Cindy Marten’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech

Cindy Marten’s ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech

Photo by Jaime Scott Lytle

Cindy Marten delivers the State of the District Address.

Superintendent Cindy Marten has a dream.

That the San Diego Unified School District will put a quality school in every neighborhood.

That one day all of the district’s students will be “actively literate, contributing, participating members of society.”

That kindness and optimism will prevail over hatred and poverty.

How she’ll help make that happen exactly, she didn’t quite say at her first State of the District address as superintendent. But for now, the dream seems to be enough for Marten.

After all, Martin Luther King Jr. changed the world without a plan, Marten said.

“He didn’t have a checklist,” she said. “He had a dream.”

Both Marten and School Board President John Lee Evans assured the audience that “practical solutions” would come at some point.

What We Learned from the Speech

The district started developing its long-term plan in 2009, when the class of 2020 was in the first grade. (Hence the name of the plan: Vision 2020.)  But the district has had a difficult time explaining how it will attain the overarching goal of Vision 2020: to put a quality school in every neighborhood.

Marten said she’s already caught glimpses of that future.

“Every problem that we have in the district, there is a solution already in place,” she said. “If not in one of our schools, at least in one of our classrooms.” Her job, she said, is to figure out how to apply those solutions across the district in a “sustainable” way.

Marten has been observing schools through an “appreciative lens” to identify evidence of all 12 of the district’s indicators of a quality school. By December, she said, she will have spent at least four hours in 18 of the district’s schools — three for each area superintendent.

This practice stems from what Marten sees as quality leadership, one of the district’s four key goals for this year. Marten identified four “specific actions” the district was taking to foster it:

• Alignment of Vision 2020 with all of the district’s existing plans and legal requirements.

• A planned November leadership retreat to create an implementation strategy for the district’s goals.

• The development of “data dialogues” — the first will be held in December — for top administrators to discuss attendance rates, suspension rates and the academic performance of student “subgroups” that are lagging behind.

• A study of the district’s high schools to determine how well they are meeting the needs of all students.

When the district gets it wrong, Marten said, its new quality-assurance office will find out why and “respond in a way that makes sense for all parties.”

Questions Left Unanswered

Marten touched on the district’s other key goals for this year — quality teaching, a broad and challenging curriculum and professional development for all faculty and staff — but she didn’t provide a complete picture of how she’d help achieve them.

As the district said last fall, “focusing on evidence signals a shift with past approaches.” Marten seems to be on board with this shift, but she doesn’t want students to be reduced to their test scores.

She said in the speech that student assessment data is a “flashlight to show the way,” but “soft skills, the silent curriculum, matter as much, if not more.”

Marten acknowledged that she didn’t know how to measure optimism or kindness, but said she wants to see both flourish among San Diego Unified’s students.

This, so far, is her definition of quality teaching.

We still don’t know how broad the curriculum will be or what will make it challenging. Also absent from the speech was an explanation of what types of training teachers would receive and how that would significantly impact students’ performance in the classroom.

Marten said she’s confident that she can lead the district toward the future it envisions, difficult as that road may be. But she’s still looking for answers.

Whether she will be able to share her findings in an accessible way is still an open question.

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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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31 comments
DDunn
DDunn

Well said Hillaryt - Best way for some change is to keep the conversation going. Of course this wouldn't happen up north - and this is just one aspect. Joel - keep it up.
DD

Dennis
Dennis subscriber

Hilary,

I really want to know if the district is getting any rebates from Pearson for the Powerschool debacle.

Parents still cannot check on their children's grades/progress.

We have periodic Powerschool outages during the school day.

Weakschool has great potential but so far it is a huge disappointment.

