Ken Leighton 5 p.m., May 24
- Community Blog
- Memorial Life
Saying Goodbye To Grier
The Union-Tribune reported yesterday that San Diego Unified’s Superintendent Terry Grier has accepted the offer to run the schools in Houston. All that may be left are the goodbyes, but there are goodbyes, and there are goodbyes.
Significant improvement in last year’s test scores seemed to indicate that, post-Bersin, teachers were finally showing what they could do when they had a Superintendent whose remarkable presence emanated a sense of stability, held his people to a standard, and trusted them to get there. Grier’s leaving may not make much of a difference to the high-ranking district schools (depending the new Superintendent’s policies, but that remains to be seen). These schools have a long-term optimistic outlook; changes in leadership can be met with a philosophical “We’ll survive to thrive.”
The more immediate impact will be on the troubled schools, most of which are in subDistrict D, my community. When it comes to changes in the District, the schools here have always felt the effects more quickly and acutely, and disproportionately to the negative. Consider a world where students walk to school through gang-ruled streets, leaving a house that may be substandard and crowded, where the parents may be working dawn to dusk, and may not return home at all if they are picked up by La Migra. They may struggle to learn their lessons in a different language, from newly-qualified, inexperienced teachers who are marking time before they jump to a higher-ranked school. In this world, there are parents who try to come to school meetings, who do their best to support the school, who form relationships with teachers and principals and Superintendents on the fragile hope on their side, and the implicit promise on the other side, that in an uncertain world, they care and will be there for their children.
In the higher-ranked schools, a Superintendent departure means a bump in the road toward academic success. In our schools, Terry Grier’s leaving is another widening of the chasm our children must try to negotiate in order to keep going on a narrow path toward an uncertain future. It’s hard to keep hope alive when your leaders keep breaking faith; goodbye in that context can't help but have profound consequences.