District Deeds received the following report from a confidential source. Please use any and all of the following links and documents to support the #NoMarten effort.
#No Marten Special Report
In San Diego Unified, under Cindy Marten, there has been a systemic and systematic attempt to suppress negative information about the district so as to support positive narratives. Ms. Marten promotes narratives about the district that give the impression of almost exclusively success by not publicly acknowledging facts that would portray the district in a negative light and by stalling public records requests that would provide information that would somehow tarnish the district’s image (including student outcome data). In fact, the district is still a party in a lawsuit for failure to produce records, some of which have been attempts to refute the narratives (e.g. if the district stalls long enough, the news is stale, and so the truth is never told).
1. Lack of Transparency-
San Diego Unified wins “Wall Award” from the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for its lack of transparency and response:
- “In 2017, through outright denials or staggeringly slow responses to public records requests – including some that have been found to have violated California law – refusals to discuss important decisions and misleading public statements, the district established itself as the public agency most hostile to transparency in San Diego”
- Numerous examples are cited including teacher sexual misbehavior, retaliation against reporters and district employees, etc.
“When former VOSD reporter Mario Koran asked for permission to observe classrooms for a story he was hoping to write, [Chief Public Information Officer] Sharp told district officials weighing the request that ‘Giving VOSD access to our parents and our kids would be like approving pedophiles to provide after-school care for our kids.‘ Got that? Giving the media access to taxpayer-funded public school classrooms would be like committing sex crimes against children. Other times, the retaliation has been directed at the district’s own employees. In 2017, one principal spoke frankly about how easy it was for students to cheat while completing the district’s online courses. Soon after, ‘I was told I had done great damage to both my school and the district for letting a reporter into my school, and was informed the superintendent would be paying me a visit and walking through the school in the very near future,’ she told us. ‘Principals are scared that if they speak out, they’ll get demoted. A high school principal might get bumped down to be a vice principal at an elementary school, for example. If they don’t like you, they’ll get rid of you.'”
Voice of San Diego Sues San Diego Unified for withholding and redacting information:
“A Voice of San Diego analysis of nearly three years’ worth of Public Records Act responses in 2017 found the district spent an average of 80 days to provide records – and 110 days for media requests.”
“For years, San Diego Unified officials said they did not have records showing complaints against the teacher [long known for touching female students inappropriately], but later said they found a box of documents while responding to a subpoena from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing indicating the teacher possibly committed a crime by grabbing a student years before his retirement in 2017. The teacher lost his teaching credential for misconduct last year, and former students have sued the district for their inaction.”
As part of that lawsuit, the former students call for “The termination of Superintendent Cindy Marten’s employment ‘due to her neglect and bullying of previous victims’ and failing to report sex abuse complaints to the CTC [California Commission on Teacher Credentialing]”
The district tried to institute a policy to delete emails after 6 months, which, given the turnaround time for public records requests, would make it essentially unnecessary or impossible for the district to comply with the requests.
- Since many of the public records requests included requests for internal communications to understand the hidden decision-making, the district taught employees how “not” to permanently delete emails and switch to googledocs. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/official-san-diego-unified-trained-employees-to-delete-emails-from-public-record/
SDUSD’s Chief Public Information Officer, Andrew Sharp, “jokingly” threatened the life of a reporter who was investigating the district’s budgets and expenses and teacher sexual misconduct.
(Mr. Sharp suffered no job-related consequence and still holds the same position–instead, the district recommended the reporter not interact with Mr. Sharp.)
5. Student Outcomes hidden by SDUSD (Cindy Marten)-
- Ms. Marten likes to promote the 2017 NAEP data and the reports referencing that data, such as the Learning Policy Institute’s report
- Ms. Marten doesn’t talk about the 2019 NAEP and the prolonged and consistent achievement gaps that report shows (see page 17 of the 2019 NAEP report for summary finding on achievement gaps): https://www-classic.sandi.net/DAR/R_R/Reports/NAEP/NAEPTUDA_2019_SDUSD.pdf
- Ms. Marten doesn’t speak about the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress results, which show very little progress and prolonged achievement gaps (only Hispanic/LatinX students have made significant gains) https://www-classic.sandi.net/DAR/R_R/Reports/SBAC/2019/MultiDemog/SBAC_2019_MultiDemog_ELAMath_000.pdf
6. English Learners-
She doesn’t like to talk about English Learners (since they aren’t doing well, per the CA Dept of Ed report, also referenced above).
- CA Dept of Education on Federal Funding documenting the deficiencies is here: https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Unified-Federal-Monitoring-Findings.pdf
7. Learning during the Pandemic-
- According to Ms. Marten at her State of the District speech, student learning was “unstoppable” during the pandemic, while in reality, in-person learning had stopped.
- Ms. Marten’s narrative about students receiving F grades is refuted by a series of public record requests (for data that the district indicated was unavailable for 12 weeks but was actually presented as a positive result by Ms. Marten at a school board meeting approximately 4 weeks later, prompting a second records request)
8. Poor Budget Transparency-
- The district has never publicly provided information on CARES Act Spending other than in vague news releases and statements to the media.
- The district quietly used the funds to backstop an $84 million structural deficit in the budget. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/coronavirus-aid-obscures-san-diego-unifieds-budget-deficit/
- The district repeatedly said that the CARES Act funding wasn’t sufficient to open the schools for more than half the year. Ms. Marten said “The fight [for more funding] now has simply moved to Washington, D.C.” https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/education/story/2020-07-01/san-diego-unified-has-45-million-to-reopen-to-some-degree
- The district repeatedly stalled on records requests regarding CARES Act spending. When the data was finally made available, it was discovered that SDUSD had contracted with a D.C. lobbying firm, The Raben Group, using CARES Act funding. The contract was not only for lobbying for more funding but to elevate the reputation of the district and Cindy Marten, herself, by helping her to write her letter to the Biden transition team.
9. Reopening Schools-
I don’t have the time at the moment to dig out all the misinformation that has been propagated by the district on how and when the schools would reopen to in-person learning. (They have been talking about reopening since June 2020.) Suffice to say that even the most needy students are barely receiving any in-person services. Initially the district identified 12,000 students (of the roughly 97,000 in the district) who were most in need of in-person services and re-opened to “Phase 1” appointment-based learning for elementary school students, which has never served more than 3,200 students in any given week. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/education/some-schools-have-no-teachers-willing-to-return-for-phase-one-reopening/ (According to the San Diego County Office of Education COVID Dashboard, the most recent weekly total is 2,722 students in San Diego Unified–or less than 3%–are getting appointment-based services in what the County Office of Education designates “hybrid”–but this is not to be confused with students in a true hybrid instructional model with large cohorts of children attending in-person for many hours several days per week, such as with Poway Unified.)
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