Biden nominates San Diego Unified superintendent as deputy education secretary

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – 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.

In a message to families, Marten said will be leaving her post as superintendent following confirmation by the U.S. 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,” Marten said. “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.”

Marten has been 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.

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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.

Marten was chosen as one of the 2018 Business Women of the Year by the San Diego Business Journal and was awarded the 2015 National Conflict Resolution Center Local Peacemaker Award.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse and a master’s degree in teaching and learning from UC San Diego.

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education has appointed Dr. Lamont Jackson as interim superintendent through the remainder of the year to replace Marten. The district website lists Jackson as Area 2 Superintendent over the Mira Mesa, Morse, University City and Clairemont clusters.

Marten said on Twitter that Jackson “makes decisions based on students and is 100% committed to a better San Diego,” adding that he was an outstanding choice.

San Diego Education Association President Kisha Borden said its members look forward to working with Jackson and also are thrilled about Marten’s nomination.

“Superintendent Marten will be a good addition to the Biden Administration as it attempts to undo the damage done under Betsy DeVos’ disastrous tenure,” Borden said.

But not everyone fully supports the nomination. The San Diego Branch of the NAACP called it “troubling.”

In a statement, the organization credited Marten for her attempts to push for racial equity through anti-racist trainings and new grading policies. But it also noted it doesn’t make up for the district’s history with Black students.

The organization points to a recent study done by SDSU researchers that found disproportionate suspension rates among Black students at the district. Another recent study by the Learning Policy Institute shows San Diego Unified is among more than 100 California school districts where students of color outperform students in other districts.

“Educators at all levels must have a track record of dismantling the harmful practices of Anti-Black Racism that occur in schools,” the statement reads. “Cindy Marten has a historical pattern of allowing the excessive suspension and expulsion of Black students in San Diego. President-Elect Biden, with all of the qualified educators we have in our nation, this is not a good choice for healing Black students, families and educators, nor is it a step in the right direction for repairing harm in our schools.”

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