Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District Dr. Lamont A. Jackson waves to students in a classroom at Spreckels Elementary school in University City on April 24, 2023.
San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Lamont Jackson waves to students in a classroom at Spreckels Elementary School on April 24, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Last week, I wrote about a reorganization and update of area superintendent positions at San Diego Unified. The plan to get rid of current area superintendents prompted an outcry from some stakeholders. But what exactly is an area superintendent? And how does the vision for the updated positions functionally differ from the old positions? I spoke with Deputy Superintendent Fabiola Bagula. 

Bagula has served in multiple positions throughout the district, from an intern to an area superintendent, before becoming an executive leadership coach at the San Diego County Office of Education. But back in May, Superintendent Lamont Jackson brought her back to the district.  

She said she’d lived through multiple new superintendents who tend to bring in their own administrative teams but given the changes that occurred in the five years she’d been gone – including a pandemic – she wanted to take any adjustments slow. 

“I wanted to come in and think about how we work and how we’re going to welcome and engage children and educators with joy,” Bagula said. 

Ultimately, she felt that the role area superintendents play within the district needed to change.  

She said the people currently in those positions could be the team she and Jackson need moving forward, but that she realized, “This is no longer the job that these folks applied for and did the last few years,” she said. 

Bagula said they haven’t ruled out rehiring past area superintendents and that they will not be required to provide a letter of recommendation from their direct superior, which would have been Bagula. 

The hiring process will feature six parts that include a panel interview with community stakeholders. 

Prior to the recent reorganization, area superintendents oversaw a group of clusters – all the schools that feed into a high school. The district’s high schools had already been assigned to a single area superintendent, Erin Richison. She will now fill a new position overseeing high schools. They’ve also created a new area superintendent position to oversee middle schools. 

Bagula broke the functional changes to the area superintendent positions into three specific categories: 

  1. The responsibilities will shift away from focusing solely on instruction and require area superintendents to mentor school leaders in the four dimensions of school leadership developed by the University of Washington’s Center for Educational Leadership. Those dimensions are developing a learning and mission focused culture, improvement of instructional practices, allocation of resources and management of systems and processes. 
  1. Area superintendents will now lead a team of resource teachers that will help them engage in the work done at their school sites. This isn’t entirely new. When Bagula and Jackson were area superintendents they’d received a team, but it had since been eliminated. 
  1. New area superintendents will be expected to function as a whole unit rather than in silos. “Our geographic regions have different needs and different personalities, and that is important. But let’s think about a (universal transitional kindergarten) through 12th grade system,” Bagula said. That will require area superintendents to “advocate and represent one geographic section but also understand the system as a whole and make decisions in that way,” Bagula said. 

UCSD Chancellor Gets a Very Unceremonious Award 

University of California San Diego in La Jolla on Feb. 14, 2023.
University of California San Diego in La Jolla on Feb. 14, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Dispatch from Tianrui Huang: Before UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla had a chance to speak at a recent Alumni Celebration Weekend event at the Museum of Contemporary Art, members of the university’s graduate workers union rushed the stage, handing him a cardboard plaque that read “the most overpaid worker” award.   

This disruption was prompted by graduate workers’ frustration with what they view as the university’s failure to comply with elements of their recent contract.  

“UCSD is reluctant to honor the legally bound contract we signed back in December,” said Alexia Fabiani, a PhD student in the biology department. “We are trying to bring their attention to that.” 

“We were trying to go about this in a polite way. We tried emails, and filing grievances, but none of them got any response,” said Maya Gosztyla, biomed Ph.D. student. “We were forced to try something more drastic.” 

Sarcastically, Khosla accepted the “most overpaid worker” reward. The student protestors stayed on the stage, holding banners and making a speech for around 15 minutes before the police arrived and escorted them onto the sidewalk outside, where they continued to protest. 

“I believe we successfully spread the awareness to the alumni associations. They were very supportive and we have scheduled meetings with them,” Gosztyla said. “The alumni association is the first step to open doors for future progress. We plan to schedule meetups with the regents and Chancellor as a long-term plan.” 

In an email, Matthew Nagel, UCSD’s director of public relations wrote that there is a set process for sharing grievances and that they regret the recognition of alumni was disrupted. 

“This calculated disruption of official university business — and the behavior chosen to express the dissatisfaction — was inappropriate, and the university is considering all remedies available to us,” Nagel wrote. 

What We’re Writing 

More than five years after Voice of San Diego revealed that repeated student complaints of unwanted touching by a La Jolla High physics teacher went largely ignored by San Diego Unified, the district announced the students had settled their claims against the teacher and the district. 

Yet another San Diego childcare provider is closing its doors. The Normal Heights Methodist Church, which for over 50 years has run the Normal Heights Childcare Center, cited a buildup of buildup maintenance costs as a reason for the closure. But it also credited a familiar refrain – the impact universal transitional kindergarten is having on the private childcare business model

Jakob McWhinney

Jakob McWhinney is Voice of San Diego's education reporter. He can be reached by email at and followed...

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