Cindy Marten, Mitzi Lizarraga, San Diego Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten, SCPA, SDUSD
NOTE: The following is the best estimate of what occured the evening of 7/16/14. There was no agenda, no notes, no minutes, no audio or video recording of the proceedings provided by the Superintendent Office or the SDUSD of this extremely important meeting.. As SDUSD Stakeholders we must do our best to provide transparency to ALL key discussions for the benefit of all. That is the purpose of this narrative.
This narrative should be close to being accurate based on trusted resources and great effort was taken to be sure it was as accurate as possible. I have not included any of the names of the SCPA Special Select Group attendees because I see them as casualties of the Marten Monarchy process and they should not be publicized simply for being used by it. The observations have been arrived at from discussions with those that know the situation and have a large degree of understanding as to how the SDUSD functions under the Marten regime. This blogger wonders if ALL the members of the Board of Education approve of these tactics used by their Superintendent with their constituents.
SCPA Special Select Group Meeting with Cindy Marten and Lamont Jackson
All SCPA Attendees Selected by Superintendent Marten
Summary and Observations
7:00 pm -10:00 pm Wednesday, 7/16/14
A few days after the SCPA Principal Criteria meeting, Lamont Jackson reached out to certain individuals that had voiced their opinion at the meeting to schedule an “audience” with Superintendent Marten. This blogger was not contacted initially but when I found out I immediately sent the following email to Lamont Jackson:
Within a few days I received the following response:
Obviously my relentless pressure on Marten and Jackson to justify the ill advised, amateur decision that they made to remove Principal Lizarraga and my refusal to accept partial, inaccurate and public relations spin for an answer seriously damaged my “nomination” to the “special group” that was granted access to the inner sanctum of Cindy Marten.
The following blog post is a gathering of disparate information I have received or heard from attendees and others close to the situation. This is necessary because:
There was no Agenda published or provided by Martens’ office
There are no complete notes from the meeting distributed from Martens’ office
There are no complete minutes capturing what exactly was said distributed from Martens’ office.
Because the Marten administration is so secretive, in order for ALL SDUSD Stakeholders to gain some level of transparency and understanding so they can be prepared for these manipulations, it is necessary to piece together the events through questioning of well placed sources. Until the SDUSD either tapes or records these meetings and provides accurate documentation for the proceedings of them for review, we will be forced to piece together critical public, but undocumented, discussions that affect our childrens’ education.
Here is a loose version of what happened…the observations are based on this version and could be slightly inaccurate but it is the best this SCPA and SDUSD Stakeholder can do with the zero SDUSD transparency provided.
Introduction – Marten Manipulation Strategy “0” – Frame the Discussion from the Start
At the beginning of the meeting, Lamont Jackson framed the conversation with words to the effect that: “Whatever has happened is past…let’s move forward.” This was most likely a predetermined phrase Marten chose to put the “Special Select Group” at a disadvantage of bringing Principal Lizarraga back.
Observation: With that discussion “framing”: If what happened is past, the removal of Mrs. Lizarraga is past and cannot be reconciled no matter how justifiable all the evidence supports her return to the position.
Marten Manipulation Strategy 1: When in doubt and desperate, pick on the weakest stakeholder
Marten met with 1 active student and 1 recent student alumni for 45 minutes privately, with no adults from the identified group as support, to discuss unknown topics related to Principal removal at SCPA.
Observation: Superintendent chose the youngest and least sophisticated representatives first and in private to test her plan and hope to gain agreement from these children to further her strategy. This is where Marten tested the “What type of Principal would you like?” or similar questions hoping they might name a plausible or popular alternative to Principal Lizarraga. If this is true, it appears to be a cold calculated move using innocent students to gain an edge on a situation of which she was losing control.
It is rumored that Marten also interrogated the students about the impact of a statement made by a relative of a Board member. This individual supposedly had no relationship to the removal of Principal Lizarraga. These “relative” questions were ONLY asked of the trusting students and not of the adult attendees. In fact the Students were not even allowed an opening statement…possibly for fear they would rehash the questions they were asked privately by Marten in front of the group.
It begs the question: “Why did Marten want to keep that conversation with the Students secret and unchaperoned by the SCPA Special Select Group?
Score: 2 votes down for Marten
Marten Manipulation Strategy 2: Convert the uninformed
Marten met with a “mystery parent” before the meeting. The secret discussion points were never revealed. No one in the SCPA selected group had any idea who the “mystery parent” would be until that individual came out of a private meeting with Marten before the group meeting. This parent was chosen in place of others who had verified credentials as active parents and volunteers within the SCPA community. The parent admitted during the meeting that “I’m not really involved” with anything at SCPA except having a recently graduated xth grader who would be in xth grade in the fall.. This individual was “hand-picked” my Marten since she knew the individual from other district involvement.
