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This blogger has created and provided the following Principal Staffing Recommendation to Superintendent Cindy Marten and Area Superintendent Lamont Jackson.  This recommendation not only services the needs of SCPA but also the needs of the SDUSD and saves at least $25,000!  Let’s see what the SDUSD Superintendent and Board eventually decide…

San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts


Principal Staffing Recommendation



 Submitted by:

Frank Engle



The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) Office decision to remove Principal Lizarraga at SCPA caused a huge school site stakeholder outpouring of anger, frustration and negative backlash toward SDUSD Superintendent Marten, Board Members Beiser, Evans, Barrera, Barnett and Foster.

This huge negative backlash was warranted due to extremely poor communication by the San Diego Unified District office along with a total disconnect from the SCPA community by the District office on the enormous positive contributions and guidance by Principal Lizarraga felt and supported by essentially all SCPA Stakeholders including Teachers, Parents, Students, Community Members and Alumnae.

At the SCPA Community meeting on Wednesday, 7/9/14, Area Superintendent Lamont Jackson and two of his District office colleagues received over 2 ½ hours of SCPA Stakeholder feedback to retain Principal Lizarraga and shared the District position on the removal of Principal Lizarraga.  The link to the video of the meeting is as follows: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Hrh5vhckoc&feature=em-upload_owner


District and SCPA Stakeholder Positions

The primary position from the overwhelming majority of the SCPA Stakeholder Community is simple: 

Keep Mitzi Lizarraga as Principal at SCPA for the coming school year and beyond.

The primary position for removal of Principal Lizarraga, as represented by Mr. Jackson is not as clear: 

The District has the right to move resources (Principal Lizarraga) where they will do the most good for the whole District and that the “vision” was to assign her to a District position where she could help more District schools than just SCPA in the Creative and Performing Arts.

The Different Perspectives 

From the SCPA Community perspective:

Mrs. Lizarraga is a specialist Principal – SCPA is the only Arts Magnet Middle/High School in SDUSD and her skills and credentials match those needs perfectly.  The SDUSD, to fully meet the needs of SCPA would have to hire ANOTHER specialist Principal since there is no Principal currently employed by the SDUSD that is even close to the Arts Education credentials of Mrs. Lizarraga.  As outlined in the EVALUATOR NOTE below, adding another specialist in the same area when you already have the perfect fit would be financially unfeasible for the SDUSD.

From the SDUSD perspective

Taking Lamont Jackson at his word, the SDUSD needs a District level administrator that can assist schools in the District to implement many of the same Arts integration strategies and local, State and National Arts Community connections that have been so successful at SCPA.

EVALUATOR NOTE:  The SDUSD is extremely linear and methodical in their operational management.  This is not unusual in a large organization, especially one in the public sector.   This does not fit well in the current educational financial climate of limited budgets and limited resources in Federal, State and individual District educational initiative deployments.  For cost reasons, a modern school district can rarely justify specialists since generalists are much more affordable and flexible for leadership and operational position placement.


This challenge requires a composite rather than a linear solution.  Simply filling a position at SCPA and at the District with “specialist” candidates that have similar characteristics only doubles the headcount cost and increases the risk that one will not be able to perform.    A composite solution is required to meet the needs of both the SCPA Stakeholder Community and the SDUSD Office by filling both the key leadership Principal position at SCPA and the SDUSD Administrator position with a highly qualified and credentialed Educator/Leader at a reduced cost.

This recommendation is a relatively simple 3 step action plan:

  1.  Re-assign Mitzi Lizarraga to SCPA (75% FTE)

Given the many, many positive initiatives in progress at SCPA that require a specific set of Creative and Performing Arts credentials and intimate understanding of the method and process, there is no way to place ANY new Principal, especially one with lesser credentials, into the position successfully.  The negative impact would be so severe on the school site community that it would take years and years to rebuild if ever.

