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San Diego Unified Leaders Give Annual Update At Lincoln High School

Working to shrink the achievement gap, resolve equity issues and help students unlock the genius within were all hot topics at Tuesday night's State of the District address given by San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten and school board President Marne Foster.

Upwards of 100 people attended the annual update where the district's top leaders discussed what they accomplished in the 2014-2015 school year and what they hope to accomplish this year and in the coming years.

The meeting was opened by Lincoln High School Principal John Ross, with every school board member giving updates on their respective districts.

The jazz band from the School of Creative and Performing Arts performed and was saluted with a standing ovation from the audience following its performance of classics including "St. Louis Blues."

Foster, a self-proclaimed product of Lincoln High School because of her family's legacy at the school, addressed the ways the district met or exceeded goals last school year set by the Local Control Accountability Plan.

Foster said last year's accomplishments included the significant decrease in the number of students suspended or expelled.

"We're proud of creating school environments that are worthy of our students," Foster said.

Foster said SDUSD is on track to become a completely restorative district, with a 41 percent decrease in expulsions across the district in 2014 and 1,500 fewer suspensions in the same year, a 24 percent drop.

Marten — who's going into her third year as superintendent of one of the biggest districts in the state — said the district has had some successful pilot programs aimed at addressing the achievement gap but they need more money to expand the programs to other schools.

"Funding is something we continually need to advocate for," Marten said. "We have small programs we can't yet take to scale. We need a statewide conversation around California's education funding. This is our work to lead."

Marten said the district's new funding formula determined it would take $3,200 more in per pupil spending to bring the district up to the national average for school funding.

California currently ranks 46th in the nation for spending per student, according to the district.

Marten and Foster will join other educators and legislators from across the state Wednesday for a conference call on what kind of funding hike school districts in California need to close the achievement gap and eliminate equity issues in public education.

Marten said she wants to hear from students and parents — who she referred to as "customers" — directly at next year's annual update.

"I want to hear from our students," Marten said. "Until we hear from them, we're just talking. It's who I work for and I know it's who you work for everyday."

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