The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) has recently had a shakeup at the top operationally and educationally since the predetermined appointment of unqualified Lamont Jackson to the Superintendent position by all powerful Trustee Richard Barrera
Operationally former Supt. Cindy Marten senior staff cronies have apparently departed and new. somewhat familiar, cronies of Jackson have been appointed to the top spots in the SDUSD.
Educationally the SDUSD has decided to officially dumb down the k-12 grading system to a perception performance grading scale using the universal excuse of “equity” as the propaganda catchphrase.
As our readers know, in the SDUSD the word “equity” has been used and misused by district leadership and employees on a wide variety of topics, especially on the topic of classroom grades and grading, to avoid any semblance of honesty, transparency and accountability for their racist policies and behavior.
With those major changes, Sunday Reads this week is dedicated to the topic of Educational Equity in the SDUSD through an article titled “How To Make Your Equity Policy a Reality” from Edutopia.
We have featured the complete Edutopia article and pictures today in Sunday Reads with our synopsis and analysis and we strongly urge our readers to click on the title (in red) to read the full article for themselves.
A look at how districts can ensure that their commitment to equity has momentum geared toward success.
In the past two years, school districts across the country have been moved to write equity policies or pass resolutions to publicly commit to being a more equitable district. Unfortunately, for some districts, the work stopped there. Now, many community members inside and outside of the district are likely to see the approval as nothing more than a symbolic gesture. But this doesn’t have to be the case.
As an equity officer, I’ve partnered with districts and organizations at many stages of readiness to make their policies a reality. However, no matter where a district is in their quest to become an equitable organization, some key components are necessary in the process.
HAVE A COMMON LANGUAGE AND SHARED BELIEFS
My first step of working with district leaders is to make sure that there’s a common definition of equity they all use and that everyone believes all students can be successful in their school system—especially those who have been minoritized. This coming together is launched by a training where leaders are asked to unpack their own journeys to racial consciousness.
During a training I facilitated in Tennessee, district leaders walked through the cycle of socialization created by Bobbie Harro in order to see the impact of socialization on them growing up and how it manifested in their current leadership roles. This exercise led us into a conversation about what they may consciously and unconsciously be doing that gets in the way of students’ success.
This may look like making quick budget, personnel, and/or transportation decisions without talking to those who are impacted the most by the decision. It could also include not speaking up when you know a new policy or program will be detrimental to a particular group of students. Leaders essentially make decisions on an hourly basis that have a direct impact on students. Focusing inward is fundamental to helping leaders articulate what they actually want the experience of their district to be and motivates them to take on individual and collective responsibility in making it happen. The conversation around shared beliefs doesn’t end with training.
Between and after trainings, I spend a lot of time talking with individual district leaders as they balance their own personal journeys to racial consciousness with being public spokespersons and decision makers in equity work. I often support them in drafting a set of questions that they can use in conversations as well as for personal reflection, such as, “What impact will this decision have on those who are the most minoritized?” or “Whose perspective do we need to hear from before making this decision?” or “How can I ensure equity of voice in every meeting?”
LEVERAGE ACQUIRED DATA
I’ve led several districts through a community-centered equity audit that provides districts with actionable data. These audits aren’t just quantitative but also include discussion groups and voices from a variety of stakeholders. With a district in Florida, we leveraged an equity group of over 50 people that included students, community organizations, teachers, and families to lead the audit.
This group grappled with how we’d manage getting input across a very diverse district and ensure that those voices were the ones that weren’t always being asked for feedback. This meant offering focus groups and surveys in multiple languages and having facilitators that were known and respected by the community to ensure honest responses. These facilitators were teachers, principals, parent coordinators, or community liaisons whose role was to connect the school to the community. Once the surveys and focus groups were analyzed along with artifacts, a clear story was being told about the district that couldn’t be ignored.
The story that materialized in the audit wasn’t just about student achievement gaps or lack of access. The compelling story highlighted a systemic issue. The story showed a lack of access for students of color, which was the same as lack of teachers of color, which was the same as lack of access for paraprofessionals of color. These systemic sentiments were shared by a variety of stakeholders across the district. The feedback catapulted the district to create a plan that leveraged the shared data and positioned equity as a top priority.
