State’s Top-Ranking Education Official Highlights San Diego Unified Successes, Appoints Superintendent Cindy Marten as Co-Chair of New Taskforce

Posted: Friday, November 22nd 2019

California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond (L) and San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten (R)

The new school year is less than three months old, but San Diego Unified has already been called one of the best districts in the nation for academic growth, a leader in the state for students of color, and a system others should replicate when it comes to closing the achievement gap.

It’s big news in San Diego - and the sort of thing that inspires the state’s top-ranking education official to fly in from Sacramento to see for himself.

Battling rush hour traffic on the already-dreadful 805 as a heavy rain swept into town, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond made his way from the airport to Lincoln High School to recognize the successes of San Diego Unified students.

It was the first time in memory that a State Superintendent had participated in the San DIego Unified State of the District Address. 

In his speech, Thurmond announced the selection of Superintendent Cindy Marten to co-chair his new Superintendent’s Advisory Council, and recognized San Diego Unified as a leading district in the state, highlighting its work to close the achievement gap and support STEAM learning.

Bolstered by this year’s nationally-recognized results, Superintendent Cindy Marten then delivered her annual State of the District speech to the audience gathered in the Lincoln theater. Her message to San Diego: every student belongs in our public schools.

“I can say with confidence tonight that the state of our district is strong,” Marten said. “We have kept our commitments to the taxpayers of this city. Most of all, I want to say to every parent in our city: your students belong in a San Diego Unified school, because your students will thrive here.”

It was the representative of the nation’s urban school districts, Council of Great City Schools Executive Director Mike Casserly, who praised San Diego’s rapid growth in academic achievement last month. His remarks were based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which measures math and reading abilities in elementary and middle school. 

San Diego Unified’s strong national test results mirrored recent state reports by the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) and UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, which found, respectively, San Diego Unified is one of the best big urban districts in the state for minority students and a system with strong initiatives in place that others should replicate when it comes to closing the achievement gap.

In making the case for choosing a San Diego Unified public education, Superintendent Marten said students would benefit from strong academics, access to advanced technology, world-class programs in the arts and music, along with scholarship-level athletics.

“I want to make a commitment to every student in San Diego,” Marten said. “You belong in a San Diego Unified school. We welcome you. And if you are willing to work hard and give your best, you will go to college. If you fall in love with a career path in high school, we will help you find a job in that field when you leave --  a good job with good wages. No matter who you are or where you come from, we will not let you fail. We are a city, we are a school system that keeps its commitments to our students.”

Marten said the key to continued academic growth would be the schools’ ability to meet the social and emotional needs of every student. She called division and isolation the greatest threats to the progress being made by the school district. She pledged the school district will work hard to create a sense of belonging in every student and praised student leaders for finding their own voices. San Diego Unified recently elected its first student member to the Board of Education, who will be sworn in at the next meeting in December.

Board President Dr. Sharon Whitehurst-Payne also stressed the importance of finding good jobs for students all communities, including those throughout Southeast San Diego, following graduation.

“San Diego, our children are graduating at higher rates than ever before, but what we can do as a city to show them that their hard work has paid off?” she asked. “We can accomplish amazing things together when we make the work all about our students. If that is our focus, we can do amazing things.”

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