hillaryt
hillaryt

I have taken a ‘wait and see’ approach with Cindy Marten. I have been reading articles in VoSD and the UT, watching news clips on local stations, waiting patiently, eagerly for some inclination, some clue about how Ms. Marten would begin to tackle some of the pressing issues facing the district. And, when I learned of the “State of the District” address, I said to myself, surely this is the moment she will reveal a plan, a strategy, something, anything, to indicate how she plans to lead this district. So, you can imagine I was “dreaming big” as I entered the Kearny auditorium, ready to learn about what the district was doing right, where it fell short, and what the Superintendent and her team plan to do in order to achieve their lofty goal of “a quality school in every neighborhood”. Alas, I was sorely disappointed. I saw a dog and pony show, which the district is getting really good a putting on (as evidenced by the recent Broad Prize visit). I only wish Ms. Marten had spent as much time, effort, and thought on what she was actually going to do to improve the district as she did planning her speech, replete with catch phrases, eduspeak jargon, songs, gags, corny quotes, cute baby pictures, and tired metaphors. Sorry Ms. Marten, you are no Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.! There was a tactical machine that executed a plan to transform this country working behind the scenes with Dr. King, and surely it involved more than a checklist!! How disrespectful can one be?
But, I digress. There are real problems in this district. It does not have a functioning student information system. I literally have no way to track my daughter’s progress in her classes. I’m having to email already overburdened teachers and administrators to get updates on items that I should be able to track myself. The PowerSchool implementation is a complete and total debacle. Lincoln High School is falling apart. Their students sat in the auditorium for almost a week before they were able to go to class because PowerSchool couldn’t generate class schedules. Now, if that’s not an indicator of incompetence by the administrative staff there, I am not sure what is. Especially given that it didn’t happen at La Jolla, Scripps, or Patrick Henry. There is not a single Assistant Superintendent with any high school experience, nor anyone at the cabinet level. I have serious doubts as to what could possibly come from a “study of the high schools in the district”, as no one among the leadership team has ever successfully led, let alone improved a high school. I feel really bad for the district administrators in charge of high schools. They must be pulling their hair out every time Marten gives a “I have a Dream/Dream Big/Wizard of Oz” speech.
Just the fact that the district has taken 2 years already, and 6 months under Ms. Marten, to try and figure out how to determine if they are meeting the goals outlined in Vision 2020 is ludicrous. There are ways to measure success and they don’t all involve student achievement data. Which by the way, isn’t even going to be available due to the state suspending the STAR tests due to the new Common Core assessments. It will be THREE years until we get any growth data (i.e. two years of data to compare). Ms. Marten is sitting pretty with literally no accountability and the Voice of San Diego is acting like her #1 PR machine. I miss Emily Alpert, she was fair but asked the tough questions. VoSD, please stop buying into the smoke and mirrors and start holding the Superintendent and the Board of Education that hired her (with no public input at all) accountable for the job of improving schools - Please!

Joel Hoffmann
Joel Hoffmann

And Cindy Marten gets a shoutout from Diane Ravitch in the second Daily Show clip (about 2:30 in).

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Sure, that's why we no longer import high tech workers from other countries in record numbers and why our young adults have record employment numbers, cause our local public school edumicated kids are the best in the world!.

Joel Hoffmann
Joel Hoffmann

Education policy researcher Diane Ravitch recently told the Daily Show that "kids today are the smartest generation yet" and public education isn't broken.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw

Hey, at least the web site works.........doesn't it? For me, I'm "....free at last, free at last, thank God almighty....." Read that: No kids or grand kids in any district in California. Cindy Marten isn't bringing a panacea. We had that with the guy who used to be U.S. attorney, and it didn't work too well. He was so many supers ago I forget his name. You don't suppose THAT'S part of the problem, and not that you can't fire a bunch of teachers? Hopefully, Marten will bring continuity and a positive environment to the relationships with all the players. The system isn't going to change radically, because the districts control so little compared to the state and federal governments.

Bill Bradshaw
Bill Bradshaw subscribermember

Hey, at least the web site works.........doesn't it? For me, I'm "....free at last, free at last, thank God almighty....." Read that: No kids or grand kids in any district in California. Cindy Marten isn't bringing a panacea. We had that with the guy who used to be U.S. attorney, and it didn't work too well. He was so many supers ago I forget his name. You don't suppose THAT'S part of the problem, and not that you can't fire a bunch of teachers? Hopefully, Marten will bring continuity and a positive environment to the relationships with all the players. The system isn't going to change radically, because the districts control so little compared to the state and federal governments.

Lou Dodge
Lou Dodge

Sounds good to me. Someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya Someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya Oh Lord, Kumbaya Sounds good Cindy!! thanks

Lou Dodge
Lou Dodge subscriber

Sounds good to me. Someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya Someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya someone's singing Lord, Kumbaya Oh Lord, Kumbaya Sounds good Cindy!! thanks

