Forty-two schools in San Diego have already or soon will get a new principal. The wave of change in leadership has left some kids confused, parents watchful and teachers worried.

Lisa Berlanga, of the parent advocacy group United Parents for Education, told the school board earlier this week, “We hope that in all things and with all these big changes happening that parents will be given the opportunity to be meaningful and powerful stakeholders within all decisions.”

Christie Ritter on Schools

What is the school district doing to get stakeholders involved in the process?

They helped create the job descriptions. Site-specific criteria were developed during community meetings and by search committees, which included parents, teachers and union representatives. Each wanted principals who understood them and the unique needs of their school.

For example, the criteria listed in the job description for the La Jolla High School principal includes the desire to find a person who has “experience developing/working with foundations and partnerships.” The school has a foundation, which received over $500,000 in donations during the 2012-13 school year. The principal has a role in deciding how that money is best spent on campus.

At Burbank Elementary in Logan Heights, a key element sought in a principal was someone who had experience managing grants, since that school had received a $4 million School Improvement Grant. Rachel Clark Messineo was selected this week as the new principal for Burbank. Her background is as a reading specialist, focusing on frequent one-on-one lessons for children who have fallen behind in reading. She also budgeted and monitored the grant funds.

Clark Messineo, along with many other teachers and parents, spoke in June at a Burbank meeting organized to help save her predecessor, Carolina Flores-Wittman, who was given the choice of going back to the classroom or retiring.

“I’m honored to have been chosen. It really is a unique little place, I loved the other two schools I was at, but going on year five at Burbank, we’ve become a family. It’s a great place to be,” Clark Messineo said Wednesday. She said the children still miss Flores-Wittman, who did retire, but plans to return to Burbank as a volunteer.

When the La Jolla High principal job opening was initially advertised internally, just two candidates applied. The job was re-opened to outside candidates and many more applications have come in, said district spokeswoman Linda Zintz. The deadline for applications is Friday, Sept. 6. Interim principal Pat Crowder said the district hopes to have a permanent principal in place by October.

“Parents are wondering, everyone wants some resolution to it,” said La Jolla High PTA President Beth Penny.

There are three other schools with vacancies remaining: the San Diego Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical High School, plus Baker and Nye elementary schools.

In addition to Burbank, new principals were announced this week for Ericson, Garfield and Marshall elementary schools, and San Diego High’s School of Media, Visual and Performing Arts at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Of the principal appointments announced so far, 15 have previously been principals at different schools. Twenty-two are first-time principals.

The district has provided training over the summer for these new principals, and that will continue with six full-day principal institutes planned this year, said Jim Solo, executive director of leadership development for the district.

Board members continued to marvel at Cindy Marten’s leadership abilities.

“We didn’t need to go outside of San Diego to find heroes to come in and save us, the answers to what we need in our schools are right here in our schools. We’re seeing that playing out,” said school board trustee Richard Barrera.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Christie Ritter is a freelance writer for Voice of San Diego, author of four books and a former newspaper reporter. She is a graduate of Clairemont High,...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.