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San Diego Unified Board will decide which candidate becomes new superintendent

The two finalists for the permanent job of San Diego Unified Superintendent have spoken, and now it’s up to the school board. But parents still have some time to have their say. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has the story.

The two finalists for the permanent job of San Diego Unified Superintendent have spoken, and now it’s up to the Board of Education to make a decision.

Dr. Lamont Jackson and Dr. Susan Enfield have met face-to-face. During a public forum Saturday afternoon at Wilson Middle School, they took questions from teachers, parents, and students.

Jackson is the Interim Superintendent who wants to continue the job he started last summer. In his opening statement, he said, “We will be about diversity. We will be about equity, and we will be unapologetic about being inclusive in the San Diego Unified School District.”

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Enfield has been Superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Seattle since 2012. She is from the San Francisco Bay Area and wants to return to California. “I think this is a community that deeply cares about its children and its public schools,” she said about San Diego, “and that is a place I think any Superintendent would be honored to live, lead, and serve in.”

RELATED: Superintendent finalists face the public in-person and online

Interpreters translated every response from the candidates as they answered questions submitted in-person and online during a live stream of the event.

One question asked the candidates for solutions to racism and inequity in San Diego schools. Statistics show that Black students in San Diego Unified are three times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Dr. Enfield responded, “Leadership is not a popularity contest and when you are genuinely, authentically, leading for equity to serve all children you will make unpopular decisions. But, you have to stand by what you believe. I believe deeply we can do better as a public education system.”

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Dr. Jackson said, “We need training for our adults because we recognize we do have bias, and we do act through racist behaviors. We need to live into the fear that this may have been how we were raised, but this does not mean this is how we will remain.”

Katrina Hasan is a parent who attended the public forum. 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.”

On the issue of racial bias, Hasan continued, “I did like the fact that Dr. Jackson did mention positive discipline and Dr. Enfield mentioned building relationships with students.”

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Melissa Agudelo is a co-principal at Lincoln High School. She said she was pleased with what she heard from both finalists. “I appreciated the specificity of the questions,” she said. “ I thought the moderator and the list of questions, in general, were the right questions to ask. They included questions around kids of color and questions around special education students.”

There is an online option for anyone who still wants to make a comment by clicking on the Superintendent Search tab on the district’s website at www.sandiegounified.org

The school board is expected to name the new Superintendent within a month.

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