Superintendent finalists face the public in-person and online
After beginning an extensive, community-focused recruitment process almost a year ago, the San Diego Unified Board of Education is a step closer to naming its next permanent superintendent.
District officials hosted a public community forum at Wilson Middle School at 3838 Orange Avenue in Normal Heights, Saturday afternoon. Dr. Susan Enfield and Dr. Lamont Jackson met each other for the first time. They took questions at the in-person event from teachers, parents, students, and other community members who submitted them.
They spoke on topics including everything from special education to racial inequities and the need for teacher pay raises. When it was over, parents like Katrina Hasan had something to say.
She told KPBS News, “The biggest issue either one of these leaders is going to face, is not being able to please one side or the other. Just trying to find that balance, to make sure we are educating all students.”
Both candidates are native Californians. Enfield grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Jackson was born and raised in San Diego. For the past 10 years, Enfield has been superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in the Seattle area.
“I am a big believer that we have to choose our professional home wisely, just as we choose our personal home wisely,” she said.
She continued with the reasons she wants the job: “I wanted to look for districts where I felt the values and the practices matched my own. I believe that’s the case in San Diego for many reasons. Leadership stability at the board and staff level and a community that deeply cares about the education of its children and a real prioritization of acknowledging the rich diversity.”
The San Diego Unified student population represents 15 ethnic groups and more than 60 languages and dialects.
Jackson has been interim superintendent since last summer, when Cindy Marten resigned to join the Biden administration in Washington, D.C. He is the product of the district he’s been part of since elementary school.
“I believe this is the time for stability, consistency, and coherence,” said Jackson. “As a former area superintendent, chief officer of human resources, a principal, teacher and a student in this district. I bring all of that to this district.”
“I think too often and why we see disproportionate discipline numbers is we punish the behavior before we get to the root of the problem. It’s important we are making sure a student is known and we look into why we are seeing behaviors and then figuring out what that student needs.”Susan Enfield, San Diego Unified superintendent finalist
Dr. Enfield’s current assignment with Highline Public Schools is in a much smaller district of just 18,000 students. She was interim superintendent of the 50,000 student Seattle School District before moving to the nearby Highline in 2012.
Enfield has much experience working with children from diverse backgrounds in those districts.
“I think too often and why we see disproportionate discipline numbers is we punish the behavior before we get to the root of the problem,” she said, “It’s important we are making sure a student is known and we look into why we are seeing behaviors and then figuring out what that student needs.”
Inequity exists in San Diego Unified when it comes to the discipline of students. Statistics show that Black students are three times more likely to be suspended than white students.
“We certainly have to hold them accountable but doing that we have to show them compassion, love, and kindness. We all make mistakes, but those of us who come out of it can point to people that supported us. That is critical and that is how we can change this narrative for our Black children and all children.”Lamont Jackson, San Diego Unified superintendent finalist
“We certainly have to hold them accountable but doing that we have to show them compassion, love, and kindness,” Dr. Jackson responded in reference to inequity. “We all make mistakes, but those of us who come out of it can point to people that supported us. That is critical and that is how we can change this narrative for our Black children and all children.”
The San Diego superintendent job requires leadership of almost 120,000 students, 14,000 employees including about 6,000 classroom teachers. There is also the management of the district’s $1 billion annual operating budget.
During Saturday’s public forum both candidates will take questions about COVID-19 vaccinations, mask mandates, virtual learning and anything else the public wants to know.