San Diego, CA (KGTV)- President-Elect Joe Biden announced Monday he has nominated San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Cindy Marten to the post of deputy secretary in the federal Department of Education.
Marten has been the SDUSD superintendent since 2013. She got her start as a teacher and school-wide literacy specialist in the Poway Unified School District and has worked as an educator for 32 years, including 17 years as a teacher and stretches as principal and vice-principal.
She worked for 10 years at Central Elementary in the City Heights neighborhood, where she established a bi-literacy program, a hands-on school garden program, integrated arts education, after-school and preschool programs, a daycare center for employees' children, and a community health and wellness center for students and their families.
School Board President Richard Barrera said under Marten's leadership, the district has the highest graduation rates of any large urban district in California. That's just one of the reason's the Biden team nominated Marten.
"Set high standards for all students, but to engage students with a curriculum that includes the arts, and music and science and languages, that does not emphasis once a year standardized test scores," said Barrera.
Monday the board announced Dr. Lamont Jackson will step in as interim superintendent. Jackson is an area superintendent. He's taught at all levels in the district. His 25 years in education include time as a principal. Jackson praised Marten's leadership.
"She's about literacy and ensuring all of our children have the core principles so they are able to succeed in life," said Jackson.
Parents fed up with the district's distance learning hope new leadership will bring kids back to class.
"I hope that his focus is to reopen schools, sooner than later, not to keep stringing parents along like Cindy Marten was," said parent Cecilia Clark.
Jackson says the district will remain focused on testing and getting staff vaccinated.
"We have to ensure that our students are in schools when it is safe, and when we are healthy as a community," he said.
Not everyone applauded the move. The President of San Diego's NAACP said Marten should have done more to help students struggling with remote learning.
"Everyone knew that African-American and Latino students had Wi-Fi deficiency, many homes could not even afford cable," said Francine Maxwell.
Jackson said the organization hopes there is a nationwide search for a permanent replacement.
"We are demanding a nationwide search, we are the second largest, this district is in shambles, it's a mess," said Maxwell.
Jackson is expected to remain the interim superintendent through the end of the yea. Marten is expected to be confirmed by the Senate in February.
In a letter to SD Unified families Monday morning, Marten said:
This week, our nation will celebrate a new beginning, as we witness the inauguration of President-Elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris. It will be, in the words of another great president, “not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom -- symbolizing an end as well as a beginning -- signifying renewal as well as change.” I am honored to share with you that President-Elect Biden has invited me to be a part of that change as his nominee to be the next United States Deputy Secretary of Education. Therefore, I will be leaving my post as your Superintendent, following confirmation by the United States Senate.
I have already spoken with Secretary-designate Miguel Cardona, and I have never been more optimistic about the future of the American education system. I have also spoken with the San Diego Unified Board of Education to ensure a seamless transition. Everyone remains focused on providing our students with a full recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
I grew up in San Diego Unified, attended Hardy Elementary and Mann Middle schools, served as principal at Central Elementary and as your Superintendent since 2013. I have had the joy of watching some of our students learn to read for the first time; I’ve seen others become the first in their families to graduate from college. I had the privilege of seeing the middle school I attended be replaced by a brand new state-of-the-art building as part of an $8 billion bond program. It is the love and support of my hometown that has made all of this possible, and I am deeply grateful for having been entrusted with the sacred responsibility of educating your children.
Most of all, I am grateful for our students, who continue to inspire me with their determination and joy, from the youngest learners to the oldest. In order to spark resiliency in our students, we have focused on social and emotional learning, teaching the whole child and always offering access to the arts. In return, San Diego Unified students achieved the highest graduation rate among big-city districts in California and the fastest reading growth of large urban districts nationwide in 2019. Simply put, every time we have challenged our students to accomplish more and given them the resources to do so, they have not only met the challenge - they have exceeded it.
Thank you to our students, parents, professional educators, support staff, administrators, board members and everyone who has allowed me to be part of your own incredible life journey. I would like to leave you with excerpts from a poem that I have turned to many times during the current crisis for inspiration. It is from the incomparable Maya Angelou, and it is called, “Continue. [track.spe.schoolmessenger.com]” I encourage you to read the whole poem with your family, especially today, of all days, as we remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thank you once again for all we have done together, and I know our work will continue.