A Shake-Up in San Diego’s School Administrator Ranks

Emily Alpert:

Less than three months into his tenure, Superintendent Terry Grier is shaking up the top ranks of San Diego Unified.
Top-earning administrators and vice principals are interviewing to keep their own jobs. School district outsiders and insiders alike are being tapped to fill new slots. And Grier has introduced a novel method to screen the best principals and administrators for the jobs — an interview meant to measure values and problem-solving, aimed at picking the optimal principals and teachers for disadvantaged kids.
“It’s easy for us to get comfortable in our positions, comfortable in our expectations, and comfortable in our authority,” said Katherine Nakamura, the president of the school board. “It’s not a bad thing to reassess ourselves from time to time.”
Yet even as Grier announces his first selections, few staffers fully understand the big picture for San Diego Unified. Most employees still haven’t seen a simple chart outlining the new makeup of the school district: which jobs stay, which jobs go, and who reports to whom. The chart, which exists in draft form, has not yet been made public.
That uncertainty unnerves some employees. The rapid overhaul undertaken by Grier stands in contrast to his predecessor, Carl Cohn, who waited more than six months before introducing a new layout for San Diego Unified. The hallmark of Cohn’s reorganization, five area superintendents who divvied up the massive school district, weren’t appointed until eight months into his tenure.
“In 40 years, I have never heard anybody come in and immediately implement a procedure that says if you don’t pass this interview, you lose the job you’re in,” said Jeannie Steeg, executive director of the Administrators Association of San Diego. “And never has a process been implemented so quickly.
All vice principals underwent a new interview to compete for a shifting pool of jobs. The interview is modeled on the teachings of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee professor Martin Haberman, who studies disadvantaged students and the educators who help them best. Principals applying for new jobs were interviewed as well. San Diego Unified signed a $23,000 contract with the Haberman Educational Foundation to train staffers in the interview process, which includes problem-solving scenarios and is meant to reveal the applicants’ core values. Two people ask open-ended questions during a tape-recorded interview and score the answers.

SIS Martin Haberman links.