Marten and Jackson had much more involved and knowledgeable candidates ready, willing and able to participate. This blogger volunteered (as shown earlier) but so did another SCPA Parent that is well respected for their knowledge and commitment to SCPA. Neither, more involved, candidate was selected and a “not really involved” parent was chosen.
Observation: The undocumented Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the Marten Monarchy version of the SDUSD when trying to override Stakeholder popular opinion is to choose the most removed and least experienced stakeholder available for the situation that may be malleable to the District position, or at least not actively opposed to it. In this case, the “mystery parent” had virtually no experience on the SCPA Campus. The individual DID however have lots of “previous experience” with Marten in another role in the SDUSD. The individual was someone she could trust. I believe the individual volunteered and responded completely honorably and it is plausible that the individual was unknowingly put in the situation by Marten so she could coldly implement and enable her strategy at the group and SCPA’s expense.
Score: 1 more vote down for Marten
Marten Manipulation Strategy 3: Appeal to loyalty and friendship
It is reported that as the discussion progressed and one of the Teacher representatives spoke about the key Principal component of “Passion” and “From the Heart” needed and how that teacher felt those very things when thinking about what it means to be a principal. Marten winked at the students and implied that the Teacher speaking might be a viable candidate for the position. The other teacher, who is a good colleague and friend. along with the student and student alumni who had been pre-sold in the 45 minute secret meeting with Marten, through loyalty and friendship, did not appear to object to a beloved teacher being nominated to be Principal even though that excellent Teacher does not have the existing credentials required
Observation: If this happened close to as it was described, this strategy by Marten was particularly effective…and cruel… because by pitting a loved and popular Principal against a loved and popular Teacher, she reduced the selection down to a popularity contest. It is a version of “Sophie’s Choice” negotiation strategy-and just as unfeeling and cruel. Ultimately, the loved and popular Teacher, will either be inserted, and even with their standard 150% effort, struggle in the role and do a disservice to the 1,350 students and staff, (just like Marten is doing in her Principal to Superintendent leap to the over 130,000 students and staff) or not get the job because of a better candidate, In either case, Marten has gotten rid of Principal Lizarraga for unknown reasons…the one candidate that is eminently qualified for the SCPA Principal position…and minimized Stakeholder unrest…which was the purpose from the beginning.
Score: 1 more vote (1 teacher) and 2 reinforcements (2 student/alumni) to Marten
Marten Manipulation Strategy 4 – Use of Career Enticement
Marten inferred that one of the Teachers in the meeting might be a good fit for either interim Principal or to be hired as SCPA Principal
This strategy is identical to that used by the Board of Education when Marten was installed with no community outreach and inadequate credentials in her role as Superintendent.
In this Bloggers opinion, for a District the size of the SDUSD:
- Was Marten qualified: No
- Was Marten ready: No
- Did Marten have credentials that justified her placement: No
- Did Marten have burning, self serving desire and ego to take the job anyway: Yes
By hinting that one of the Teachers in the meeting could POSSIBLY fill the role of Principal, or at the very least “Interim” Principal, she calculated that, like the Godfather, she could “make an offer they can’t refuse.” and also play to the loyalty and friendship of the teaching staff and students so they wouldn’t object and embarrass their friend and colleague. It was also made infinitely more plausible since the SDUSD made the same error with her placement at Superintendent.
Observation: Again, if she used this sheer cold blooded strategy to try and manipulate Students and Teachers by using their laudable and deserved friendship and loyalty of a great Teacher against their best interests, it is deplorable.
Score: Marten votes gained: TBD
Marten Manipulation Strategy 5: The “Secret” Cover Up
Apparently the discussion about how SCPA needs Principal Lizarraga back was vocalized by the group many times. Eventually Marten was asked point blank if there was any chance that Lizarraga would be reassigned to SCPA. At the beginning of the meeting she flatly said “No”. Eventually she was asked again and Marten replied (loose translation):
“Mrs. Lizarraga has been assigned to the District office. If Mrs. Lizarraga was re-assigned to SCPA, it would be a demotion. I will not do that.”
At this point of the conversation Marten shared some information with the group and asked that they keep it confidential. All of the members of the “Special Select Group” promised to do so.
Observation: When Lamont Jackson was asked directly at the SCPA Meeting on July 9th whether Mitzi Lizarraga knew why she was being re-assigned, he said “Yes, she knows.”
Providing information to the “Special Select Group” and then swearing them to secrecy creates an information gap within the ranks of the united SCPA Community. It causes the SCPA Community and this blogger to speculate on what was said and sworn to secrecy and also freezes the community in place. The community doesn’t know whether to continue the fight to keep Mrs. Lizarraga as Principal or to be happy for her getting a new position that she actually wants and is not forced upon her.