Michael Robertson
Michael Robertson

So she's going to: dialogue, do retreats for administrators, alignments of visions and studies. Whoa - slow down tiger! Hopefully not all of those at once. Ok, snarky sarcasm. But seriously people she is in bed with the union. This means she will feign change but nothing actually will happen. We've seen this movie over and over and over. There's only 2 plots: Leading actor is a reformer in which case the union maneuvers behind the scenes to block them and eventually they leave or are pushed out. (OR) Leading actor is a union patsy who just placates people with political speeches which give the appearance of progress but nothing ever happens. We know which one Marten is because the union folks like her. We ALL know what needs to be done. - The bottom 20% of teachers need to be fired. There's crappy teachers mostly in inner city schools where parents are less likely to complain. They need to get axed. - Some way of measuring teacher's actual performance by looking at results. Value added results is about as good as you can get. Fire the low performers. - Replace automatic raises based on the ability to remain breathing and acquiring more degrees with raises based on actual performance. - Make the school year longer. More instructional days for kids or longer days or both. - Embrace any change that gives parents to take kids out of bad schools and move them to good schools. (Charter, busing to any school in the district, vouchers, etc). Unfortunately the union is vehemently against all the above and controls the board and the administration which means the giant charade will continue. I just find it disheartening that VOSD doesn't report these undeniable facts. Not sure that would change anything but at least I'd feel better.

Michael Robertson
Michael Robertson subscribermember

So she's going to: dialogue, do retreats for administrators, alignments of visions and studies. Whoa - slow down tiger! Hopefully not all of those at once. Ok, snarky sarcasm. But seriously people she is in bed with the union. This means she will feign change but nothing actually will happen. We've seen this movie over and over and over. There's only 2 plots: Leading actor is a reformer in which case the union maneuvers behind the scenes to block them and eventually they leave or are pushed out. (OR) Leading actor is a union patsy who just placates people with political speeches which give the appearance of progress but nothing ever happens. We know which one Marten is because the union folks like her. We ALL know what needs to be done. - The bottom 20% of teachers need to be fired. There's crappy teachers mostly in inner city schools where parents are less likely to complain. They need to get axed. - Some way of measuring teacher's actual performance by looking at results. Value added results is about as good as you can get. Fire the low performers. - Replace automatic raises based on the ability to remain breathing and acquiring more degrees with raises based on actual performance. - Make the school year longer. More instructional days for kids or longer days or both. - Embrace any change that gives parents to take kids out of bad schools and move them to good schools. (Charter, busing to any school in the district, vouchers, etc). Unfortunately the union is vehemently against all the above and controls the board and the administration which means the giant charade will continue. I just find it disheartening that VOSD doesn't report these undeniable facts. Not sure that would change anything but at least I'd feel better.

s4xbruce
s4xbruce

Fix PowerSchool! Parents need to know how there kids are doing. 2 months into school and still not able to pull up kids grades. This needs to be a priority!

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Now lets all sing kumbaya.

Joel Hoffmann
Joel Hoffmann

Hillary,

I'm happy to discuss your concerns about our reporting. Please email me at joel@vosd.org.

Dennis
Dennis

Hilary,

I really want to know if the district is getting any rebates from Pearson for the Powerschool debacle.

Parents still cannot check on their children's grades/progress.

We have periodic Powerschool outages during the school day.

Weakschool has great potential but so far it is a huge disappointment.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Sure, that's why we no longer import high tech workers from other countries in record numbers and why our young adults have record employment numbers, cause our local public school edumicated kids are the best in the world!.

ScrippsDad
ScrippsDad

DDunn - have tried over 8 times to meet with the union - they refuse. So, any suggestions on how to open that dialogue?? I would welcome your facilitation - start with Bill Freeman, or, maybe go ask the Breakfast Club if they will have a meaningful discussion with us/me. Want real conversations, then you might want to attend some of the UPforED trainings where parents attend and the dialogue happens.. BTW - nowhere do I say, or, does UpforED say, I or they, have all the answers. I'm not sure anybody does for the complex bureaucracy of the District and the priority to educate our children. Certainly if wishes were fishes, but, you have to start somewhere and I have a personal affinity for budget research, issues and discussions (you can look at my post history) and UpforED has a priority for parental involvement, parent education, and working with everybody (district, parents, community) to create quality neighborhood schools along with recognizing quality teachers. I'm not sure what anybody's beef could be with that. Just what are "real conversations" to you?

