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Sunday, Dec 10, 2023

Commentary — Schools Leader Like the Emperor With No Clothes

It’s easy to understand why the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and the business community in general support City School Superintendent Alan Bersin. According to the businessmen and women I’ve met, Bersin’s “top-down” management style appeals to their mindset. Nonetheless, I think it’s high time all San Diegans stand up and re-evaluate our superintendent.

Bersin is unqualified for the job he now holds. He earns a salary of $165,000 a year plus perks, yet he was and still remains a lawyer in waiting. He has no formal training as an educator. He has had no training even as an administrator within any public agency connected with education. He’s receiving a huge salary for on-the-job training at taxpayer expense.

Doesn’t that make you wonder: How did it come to pass that 145,000 public school students have been entrusted to the care and control of someone who has zero training for such a huge responsibility? This mysterious turn of events would be the same as putting someone in charge of North Island Naval Air Station who had no military background, no command experience, and no flight training.

How did it happen? Ask past school board president Ron Ottinger. Ask incumbent school board president Ed Lopez. Ask school board vice president Sue Braun. Ask the Chamber of Commerce and the San Diego Union-Tribune. Each conspired to make Bersin city school superintendent, and makes no bones about it.


The chamber has unashamedly contributed six-figure dollar amounts to assure the election of Ottinger, Lopez and Braun in past campaigns, thus assuring Bersin of a 3-2 majority on the school board for virtually anything he desires. It logically follows then that if there’s anything wrong with what’s going on in city schools, we should hold Bersin and his three-vote majority accountable , that’s the new buzz-word in education these days: “Accountability.”

These three men and one woman have systematically ignored, ridiculed, or harassed parents, students, professional educators, and concerned citizens who disagree with current city school policies. So, these four people have to bear the total responsibility when things go wrong. Let’s talk about Bersin’s high-profile “first order of business” , Proposition MM.

Broken Promises

Recently the U-T had to finally admit the truth about this bungled Bersin construction and remodeling plan. “Nearly 19 months after voters approved Proposition MM, major school repairs are under way in the San Diego Unified School District with money from the $1.51 billion bond measure,” was their opening sentence. Remember how the smooth-talking public relations district personnel rolled out slides and slick four-color brochures (at taxpayer expense) about how this whole program would benefit all San Diegans?

Remember how each school site mounted its own expensive signs proclaiming to the world in great detail the good things that would happen at that particular site as a result of Prop. MM? In the main, these promises turned out to be less than accurate.

One reason mentioned in the article for the delays has been “the absence of a permanent project director.” The U-T went on to say, “The district is conducting a nationwide search and expects to hire someone within three months.” (It’s been 19 months since Proposition MM was approved.)

And remember how we taxpayers were told we didn’t have to worry about any mis-management of these funds because they would be overseen by a private citizens committee? “‘(There has been) a lack of effective oversight of the program,'” the U-T article pointed out; “‘no one is in charge; no one is accountable,’ said Scott Barnett, former bond oversight committee chairman and also executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.” And what about the $10,000 fine the taxpayers had to pay because Bersin broke the law during his campaign to get Proposition MM passed? Do you remember reading about that anywhere in the local press? And there’s more , much more.

These are undeniable facts, ladies and gentlemen of San Diego. I think it’s time we all looked each other in the eye and faced the obvious. Bersin is in over his head. He may have once been a good lawyer, but he’s in the wrong job as Superintendent of our City Schools. The Emperor has no clothes! It’s time for him to move back East with his good friends Bill and Hillary Clinton.

MacCarthy is publisher and editor of the San Diego Writer’s Monthly magazine.


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