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Terry Grier Set to Leave SD Unified

Audio

Aired 8/24/09

It is all but certain that San Diego Unified Superintendent Terry Grier will leave San Diego to become Superintendent of Houston's school district. Why is he leaving? Why has San Diego Unified provided a revolving door for superintendents in the last few years?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. After losing millions in state funding this year, you might think San Diego Unified School District has already had its fair share of bad luck for 2009 but apparently not so. Today, school board members will meet with Superintendent Terry Grier for the first time since he was named the first and only choice to head Houston's school district. This news comes just weeks before the new semester begins and less than a year and a half after Grier came to San Diego from North Carolina. Grier's tenure as San Diego Schools chief came on the heels of another short term superintendent. Carl Cohn left the post after only two years on the job. This rapid turnover at the helm of San Diego's largest school district has many wondering if something disturbing is going on. Are the school board members chasing superintendents out of town? Or are they not picking the right people for the job in the first place? Later this hour, we'll be speaking with Camille Zombro. She's head of the San Diego Education Association, that is the teachers' union. My first guest is John de Beck, one of the five board members of the San Diego Unified School District. And, John, welcome to These Days.

JOHN DE BECK (Board Member, San Diego Unified School District): Well, thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And I'd like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. What do you think about the prospect of Terry Grier taking another job so soon after coming to San Diego? What does this say about San Diego Unified School District? And does it raise concerns about the quality of education your child is getting? Give us a call at 1-888-895-5727, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. So Terry Grier is San Diego Unified's third superintendent in four years. John, why does San Diego Unified have such trouble hanging on to a superintendent?

DE BECK: I think we have tsunami changes when we elect different board members. Terry wasn't hired by this board, and the continuity is always affected by, I'll call it, a major turnover and change in philosophy. I think their special interests do affect the elections and people don't recognize that.

CAVANAUGH: And so you mean that the school board that we have now, comprised of the people that's on it now would never have picked Terry Grier to be superintendent, you think?

DE BECK: I can't say that because I can't – But I'm certain that they're not as in favor of him as the board that hired him.

CAVANAUGH: This – When Superintendent Carl Cohn, I said that he was only here for two years.

DE BECK: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: Did their departures have anything in common, Cohn's and Terry Grier's?

DE BECK: Well, yeah, they were both superintendents here. But I think they both – they – they're different kind of people. Carl had had an excellent reputation and I was part of hiring him and I respected his professional opinion but he was sort of like a baseball player who'd, you know, gotten old and his – and his – while he was good, he couldn't necessarily hold up to the San Diego stress and I think he lost interest. As to Carl, Carl came as a highly thought of nationally…

CAVANAUGH: You mean Terry. Terry Grier.

DE BECK: I mean Terry. Excuse me.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

DE BECK: Yeah, that – Terry was recruited away from a job in North Carolina and he had a great reputation for somebody who was oriented towards student success, who had and was young enough to have and carry forward an agenda. I don't think the new board necessarily subscribes to his agenda but, nevertheless, he did have and does have a national reputation for success.

CAVANAUGH: Now news reports had said that Terry Grier complained that he felt that he was being micromanaged by the school board. Would you agree with that?

DE BECK: Well, I wouldn't agree necessarily that he was micromanaged but I will agree that he was being told things that he might not believe in. That's also true about Carl. The big thing I think is a mistake the boards make and I've been on these boards, is they don't generally define their objectives and what they want the district to look like before they hire a superintendent. What happens is, these superintendents have egos, they have good reputations, they bring with them ideas, and then the boards start to say, wait a minute, that's not what we thought we were getting. What we wanted to do was… And they start changing the topic. So anytime there's a mismatch, there – it's usually because the board hasn't thought out what they want the district to look like in the first place, and I've been there and I've seen it. They basically just start looking for people instead of start defining what they want to have happen.

CAVANAUGH: And Grier was also mentioned – It was also reported that Terry Grier said the board spent too much trouble – too much time, that is, on adult issues like oversight of different employee groups, not enough time on issues that affect children like the dropout rate. Would you agree with that statement?

DE BECK: Well, Terry's right in that there was a lot of interference. And – But when there's a, I'll call it, a bad marriage, as soon as people start using faith in each other I think things just go by the board. I think that micromanaging is a symptom of a lack of faith in the leadership.