DDunn
DDunn

Scripps Dad - Exactly what's your point, perhaps your union concerns need to be voiced at their meetings. I think the supe, did a great job at painting rainbows. And, UPforED for sure has all the answers. Just haven't heard any real conversation. DD

ScrippsDad
ScrippsDad

Richard - interesting idea, let's follow that through on a couple of fronts. First - As a parent, I should be responsible, at least a participant in my child's education. However, trying to get parental involvement is now being blocked by the SDEA (read teachers union). Just do some research and see what they are saying about UPforED, a San Diego parent empowerment group trying to do just that - promote parent responsibility and provide resources and education on how parents can have an active involvement in their children's education along with a strong belief for a quality District run school in every neighborhood - sounds EXACTLY what I just read Cindy Martin wants. And no, let's not buy the union rhetoric about parent trigger (completely false) and business conversions to charters (completely false) because it just 'aint true - it's union speak and scare tactics to derail attempts for parental involvement because it threatens them. In point of fact, UPforED hosts an annual Parents Choice Awards program where parents and students select, acknowledge and recognize teachers for their work. The District AND the local school administration allowed flyers for this event to be distributed by students back to their parents - trying to get parent involvement. Guess what? The teachers union and some teachers, unilaterally and contrary to the orders of the district and local administration determined that this was not aligned with the union so elected, even though the District and school administration told them to distribute it, to NOT send it out. Please tell me how that works? Teachers now have complete and total say and AUTHORITY over what goes out through their classes to parents even though the District and the school administration told them to distribute it?? So, who's to blame?? How can parents be involved if the union works to create a divide and actually stops communications from the school to the parents? Second - I'm a taxpayer so I'm a just like a buyer - I pay for a service/product (my child's education). If the CEO (superintendent) of a car company tells me that the cars are the best, I do research and determine a best car and go an buy it - then discover it's a lemon, somehow I (as the buyer/taxpayer) am responsible for the construction of the lemon? I think there are even laws saying that for lemons, I have certain rights to get them fixed and that I am not responsible for the lemon. All that said, I do want to make sure that you understand that I believe parents and parental involvement is critical in children's education. The big question and part of the overall challenge is; how do I do that in socioeconomic challenged areas (and in other areas as well) where the desire is there but the knowledge of how or the time or resources to do so is not. So, we should all, Kumbaya, work together; District, local school, union, teachers, community and parents to solve this - that's just not what's really happening. Yes, the union and some activist union teachers are to blame and they are trying very hard to intervene and stop parents from getting involved because it directly threatens their power base. Period. I don't need to be the Superintendent or a teacher because I know this is happening and as a parent and as somebody trying to get parents actively involved, I am flabbergasted at the work being done to stop that. Finally - before anyone jumps on this - I am a Board member of UPforED because I do strongly believe in parent responsibility, parent involvement, and a high quality school in every neighborhood for the benefit of our children, parents, and community and NO, I do not believe in using the Parent Trigger (other than it's a law like many other laws protecting teachers in the Ed Code) and no, I do not believe in business conversion of District run public schools to Charters regardless of what the union says.

richard brick
richard brick

I suggest either you become superindendent or a teacher, because you know the teachers and their union are to blame for everything. One question, tell me one area in these many standardized tests where the student or parent are held responsible for their scores? I'll be waiting.

ScrippsDad
ScrippsDad subscriber

DDunn - have tried over 8 times to meet with the union - they refuse. So, any suggestions on how to open that dialogue?? I would welcome your facilitation - start with Bill Freeman, or, maybe go ask the Breakfast Club if they will have a meaningful discussion with us/me. Want real conversations, then you might want to attend some of the UPforED trainings where parents attend and the dialogue happens.. BTW - nowhere do I say, or, does UpforED say, I or they, have all the answers. I'm not sure anybody does for the complex bureaucracy of the District and the priority to educate our children. Certainly if wishes were fishes, but, you have to start somewhere and I have a personal affinity for budget research, issues and discussions (you can look at my post history) and UpforED has a priority for parental involvement, parent education, and working with everybody (district, parents, community) to create quality neighborhood schools along with recognizing quality teachers. I'm not sure what anybody's beef could be with that. Just what are "real conversations" to you?

