here in Frances’ comment regarding Gompers. It did not lose its magnet status when students ‘north of 8’ stopped coming. Initially, they stopped coming and teachers left when the principal from Serra High School, Dr Marie Thornton, was transferred to Gompers and the school was told they had to integrate the east and west sides of campus. It retained the Science, Math and Technology magnet status for many years after that. But once the students from the west side were ‘allowed’ to take part in the magnet resources on the west side of campus, many teachers and students left. Before that it was mainly the neighborhood students who were relegated to the east, vocational side of campus. (nothing wrong with vocational in and of itself but when only the neighborhood students were there and others coming in were in the magnet side, that is a problem) So yes, under Dr. Thornton, the face of the school changed but it was still a magnet school. The difference was the neighborhood children were enjoying the computer resources as well as any transported students had.
It’s interesting Frances states Gompers is not a neighborhood school because when first converted, Vince Riveroll made clear that any neighborhood student would have a place at Gompers if they wanted but of course, once their charter was actually accepted by the district, not all neighborhood students were accepted. As for the ‘thriving’ part, I think you can check its scores and they are not indicative of a school that is thriving, at least not academically. All the hype about gangs and fight and vandalism pre-Riveroll was just they a lot of hype so Bersin and his cronies could take it over as a charter. Gompers was actually a Blue Ribbon school under Dr. Thornton with outstanding faculty and many graduating seniors who went on to all kinds of colleges. But of course it had a student population that was actually reflective of the neighborhood; a full reflection, not a select, partial reflection.
Brent Beltran says
The school board doesn’t care. Nor do area superintendents like Jackson (who I went to high school with). It’s all about cronyism and who’s ass you kiss the most. An ex-principal of San Diego High got fired after raising test scores and had the complete backing of students, staff and parents yet they fired her (and gave her a year’s worth of hush money) because she wouldn’t kiss enough district ass. Barrera didn’t lift a finger to help. It’s shameful how SDUSD is run.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
I also knew Lamont Jackson back when he was a fine vice principal at Montgomery Middle School in Linda Vista. I like him very much. He was given an impossible task to run a community meeting at SCPA after Principal Lizarraga was deep-sixed by the Superintendent and Board. It seems to me Lamont’s choice was to do what he was told or quit. I have never heard of an administrator who quit on principle for a principal.
That said, I agree with your assessment about how SDUSD is run.
Bruce Fett says
I don’t think I went to high school with anyone who works for San Diego Unified, so I am not able to support any of my points with any ad hominem arguments. I do have two sons who spent their entire school career there, however.
I will reiterate. The Charter School concept is elitist and flawed. Neighborhood Schools are the best and I spent my years as a parent defending and promoting that concept. And will continue to do so.
Brent Beltran says
I don’t disagree. My post wasn’t directed to you.
Bob Filner says
Bruce. Small point. The school is a Magnet not a Charter School. Get your facts straight please son.
Frank Engle says
First of all, thank you to Mr. Porter for writing this article.
The main issue I have is that, although he refers to me multiple times and to my blog, he never talked to me directly to put what I have wrote in context or asked what my involvement at the school or the SDUSD was besides being a “parent” or an “angry parent”.
Because of that, although this article is a great attempt to capture a complex situation within the confines of a single article (which is why I created an ongoing blog), there are some errors in what he writes about what I posted on District Deeds, my blog, and it could have been much more accurate with a call or a conversation with me to clarify and verify. My contact information is on the blog he quotes.
Also-regarding the “angry parent” label which implies some “out of control” individual who cannot communicate in a civil fashion (BTW a standard characterization point for the SDUSD Administrators when they want to diminish a parent who is strongly contending an issue that the SDUSD has screwed up) I have been the SSC chair at SCPA, working beside Principal Lizarraga for the last 7 years…since both of our graduating students were in the 7th Grade, the SSC Chair at Franklin Elementary for 10 years and was the DAC rep for Franklin and SCPA for 12 years. A little more context than just an “Angry Parent” I hope
Anyone who is interested can look at my volunteer credentials both at SCPA, Franklin Elementary and across the SDUSD here: http://districtdeeds.wordpress.com/about/
and anyone who has any followup questions to what is written on my blog can contact me at the email provided on the blog.
Despite all of that, I am appreciative of this story being published to shed light on this error by the SDUSD – thanks again Mr. Porter.
Doug Porter says
Mr Engle. My characterization of you as an angry parent is an observation based on the tone of articles I read at your blog. I do not think you are out of control, but you must be pretty upset to characterize Ms. Marten as a ‘monarch.”
You were cc’d in 3 emails during July discussing an outline for the story (and even added a comment to a response from Donna Garcia).
If you’d like to email me with corrections about quotes from your blog, I’ll do my best to try and make amends. The beauty of a WordPress platform is that you can make corrections as they are pointed out to you. I have no problem doing updates on my column.
As to the “call or conversation” part, read my bio. Not having vocal chords makes me not real handy on a telephone. (My prosthetic is unintelligible to most people when conveyed over the phone. Which is great for getting telemarketers to hang up, not so great for regular chats.)
Frank Engle says
Thanks again for the article.
Let me respond to your reply:
Angry Parent-Marten as Monarch – I call Marten a Monarch based on her actions, not on any emotion. Let’s review: She removed a successful principal without any explanation, any community discussion, any notice, and with a questionable explanation eventually for doing so – and was only on the campus 20 minutes in the previous year. If it talks, walks and acts like a monarch…it is a monarch…not emotion.