CAVANAUGH: And let me remind people that I'm speaking with John de Beck. He's a school board member of San Diego Unified School District and we're talking about the prospect of Terry Grier, Superintendent of San Diego Unified, taking another job in Houston only – less than a year and a half after coming to San Diego to be a superintendent here. The number is 1-888-895-5727. Now, John de Beck, you were quoted on Wednesday by Voice of San Diego as saying, Terry Grier's departure disrupts everything that the district is doing. How does it make that big of a shift?

DE BECK: Well, anytime you have a lame duck or you have somebody who has brought forth ideas and you end up with people saying, wait a minute, this, too, shall pass, and the commitment that was made to his leadership sort of disappears and everybody in San Diego's familiar with this. I mean, this is not a new thing as far as the teachers of San Diego. I've written about this on a blog in San Diego News Network so it's complicated so I think people should maybe read that if they want more of my opinions on it. But, really, you know, Terry is probably a mismatch with the current board and we need to move on in some way. Now, to continue with the, I'll call it, his initiatives, people would be – have a right to say, well, the new guy's going to have new initiatives, too. And I also have a belief that maybe superintendents may be obsolete in today's world.

CAVANAUGH: Well, it's interesting that you should say that because Board President Shelia Jackson has asked the question of whether or not San Diego Unified even needs a superintendent. Do – What is the argument against having a leader for the San Diego Unified…

DE BECK: No, there's no argument. I, personally, don't agree with the idea that the board can run the district. That's absolutely wrong. And I would not entertain that. I've been on the board long enough to know that, you know, boards collectively aren't necessarily the right kind of people to do this. They may be able to set a better direction but I think that when I say superintendents may be obsolete, I think maybe you need people that are experts in separate fields like CEOs. And so I – I propose a variety of ways and people can look on my – on the internet for some of the things I've said about how to organize a district. I think it is – was after – When Superintendent Bersin left, I said what do we do when Supe leaves? And I put in some stuff that's still on my website.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

DE BECK: But the point is, I think you could have a CEO and start – in charge of instruction, and that would be an expert in instruction very much like Terry. You'd have a Chief Financial Officer who would be head of finances. You'd have a Chief Facilities Officer, you'd have an accountability officer, and those people would be hired by the board to do those jobs and they collectively would recommend things to the board. Now, if they all agreed, the board would say, well, you know, these guys are the experts in their field, they've all talked among themselves and they've got a good idea that we'll carry forward. If one or two of them objected, then you might want to listen to that person because that person may have the wisdom that you're looking for, and so that accountability would be multiplied. Now, if, let's say, one person made a bad recommendation and there were two or three that didn't agree and the board went ahead with it, then who's responsible? Well, the board and also the person that made the bad recommendation. So if you had to get rid of a person or persons you wouldn't have a complete turnover like we do all the time. Now you have a superintendent who's not necessarily – and I'm not suggesting – speaking about Terry, but a superintendent could be an expert in instruction but not in education finance or in facilities. So if they – those things don't mesh in a district, you're going to have problems that'll cause dist – you know, superintendents problems. And that's, you know, they might hire a good CEO for finance but the problem with that is that they have that CEO, if they're working for a superintendent will have to finally go with the superintendent's views and will not be able to speak up on their own about their concerns about finance.

CAVANAUGH: And across the board, you know, across the United States, urban superintendents just stay on the job an average of three and a half years. Is that one of the reasons that you think these tenures are so short, is the job is just too big?

DE BECK: Well, yeah, and being around for 20 years of this and I've met a lot of these superintendents and many of them I have as personal friends. I met Terry two years before he ever got this job and I didn't actually recruit him or recommend him but when he came through this filtering process, he looked like a good candidate. But you never really know all the different things that a superintendent has to do until you get on the job. And some of them fail because they do a bad job in facilities, some of them do a bad job with the politics of the local area, and so, you know, it's important to really know, as a board, what you want and also to select people that are good at what they do. Now, we rec – we hired sub-people under Terry who he use – relied on for other parts of the job like the CEOs that I described but I don't think that should be the case. I think you shouldn't have the superintendent hiring those people. I think we should be hiring the very best in finance, the very best in accountability, people who know the law, people who know, you know, research and all that and have them counterbalance each other in the managing of a district, especially one as large as San Diego.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with San Diego Unified School board member John de Beck. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Let's talk to John, calling from San Diego. And good morning, John. Welcome to These Days.

