April 19, 2002

The Public Forum .... El Foro Publico

Educational reform the responsibility of the “elites”

On April 9, 2002, the San Diego City Schools Board of Education voted, in customary 3-2 fashion, to extend Superintendent Alan Bersin’s contract. By extending the Bersin contract another four years, board members Ron Ottinger, Ed Lopez, and Sue Braun, who are backed by financially stable local business and civic “leaders,” have soundly reinforced their commitment to the corporate, political notion that educational reform and accountability within publicly funded school systems should become the responsibility of the “elites” and not the public communities which they serve.

Securely employed until 2006, Alan Bersin will now become one of the county’s highest paid superintendents with a “salary package” worth approximately $250,000 a year. Board president Ron Ottinger, target of an upcoming summer recall drive along with fellow board member Ed Lopez, justified the board’s decision by claiming Bersin helped the district “reclaim its integrity.” In fact, Ottinger is quoted in a local San Diego paper stating that Bersin “deserves more” than he is receiving, if it were not for “the state’s economic climate.” Clearly lacking in Mr. Otting-er’s analysis of Mr. Bersin’s performance is the question: What has Alan Bersin done for San Diego City Schools?

Basing their hopes on misleading and questionable achievement results from Chancellor of Instruction Anthony Alvarado’s old school district (District 2) in Manhattan, the board is playing Russian Roulette with thousands of children’s educational future. Their clear lack of a critical perspective, as well as that of the San Diego business community and the mainstream media, has allowed failing policies and practices within our district to be touted locally and nationally as models for urban school reform. And while it would be simplistic and unfair to blame Mr. Bersin and Mr. Alvarado for everything that is wrong within San Diego City Schools, they certainly have done their part in obscuring the reality that is currently found of our district, a reality that is now becoming evident for many astute national educational researchers.

Research projects by prominent educational researchers presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in New Orleans from April 1st to the 5th provided critical insight into the District 2 miracle story of educational success. Most intriguing was a paper presented by a researcher from New Jersey City University, herself a former parent advocate in District 2. In her work, she clearly raises questions and issues that are all but overlooked by certain members of the San Diego Board of Education, who often lack the time, interest, or “insider knowledge” to pursue them. Specifically, the New Jersey researcher presented a case study of a nationally recognized “successful” New York City school district that is unrepresentative, in regards to wealth stratification and racial composition, of other major urban school districts and a research design that ignored, or at the very least downplayed, this fact.

The miracle story of Manhattan District 2 should become a case study for every researcher and education activist in San Diego. Not so much for the purported successes of the district, but for the existence of the same “climate of fear” among teachers and the exclusion of parent and teacher voices from the decision-making process. This pattern of excluding dissenting points of view is indeed becoming a pattern for the New York City Dream Team of education reformers, and Alan Bersin, the new recruit, is the team captain. In fact, further research into District 2 will likely reveal what San Diego City Schools has in its future. Most importantly, however, a closer look at District 2 may provide us with the necessary insight to finally rid ourselves of the New York reformers, New York did it. Key in doing this, however, is removing Bersin from office and that, unfortunately, lies in the hand of three elitist board members.

Edward M. Olivos
President of the Greater San Diego CABE

When it comes to Bersin, Hispanic community needs to wake up

Thank you for finally writing the truth about Carpet Baggier Alan Bersin. I am the person who was holding the Hail Fuhrer Bersin Placard (photo published with editorial “Bersin Wins The Battle, But May Los The War” published April 12, 2002). I would love to see the Hispanic community wake up and realize that the Alan Bersin is siphoning off Title I funds from needy schools to fund his Blue Print for Success. The monies as you mentioned are going to his good old boys. These carpet baggiers are old cronies of either Mr. Bersin or Tony Alverado. The steady stream of consultants from New York demonstrates their disdain for their constituents. It is hard to believe that no educational consultants from our great state of California merit consideration.

I can only hope that the November elections keep DeBeck on the Board. I also believe that Candidate Lee is the best choice to fill Mrs. Braun’s seat. It would be beneficial to see your paper continue to expose this sham for what it really has been. You have no idea how much your editorial meant to teachers bombarded by the bias dribble from the Union Tribune. The Union Tribune is definitely in bed with Fuhrer Bersin.

Ricardo Q. Sanchez
via email

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