Ccc’d on emails: I completely agree I was cc’d on emails…on Donna Garcia responses. My response you refer to (I think) was to say i obviously have a different take on her characterizations but I support her and her right to have them…hardly a “communication” with you.
I appreciate your offer to email you with corrections. Unfortunately I would probably would have to re-write you article since some of the issues are in the context you use them and some are factual errors. I may just write a post on my blog to “review” your article and leave it at that…you can change yours if you like after that is published.
As to the “call or conversation”…I apologize if i insulted you in some way because I did not read you bio..it was absolutely NOT intentional. In turn, you obviously did not read mine or, unless you intentionally left it out, you neglected to see how I am the SSC Chair at SCPA for 7 years and Parent Volunteer with 14 years of service to the SDUSD, not simply an angry parent. You were kind enough to refer to Donna Garcia’s credential as FOSCPA Chair…I would expect the same. Let’s call this issue even.
I am very amenable to an email conversation with you or an in-person meeting, if you would like, so let me know and I will be glad to respond.
Thanks again for the article!
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Let’s cut to the chase here: Superb and uniquely-suited SCPA principal Mitzi Lizarraga, who’s spent seven years building capacity at the only arts high school in San Diego Unified, has been sidelined for refusing an outlandishly improper request for exceptions to the rules from a politically-juiced member of the Board of Education on behalf of her son.
Superintendent Cindy Marten and her creators, the five-member elected Board of Education — including platitudinous Scott Barnett who assures us that all is well — fully back this action which doubly harms the school and the school system and does a grievous wrong to Ms. Lizarraga. The shift in SCPA leadership will be announced today at a Board meeting.
Under the cynical motto of “a good school for every neighborhood,” Superintendent Marten and the Board actually have been waging a disruptive campaign of transferring effective and admired principals from schools all over the district, claiming to use the disappeared ones as “trainers” of novices. Parent voices are mollified and ignored.
And today we hear that magnet schools like SCPA which successfully draw kids from all over the city are old-fashioned and elitist. I disagree. Read what SCPA’s excellent artistic director Richard Trujillo says about what’s been accomplished there and how collaboratively decisions are reached. Think about it.
In fact, Ms. Marten herself is a novice, having only been an elementary teacher and then elementary administrator at the same mid-city school which was well on its way to improvement long before she arrived. She is entirely beholden to the Labor-dominated Board of Education and they work in concert: each needs the other.
Ms. Marten’s numerous and draconian principal changes — and her turning a blind eye to unconscionable behavior from the Board member for SCPA — only consolidate her reputation as yet another inexperienced, insecure and authoritarian San Diego Unified superintendent who just doesn’t get it. Some call her “Bersin in a skirt.” To me, it is profoundly sad.
Ernie McCray says
I love SCPA. My youngest son and two of my grandchildren graduated from the school. It would have been a school I would have chosen as a kid in that I’m one of those “performer” kind of people, actor, writer, wannabe dancer, comedian… I’m also an athlete and the fact that one can compete at their neighborhood school while attending SCPA, would have suited me to a tee. I don’t think there’s a greater concept in education than magnet schools with their particular focus – which means that everybody there, ideally, is there because of their unique educational interests. I’d love it if every school was a magnet school of some kind because of all the satisfied people who would be involved. Test scores would take care of themselves.
Thank you as always, Doug , great article.
As for public school management, at mission bay high school in pacific beach, the principal has just been “re-assigned” as well, and we will have our 3rd new principal in the past 6 years, and the turn-over and shuffling of staff and teachers with each new principal is surprising… All this as they struggle to establish the international baccalaureate “magnet” program since 2006…
How’s a school supposed to focus on teaching the kids, and follow through with anything, when they always seem to be re-structuring their administrations?
Frank Engle says
micporte- Please contact me-I would love to hear your story and add it to the list of ridiculous Principal reassignments that have eliminated any sense of continuity and school site culture in many SDUSD schools..
Since you are in PB, I will have a booth at Politifest in Liberty Station’s Central Promenade on August 9th from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m in so come and see me there if that works better for you.
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman says
Yesterday afternoon the Board of Education unanimously found that its Superintendent Cindy Marten “exceeds expectations” and extended her employment contract for another year.
A ridiculous “rubric” of terms such as “Beginning, Developing, Accomplishing and Extending” was used to measure Marten’s progress in four areas —
1) access to broad and challenging curriculum
2) quality teaching
3) quality leadership
4) professional learning for all.
No class size reduction. No new tutorials for low-achieving and English-learner students paid for by the Governor’s tax increase — that Sacramento money is getting diverted to “local control” and here likely will go to a huge teachers’ raise to be negotiated in the next year by the Labor Board of Education.
You decide if any of this reflects anything that matters to you or your kid’s educational
Frank Engle says
I completely concur Frances! Since she is so fond of Harvard Graduate students determining the direction of the SDUSD instead of our own extremely talented and highly educated Teachers and Administrators who KNOW the shortfalls of the SDUSD inside and out, lets use the Massachusetts Model System for Educator Evaluation (http://www.doe.mass.edu/edeval/model/partiii_appxc.pdf) for her evaluation.
In my estimation she should have received a straight “Unsatisfactory” and be up for termination for her inept performance. If anyone wants to see this travesty of an evaluation, I have posted it on my blog as a news release: http://districtdeeds.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/news-flash-san-diego-unified-board-of-education-doubles-down-on-horrible-decision-takes-another-year-of-progress-from-students-by-extending-marten-incompetency/