District leaders talk successes, challenges, school reforms

SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The San Diego Unified School District has had many
successes and was moving forward, remaining optimistic despite its challenges,
Board of Education President John Lee Evans said during the “State of the
District” address Tuesday night.

In the past few years, the district made strides in academic achievement
and in closing the achievement gap. The district was now working towards
goals laid out in its school reform plan called “Vision 2020,” such as
ensuring students are able to communicate in at least two languages and have
access to technology, Evans told the Kearny High School auditorium crowd.

Evans and Superintendent Cindy Marten discussed the focus and the
implementation of the plan, which was established in 2009 and will culminate
with the class of 2020's graduation.

“Despite the financial challenges that we were facing — and we're
going to be facing for a long time — we still need to plan ahead and dream big
for our schools,” Evans said.

The plan includes broadening the measurement of student achievement
beyond standardized test scores; ensuring teachers and administrators are
effective; involving parents and volunteers; teachers and administrators having
adequate support and guidance from the district's leadership; and treating
schools as neighborhood learning centers because many students do not attend
their neighborhood schools.

Working to increase the quality of neighborhood schools was also being
reflected in a new state formula that funds districts at a base level with
increases for English learners, students from low-income families and those in
foster care, which Evans said “recognizes the importance of equity in
educational funding and makes sure everybody is on a level playing field.”

Evans said the restoration of funds to school districts following the
passage of Proposition 30, which “stopped the bleeding in education funding,”
would be slow, but “after the shock wave of hundreds of millions of cuts over
the past five years, we finally have a plan to stabilize our district in the
next three years.”

Although the district had come along way, it had a lot further to go.
The district needed to address the schools that were “seriously under-
performing,” Evans said.

Marten said data such as attendance and suspension rates could be used
as a “flashlight” to highlight areas that needed attention. She also said the
district would establish a quality assurance office.

Also at tonight's event, Marten named the first inductees into the
district's Hall of Fame, with interim Mayor Todd Gloria, a Madison High School
graduate, leading the pack.

“We cannot have great neighborhoods, we cannot be America's finest city
if we do not have great neighborhood schools in every neighborhood in this
city,” Gloria said.

Ahead of the “State of the District” event, the Board of Education
approved with a 4-0 vote the sale of the Hale Junior High School property in
Clairemont for about $23.5 million.

The nearly 20-acre property at 5331 Mount Alifan Drive brought in about
$1.48 million in lease income last year, but cost $166,626 in maintenance
expenses, which included an about $128,000 plumbing upgrade to replace
collapsed pipes.

Categories: KUSI