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I got a chance to see Superintendent Terry Grier speak today before the association that represents principals, vice principals and school district managers. The event, called the Community Leaders Breakfast, has the feel of a State of the Union speech for San Diego Unified schools. Grier touched on some familiar themes:

  • Budget cuts. Grier reiterated that San Diego Unified cut $53 million from its budget last year, has already approved $33 million in cuts for this school year, and is now trying to find between $66 million and $70 million in cuts for next school year. “I am really concerned, given the state of the economy in California, that that won’t be the end of it,” he said.
  • The dropout rate and the achievement gap between students of color and white students. More depressing numbers: Grier stated, for instance, that only 42 percent of San Diego Unified students between grades 2 and 11 score proficient in math.
  • Technology. (A few audience members later joked that Grier’s speech sounded like it was written by Point Loma dad and technology enthusiast Matt Spathas.) Grier cited the changing workforce, the different ways that youth receive information, and even the decline of the country’s major newspapers as examples of how the world is changing. “I’m not talking about tinkering around with change — I’m talking about transformation,” Grier said. He named the new virtual high school where students take classes online as an example of progress toward that goal.
  • Career technical education. Grier emphasized that schools need “multiple pathways” that combine college readiness and career skills, instead of the traditional method of splitting students between those headed for college and those headed for vocations such as welding. “High school kids do not see any relationship between what they do and what the future holds,” he said, but career-oriented classes could change that, building connections between school and the real world.

Grier also spoke at this event last year, shortly before he was actually working in San Diego Unified. Which gets me to thinking: We’re closing in on a Year of Grier, a major landmark for a school district that seems to have a revolving door for superintendents. What are your reflections on the superintendent, his accomplishments, his aims, and his approach? Please send me your thoughts at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

EMILY ALPERT

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