JOHN (Caller, San Diego): Good morning. Thanks for having me. Thanks for taking my call, I mean. Just a couple of comments and a question. One is, I was curious how they go about cultivating or recruiting these superintendents. Do they come from outside of San Diego County? Have they spent a majority of their lives in San Diego County and interested in staying here? And number two is, you know, it seems to me when I hear about people moving, especially out of state to take another job, it's one of those, you know, what's in it for me attitude. I think it's indicative of society at large right now in the United States, which is, you know, it's about the me thing as opposed to trying to better a location and sticking with it and, basically, growing where you plant yourself. And I don't know if those are – those things are taken into consideration also when they're – when they're hiring somebody.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, John, for your comments. I'm wondering, John de Beck, just taking what John was saying, is there any idea that we should recruit locally for people to be heads…

DE BECK: Well, that happens. We've had local board selections of superintendents and it usually is a cycle. There's a, you know – There's arguments for and against it but the main thing is knowing the community so we had a person who really knew the community in Bertha Pendleton but basically she angered the business community and so, therefore, there was action to bring in Alan Bersin, who had some outside support from other interests, and he wasn't exactly the kind of person that fit our particular interest. I think he's maybe in a better place now. But the point of it is that no matter how you do it, you have – there's weaknesses in the system. You know, so let's say we pick somebody – and I predict it'll be a local person. We're not going to go on a national search because it'd be counterproductive now because nobody's going to take the job. I mean, there's a – there may be a half a dozen people that are, I'll call it, weak candidates looking for jobs or people who are on the borderline. But I think the selection will be local. I think it's somebody that some of the board members may even already know. Not me, I don't have a clue. But the point is, I do believe that the board majority may have some ideas about who that might be. And it's logical to do that. But the issue then becomes is it the – is it a person that has the most knowledge of education? Or about the finances or about accountability or Title I or all the different mixes that we all are supposed to know about. This board's brand new. They're new to education, most of them, and so they may have a vision that they need somebody that's an expert to advise them. And that's why I recommend this CEO process.

CAVANAUGH: I want to welcome Matt Spathas. He's part of a group of business, education and civic leaders who wants Terry Grier to stay in San Diego. They're organizing a drive to ask Mr. Grier to stay on as superintendent. Matt has four children in San Diego Unified School District. And, Matt, welcome to These Days. I want to ask you, why are you pushing for Terry Grier to stay?

MATT SPATHAS (Coalition Leader): Well, thanks and good morning. Well, first of all, let me just say that Dr. Grier's, I believe – and I've been all over the country and met with lots of superintendents like Mr. de Beck and the current board. And there's no question that Dr. Grier's one of the most progressive visionary superintendents in the county and – and I would call him a top five, top ten superintendent anywhere in the country. Dr. Grier understands transforming this 150 year old educational delivery system that was really designed for the agragarian (sic) age of farming, not the 21st century of a global connected economy. And so Dr. Grier has a transformation agenda. This board has been supportive of this transformation agenda, and I'm disappointed that this board and Dr. Grier haven't been able to figure out a way to work out going forward. And I think it's a challenge to the governance model. It's going to start a new kind of dialogue but it's not just the business community, it's higher education in San Diego. We live in a great sandbox. We've got, you know, the third largest number of Ph.D.s sitting – in the country, sitting right here in San Diego, so we're in a great place. We've just got to really revisit the whole governance model to figure out what kind of role the superintendent's going to have going forward. And I think this superintendent just wants to be a superintendent.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Matt, let me ask you. What are you doing about it? What is your drive like to get Terry Grier to stay on?

SPATHAS: Well, I think we're really a drive on two fronts. One is what can we do to keep Terry in San Diego but we're not going to lock him here, that's for sure. And the second part of our drive is to really garner business community – business support, current community support, and higher education support to really promote a dialogue about how we're going to keep superintendents in San Diego. And Mayor Sanders said at a luncheon when Dr. Grier – introducing Dr. Grier here in San Diego, he said we've got to learn how to keep superintendents in San Diego, and I think we absolutely need to do that.

CAVANAUGH: Matt Spathas, thank you so much for joining us.

SPATHAS: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. John de Beck, I want to ask, is there any movement on the board to get Terry Grier to stay?

