December 15, 2006

City Heights Schools Gaining San Ysidro Superintendent

By Raymond R. Beltran

For a school board that was finally beginning to maintain a sense of stability, the San Ysidro School District is now losing highly respected Superintendent Tim Allen. In 2004, he welcomed the opportunity to replace his ousted predecessor, Jorge Parra, but this Monday announced that he’s leaving February 1 to be the new executive director at San Diego State University’s City Heights Educational Collaborative (CHEC).

The position will take the superintendent from overseeing eight schools with 5,000 students to overseeing three schools with the same population in inner city San Diego, Rosa Parks Elementary, Monroe Clark Middle School and Hoover High School.

“The job with the Collaborative is going to be about working with schools in a different way, to see what I can do with three different schools being supported by different charities,” says Allen.

The CHEC is a partnership, created in 1998, between the San Diego Unified School District, SDSU, the San Diego Education Association and Price Charities, a family run non-profit “which owns and operates residential and office properties in […] City Heights” according to their website.

“We’re very excited to have Tim,” says Collaborative’s Vice-President Ethan Singer. “We’ve been searching for this position for a year and half.”

Unfortunately, San Ysidro schools will be left to scramble for someone new, with Allen’s caliber no less. His experience as a bilingual San Diego Unified director of second-language education and assistant superintendent for education services in the San Ysidro District (92% Latino, 67% Spanish speakers) had made him a prime candidate there, and now for City Heights.

Political bickering between trustees arose during Allen’s three year tenure (accusations of violating open meetings and the board’s refusal to accept their board president’s resignation), but for the most part, he says the board has been more apt to work as a team, something that troubled them in the past.

“What’s been good is that the board members have voted on what they believe. There’s no block and the votes have reflected that,” he says. “People feel there is a sense of stability here.”

San Ysidro hired Allen originally as an interim superintendent when the board voted Dr. Jorge Parra out. Before that, Allen was their superintendent for education services. He gained tenure his first year as interim to reserve a position until 2007, he says. In 2005, the board extended it to 2009.

Prior to his appointment, the San Ysidro School District experienced a roller coaster of turbulent issues in the past, including a 1992 Grand Jury Report citing power struggles within the board and health and safety concerns surrounding students which almost led the state to withhold funds, nearly taking over, according to previous reports from La Prensa San Diego.

Between 2002 and 2004, the district had been headed by three different superintendents: Jose Torres for six months (voted out), Dr. Jorge Parra for one and half years (voted out), and ultimately Tim Allen for three years until now.

The students of the district were labeled in the grand jury’s report “innocent victims,” but he says his push for better “biliteracy” education is leading a considerable amount of his elementary students to learn English as early as first and second grade and in a shorter time span than previously.

There are currently plans to construct two new schools in San Ysidro and reform the low performing campuses. San Ysidro’s 2006 Standardized Testing and Reporting results indicated that the majority of elementary and middle school students teetered between “basic” and “below basic” in the language arts area. Scores were a bit higher in mathematics for the same age group.

“We haven’t had a chance to meet yet [about the resignation],” says Board Presidents Raquel Marquez Mad-en. “But it’s a great opportunity and chance to find a new superintendent.”

According to Maden, the board can appoint an interim for the next two years or they can begin a search, a decision that was voted on Thursday, Dec 14. (La Prensa went to print during the meeting). They have until February 1, 2007 to decide.

“I don’t think I’m indispensable,” says Allen about his departure. “This is a place with tremendous potential.”

CHEC’s original executive director, Ian Pumpian, resigned a year and a half ago and they’ve been functioning since with an interim, SDSU’s National Center for Urban School of Transformation Director Joe Johnson. The position pays $180,000 annually, a $32,000 raise for Allen.

“Monroe Clark ranked first among all San Diego Unified School District middle schools in growth for their test scores between the 1998-1999 school year and the 2004-2005 school year,” reads the CHEC website about its three schools. “Rosa Parks ranked second among district elementary schools, and Hoover ranked third among district high schools for improving their respective API scores.”

CHEC was created to shed light on problems in inner city schools focusing on these three because they are in at-risk communities and within SDSU’s proximity.

“This is a tremendous position that requires an individual to work with a wide range of individuals, schools, parents, staff, the Price Charities,” says Singer. “We needed that presence that could command, effortlessly communicate and be a good listener.”

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