I am a very hopeful type so, for example:
As an SCPA Stakeholder this blogger would hope that Marten said:
“You have all been very convincing over the past month and especially tonight. I’ve decided to change my mind and we are going to put Mrs. Lizarraga BACK in her position as principal but for now, until she returns, we need to keep what we have told everyone in place. Once she returns we will make the announcement together with her in front of the whole SCPA Community!”
Or…maybe she said:
“We saw the Proposal that District Deeds posted and we are going to create the “composite” position as it was described but it will take some time to put it in place. We will even save $25,000! Please do not say anything because it may impact others in the District office”
Or wouldn’t it be great if she said:
“I just found out that Mrs. Lizarraga has been chosen by President Obama to lead an Arts Education initiative nationwide. I know it is difficult for you to lose her at SCPA but we must all agree that the President and the United States MUST come first. National security demands that we do not let this out!”
With this “speculation” in place, it puts the “Special Select Group” in a very difficult position and also clearly illustrates just how little Marten is ready for the role of Superintendent of the 2nd largest School District in the most populous state in the US.
Why would a Superintendent share with a group of individuals she barely knew some information that is so sensitive that she made these slight acquaintances SWEAR TO SECRECY?
In turn, what authorization has she been given by the Board to share that level of sensitive information with these virtual strangers…some of whom she may have met for the first time that night…including one that has not even graduated from High School?
This bloggers can only come up with 2 possible alternatives for this action by Marten:
- The information is not really sensitive and she is just manipulating the “Special Select Group” to create a schism in the SCPA Community. If this is the case, the disgusting effort to manipulate a well meaning and honest group of SCPA Stakeholders shows just how desperate she is in trying to do her job and cannot be trusted with the top position.
- The information IS that sensitive and she may have broken a number of confidentiality rules in the District. If that is true, she should be immediately removed from her position by the Board of Education.
With this information”Gap” still a secret, it is impossible to tell just how bad the Marten SDUSD Senior Administrative Leadership really is…but it appears to be very bad.
It could be as simple as:
Marten and Jackson are trying to cover up an ill conceived removal of a high performing Principal prompted by influential individuals within the district. They were caught completely flat footed by the massive negative response to that decision and desperately snatched the most plausible cover they could to avoid exposure.
Without ALL the information including those items sworn to secrecy, it is hard to tell.
Hopefully it is not worse…as we know from past scandals (Nixon), the cover up is sometimes worse than the offense.
When the meeting started 5 of the 6 attendees (2 teachers, 1 student, 1 recent graduate, 1 experienced parent) were resolute to get Mitzi Lizarraga back as SCPA Principal and 1 attendee (new School Parent) was undecided/unknown.
When the meeting ended, Marten and Jackson shared some SECRET information with the group that they hoped everyone accepted that would diffuse the SCPA uprising. Without the secret information, all but 6 individuals from the SCPA Community are still left in the dark…apparently exactly where Marten and Jackson have wanted them to be since a few days before the Graduation Ceremony excluding Principal Lizarraga in June.
Let’s call a halt to this Marten/Jackson fantasy (nightmare).
I will not accept this attempt at manipulation to split the SCPA Community or ANY SDUSD School Community and neither should any Teacher, Parent, Student Community Member or Alumnae at SCPA or in the SDUSD. We need Mitzi Lizarraga back as Principal immediately….and we need an investigation into the tactics used by this Superintendent immediately…Period.
I wonder if there is a policy or law against one school board member, directing the superintendent to remove a principal, just because the board member’s child was disciplined at school.
Wonderful report on what happened. I feel most upset that the children are the losers in this unwarranted removal of their principal.
About five years ago, the principal of Foster Elementary was moved to Hearst. When the Foster parents complained, the principal was quickly sent back to Foster. Kowba was willing to listen.
An interesting item, in next Tuesday’s school board meeting. (Last meeting before school starts in Sept.)
The La Jolla Cluster is requesting more power in picking principals, letting employees in the cluster enroll their children in schools in La Jolla, not sure of all demands, but worth reading…opposite of what’s happening at SCPA.
Your community at SCPA spoke out clearly, stating they wanted to keep their principal. The district is listening to some communities, La Jolla, not to others.
The agenda item I referred to is E.3 (Instructional matters)…for the upcoming board meeting, Tuesday, July 29th. It says, the community “wants greater authority to manage, operate and administer”…things like principal choice, curriculum, etc…
If that were true for SCPA, they would keep their much loved principal…
Frank Engle said:
Thank you for the info Erin! I will be sure to let all of our community know and go there to be heard on the issue. I appreciate your comments!
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