DE BECK: Oh, I don't think so. I would have to say, and I do agree – by the way, hi, Matt. You're a refreshing person to have in our community. There is, you know, there's a question of money. I mean, let – and superintendents work for two things. I think the most thing – important thing for them is the ability to feel like they've done something. Secondly, is money. Well, then if you're working in a place where your bosses of – the board are basically getting in your way of getting something done and you're also – found somebody else who's willing to rely on your expertise and they also are going to offer you more money, it's a no-brainer when you actually get down to the issue of a decision. You know, life's only so long and a – and a superintendent – Terry's probably got maybe 20 good years ahead of him but, nevertheless, he's not going to want to waste his time fighting battles that, you know, have to be fought in order to get his agenda moved forward. Now, there are others in the way and, you know, the reality of it is that maybe this board is not willing to let go. And so – And…

CAVANAUGH: What do you mean by that specifically?

DE BECK: Well, to, you know, I mean, on a previous board I can remember other members of the board that's not in existence now but that I was with, said, basically, let's hire this superintendent and let's turn him loose and say yes and follow his lead. I, personally, don't agree with that. I think you have to have a vision about what you want and then tell the new superintendent and have them fit in. And – But once you make that decision, I think then you need to turn them loose. You need to say, okay, here's the things we'd like you to do, we'd like to have cluster organization, we believe that the fundamentals of our school district are that we should manage it from K to high school so that the people in the community know exactly what's going to happen as their kids move through the system. If those beliefs are a part of what you have and you have a superintendent who doesn't believe that, why'd you hire him in the first place? Well, the reason was, you didn't tell him what you thought.

CAVANAUGH: I see. Now if Terry Grier does decide to take the job in Houston, how much does that cost San Diego?

DE BECK: Well, it costs – it costs us the disruption of the continuity of whatever he started and it costs us a national reputation, there's no question about it, as a place that's very hard for superintendents to work. And – But it creates an opportunity for us to revisit, you know, the whole governance process and how we got into this pickle. I mean, why is it that our boards keep doing this? Okay, I've been on the boards and I've voted to get people off the island but that doesn't mean that I haven't learned also to get along with people who have the ability to discuss with – the merits of issues. And I think Terry Grier was a perfect example of someone who, while I didn't always agree with him, I had – we had a ongoing dialogue and understood each other.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I want to thank you so much, John de Beck, for being with us this morning. I want to tell everyone that we're going to continue this conversation with Camille Zombro. She's head of the San Diego Education Association, the teachers' union. And we have invited San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Terry Grier on These Days. He has tentatively agreed to be on the show this Wednesday, so stay tuned for developments. And These Days will continue in just a few moments.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. And we continue our discussion on the expected departure of Superintendent Terry Grier from the San Diego Unified School District. My guest now is Camille Zombro. She's head of the San Diego Education Association, the teachers' union. Camille, welcome to These Days.

CAMILLE ZOMBRO (President, San Diego Education Association): Thank you very much. It's good to be here.

CAVANAUGH: And I want to remind our listeners we are taking your calls and comments about the prospect of Terry Grier leaving San Diego Unified. 1-888-895-5727 is our number, that's 1-888-895-KPBS. And, Camille, starting out, I wanted to give you a chance to react to some of the statements made by our first guest, school board member John de Beck. Were you listening?

ZOMBRO: I was listening to some of it.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

ZOMBRO: I think from the place where we sit, the impact of the changes that are happening at the top of the district are sometimes overstated. At the end of the day, when a teacher opens their classroom this fall, their concerns are going to be is the nurse or counselor going to be there? Am I going to have the books, the resources, the support I need to open my classroom? That's what's going through the mind of San Diego's educators right now and, certainly, there are a lot of challenges before us.

CAVANAUGH: Why do you think Terry Grier may be leaving San Diego?

ZOMBRO: You know, I really – I don't want to speculate on that issue because the reality is that's just – if you look at his resume, that's been his career. You know, he's worked in – he's been superintendent of, I believe, eight districts. Houston would be about number nine. So his m.o. is to not be in a particular place for very long. But, again, you know, going back to what San Diego has to offer for students and for any prospective administrators is a really great place for learning and for kids, and we're very proud of our achievement, of what we've been able to accomplish despite some of the challenges that are happening at the top.

CAVANAUGH: Now, Camille, you know that a lot – a lot of critics have said that the reason—at least one of the reasons—that Terry Grier is leaving is because he has been bullied by the teachers' union. How would you respond to that?

