Three Things to Watch for in Cindy Marten’s Big State of the District Speech

Three Things to Watch for in Cindy Marten’s Big State of the District Speech

Photo by Sam Hodgson

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten and board president John Lee Evans.

Superintendent Cindy Marten has given us glimpses of what the San Diego Unified School District will look like under her leadership.

Teachers with the training and resources they need to succeed.

Students who can think critically and realize their full potential.

Quality schools in every neighborhood.

Marten has set the bar high since she signed her contract with the district in March. But we’re still waiting for key details about how she is “going to create a school system that is the best in the nation” in partnership with the community.

With her State of the District speech Tuesday night, Marten has an opportunity to tell educators, parents, students and community members exactly how she’ll define success for the district and how she’ll work to make it happen.

Here are three things we’ll be watching for during her speech:

How Marten Defines a Quality School

The title of the speech says a lot about Marten: “Dream Big: Vision 2020 for Quality Schools in Every Neighborhood.”

Quality is one of those broad terms that Marten often uses to describe what she’s trying to achieve. But in a recent interview with Urban Educator, Marten acknowledged there was still disagreement about how to define a quality school.

“If you were to ask a teacher, principal or parents what’s a quality school, you would get different answers because I don’t think we have agreement on what it means to be a high-quality school and how to create that,” Marten said.

Marten and the San Diego Unified school board have had more than seven months come up with a clear definition.

How Marten Will Measure Quality

When the school year started in September, Marten told VOSD that she would work with the district’s principals this fall to develop criteria for measuring progress toward the district’s key goals for this year:

• A broad and challenging curriculum

• Quality leadership

• Quality teaching

• Professional development for all staff

The district has updated its brochure for Vision 2020. But Marten hasn’t revealed her plan for reaching those goals. And she hasn’t told us when that roadmap will be available.

For example, answers to these questions would go a long way toward giving the community a clear understanding of Marten’s direction:

Will the roadmap be available to the public before the end of the fall?

If not, what performance and accountability measures can the district share with us now?

Can the district explain its goals in a way that makes it clear how students will be directly impacted?

If so, how?

How Marten Will Deal With Lincoln High School

“What’s happening at Lincoln is at the heart of the struggle in America. When we get Lincoln right, we get America right.”

That’s what Marten said last week in regard to how she’ll broker peace between feuding teachers and administrators at Lincoln High School.

For Marten, Lincoln is a microcosm of the problems plaguing urban schools across the nation.

Poverty, racial tensions and budget limitations are feeding the fire, but she doesn’t want to stamp out the flames. Instead, she said she wants to scrap the “polarized rhetoric” and help both sides find common ground in order to move forward.

But Marten isn’t a beloved principal anymore. She’s the chief executive of the second largest school district in California, and that means she’ll have to make tough calls if negotiations stall out.

If Marten gets Lincoln right, she’ll send a strong message about what kind of leader she is.

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Joel Hoffmann

Joel Hoffmann

Joel Hoffmann is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego, focusing on county government, the San Diego Unified School District and the Unified Port of San Diego. You can reach him directly at joel.hoffmann@voiceofsandiego.org.

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1 comments
hillaryt
hillaryt

Joel: you were pretty clear here in this article what you were looking for from Ms. Marten in the state of the district speech. And I have to say, I was there and she didn't accomplish a single thing you (and I) were looking for from a Superintendent who has had 7 months (!) to figure it out. But then you totally gave her a pass on the article summarizing the address in the next article. What's up with that?