New San Diego Unified superintendent receives congratulations and expectations
Lamont Jackson joined the San Diego Unified School Board meeting Tuesday for the first time as permanent superintendent.
After a year-long search and selection process, Jackson was promoted from the interim position he has held since last June. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday afternoon to hire him over the only other finalist for the job, Susan Enfield.
Jackson was all smiles as he accepted the position and the terms of his new contract, which will be officially ratified at the next school board meeting on March 22. He grew up in the district as a student and has worked as a teacher, principal, administrator and area superintendent.
“It does not matter what your background is, what kind of life you’ve come from. You can rise to the top because he is a living example of that,” board president Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said.
Jackson grew up in Southeast San Diego and attended elementary and middle school in the district before graduating from Clairemont High School. He graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social sciences. He holds a master’s degree and a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of San Diego.
“I look forward to working with our entire community to lead the San Diego Unified out of this pandemic with a focus on learning and teaching," he said. "That is our foundation.”
The district’s foundation needs some reinforcement, as the number of registered students has dipped under 100,000 for the first time in many years. There is also the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for all eligible students 16 and up, which the district will begin enforcing during summer school in June despite pending legal complications.
Jackson says the vaccination requirement will extend to younger students once there is full FDA approval.
"Now that he is the permanent superintendent, we hope he will make changes in his leadership team that align with the approach and philosophy that we've come to know from him during his time as interim superintendent and in his previous district positions," San Diego Education Association president Kisha Borden said in a statement to KPBS.
SDEA represents more than 7,000 teachers in the district.
Ricardo Soto was on the community advisory committee that helped in the superintendent selection process. He is also a representative of the California Charter Schools Association. Charter schools educate 20,000 students on 40 different campuses across San Diego Unified. He supports Jackson lining up a diverse leadership team.
“It’s important they understand our charter schools are trying to ensure that students are learning and being served at a high level just as the traditional schools are,” he said.
Ultimately, it is the student’s reactions that matter most. Many of them stood with the new superintendent as he accepted the job at the Board of Education Center in University Heights.
“He’s the guy who goes up to a student and asks 'are you OK?' And if they say 'no,' you betcha he’s going to follow that student and make sure they’re okay. Lamont’s the friend,” said Zachary Patterson, Student Board trustee.