May 13, 2005


Thoughts About the Governor’s Choice for Secretary of Education

By Ernie McCray

Wow! That someone would even think of Alan Bersin as the Secretary of Education is a crying shame, let alone dub him as such.

Arnold Schwarzenegger must have been deep in a Terminator funk to put a kickass bantam rooster kind of dude like Alan Bersin in a position that is so vital to the welfare of children. What “special interests” got to him with all that nonsense about Bersin turning San Diego City Schools around?

The governor needs to take a closer look at the hyped “raised test scores” jive and an even closer look at the data about all the kids who dropped out of school at shamefully high rates. He should ask Bersin why there was such a lack of choices for our sons and daughters. Why was there not more drama and dance and painting and singing and musical instruments for them to play, more things for them to take apart and explore and fix, more relevant ideas for them to look at critically as they make their way in a troubled world? Why did Bersin want no part of such things?

And excuse me if I make my thoughts personal but this is the second time that Alan Bersin has been foisted on me like a rabbit pulled out of a hat and that is two times way too many. The first time I was a principal at a school having one good old time helping a community make learning fun and relevant and exciting for their children and one day, out of nowhere, voila, Alan Bersin was my superintendent. And in the next breath, it seemed, he was telling me what I had better do and not do and there were to be “no excuses and no exceptions.” I felt like calling 911. A few months of that and I left San Diego City Schools on the run because I refuse to exist as a second class citizen. Plus wanting to choke a man is a strong signal it’s time to let STRS send you a monthly check.

No man should be Secretary of Education who would dare turn his back to parents like he did to friends of mine at a meeting in my community because he didn’t like the questions they asked.

No man should be Secretary of Education who would demote principals and vice-principals on a whim as he did to some of the most outstanding educators I know.

No man should be Secretary of Education who would yell at a kid who happens to poke his head in the doorway of a management staff meeting as I saw him do.

No man should be Secretary of Education who displays mean spirited disdain for “shared decision making” - the very essence of the American way of life - as I’ve seen him do on far too many an occasion.

No one should be Secretary of Education who leaves a school system in such a mess that his replacement will have to be a miracle worker,someone who can splint the fractures and ease the pain that he inflicted, someone who believes in every human being’s worth, someone who can speak to a community’s soul and arouse its resolve - so that it can create the kind of warm nurturing school system our children so desperately need and deserve and were so cruelly deprived of.

It’s all about children, the most precious and innocent of human beings. I believe that every grownup, especially a Secretary of Education or a superintendent of schools or a principal or vice-principal or teacher, should role model the best of human behavior for children. If children followed Bersin around on a typical work day and patterned themselves after him they’d be bullying and intimidating classmates left and right on the playground.

They’d be loudly and callously ridiculing those who didn’t think like them.

They’d have narrowminded views of what learning is all about.

They’d listen to no one who needs to be listened to.

With all the fine educators on the state scene I see Alan Bersin’s appointment as the Secretary of Education as grossly obscene.There is nothing good in this for our state’s children. And that is the crying shame.

Ernie McCray is a retired San Diego City Schools principal.

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