October 11, 2002

Commentary

A “Grassroots” Report Card for Alan Bersin

By Mike MacCarthy

Because the city school board voted (3-2) in September to evaluate Mr. Bersin’s performance for a possible $25,000 bonus, before the election in November, I decided to prepare my own evaluation.

1. Superintendent Ignores Community Input: June 1999. Despite overwhelming community requests Mr. Bersin and his three-vote majority fired 13 principals, two vice-principals, and 600 teachers aides, without due process because he “had to.” Earned Grade: F

2. Teacher’s Union Votes 93% No-confidence in Bersin. June 2001. 94% also voted no confidence in the school board majority of Sue Braun, Ed Lopez and Ron Ottinger. Earned Grade: F

3. Inaccurate “steady progress” flier sent to parents by SDCS August 2001 concerning SAT9 test score results for school year 2001. Test scores on the SAT9 were flat or declining, compared to the previous year despite diverting $100 million in Title I funds for Blueprint. Earned Grade: F

4. SDCS “Diverts” Grant Money for Sherman Elementary September 2001. SDCS admits a “legal mistake” by appropriating funds from one of three grants totaling $1.3 million awarded to Sherman. The 21st Century Grant worth $195,000 per year for three years was promised to Sherman by SDCS within a few days. SDCS then broke that promise. Earned Grade: C-

5. Latino Coalition Vote of No Confidence. The Coalition raised eight major criticisms and asserted a “major disagreement with the district in the definition and implementation of the Blueprint.” Mr. Bersin and Trustee Lopez dismissed the criticisms and the “No Confidence Vote” as merely “part of an ongoing dialogue.” Earned Grade: F

6. Bersin Leadership Creates Acrimony. October 2001. Instead of working to create harmony, Superintendent Bersin’s “in your face” management style boiled over into an ill-advised email in which Board President Sue Braun threatened to shoot two other board members. Earned Grade: F

7. The District Destroys Parent Group. January 2002. The District Advisory Council (DAC) parent group is mandated to oversee Title I funds—monies designated to improve teaching and learning in high-poverty schools. When Mr. Bersin and SDCS decided to “divert” Title I monies to fund the Blueprint, the DAC filed legal papers to challenge that policy. Mr. Bersin then removed the officers of the DAC and created the Parent Congress. Earned Grade: F

8. Independent Evaluation: February 2002, SDCS received its first independent evaluation of the “Blueprint For Student Success.” According to that report, the Blueprint received a “B” for goals, but an “F” for implementation, especially in terms of how much weight the district has given parent and teacher concerns. Earned Grade: F

9. Big Bucks For Bersin Brass: March 2002. Mr. Bersin and his three-vote board majority spent between $1.5 and $2 million for his inner circle of executives, despite news of a $33 million SDCS budget deficit. Earned Grade:

10. Magnet School Arbitrary Cuts: March 2002. Trustees voted 3-2 to allow some schools to save elements of their magnet programs. “This was a disturbing decision,” said Heather Anderson, who trains teachers. She said the board led community members to believe they would have a say in which magnet programs would be retained, but language in the final board proposal stated otherwise. Earned Grade: D-

11. La Jolla High Hates the Blueprint: March 2002. La Jolla High was ready to forsake SDCS to escape the Blueprint and establish a charter school curriculum they could control. Mr. Bersin proposed an alternate. “The pilot lets the district keep the test scores and they [SDCS] get to avoid the embarrassment of one of the best schools jumping ship,” said LJHS English teacher Carole LeCren. Instead of fixing the Blueprint, SDCS made sure La Jolla High School couldn’t embarrass them. Earned Grade: F

12. SDCS Announces $33 Million Budget Deficit For 2002-2003. May 2002, facing a budget deficit, the district’s budget excludes a pay raise for teachers and their contracted increases. Earned Grade: F

13. The Sherman Elementary Charter Sham: May 2002. The SDCS school board voted 3-2 to deny Sherman Heights residents their charter petition to convert to a science and technology-focused charter school. Earned Grade: F

14. Pending Criminal Investigations at SDCS:

Item: August 2002. The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating whether Superintendent Alan Bersin and the San Diego Unified School District illegally spent public money to advocate for Proposition MM.

Item: August 2002. An investigation into an apparent kickback scheme involving computer equipment resulted in one district employee being placed on paid administrative leave. Earned Grade: F

15. More Test Score Failures: August 2002. Despite $250 million, SAT9 test scores for June 2002 school year show no net change between Math and Reading for 2001 while urban school districts throughout the state enjoy double-digit gains. Also, 2002 exit test scores show SDCS lagging the county and state. SAT college entrance exams show SDCS trailing the county and state by double-digit margins during Mr. Bersin’s regime. Earned Grade: F

Conclusions: The overwhelming weight of the evidence is that Mr. Bersin has NOT acted in the best interests of the most city children and their families. Overall Grade Earned by Mr. Bersin and His Three-Vote Majority: F.

Mike MacCarthy is Publisher of “San Diego Writer’s Monthly” and President of Voters For Truth in Education (VO/TE). He can be reached at mcarthy@sandiego-online.com.

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