San Diego Unified School District’s new superintendent Lamont Jackson takes a selfie with district staff after a press conference announcing his new position on March 7, 2022. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

Lamont Jackson, a former San Diego Unified student and longtime district educator, has been selected as San Diego Unified School District’s new superintendent.

The choice highlights school board members’ preference for hiring classroom educators with grassroots connections to the city. Like Jackson, San Diego Unified’s last superintendent, Cindy Marten, had also been a principal in the district. She stayed in the role for almost eight years, before becoming deputy secretary for the Department of Education. 

San Diego Unified’s preference for homegrown leaders has bucked national trends in education in recent decades. Many large urban districts have hired big-name education leaders from other parts of the country or big-name business leaders with no classroom experience. Los Angeles Unified, for instance, recently hired the superintendent of Miami public schools, Alberto Carvalho. 

San Diego Unified’s board members, meanwhile, have shown a preference for people who already understand the district’s challenges and have pre-existing relationships within the community. 

Their bet on Marten paid off, judging by her job promotion. But judging by academic indicators, Marten’s record was mixed

Board members already have a very specific task in mind for Jackson that will be interesting to watch in the coming years. They want him to focus on communication and community building among the district’s stakeholders, said Richard Barrera, the district’s longest-serving board member. 

That focus is especially interesting, since the district has been more heavily criticized for its lack of communication than perhaps any other topic. Parents, union leaders and principals have all complained that decisions come down without warning and without prior stakeholder engagement. A prime example was last November when the district made a last-minute announcement that it would cancel classes in order to give people a mental health day. 

The decision caused widespread strife and the district was forced to walk back its decision to cancel classes. Jackson, who was serving as interim superintendent, was at the helm for the entire debacle. 

Each of the two previous superintendents hired under Barrera also had a very specific task, he said. Bill Kowba was brought into the district to handle a financial crisis. Marten was there to put a comprehensive instructional plan in place. Improving the district’s communication and helping bring community members into the conversation will fall to Jackson. 

Jackson attended Clairemont High and later returned there as an assistant teacher and basketball coach, the Union-Tribune reported. He went on to serve as principal at three different schools and then as an area superintendent. 

Today in Housing News

  • Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday announced that the city expects to back seven affordable housing projects under a new initiative aimed at helping to bolster the city’s supply of low-income housing. City News Service has more details.
  • As San Diego housing costs soar, KPBS reports that more San Diegans are moving south of the border. One former Californian told reporter Gustavo Solis that he previously paid $1,200 a month to share an Oceanside home with six roommates — and now lives in a two-bedroom apartment near an Ensenada beach for just $550 a month. Those moves are impacting Baja California’s real estate market, putting the squeeze on people already living there.
  • Remember that 2020 state law limiting rent increases to 5 percent plus inflation? Former VOSDer Liam Dillon noted on Twitter that skyrocketing inflation this year will likely mean much larger allowable rent hikes.
  • The Associated Press reports that a lack of financial support is stymieing an effort to repeal a 1950 state law allowing voters to veto public housing projects, a move designed to keep Black families from moving into White neighborhoods. 
  • CBS 8 reports that San Diego County and the Metropolitan Transit System are offering up nine properties for affordable housing developments.

Music for the Binational Region 

The border often seems like a barrier that splits communities on either side. 

But a new collaboration between a local artistic director and a Tijuana-based librettist, is looking to act as a bridge with a Spanish-language libretto. 

Border Report contributor Sandra Dibble writes that the project highlights not just the opportunities for cross-border collaboration — but also the pool of classical musical talent and projects in Tijuana. 

“This is a perfect opportunity to take an iconic masterpiece, and literally tailor it to this community,” said Ruben Valenzuela, artistic director at Bach Collegium San Diego.

Read Dibble’s latest Border Report here.

In Other News 

This Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Jakob McWhinney, Lisa Halverstadt, Andrea Lopez Villafaña and Megan Wood.

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