School board president Marne Foster was willing to get a little creative in order to ensure a school counselor who wrote an unflattering college admission evaluation for her son was punished.

As part of San Diego Unified’s big document dump this week that it says proves a popular school principal deserved to be removed from her post, the district included an independent investigation into what happened between Foster, Mitzi Lizarraga, then the principal at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, and Kim Abagat, the counselor who wrote the evaluation.

The investigator wrote in his findings that, in an interview with Foster, the trustee was willing to bend the rules to make her case:


The report doesn’t say whether Foster followed through with the call.

Abagat was ultimately suspended without pay for nine days.

Abel ends his report with a recommendation: that the district address the dysfunctional relationship between Foster and Lizarraga.


That tension was eventually dealt with. Marten removed Lizarraga.

Marten says she did receive pressure from Foster, but that it did not influence her decision. On top of the investigation, the material the district released justifying Lizarraga’s removal includes emails indicating district officials were concerned with disparate punishments being doled out to different students at the school and others claiming Lizarraga harassed staff members.

Lizarraga takes exception to all of it.

“The information the superintendent provided to the public is taken out of context, is not aligned with the Grand Jury findings, and my positive evaluations I received each year. Cindy Marten is serving her interests and board members’ interests as individuals,” she wrote in an email to VOSD.

Mario was formerly an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about schools, children and people on the margins of San Diego.

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