CRAFT AN ACTION PLAN FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
After data is gathered from an audit, an action planning process can commence. My push to districts is to ensure that they put into place short-term actions that can be easily measured and monitored. When I worked with an education agency in Iowa, small groups brainstormed a variety of next steps based on their data and then narrowed their focus down to one or two high-leverage action steps.
One of those next steps was to create an equity officer position and office. However, before they could do that, they needed clarity and agreement on what the person in the position would be asked to do and how the role would be set up for success (in terms of funding and access to resources). I can’t stress enough how important it is to ensure that the plan is created in collaboration with a cross-section of roles, including community members, teachers, and students.
Each school district and organization will bring its own unique set of challenges—especially if they’re in a community (and/or state) that has been pushing against any work labeled “equity.” However, successful leaders stay focused on the need to serve all students and ensure that they’re academically, emotionally, and socially successful. Once the focus is there, challenges can be seen as opportunities, and the next steps can fall into place.
DISTRICT DEEDS ANALYSIS:
It is always fascinating to us when we read an article with great ideas that assumes that all school districts have an honest, transparent and accountable leadership team that really wants to provide a full, equitable education to ALL Students first on their priority list.
We all know the adage of what “assume” does to us in most situations.
On that premise we want to closely analyze the three “key components” offered to the dysfunctional SDUSD “to become an equitable organization”.
Component 1: HAVE A COMMON LANGUAGE AND SHARED BELIEFS
The first component in the article towards school district equity is “HAVE A COMMON LANGUAGE AND SHARED BELIEFS”. Because a key part of this component is “LANGUAGE” we will rely on the Merriam-Webster dictionary for definitions.
A “COMMON LANGUAGE AND SHARED BELIEFS” starts with being honest with each other. In the previous iteration of SDUSD senior leadership (Board of Education (BOE) Trustees, Superintendent and senior staff) under former Supt. Cindy Marten , propaganda and lies were the standard operating procedure. The departure of Marten and some of her senior staff cronies, to a certain degree, cleaned the slate of some of the liars. Unfortunately the same BOE Trustees remain along with Marten/Barrera chief crony, new Supt. Lamont Jackson…a proven liar.
The big question for the SDUSD on this component is the following:
Will the NEW Senior Staff appointees, that we welcome with a clean slate, be able to create a SDUSD wide “metamorphosis” from lies and propaganda to honest “COMMON LANGUAGE AND SHARED BELIEFS”?
We are familiar with some of the new appointees to the SDUSD senior staff and are also familiar with their recent backgrounds. Can those indviduals sway the massively corrupt BOE and newly appointed Marten devotee Lamont Jackson?
Can they convert Jackson from being an “ardent”, mindless, self-serving sychophant of Trustee Barrera and Marten that actually GOT PROMOTED for, as the article says “not speaking up when you know a new policy or program will be detrimental to a particular group of students“?
Althought the slate is clean for the new Senior Staff appointees, will they have the courage and forthrightness to embrace “speaking up”? Only time and performance will tell. For them the stakes are high.
If they stand up to the rampant corruption they may be fired like others who have fought back on behalf of honesty and students.
If they succeed then, and only then, can deployment of a common language leading to shared beliefs become a reality.
Component 2: LEVERAGE ACQUIRED DATA
This is one part of the article that exposes a HUGE blind spot in most of the publications, white papers, studies by education industry “experts”.
They are not wrong in the concept of using data from ALL Stakeholders to make good decisions.
What they completely miss is that some school disticts, like the SDUSD, are corrupt and avoid FULL transparency of school district data and use manipulated data to reinforce their corrupt, self-serving decisions
A few years back they even won an AWARD for their total lack of transparency:
And they continued that dubious legacy most recently with the selection of Jackson for Superintendent where they used the corrupt selection process “data” to reinforce their corrupt, pre-determined conclusion.
