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San Diego School Leaders Laud Progress In Tough Financial Times

Aired 10/3/12 on KPBS News.

School district leaders promote school improvements and district long-term plan in state of the district address

— News from San Diego city schools has been dominated by dire budget predictions for years. But school leaders told a different story in a state of the district address Tuesday night: one of improvement in that tough financial climate.

Since 2008, San Diego schools have improved test scores and increased graduation rates. Board of Education President John Lee Evans points to the district’s long-term plan and its three basic tenants as the source of those successes.

“Number one, a broad and challenging curriculum and new ways to measure achievement. Number two, great teaching with teacher collaboration, the use of data and high student achievement. And three, a focus on neighborhood schools with engaged parents and community,” he said, outlining the guiding ideas behind the district's Vision 2020 plan.

Next year, the district will roll out school accountability measures that address each area and start publishing schools’ results.

Spreckles Elementary Vice Principal Christian Gordon was at the address and thinks city schools are headed in the right direction. But he wonders how to keep it going when resources are scarce.

“How do you continue to come to work everyday and motivate kids and teachers to want to give their very best effort everyday?” he said.

Lisa Berlanga, executive director of UPforED, a parent advocacy group, likes the vision board members are painting for the district, but said past reluctance to make tough choices has her wondering if they can make it all happen.

“Just last year they had an opportunity to shop the benefits and save money," she said. "They’ve had presentations from charter schools that said one of the ways we save money is to shop around our benefits and they chose not to do that.”

There could be more tough choices ahead for the district soon. Up to $40 million will be cut from the schools’ budget if voters reject the governor’s proposed tax increases on the November ballot.

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