ZOMBRO: There's not a whole lot of a relationship of any kind between us. I think, again, that our impact has been overstated. The day-to-day classroom teacher then the nurse, the counselor in the counseling office, isn't thinking a lot about is my superintendent getting along with my union president? They're focused on kids, and that's really where we need to redirect the conversation in San Diego. We're coming through a fiscal crisis. Our school board's done a really good job of preserving staff and the folks who are on the front lines with kids. That should be valued, that should be honored. And let's move ahead and beyond the sort of politics and name-calling.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I'm going to have to stay with the politics just a little bit.

ZOMBRO: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: No name-calling, though, I promise you.

ZOMBRO: All right.

CAVANAUGH: The critics who say that Grier was bullied by the school board – by the teachers' union, mean sort of by – through the school board. They say that since three school board members were backed by the teachers' union, the teachers' union is in essence running the San Diego Unified School Board. And I want to hear what you have to say to that.

ZOMBRO: Well, that – those sorts of statements really have no basis in fact. We've been supportive of all five board members at one time or another and we’ve disagreed with all five board members at one time or another. Some of the most robust discussions and arguments I've had have been with Trustees Barrera, Jackson and Evans. You know, I go back again to, you know, where our focus is. You know, we're looking ahead, we're looking at how we're going to continue to get through the challenges before us. And I would also, you know, point out if – if we're in control then let's measure that because we have a contract that expired over a year ago that hasn't been settled. I mean, it doesn't appear, if you look at the things that are measurable, what matters is how can we give parents and teachers more autonomy and more ability to do what's right for students in the classroom. That's an area we certainly need to focus on in the months ahead.

CAVANAUGH: Now the school board and, in essence, the teachers' union has taken a hit from critics, too, who look at the way that the funding has shrunk from the state and looked at other districts and said, you know, most of those districts have had to let go – lay off teachers in order to balance their budgets. But instead, they say, here since virtually no teachers were laid off in the San Diego district, school maintenance, textbooks, took the hit. And I'm wondering how hard the teachers' union in San Diego is lobbying to keep union members employed.

ZOMBRO: The union members, the members of SDEA, are your community's teachers. We are teachers, nurses, counselors, librarians. It's a good thing that there weren't layoffs. In fact, I don't think anyone out there is saying that teacher layoffs or layoffs in education of anyone, of our support staff, or of teachers in the classroom is a good thing. You know, I would also point out that at the end of the last school year 1200 positions became vacant. We had 600 teachers who took an early retirement, another 500 who had temporary contracts which expired. And some of those are teachers who had been in classrooms for as long as five years in the district or more. So there – there were twelve position – 1200 positions that became vacant without a layoff. No layoff was ever necessary in San Diego Unified. And, you know, we've said that and said that and no – apparently we're not getting through but, you know, hopefully, at least your listeners are hearing that, that 1200 positions became effectively vacant. There was never a need to lay off.

CAVANAUGH: And I'm also wondering, what do you say about the charges that there's a lot of politics going on on the San Diego school board right now? San Diego Unified school board. And that is ending up micromanaging Terry Grier and, therefore, that's kind of led to his wanting to move on somewhere else.

ZOMBRO: You know, I – I have to be honest. I don't spend a lot of my time down at the ed center in the board rooms. I mean, where I spend my time is out in the classrooms. That's where I, where the leaders of our union, as well as our staff, spend our time. We're out in the field talking with rank and file educators. Last year, we had conversations at almost every school in the district, over 170 listening sessions, and we engaged in real discussions about what does it take to do your work and we talked to over 4000 of our members. They spoke with some very clear priorities and – and we're still awaiting the time when we can talk about those priorities. It's really something for a teachers' union to get out and figure out how you can get into every building just to set bargaining priorities and to talk to four or five thousand people and come in with some real clarity about what San Diego's educators want. That's the proactive agenda, the agenda that's about kids and about teaching that our union is about. We really don't spend a lot of time worrying about those other – other things.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Camille Zombro. She's head of the San Diego Education Association. And we're talking about the expected departure of Superintendent Terry Grier from the San Diego Unified School District. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Brian is calling us from San Marcos. And good morning, Brian. Welcome to These Days.

BRIAN (Caller, San Marcos): Good morning to you. I actually just moved to San Marcos from Guilford County in North Carolina. Guilford County is where Grier was before coming to San Diego. He left a – well, a very tarnished record there. He had mixed up the school system and the school zones and – and things so badly that there was actually a really aggressive bumper sticker campaign there to say 'get Grier out of here.'