ScrippsDad
ScrippsDad subscriber

Richard - interesting idea, let's follow that through on a couple of fronts. First - As a parent, I should be responsible, at least a participant in my child's education. However, trying to get parental involvement is now being blocked by the SDEA (read teachers union). Just do some research and see what they are saying about UPforED, a San Diego parent empowerment group trying to do just that - promote parent responsibility and provide resources and education on how parents can have an active involvement in their children's education along with a strong belief for a quality District run school in every neighborhood - sounds EXACTLY what I just read Cindy Martin wants. And no, let's not buy the union rhetoric about parent trigger (completely false) and business conversions to charters (completely false) because it just 'aint true - it's union speak and scare tactics to derail attempts for parental involvement because it threatens them. In point of fact, UPforED hosts an annual Parents Choice Awards program where parents and students select, acknowledge and recognize teachers for their work. The District AND the local school administration allowed flyers for this event to be distributed by students back to their parents - trying to get parent involvement. Guess what? The teachers union and some teachers, unilaterally and contrary to the orders of the district and local administration determined that this was not aligned with the union so elected, even though the District and school administration told them to distribute it, to NOT send it out. Please tell me how that works? Teachers now have complete and total say and AUTHORITY over what goes out through their classes to parents even though the District and the school administration told them to distribute it?? So, who's to blame?? How can parents be involved if the union works to create a divide and actually stops communications from the school to the parents? Second - I'm a taxpayer so I'm a just like a buyer - I pay for a service/product (my child's education). If the CEO (superintendent) of a car company tells me that the cars are the best, I do research and determine a best car and go an buy it - then discover it's a lemon, somehow I (as the buyer/taxpayer) am responsible for the construction of the lemon? I think there are even laws saying that for lemons, I have certain rights to get them fixed and that I am not responsible for the lemon. All that said, I do want to make sure that you understand that I believe parents and parental involvement is critical in children's education. The big question and part of the overall challenge is; how do I do that in socioeconomic challenged areas (and in other areas as well) where the desire is there but the knowledge of how or the time or resources to do so is not. So, we should all, Kumbaya, work together; District, local school, union, teachers, community and parents to solve this - that's just not what's really happening. Yes, the union and some activist union teachers are to blame and they are trying very hard to intervene and stop parents from getting involved because it directly threatens their power base. Period. I don't need to be the Superintendent or a teacher because I know this is happening and as a parent and as somebody trying to get parents actively involved, I am flabbergasted at the work being done to stop that. Finally - before anyone jumps on this - I am a Board member of UPforED because I do strongly believe in parent responsibility, parent involvement, and a high quality school in every neighborhood for the benefit of our children, parents, and community and NO, I do not believe in using the Parent Trigger (other than it's a law like many other laws protecting teachers in the Ed Code) and no, I do not believe in business conversion of District run public schools to Charters regardless of what the union says.

richard brick
richard brick subscribermember

I suggest either you become superindendent or a teacher, because you know the teachers and their union are to blame for everything. One question, tell me one area in these many standardized tests where the student or parent are held responsible for their scores? I'll be waiting.

Lou Dodge
Lou Dodge

ScrippsDad, you are correct in saying teacher's unions do not care for UpforEd. They claim, its founder, Teresa Drew does not care for PTA due to the fact it contains T for teacher. They claim funding for UpforEd came from Parent Revolution the known corporate-funded org. behind the Parent Trigger law. Unions also claim Lisa B. is former regional director of CA Charter Schools Assoc. and Ron Dammeyer, millionaire charter school advocate helped UpforEd get it's start.

Michael Robertson
Michael Robertson

Richard - i know the teacher's union script is to always blame parents. They indeed have many responsibilities related to kids. But that does not change crappy teachers should be fired. Teachers should be measured. Parents should have choice, etc. And as ScrippsDad - it's nearly impossible for parents to be involved in many districts. Some have abandoned parent/teacher confs. Some don't give our test results for parents to oversee. Some don't put homework or agendas online. They say they want parental involvement but they really don't.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

The teachers are going to hold a child responsible for the teachers unwillingness to teach them? The parent who isn't in the classroom responsible for what the teacher isn't willing to accomplish when they are in the classroom? Unbelievable!

Lou Dodge
Lou Dodge subscriber

ScrippsDad, you are correct in saying teacher's unions do not care for UpforEd. They claim, its founder, Teresa Drew does not care for PTA due to the fact it contains T for teacher. They claim funding for UpforEd came from Parent Revolution the known corporate-funded org. behind the Parent Trigger law. Unions also claim Lisa B. is former regional director of CA Charter Schools Assoc. and Ron Dammeyer, millionaire charter school advocate helped UpforEd get it's start.

Michael Robertson
Michael Robertson subscribermember

Richard - i know the teacher's union script is to always blame parents. They indeed have many responsibilities related to kids. But that does not change crappy teachers should be fired. Teachers should be measured. Parents should have choice, etc. And as ScrippsDad - it's nearly impossible for parents to be involved in many districts. Some have abandoned parent/teacher confs. Some don't give our test results for parents to oversee. Some don't put homework or agendas online. They say they want parental involvement but they really don't.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

The teachers are going to hold a child responsible for the teachers unwillingness to teach them? The parent who isn't in the classroom responsible for what the teacher isn't willing to accomplish when they are in the classroom? Unbelievable!