Here is the source of “acquired data” for the recent superintendent search:
The SDUSD Propaganda:
- Stakeholder input from “34 community input opportunities”
- “An Advisory Committee, reflecting the diversity of our students and the San Diego Community”
- A “Superintendent Search Community Forum”
The SDUSD Truth:
- Stakeholder input from “34 community input opportunities” without even ONE question asked directly from the “Community” to ANY of the potential candidates.
- “An Advisory Committee, reflecting the diversity of our students and the San Diego Community” that was hand-picked by the corrupt BOE Trustees and excluded anyone who might disagree with the pre-determined appointment of Jackson.
- A “Superintendent Search Community Forum” without even ONE question asked directly from the “Community” to either of the two candidates.
A perfect, and completely corrupt, opaque way for the SDUSD to check the “LEVERAGE ACQUIRED DATA” box.
For more examples of the SDUSD corruptly leveraging data, we recommend the District Deeds three part series from “Inside Unified”.
Component 3: CRAFT AN ACTION PLAN FOR ACCOUNTABILITY
We understand the need for a well thought out action plan for accountability in the SDUSD. Unfortunately the SDUSD is not equipped for any type of accountability planning for 2 simple reasons:
Reason 1: Total avoidance of any responsibility or accountablity for disastrous actions, or inactions, by anyone in a senior management position.
In October, 2020, a “news” story by SDUSD propaganda outlet San Diego Channel 7/39 titled “San Diego Unified School District Changes Grading System to ‘Combat Racism'” there was the following quote by SDUSD Trustee Barrera:
“This is part of our honest reckoning as a school district,” says SDUSD Vice President Richard Barrera. “If we’re actually going to be an anti-racist school district, we have to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years.”
Who is responsible for the “practices like this” in the SDUSD for “years and years”?
Answer: YOU ARE!
Trustee Barrera has been on the SDUSD BOE since 2008…at the time of the story a full 12 YEARS…the longest tenure of ANY Trustee on the BOE and did absolutely NOTHING “to confront practices like this that have gone on for years and years.”
A fact conveniently avoided by the channel 7/39 SDUSD propaganda outlet.
All Barrera did during that period, besides NOT recusing himself and delivering BILLIONS of SDUSD Prop Z/S construction contract dollars to companies employing his trade union election supporters, was improperly recruit, appoint, and give glowing performance reviews to former Supt. Cindy Marten during that period described in a Press Release by the local San Diego Branch of the NAACP as “Racial Issues are Alive and Well in San Diego Unified” and, in another NAACP press release, that he worked to “undermine any and all efforts to effectively address racial and gender problems in the district“
And that is not even touching on his classic “Grad Rate Con Job“.where he totally avoided any an all accountability for neglecting the education of thousands of Students and then dumping off poorly performing Students to virtual Charter Schools to pump up SDUSD grad rates and make himself and Marten look good by destroying Student futures.
Reason 2: Zero real oversight of Title 1 and other SDUSD spending/deployment violations by the City, County, State and Federal authorities.
The absolute majority of Democrats at all governmental levels up to and including the presidency allow huge districts like the SDUSD to intentionally violate the intent and practice of California and Federal education laws through well designed loopholes, minimal penalties and lax enforcement by political cronies in high governmental positions. The nomination and promotion process of incompetent former Superintendent Cindy Marten has permitted all of her violations in the SDUSD to be “scrubbed” clean by political backers up to the Federal level.
In summary, for the newly appointed senior staff members, the inability of the SDUSD to be Honest, Transparent and Accountable is is a monumental challenge.
How do they fulfill the professional commitment for REAL equity they have to ALL Students while still serving the obviously corrupt needs of their direct superiors in the Superintendent and Trustee positions?
Will they be like “Jake”?
Or will they STAND UP, as a professional education executive, for REAL equity for ALL SDUSD Students and Familes through honesty, transparency and accountability?
Only time, and their actions, will tell.
If you REALLY go there for Students, District Deeds will go there WITH you.
“Forgiveness is difficult; even if you want to forgive, you cannot. If he or she has made you suffer so, so many times, even after you have warned him or her, it’s difficult to forgive. But if you can understand the suffering, the deep suffering in him or her, and see that they have been the number one victim of their own suffering, the situation becomes different: you can forgive more easily.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
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