CAVANAUGH: Oh, wow.

BRIAN: And I was curious what kind of a background check and a whole educational philosophy check did the San Diego school system do to make sure that his beliefs were congruent with where they wanted to go in the future.

CAVANAUGH: Well, that is…

BRIAN: And I'll take the answer off air.

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you for that. I'm afraid we're not going to be able to answer that because John de Beck is no longer with us, he being one of the school board members who made the decision to hire Terry Grier. But it certainly is a good question and one in a way that we can ask Mr. Grier if, indeed, he does appear on our program on Wednesday. And let's talk to Carolyn in San Diego. Good morning, Carolyn. Welcome to These Days.

CAROLYN (Caller, San Diego): Oh, thank you. I'm a classroom teacher and I've been teaching for 36 years. Terry Grier is probably my eighth superintendent I've been under. And I just want to say that Camille Zombro speaks for me. What she's saying is right on. As a day-to-day classroom teacher, I concerned about kids. I care what goes on in my classroom. And I sort of resent what Grier has said, that we have hindered him or we've hindered him – I truly feel that Grier has hindered me as a classroom teacher. I'm not allowed to do some of the things that I feel are really good for kids.

CAVANAUGH: What…

CAROLYN: And…

CAVANAUGH: …are you not allowed to do?

CAROLYN: Well, I need school nurses. I need support. I need a method of reaching kids that are very diverse, you know, who speak different languages. I need a curriculum that is going to allow me to reach those – I feel I have a craft and that I have developed it very well over 36 years. I feel I'm not respected for that. I feel that he looks – or, maybe not he but people look down on us. Oh, you're a classroom teacher. And that needs to change. And…

CAVANAUGH: Well, thank you. Carolyn, thank you so much for that. You've given us a lot to talk about. Camille, I'm wondering, was – or let me ask you, is Terry Grier popular among San Diego's teachers?

ZOMBRO: You know, I would go to what is popular among San Diego's teachers. This is a group of very well educated folks. I mean, most of them have master's degrees, some of them the equivalent of two master's degrees or Ph.D.s. Very highly trained, very passionate, very dedicated, and that's reflected in our achievement, not just test scores but other things we can do with kids. What we've found that educators value is having a voice in decisions that are made. We have huge changes going on with curriculum and instruction. We have standardized tests, district standardized tests, that are taking up about a month of instructional time our teachers are reporting to us. That – Those are the sorts of things that really run against why teachers went into teaching and what we value about the interactions we have with students. And those are the sorts of programs and things that Terry Grier really pushed some – So there were -- You know, I think to be clear, we don't have an interest in having this just be a conversation about Terry Grier because that would really be a loss. There's an opportunity here to talk about where we are, where we want to go, and how we're going to get there. And what we find is that the time that we spend our wheel – spin our wheels talking about just whether it's Terry Grier or myself, I'm getting, you know, skewered out there in the news as well. At the end of the day, you know, I'll be back in a classroom in a year. Someone else'll be in this seat. And the issues, class size issues, support for teaching, how much instructional time is taken up by things that really don't help teachers teach and students learn, those are the issues that are in front of us that we really need to grapple with. How…

CAVANAUGH: Well – Excuse me. I'm sorry but let's put Superintendent Grier to the side then. Do you think that you're going to get – teachers are getting the proper support from the school board?

ZOMBRO: We've certainly at least continued talking with them. We've invited Trustees out into schools to actually visit and interact with members. And three of our trustees have been very comfortable and have come along and been a part of those discussions. You know, I would look at support or non-support in, again, what's measurable. Clearly, the decisions in how the budget came down this year demonstrated a real value for our work, and that was certainly one – something that was appreciated. We've got a lot more work ahead of us and these are the sorts of challenges that make teaching, you know, exciting and it's something that we're very hopeful about. Again, we're very clear on what it takes. What we want is to be able to be a part of the conversation of how we're actually going to get there.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you one more question because, surprisingly, we don't have any time left. It just really went by very quickly.

ZOMBRO: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: What do you think the school board should look for when it appoints a new superintendent?

