If Superintendent Terry Grier does take off for Houston, he will be the third permanent superintendent to leave San Diego Unified in roughly four years, not counting interim chiefs who stepped in to the void. As the news broke Wednesday, people asked over and over: What’s with the revolving door?

“This ‘musical chairs’ routine with superintendents is outrageous,” reader Sylvia Hampton wrote in an e-mail. “School boards either don’t know how to pick ’em or once they get a good one they drive them nuts and force them to leave in disgust. We should be getting the cream of the crop in San Diego.”

Here were some theories I gathered along the way:

  • School board member John de Beck argued that the revolving door shows why the school district needs to be split up. Political blocs such as the unions or the business community won’t have the same sway when people know the candidates, he said, which will make for a more cohesive school district and prevent the nonstop turnover.
  • Deputy Superintendent Chuck Morris said San Diego sometimes fails to reward success and support schools. For instance, Morris complained that when the good news about test scores in San Diego Unified showed up in the Union-Tribune, it wasn’t on the front page, and the reporters led the story with the negative news that the achievement gap was still intact.

“You’ve got to have the support of the community when the district is doing well and the support to point out problems when they’re not doing well,” Morris said. “People get here and they go, ‘Where is the support? Where is the business community stepping up? Right now there seems to be a major disconnect. It’s hard.”

  • Teachers union President Camille Zombro argued that the process for picking a superintendent should be more open so that people could be confident in the selection. Internal candidates might also be more willing to stick around. Reader HF echoed her thoughts in an e-mail:

It’s because SDUSD keeps hiring the wrong person!  It’s high time we found someone who understands San Diego, can get along with all parties, and who is vested and tied to student success in San Diego, and not their own career or ego.  If this means not hiring a “big gun” from outside the area and promoting from within, then this is something the board needs to consider.  Anything you can do to shed light on how come this keeps happening would be much appreciated.


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