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San Diego Unified’s Superintendent Search

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Video published June 18, 2010 | Download MP4 | View transcript

Above: The city school board dances out the candidates for school superintendent. We'll find out what each has to offer to San Diego city schools.

GLORIA PENNER (Host): Last night, the public had a chance to meet the three finalists for the top job at San Diego city schools. The district has taken an unusual approach in the process of hiring its next superintendent – openness and transparency. Here to tell us about how it's all working and about the candidates for the job is KPBS education reporter Ana Tintocalis. Ana, welcome.

ANA TINTOCALIS (KPBS News): Thank you.

PENNER: So what happened at the meeting last night? It’s sort of like the first of a meeting like this.

TINTOCALIS: Yeah. It was something that I had never experienced before. There was a lot of energy. People were really excited, who came to the town hall meeting, although it wasn't greatly attended.

PENNER: It wasn’t?

TINTOCALIS: No. There weren’t too many parents, not a lot of teachers. Although, the people who were there were happy to be there. They had done their homework. All the finalists, their resumes were posted online so a lot of the participants read those resumes and came in with open minds. Some already made their decision and just wanted to see the candidates, but for the most part I think people were really eager to meet the candidates.

PENNER: Well we’re going to have a chance to meet them ourselves because we have some video from last night’s meeting with comments from each of the candidates. So get ready and let’s take a look at that now.

WILLIAM KOWBA (Superintendent Finalist): This may be the darkest time in our 150 years as a school district in terms of resourcing. This endless string of budget cutting just has to stop.

DEBBRA LINDO (Superintendent Finalist): Many poor parents who lack resources also lack the skill, will, and capacity and knowhow to actually do something different for their child. And so that’s where the educational system and the people in the system make a difference for those parents and those children.

DALE VIGIL (Superintendent Finalist): My commitment to San Diego Unified is if we’re going to implement some of these initiatives, I want to be here to see the results. I want to be here to celebrate with the students, with the staff, with the parents and the community the wonderful work that’s here.

PENNER: Well they all look a bit different. Let’s see how else they might be different. Tell us a little bit about William Kowba.

TINTOCALIS: It’s William Kowba, and he’s the familiar name in this race because he is the district’s interim superintendent and he's been with the district since 2006. He started as the district’s chief financial officer, and he's a naval officer, decorated officer… And his strength is that he's a big budget guy. He really crunches the numbers, he's big on logistics, and so that is his strong suit. He doesn’t have so much of the kind of academic vision as others, his predecessors have. The other finalist is Debbra Lindo, the only female who’s in the race. And she began her teaching career in San Diego Unified at a couple…

PENNER: As a teacher?

TINTOCALIS: As a teacher. Since then she’s gone on to become a public school administrator in Oakland. And now she runs a non-profit group called College Track, which tries to get young people into college – high school students. And she's very warm, very friendly. She has this kind of comforting style to her. Although, she's never ever led a large urban school district so that’s her drawback.

PENNER: But that’s been true of many of our superintendents in the past.

TINTOCALIS: That’s true.

PENNER: I mean Alan Bersin didn’t lead any district before.

TINTOCALIS: And a lot of people liked her because she has that longtime educator experience, but she's also done non-profit work. So she's been able to get a kind of well-rounded experience in the field.

PENNER: And the third candidate?

TINTOCALIS: And the third candidate is Dale Vigil, and he's the one that’s probably the most experienced in managing a big city school district. He's the former superintendent of Hayward Unified School District, which is in northern California. He's also been a public school administrator in Los Angeles and in San Diego about a decade ago. So his strength is that he's big on making sure African American students and students that are learning English as a second language get the resources that they need. He's a big advocate for them. He's more of a take-charge personality. Of all of them he has kind of the big personality, and so some people like that, some people didn’t.

PENNER: He’s run into some problems in the past when he was involved with other districts too.

TINTOCALIS: Yeah. When you take a look at these three candidates, he definitely sticks out as someone who may or may not be the best fir for San Diego Unified only because he was forced to step down as superintendent in Hayward. He also had big problems with the teachers union. During his watch there was a teachers strike, so he has some baggage with him.

PENNER: One has to ask why did these three rise to the top.

TINTOCALIS: Well the school board has been really public about they don’t want a change agent. They don’t want a big reformer. They want someone who will work with everyone kind of in a teamwork style fashion. They want someone who will be collaborative. So they're not looking for big personalities, and these three you could say really had nothing to lose to apply for the job. They're not big superintendents in big city school districts.

PENNER: With big visions.

TINTOCALIS: With big visions. They're kind of those personalities that will let the school board do what they want to do, listeners, and won’t rock the boat.

PENNER: So one wonders why the school board doesn’t want to be more adventurous.

TINTOCALIS: Well they feel like they are being adventurous by not kind of feeding into that trend that you need big reforms. They're wanting to really focus on the basics. The school board is looking to adopt this new direction, this new mission, where it’s decentralizing the power at the district headquarters and really giving that power to school sites and letting the school sites determine what reforms are a best fit. You know, working in line with the teachers union. So that is a big departure from how most school districts operate. Usually it’s, you know, from top to bottom. This way they're kind of trying to do it from bottom to top.

PENNER: What happens next? What the next step in the process?

TINTOCALIS: The next step in the process is that now the school board will conduct a few more interviews over the next two weeks. And then they're supposed to come to a decision by the end of this month. So June 29th is the date that they picked. We’ll see if that happens. They were a day late in coming out with the three finalists, so they might push that back but that is the next step.

PENNER: Well good. Then you’ll come back and talk about that choice. Thank you so much, Ana Tintocalis.

TINTOCALIS: Certainly, thank you.


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