Questions raised about San Diego Unified School District's quick decision on new superintendent

Cindy Marten hired to replace Bill Kowba

SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Unified School District's Board of Trustees is facing questions regarding the timeframe in which they named the district's new superintendent.

Some people are questioning why San Diego Unified's board of trustees named a new superintendent less than 24 hours after the old one announced his retirement.

"Are you kidding me with this appointment?" one 10News viewer wrote. "There is so much wrong with the way it went down that I don't know where to begin."

The viewer, who asked that their name not be used, questioned the board's lack of transparency in making the decision to hire Central Elementary School Principal Cindy Marten less than 24 hours after Superintendent Bill Kowba announced he would be retiring.

"While Marten may be a good choice, she will be tainted by the process," the viewer wrote.

10News asked former school board member John DeBeck about the appointment, and he said, "I think that's not very smart on the part of the board. It's a long jump from running a school of say 35, 40 teachers to running 120 schools."

DeBeck said he believes Marten's appointment was decided long before Kowba tendered his retirement papers.

"When you go bam-bam like that, somebody's already got this all worked out," he said.

While DeBeck believes Marten is a competent principal, he said the leap from principal to superintendent is a huge one.

"I don't believe the odds of success are on her side," DeBeck said.

Marten told 10News she is not daunted by the fact that she's about to take the leap from a school with a budget of about $6 million to a district with 120 schools and a budget in excess of $1 billion.

"I have a clear mission and a clear vision, and whether you have $5 to spend on a child or $5 million, or $5 billion, you spend the dollars in a way that will help children achieve," she said.

Marten revealed that she got a call from board members at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. By 7 p.m., she was named superintendent.

"It was a Eureka moment," said board member Scott Barnett.

Barnett told 10News that the minute Marten's name came up, board members were unanimous that she should be offered the job.

"Cindy Marten is the right person in the right place at the right time to lead the district," said Barnett. "This is probably the most important decision I will make and have made as a board member, and it's been the easiest one."

When asked whether he was concerned about criticism that the district made a snap decision behind closed doors that might cause the board to get some heat from the public, he replied, "The superintendent works for the school board. We work for the public. Personnel decisions and discussions are legally allowed to be made behind closed doors, and we made a legal decision and we made a decision that we think is right and will be accountable to for the voters."

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