Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Arnold appoints Bersin to Secretary of Education

All I can say is "Oh, my God!"

As most of you know, I lived in San Diego for 13 years, during which time I worked closely with San Diego City Schools. Bersin and all that he ushered in is one reason I left San Diego and tell people not to go there until he is gone.

At one point at the end of his first reign of terror, the teachers voted a 96% vote of no confidence in him. Yet, the Business Roundtable that was responsible for getting him into the position, managed to get the Board to give him another term.

Bersin is not just a lawyer, he is an immigration lawyer with all the wrong values. He has never been an educator, nor do I think he is interested in being one. Most people who interact with him feel that he is using his superintency as merely a stepping stone in his career. He does not go out of his way to learning about teaching and learning, and his style is autocratic and abrupt, if not harsh.

During his first two weeks in the superintendency, he fired over 100 principals. Hundreds of the best teachers in SDUSD left teaching, and the wonderful union president, Mark Knapp, fought him for several years, and then resided and went back to the classroom. During the first years of his tenure, he arranged for Tony Alvarado to commute from New York to San Diego. He did not want to move, so they alloted him a $100,000 per year travel allowance. Tony has his own reputation and history. Although he is noted for major improvements in NYC District 2, it turns out that district two is bimodel with very high income residents as well as poor residents. The school improvements were only in the high-income schools, but his reputation is built on the myth of reforming district 2. Tony left his wife, and eventually settled in San Diego, but no longer works with the district.

At one point while I was teaching at SDSU, we invited Tony to come and discuss his NYC "successes" and the blueprint for SDCS. He sent someone else. At that meeting, we learned that Bersin had given back a $16 million NSF grant because SDCS would not be teaching science until the reading scores were up. Literally all science classes were cancelled for two years at least (I had left by then.)

Bersin is a political animal at his best. He has managed to get some Gates funding. He has some alliances with Linda Darling-Hammond's graduate students who report that all these changes took place without administrators resigning or leaving (AERA 2003). The man is scarey not only for what he stands for, but for the number of outstanding educators whose careers he has hurt, and all the arbitrary decisions he has made which hurt students.

This news is just absolutely awful. It was bad enough that he wangled onto CTC. ENOUGH! Let's launch a campaign to make him Senator of Arizona or something and get him want he wants so he stops ruining education.

Ann L. Wood
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