Community View: Sharing principals an unacceptable option

By Steven Gal

Budget cuts for our San Diego Unified Schools have become an annual rite of passage. In our local community schools larger class sizes and principal sharing are among the most contentious issues this year that directly impact the quality of education and health and safety on our campuses.

Principal sharing - specifically the vote by the school board earlier this year to have 22 schools (including Bird Rock Elementary and Pacific Beach Elementary) share 11 principals (we each get half a principal) - stands out as completely unacceptable for two reasons:

-Sharing principals does not work. We know this. The board knows this. Board member Katharine Nakamura was quoted in the San Diego Union-Tribune stating that shared principals are a “stupid idea.”

Board member John de Beck points to Emerson/Bandini as his shining example of where shared principals have succeeded. There the schools were on one site with a single address, an entirely different proposition. Even then, Emerson/Bandini have been ranked in the bottom 10 percent of schools in California. We don’t think the board has done its due diligence, and has instead embarked on an experimental road to failure for our schools.

-Sharing principals will not save money. It will cost money. The estimated savings for the entire principal sharing program represent less than 2 percent of the overall budget cuts. Without a full-time principal, there will be additional staffing requirements under contracts that will erode most savings. Instead of saving money eliminating principals will subject the school district to massive liability for lawsuits when parents, students, teachers and staff have no one at the school to come to with their serious issues regarding their health, safety and welfare and to deal with discipline and emergencies. A single legal action on this grossly negligent decision--just one--will certainly cost the District much more than this could possibly save.

The San Diego School Board has taken a “stupid idea” (their words) with a record of failure and with no research or planning voted it in a failed effort to cut costs. As parents, we need to refuse to accept this kind of irresponsible behavior.

Anyone who cares about our schools should be e-mailing the school board now. This is the last stand--take away the leadership and where will we be?

Steven Gal is spokesman for Save Our Principals, a group of concerned parents. He is a Bird Rock resident.