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We asked readers “If the state put you in charge of San Diego Unified School District, how would you fix things?”


Decades after I was in grade school, my son is in grade school. How they teach him is little changed from how they taught me.

With the recent budgetary woes, I’ve seen plenty of teachers demonstrating and looking for sympathy. I view this kind of behavior negatively. It’s essentially embarrassing to see adults present this kind of behavior example to children.

Both of the above behaviors are the root of the secular budget problems.

My kids are doing better in school than I did. My dad did not emphasize it as much or as frequently as I do. It’s pretty frequent that I correlate my kids’ scores with whether or not they will end up under a freeway bridge. You can be very sure they know very well that grades and performance in school are critically important and that it is their responsibility to “man up” to do what it takes. I am not holding hands, only pointing out the correct direction and occasionally applying a verbal “whip.” So here is the whip for San Diego schools:

I have nearly 40 years of financial and operational experience. I would recommend the schools do four things:

1. Eliminate grades C, D and F. Only advance students in a subject area upon achievement of A or B levels.

2. Eliminate all school principals and vice principals and roll up this responsibility to the district level. Use technology to make it happen.

3. Spend one minute at the beginning of each class, every day, explaining what the subject relates to in the real world, and why lack of effort will put them under a freeway bridge if they slack off.

4. Develop and implement term limits on teachers. After three years teaching in a certain grade (say, fourth grade for example), then the teacher must move up to sixth grade, then eighth, then tenth, then twelfth. After twelfth grade, they are no longer employed by the K-12 system. In other words, 15 years and then out.

These changes would radically improve the schools’ “product.” That will result in budget woes going away. You don’t fix finances in a business by borrowing money or raising prices or cutting costs. All these steps are ineffective Band-Aids. You fix the finances of a business by making better products. The same is true for schools.

James Danforth lives in San Diego.


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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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