ZOMBRO: Well, I think that the school board shouldn't be the only ones looking for – The caller before asked about the background check. It was a completely secret process. No one knew except the school board who the finalists were and who was going to be chosen for superintendent until the decision was made. We need an open process that includes parents, teachers. We need someone who understands and really values the work that's been happening and that will continue to happen in San Diego. And we need someone who is effective at working with a group of very diverse and passionate people. I mean, that's one thing is, you know, as much as we may disagree with our school board members, I think we're all very passionate about what we believe. At the end of the day, after a child's family, no one cares more about them than their teachers. And we desperately want to be a part of that conversation, and we're going to continue doing the work that we can to make sure that our voices are heard.

CAVANAUGH: Camille Zombro, thank you so much for joining us.

ZOMBRO: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Camille Zombro is the head of the San Diego Education Association. A lot of people wanted to get involved in this conversation and we didn't have time to take your calls. We want to invite you to post your comments online at KPBS.org/TheseDays.

Comments

Avatar for user 'Carolina'

Carolina | August 24, 2009 at 9:56 a.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Shifting the discussion to what students need - second language learners, special education students, students who don't perform at grade level, GATE students, average students, black, white, latin, asian and all of the variations within these classifications - is what we must do. The administration, the school board, the teacher's union and the community at large must understand what is required in the 21st century to create an effective system that educates all children.

Until that becomes the collective mission of the school district, we are ignoring our clients - San Diego's children.

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Avatar for user 'tkwayana'

tkwayana | August 24, 2009 at 10:20 a.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Our youth are more than statistics. I was so disturbed by one of our superintendent's recent Friday Notes that I addressed the implied mentality in a page of my website that reported on my summer school class: SUMMER SCHOOL: MORE THAN CREDIT RECOVERY. View it using either my tinyurl or my MobileMe URL below and click on Summer School...

http://tinyurl.com/kog7ww
OR: http://web.mac.com/tchaikokwayana/Journey_with_Tchaiko_Kwayana/Welcome.html
Our charges deserve to know and experience so much that requires us to expose them to a wide world but including their own world. Emphasis on tests and results only helps careers!
Tchaiko Kwayana, National Board Certified 1995 - 2005

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Avatar for user 'quoniambebe'

quoniambebe | August 24, 2009 at 12:01 p.m. ― 4 years, 8 months ago

Camille did a wonderful job of representing teachers at SDUSD. This is not about Terry Grier or Matt Spathas. This is about the students in our district. Teachers are the ones who work with students every day. Teachers' ideas and opinions need to become more a part of our district's direction. Anyone, like Mr. Spathas, who thinks that teachers need to be quieted so that the business elites can reform education is simply wrong headed.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | August 25, 2009 at 5:20 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

I found Camille quite rather annoying. She sidestepped most of the questions asked of her and then most of her responses seem to drag on and on like a politician. I'm disappointed at Maureen Cavanaugh as well. She really didn't try anything to get Camille Zombro to answer her questions. All in all I couldn't stomach to listen to what Camille had to say or try to.

Teachers should be allow to voice their opinion on what and how to teach but they should not be set free to do anything. This, I hope, people will see that it's not a very good idea at all. You will have chaos even if a few classes succeed. There are too many teachers, too many students and too many parents of diverse backgrounds and opinions to prevent this from working. And in the end who is going to get the blame? No, the district and/or higher authorities need to have a goal, some sort of agenda, priorities and what have you that most teachers agree on and follow them.

And I don't buy one bit that teachers are not interested with what the Union, Boards or bureaucratic nonsense that goes around is about. It is still work and if your work is affecting how you teach you are going to be concern, at the very least. This gibberish nonsense Camille is stating of teachers isn't true. It sure sounds nice because it's the teachers and kids that matters but it's surely not true. I dare anyone to ask any teachers whether or not they are aware of what's going on in the schools/district/etc or whether or not they don't and are solely focused on teaching their class(es). And if it's the latter case are they teaching according to the district or are they teaching according to their own ways? A teacher may not care what's going on but I guarantee it'll affect them one way or another whether they like it or not.

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Avatar for user 'The0ne'

The0ne | August 25, 2009 at 5:34 p.m. ― 4 years, 7 months ago

And to add to what Camille Zombra stated, if no teachers were laid off where and how the they get the money to keep going from? The Union is indeed strong, much too strong. And while it's good in some respect I fear it's more like the auto Union. I love teachers but I really wouldn't trust any of these bureaucrats no matter how "nice" and "caring" they seem to be. This is nothing against Camille as I know absolutely nothing about her but rather in general....kinda like politics :)

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