To guarantee that there is sufficient budget and financial oversight, the SDUSD would place a full time Site Finance Clerk (1 FTE – approx. $50k annually) at SCPA to be sure all SDUSD financial protocols are being followed and reviewed per District guidelines.

  1.  Assign Mitzi Lizarraga as STEAM Task Force Assistant Superintendent (25% FTE)

With Mrs. Lizarraga’s credentials as a Chair, Vice Chair and Member of over 20 Arts and Education Boards regionally and statewide she is a perfect fit to grow STEM into STEAM in a strategic and tactical fashion District Wide.  She could create and lead a small “STEAM Task Force” of experts (7 or less) from the District Office (i.e.: VAPA), Key site personnel that have strong Arts Integration (i.e.: Patrick Henry HS, Mira Mesa HS etc.)  and outside organizations where she already is connected (i.e.: Old Globe, etc) to put together a pilot and rollout with a High School, Middle School and Elementary School STEAM model for the 2015/16 school year.  Some of the Elementary Schools that have just implemented the STEAM Grant (i.e.: Franklin Elementary) could be used as laboratories for strategies and tactics for the pilot.  Other strategies and tactics for Middle and High School, could be tested at her own school, SCPA, or at the schools or locations of her other “Task Force” colleagues.  Since part of the 25% assigned is actually occurring on her own campus and since she has very capable Vice Principals already on staff that could be mentored into additional roles on site, the 25% could be easily absorbed.

  1.  Mentor, Mentor, Mentor

This STEAM Task Force is the perfect training and mentoring ground for up and coming administrators and teachers (including at SCPA) who have aspirations to become Principals.  By creating specific committees with specific initiatives, goals and deliverables, these fledgling principal aspirants have the chance to learn the nuances of both Arts integration and leadership.  With this pool of trained mid level administrators and teachers, the SDUSD would have a resource to fill Principal/Leadership positions from within with qualified applicants while also providing a “career path” for those who want it.



The salary of a new principal with close to the credentials of Principal Lizarraga would be easily OVER $125,000.  By NOT having to hire a new Principal at SCPA and only using $50,000 on a Site Finance Clerk, the SDUSD could provide a little more money to members of the STEAM Task Force and to the VP’s at SCPA for the extra work involved with a budget of $50,000 – saving the district over $25,000 (see Attachment 1-Financial Analysis).

In addition there may be a Government or Private Grant that will pick up the 25% of her salary dedicated to the STEAM Program initiative AND ADD AN ADDITIONAL $35,000 (or more) TO THE DISTRICT BUDGET FOR A TOTAL SAVINGS OF $60,000+!


By “thinking outside the box” the SDUSD can turn this staffing opportunity into a positive step for

The SDUSD – Fixing a STEAM gap while keeping one of its highest achieving schools intact and creating a collaboration team of the best Arts/Education talent in the SDUSD.

SCPA – Keeping the Principal responsible for leading her school to its many achievements.

Teachers – Being given a well trained STEAM Principal, a career path to become one and a tested and clear STEAM pedagogy to apply in their classrooms.

Parents, Community Members and Alumnae – Strengthening confidence that their school is in only the best of hands and that their voice has been heard.

And especially the STUDENTS – Continuity and a higher level of learning possible both at SCPA and District-Wide.


Attachment 1

Financial Analysis


District Linear Plan
New SCPA Principal $125,000
New Lizarraga District Position $125,000
Annual Total Cost $250,000
Recommended Composite Plan
Composite Lizarraga Principal/District Position $125,000
Site Finance Clerk $50,000
Addl. Funds for “STEAM Task Force” $50,000
Annual Total Cost $225,000
Cost Overview
District Linear Plan $250,000
Recommended Composite Plan $225,000
Annual Net Savings $25,000*


  • If part of the role of Principal Lizarraga in her District position is to manage the generation of Private, Local, State and Federal Grants to support the District-Wide STEAM Task Force Initiative, savings could easily double, triple or more annually.