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Interim Superintendent Bill Kowba spoke this morning at an annual breakfast held by the union that represents principals and other administrators, an event that doubles as a state-of-the-district address for San Diego Unified.

The speech was especially interesting this year because Kowba, a financial and logistics guru with a military background who is taking his second turn as the interim chief of the school district, has been openly discussed as a potential permanent pick for superintendent. His speech wasn’t controversial, but it gave some key indicators of where the school district is headed. Here were the highlights:

  • Kowba emphasized the continual change that San Diego Unified has undergone because of budget strain and superintendent churn. He quipped that it was in “a state of change,” “a state of flux,” and “unfortunately for our budget, in the state of California.”Nonetheless, Kowba said that San Diego Unified is strong because of its people — employees, volunteers, families and community members. He highlighted schools that were recently honored by California as disadvantaged schools that had made great gains, gave a nod to teachers who got national training and touted growth in test scores. Kowba also highlighted its efforts to clean up its internal operations, such as making sure that it can track employee numbers and costs accurately.
  • Remaking the budget based on ideals may not have solved everything for San Diego Unified, but Kowba called it “an honest endeavor.” It wasn’t easy or clean, he said, but it was the right way to start planning schools’ finances. Kowba said the school district has to keep working with its unions to get concessions on salaries and benefits, and it also has to keep the long view because the budget crunch will continue. Stimulus money is drying up next year, Kowba said, and that will put new pressures on the district.
  • Kowba said the school district needs more partnerships with community groups and businesses to help solve its problems and push the state to stop cutting education. He lauded the idea of opening up the superintendent search so that the public can interview the finalists, calling it “far more open and more inclusive than ever before.”

— EMILY ALPERT

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