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San Diego Unified’s board will be asked to “affirm” the power of its superintendent Tuesday — an unusual step that involves no apparent policy change by the school board. The motion reads (in part) as follows:

Confirm the authority of, and authorize the Superintendent of Schools, to develop, create, add, issue, reinstate, maintain, rescind, revise, cancel, delete, interpret, apply, and/or suspend Administrative Procedures of the district. Such actions will be taken in conformance with the various provisions of state and federal law and regulation, his authority and duties as Superintendent, and the policies and directives of the Board.

So what does it mean to “confirm” the superintendent’s role? After years of dispute over the proper roles of the school board and superintendent, this declaration seems to be a reiteration of the superintendent’s power. It comes at a time when Grier is attracting attention — and criticism — for reorganizing the administration and requiring principals to re-interview for their jobs.

I haven’t been able to reach school board president Katherine Nakamura for comment.

The teachers union reads the step as “Orwellian.”

“It’s a huge expansion of his power — an earth-shattering, raise-the-alarm-bells, big-time power grab,” said teachers union president Camille Zombro. “If it were just a reaffirmation of the policy, there would be no need for a motion.”

The list of verbs — “develop, create, add, issue, reinstate,” etc. — “smells bad” to Zombro, who called it a politicized message calculated to “put out the message that the superintendent is in charge.” Even without an actual policy change, Zombro believes a board vote to “affirm” those powers is “a scary precedent” that would undermine board members’ criticism of the superintendent’s work.

The “affirmation” refers back to a policy originally approved in 1988 which says, essentially, the same thing: That the superintendent “is authorized to amend or cancel district procedures or add new procedures at any time such action is deemed necessary.” The motion states:

Policy C-5000 was originally approved in 1988. Since then, our world has evolved to require more rapid decision-making and responses for a wide variety of present and future challenges.

What are your thoughts? Is this a big deal, or much ado about nothing? Shoot me an e-mail at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

EMILY ALPERT

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