San Diego Unified board notes progress in superintendents’ performance review

San Diego Unified School Board members Tuesday voted on annual reviews of former Superintendent Cindy Marten and her replacement, interim Superintendent Lamont Jackson, determining the school leaders and district have shown some progress in key areas since last year.

Jackson, who has worked for San Diego Unified for more than 30 years, in May took over California’s second largest school district as interim superintendent after Marten was confirmed as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The district is seeking a permanent replacement.

Board members evaluate superintendents and district operations on 14 areas, which include improving hiring practices, launching enhanced mathematics and measuring its outcomes, bettering allocations for elementary schools, and integrating academics with social-emotional learning.

In each area of focus, board trustees assign a description of progress.

  • Beginning means the superintendent has launched the work and there is no evidence of progress yet.
  • Developing means the superintendent has launched the work, is continuing to develop the implementation, and there is some evidence of progress.
  • Accomplishing means the superintendent has accomplished the implementation of the work and progress is evident.
  • Extending means the superintendent has accomplished the work and significant progress or impact is evident.

“We never say that we have succeeded and that we‘ve completed our work around any issue, and we also never say we have failed,” said board President Richard Barrera. “It’s always a question of where we are in the process.”

According to the evaluation report, the district and its current and former leader received a developing grade, or a combination of developing and another designation, in nine of the 14 focus areas. In three areas — employee relations, school maintenance and service, and finalizing growth and development processes — superintendents received an accomplishing grade.

Barerra said the developing grade indicates the district has a clear direction about what needs to be done and needs, or is starting to see, some clear outcomes from the initiative.

The board gave the highest rating to the focus area of securing funding for early literacy, numeracy and intervention. Barerra said the district’s advocacy efforts for legislation that expands funding for transitional kindergarten played a key role in that bill’s passage.

“It’s a big success for the state of California, and we think San Diego Unified had a lot to do with that,” he said.

The meeting also served as an opportunity for Jackson to present an update on how district and school officials have ensured students’ safety as the 2021-2022 school year begins despite the pandemic.

“We were able to return our students to in-person learning, and they so deserve it,” Jackson said. “We were able to do this because of our commitment to our classroom mitigation and school mitigations.”

The district now has more than 15,000 masks with clear inserts, which allow students to see educators’ speak, and more are coming, Jackson said. Schools have been equipped with air purifiers and ventilation systems, gloves, masks, gowns, hand sanitizer and hand-washing stations.

The district also has implemented testing protocols, with COVID tests available at 151 school sites.

Out of the district’s some 100,000 students, Jackson said, approximately 96,000 are back to school for in-person learning. Overall, 17,000 tests have been completed and 38 positive COVID-19 cases have been identified among staff and students.

“This practice continues to be instrumental to keep our students and staff in school and minimize the spread of COVID-19,” Jackson said. “We will see higher COVID-19 rates, but the reality is, many of our cases that we’re seeing are not from school sites … they come from people who report the case to us.”

Barrera said it’s encouraging to see the district’s success providing education during the coronavirus pandemic, but he cautioned other trustees and meeting attendees to prepare for more difficult challenges ahead.

“This year is gonna be a lot better experience for our students than last year, but we’re also not out of the woods,” Barrera said. “We know that this year will continue to present challenges that are unprecedented, that we’ve never dealt with before.”

The board approved future focus areas for Jackson, which include increasing achievement among underperforming students, accelerating literacy development and ensuring equity and access for early learning programs.

Jackson will hold the role as superintendent through December, when the district is expected to complete its search for Marten’s replacement.




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