San Diego Unified’s new superintendent, Terry Grier, will start work March 24. Grier announced his beginning date today at a breakfast for community leaders.

The date is earlier than originally anticipated. Grier’s contract with the school district begins July 1, but allows for him to be compensated on a per-diem basis beforehand.

Grier also spoke about upcoming challenges for San Diego schools, including a likely bond measure and looming budget cuts, stressing that central offices would be closely scrutinized for how much they matter to the classroom. He excoriated the district’s dropout rate, citing figures that show that 10,000 freshmen enter San Diego high schools and 6,000 seniors graduate annually.

“I’m sorry, you don’t have a 98 percent graduation rate,” Grier said. “Do the compound math.”

The soon-to-be superintendent structured his remarks around his own three Rs: rigor, relevance and relationships. He spoke of his successes as a superintendent in Guilford County, N.C., where he opened advanced placement and international baccalaureate classes to a wider, more diverse group of students.

But he reassured attendees that he wouldn’t automatically install the same programs — or people — that had helped him in Guilford County. His remarks echoed some school staffers’ criticism of former superintendent Carl Cohn, who brought in many former associates as high-ranking employees when he took the superintendent seat — a phenomenon some staffers dubbed “Long Beach South.”

“I’m not coming here to try to recreate Guilford County, N.C., West,” he said. “There’s a lot of bright, talented people here.”

EMILY ALPERT

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