Open Letter From City Council Member Stirs Controversy Around Lincoln High School
KPBS Midday Edition Segments / May 24, 2021
A letter written by a San Diego City Council member addressed to San Diego Unified leadership has raised concerns over a number of issues Lincoln High School.
Speaker 1: 00:00 Concern is mounting over a host of issues at San Diego unified Lincoln high school. After a city council member submitted a letter highlighting longstanding concerns within the school's administration council member. Monica Montgomery step says high administrative turnover coupled with allegations of misspent funds and sexual assault at the school constitutes a failure in Lincoln high's service to its community. Joining me now to discuss the letter and its surrounding controversy is San Diego union Tribune education reporter Kristin [inaudible] Kristen. Welcome. Hi, thank you for having me. So what particular incident prompted council member? Montgomery steps letter. And what did the letter express? Yeah,
Speaker 2: 00:44 So it looks like there were a number of things that prompted the letter. One of them was one of Lincoln's directors or leaders was apparently moved from the school. And so I think that for the council member brought up the concerns again of the school's leadership turnover they've gone through, I believe four principals since 2014. So I think that kind of just prompted those concerns again. Can you and remind
Speaker 1: 01:12 Us of what these long standing issues are at Lincoln high school?
Speaker 2: 01:16 Yeah, so I think one of the big ones was the leadership turnover in terms of going through several principals and a relatively small number of years. And so I think just having to cycle through so many leaders in that time, really binge the morale of the community and has made them feel like their school isn't getting, you know, the best leadership or the best help from the district. And so that's why that has been, I guess, a source of discouragement to some, but they did want to note that like there have been some improvements at the school since the new principal has been appointed. And so, and Stephanie Brown was appointed by, uh, a committee of P of community members and people who selected her for Lincoln. So since she came, the graduation rates have gone up from, I believe, 80 to 84% in the year she's been here. And then the suspension rate also fell significantly. How has
Speaker 1: 02:15 San Diego unified leadership reacted to the letter that was written by council member Montgomery step in general
Speaker 2: 02:22 And specifically the board vice president, um, Sharon Whitehurst pain whose area does include Lincoln. She believed that the letter ignored the progress that, um, the print, the new principal has made in the past two years. And I think in general, she wanted to stress that, that there has been progress. And I guess she felt it wasn't fair to only highlight negative events or elements about Lincoln and not focus on the positives.
Speaker 1: 02:54 And tell me about some of those positives.
Speaker 2: 02:56 The graduation rate has gone up. The suspension rate has gone down and, um, the principal has, according to the school, the principal has been working on, for example, changing the career pathways that the school offers for students. And so, um, and then I think in general, there's also just a lot of community members, whether it's at the YMCA or other organizations that are in the community that are trying to celebrate and support the students at Lincoln and in those surrounding community for years, community
Speaker 1: 03:30 Advocates have argued. The school has failed to address issues with leadership resources and equity for students, especially black students. What can you tell us?
Speaker 2: 03:41 Part of that is what we've seen about. Yeah, the leadership turnover that just signals to some community members that the district hasn't stabilized the school after a number of years, and they've also been pointing to gaps, racial disparities and discipline. So like in the district overall, there is a racial disparity gap between, um, black students who are suspended and students in general, who are suspended, black students, um, are more likely to be suspended from school. And so, um, yeah, those are just some of the signs that some community members they see and then that, that to them is proof that that Lincoln is still not where they wanted to be, or they don't think the district is doing enough to help this school.
Speaker 1: 04:27 What's been the district's response to the multiple alleged sexual assaults and allegations of misused funds mentioned in Montgomery step's letter.
Speaker 2: 04:36 Well, for the, um, regarding the funds, um, the district said that, um, the, the, the money that the school had won the school council had wanted to spend on tutoring and textbooks. It was about $220,000. Um, that, that money, they, they said that money was actually never available in the first place for the school council to decide to spend. And so that's why, I guess that was their explanation for why the money didn't go to tutoring and textbooks. This is from 2019. And so the district said that, uh, an outside law firm conducted a report, um, looking into the matter to see why that money wasn't, um, allocated to tutoring and textbooks. And that's what that, um, law firm had found that the money wasn't available in the first place, um, and in terms of the sexual assaults, these are from a number of, uh, lawsuits and other cases that had come up in the past several years. Um, and each one I don't have in front of me, like the district response for each of those,
Speaker 1: 05:45 Ultimately, what type of change do council member Montgomery step and community advocates want to see happen in the immediate future for Lincoln high?
Speaker 2: 05:54 I think one of the things that they just for the council members letter, she was mainly asking for answers to a lot of questions about why these things have been happening at Lincoln. Why, what, what is the state of Lincoln in terms of the data? And so, um, yeah, I think they, a lot of it, um, is they want answers and then also community members, um, they, some of them feel just ignored by the district. And so I think, um, this out are they say that they just want to hear, um, or for the, um, for the district to listen to them. And so, um, yeah, I think that's what, one of the main things they were, they were hoping for.
Speaker 1: 06:40 I have been speaking with San Diego union Tribune education reporter, Kristen to Quetta. Kristen, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.