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Superintendent candidates meet SD public

The finalists for San Diego Unified School District superintendent met the media and faced the public Thursday for the first time

since the list of candidates was narrowed to three.

The candidacies of interim Superintendent Bill Kowba, College Track CEO Debbra Lindo and former Hayward Unified School Dale Vigil were announced by trustees on Wednesday.

Kowba, 58, is in his second stint as interim leader of the district --

nine months currently and three months before Terry Grier took over as

superintendent.

The job opened again last year when an embattled Grier left for Houston.

“The longer you stay in a position, the more you understand the position,’' said Kowba, a 30-year Navy veteran who rose to the rank of admiral.

“This is a large and complex organization, like many out there, that with solid leadership and cohesive employees, there’s a lot you can do.”

Kowba has been considered a frontrunner for the permanent job, often

receiving praise from members of the school board and staff.

He said he was “touched and honored” when he was encouraged to apply

and hasn’t changed his management style. He said he was not a “yeller and screamer” and recognized that “he can’t do it all himself.”

Whether Kowba indeed is chosen could be known by June 29, a date

targeted by school board President Richard Barrera.

Kowba said his competition “sound like very capable, solid

professionals -- no doubt fully qualified.”

Lindo’s Bay Area nonprofit organization heightens educational opportunities to underprivileged high school students. The 57-year-old “Navy brat’ is a San Diego native who began her career as a drama teacher at San Diego and Patrick Henry high schools.

She was also an education official in Oakland and San Ramon known for

dismantling large, failing schools and re-tooling them as several smaller organizations sharing a campus, similar to what the SDUSD did at San Diego, Crawford and Kearny high schools.

“I think when you have students in perilous conditions, you have to

create different conditions to have different experiences and outcomes,” Lindo said. “The (San Diego) School District is one that’s been struggling to find its way. In the last 15 years, I’ve been working in environments where I’ve helped schools find their way.”

Both she and Vigil praised a new district organization which will place geographical clusters of schools under area superintendents.

Vigil, 66, was an area superintendent in Los Angeles before taking the

reigns in Hayward.

He said school boards are known for stifling change, but the SDUSD

trustees embrace innovation. “That’s very exciting to me,” Vigil said.

Vigil’s four-year leadership of the Hayward School District was marred

by a rancorous strike by teachers, but he said he has enjoyed good relations with teachers’ unions in other districts.

He left Hayward last year when elections changed the makeup of the

school board.

“When a new board of education is elected, they often want a new

superintendent,” said Vigil, who noted the same thing happened to Grier.

Vigil acknowledged that his contract was also bought out when he worked in Santa Rosa.

The twin son of a diplomat was born in Brownsville, Texas, and was

raised in various South and Central American countries.