February 4, 2005

Editorial

San Diego School Board Moves Decisively!

But towards what end?

The new majority recently elected to the San Diego Unified School Board, represented by John De Beck, and new Board members Shelia Jackson, Luis Acle, and Mitz Lee, have acted decisively and swiftly against Superintendent Alan Bersin and his “Blueprint for Student Success, since being sworn into office in January.

Early action taken by the board majority has been to freeze spending on math and literacy consultants, changes made in chartering schools, and the buying out of Superintendent Alan Bersin’s contract effective in June. These actions taken by the Board majority reflect the promises made during the elections.

The termination of Bersin was not a surprise, but we question the logic in terminating a contract with just a year left at a cost of $240,000. The question is when money is so short; $240,000 dollars could have been more effectively used. With their action to freeze the expense for consultants, the Board’s justification was to shore-up deep cuts by the previous Board in library spending, counseling and maintenance staffs. It would seem that the Board could have better spent this $240,000 on still more programs that were underfunded the last 6 1/2 years and allowed Bersin to serve out his contract under the direction of the Board. Least we forget Bersin does not set policy, he carries out policy set by the Board.

This of course leads us to the bigger question, what direction is this Board taking San Diego Unified? While the Board has begun the process of dismantling the ‘Blueprint for Student Success’, to date they have not shared with the community, students, and teachers what direction the district will now take, what will replace the Blueprint?

For the Hispanic community this is of particular concern and worry. Hispanics rank last in student achievement. Change was demanded in educating our Hispanic students. The Blueprint was specifically designed to address the issue of educating Hispanic students and while we questioned some of the techniques, we never questioned the effort in addressing the need to educate our students. The problem was the way in which this program was administered and the exclusion of all else in the name of the Blueprint. We were particularly galled at the cavalier attitude of the old board majority that excluded the input of the Hispanic community and unequivocally supported this program.

For the Hispanic community the old ways of educating our students was a failure, which has lead us to the situation that we find ourselves in today. So the question remains what NEW direction does the Board envision for the Hispanic community? Logic would dictate that in dismantling one program you should have a vision or program vetted ready to go. The new Board’s vision would then dictate the type of Superintendent you hire and the programs you do fund for the future.

We won’t say this is a failure to communicate, as of yet, but if the Board doesn’t come to the table soon with a vision or a plan then they will fail the community and the students. The Board acted swiftly and decisively in dismantling “The Blueprint for Student Success” and as proponents of “local control” it is imperative that they act just as swiftly and decisively in replacing the old plan with a new one. Otherwise, you are left with a void that will be filled by chance and not by design.

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