Originally published July 20, 2010 at 3:56 p.m., updated July 20, 2010 at 5:50 p.m.
A group of civic leaders is calling the San Diego Unified School District a "failing school district." The leaders blame a series of leadership changes within the top ranks.
SAN DIEGO A group of civic leaders is calling the San Diego Unified School District a "failing school district." The leaders blame a series of leadership changes within the top ranks, and they want to change how the district is run.
San Diegans 4 Great Schools released a scathing study which showed up to half of the district's elementary and middle school students failed to reach standards in reading and math from 2002 to 2008. Low-income students, English language learners and minority students did even worse.
Leaders say poor district management has lead to poor academic performance over the past several years. They are using the data to push for drastic reform.
“I think it's important for people to understand and I think it's important for people to try to get together and see what they can do about it,” coalition leader Scott Himelstein said.
He says his group is targeting the structure of the school board.
“The system of governance we have now has been in place since 1931. Classrooms have changed, teaching has changed, and most importantly, kids have changed in the way they learn. So I think there are new opportunities to look at different structures of governance,” Himelstein said.
Himelstein says one idea is to create a bigger school board. Supporters say appointing four new members to the panel would stabilize the board and make it harder for special interests to influence policy.
The coalition has the backing of Mayor Jerry Sanders and Qualcomm philanthropist Irwin Jacobs.
The district's Bernie Rhinerson says San Diego Unified officials realize not enough students are meeting reading and math standards, but they don't plan to restructure the school board. Rhinerson says the district's new, permanent superintendent is focused on raising test scores.
“The discussion about student achievement is welcome and we invite them to participate in what the district is doing to work on student achievement. Rather than look back at the past, we're looking at the future in how we can work together,” Rhinerson said.
Rhinerson points out the coalition failed to look at last year’s test scores, which showed moderate gains.
Coalition leaders say they hope their report will prompt a community conversation about reforming school governance in San Diego.