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Trustees Discuss Pros, Cons Of No Superintendent

The San Diego Unified School Board debated the possibility of running the school district without a superintendent yesterday. It was the first time the trustees considered the issue in public.

Former school superintendent Terry Grier left San Diego Unified last October after serving only a year as the district's leader. He became the third superintendent to leave in just four years.

His departure prompted the five school trustees to ask themselves whether having one superintendent calling the shots is doing more harm than good in San Diego Unified.

The trustees are looking at a series of possible leadership alternatives.

One alternative is crafted by school board member John de Beck. It calls for a team of leaders to run different aspects of the district.

No other district in the country has adopted such a model. De Beck says it would bring stability to San Diego Unified.

“I see opposition (to this alternative) because people don't want to consider something new or something they haven't seen a model for anywhere else,” de Beck said. “The very fact that the idea is unique makes me proud that I can bring it forward.”

The other alternatives include giving San Diego’s mayor more control, having two leaders run the district and electing a superintendent.

School trustee Katherine Nakamura and two other school board members are in favor of slightly tweaking the traditional superintendent’s role. But Nakamura says the board needs to focus on the district's multimillion dollar budget deficit – not a new leadership model.

“Putting in a whole new model right now is not going to solve anything,” Nakamura said. “There is a tremendous possibility for all different kinds of solutions within the single superintendent search. I think we have enough flexibility within that. The question is, ‘How do we find someone for San Diego? How do we find someone who works with this board as a whole?’”

The school board is expected to discuss the issue once again next week. The trustees are still working out a timetable to make a final decision. In the meantime, Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba is running the district.