My decision to conclude my tenure on the San Diego School Board

My decision to conclude my tenure on the San Diego School Board

John Lee Evans, Vice President, San Diego Unified Board of Education

When I first started to serve on the San Diego School Board in 2009 we developed Vision 2020 with community input for school reform, San Diego style.  As 2020 approaches we have made significant progress on most of the goals.  I would like to graduate with the Class of 2020, so I am not going to seek re-election to the board.

It has been a great honor to serve on the school board. I did not run for the school board to “run” the district, but rather to reform our schools by making major changes in its direction.  This has been done in collaboration with other board members, particularly with Richard Barrera, who was elected at the same time.  It is also being done with our staff, particularly our teachers, who are collaborating in developing a groundbreaking growth and development model to improve teaching, rather than the outdated evaluation system.

We hired an effective reform minded educator as Superintendent, Cindy Marten, to operationalize the lofty goals of Vision 2020. She has focused on bringing together all of the isolated departments to together focus on the overall success of every student, particularly those who have historically been left behind. We also broadened our definition of success that goes beyond (but includes) standardized test scores.

We led the state in providing extra resources to high need schools before the Local Control Funding Formula was adopted.  We led the nation by emphasizing critical thinking before the nation adopted Common Core. We became an early national leader in the adoption of technology in the classroom. More recently we are leading the state in adopting research- based Healthy Start Times for our high school students.

One leader compared making change in such a large school district to turning around an aircraft carrier.  I am confident that we are pointed in the right direction and that these reform efforts will continue when I leave the board at the end of 2020.

The job of school board member requires a unique commitment of time and talent.  It calls for someone 1) with experience in education,  2) who values public service over politics, 3) has a commitment to equity in public education as a social justice calling, 4) has a very high level of personal integrity  5) has a collaborative mindset and 6) is respectful to all parents, teachers, students and community members.  7) A thick skin is also necessary when making sometimes unpopular decisions that are in the best interest of students.

In my decade on the board I would say that three of the nine other members with whom I have served have met this very high level of qualification. by meeting all seven criteria. The other board members have had some of these positive qualities  My hope is that narcissists, bomb throwers, bullies and persons without high ethical standards do not apply.

Because it is a part time job with a full time psychological commitment, it is often difficult to attract knowledgeable people with the right personality and experience to serve.  My hope is that a person who meets the above qualifications will be elected to serve in this seat along with our exceptionally effective  board members, Richard Barrera, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, and Michael McQuary, to continue our reform efforts to improve public education in San Diego.  I am announcing my intentions a couple of months before the filing period, so that those I have described as highly qualified have time to enter the race.  I will continue to work very hard on the board through November 2020 and I will continue to support and advocate for public education beyond that date.

School board races need to be given more attention.  Only a small percentage of the electorate currently has children in public school–with the other voters being younger than parents or grandparents.  But the health of our city is related to the strength of public education in all neighborhoods.  Every member of society has a stake in a strong public education system.


Examples of sustained reform under Vision 2020

We have a broader and more rigorous curriculum and have increased our graduation rate, while making graduation more meaningful.  Our high schools have been transformed to bring more college courses on campus, as well as career technical courses and internships.  The number of students eligible for CSU and UC has gone up by nearly 50%–with dramatically greater increases for African Americans and Hispanics. At the same time we have increased music and arts programs, STEM programs, as well as world language programs.

We have developed multiple measures of learning that go beyond one state test score to include the full development of the child.  This success at all levels is reflected in the recent Nation’s Report Card in which San Diego Unified scored at the top of urban districts across the country.

We have organized the district into 16 clusters of neighborhood schools to meet the needs of each community in a very large district.  This provides greater continuity in programs along the K-12 span and we are moving towards preschool for all.

Teaching has improved through Professional Learning Communities composed of teachers and administrators.  The district and the teachers’ union have been collaborating on a groundbreaking growth and development model to improve teaching that will replace the outdated and inadequate evaluation system.

We have been improving learning opportunities by closing the digital divide.  San Diego Unified has set an example for the nation in educational technology.  With the strong support of the voters we have developed world class facilities for our specialized academic programs and in the process we have enhanced our neighborhoods with improved athletic and arts facilities, while modernizing all or our schools.

In addition to improving the education of our children we have been good stewards of public funds with the highest credit rating for our fiscal management.  While improving our facilities we have provided more jobs and recruited workers in the neighborhoods of our highest poverty students.  We have also developed a Climate Action Plan to reduce the impact of our facilities on the environment.

As we approach 2020 we will begin this year to address Vision 2030.  We want to expand the diversity of our teaching staff for the benefit of the students.  We want to expand preschool and our early literacy programs.  We want to find ways to fund our schools that fulfills the desires of our community.  We are all dedicated to continue that work.