San Diego watch for 12/12/07: Grier’s Legacy


The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

The header picture at the top of this blog site is the San Diego skyline.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Yep, we’re on San Diego watch because our fearless leader, Dr. Terry Grier, might be leaving us for greener pastures (links to previous day’s coverage here and here).

Today’s news…the News & Record today has a story discussing Grier’s legacy, specifically what kind of legacy he may leave behind, including creation of the middle colleges and Mission (im)Possible. And I see they dug out ole’ Susie Mendenhall.

N&R excerpts:

San Diego school system officials have been tight-lipped about their superintendent search, but they visited last week with some parents, school board members and educators to discuss Grier.

Likewise, Guilford County school board members declined to reveal what they discussed about Grier in their three-hour closed session Monday night. But the board has the power to extend Grier’s contract or increase his salary as an incentive to keep him in North Carolina if San Diego offers him a job.


Let’s stop here. And hear me very carefully…if Grier is offered this job and if the GCS Board is smart, they should not make any attempt to keep him. Let him go. Offer him no more money; offer him no more contract extensions…that’s it. Just let him go.

Go west, young man, go west.



The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Grier also said he is proud of the Mission Possible program, an incentive system that gives teachers cash bonuses for taking hard-to-fill slots and improving student performance in struggling schools.

It’s an initiative that Grier credits for helping five schools meet federal testing targets for the first time this year.

Grier counts the program as a success. But it didn’t sit well with some teachers.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. It created divisiveness among teachers because only certain subject-matter experts were eligible for the bonuses, said Mark Jewell, president of the Guilford County Association of Educators.

“It’s always been our stance that you need to support all the teachers who work at those schools,” he said Tuesday.

Mark’s right. Many teachers I’ve been in touch with say the program has not worked to its full potential and have uttered the same phrase: “it’s just not worth it.”



But like all the programs started during Grier’s tenure, any of them could face changes if he leaves the district. Successive superintendents don’t always adopt or agree with prior strategies.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. “I think no superintendent you hire is going to make everybody happy,” said Susan Mendenhall, who was a school board member when Grier was hired. “You have to look at what would happen if he leaves. …There are just not many outstanding candidates out there.”


Mendenhall was on the Board for 20 years, has been off the board for a little over a year, and is still out of touch with reality in our schools and classrooms. Nice to see not much has changed. Take what she says with a grain of salt.

As I mentioned yesterday, I think there is the strong potential for tapping a good deal of talent out there, homegrown, without hiring expensive consultants and doing nationwide searches.

The GCS Board needs to slow the upcoming process down…appoint an interim school chief from within, create a step-by-step process like San Diego did, and for God’s sake, they need to take their time doing this. I suggested yesterday that the GCS Board take the bold step of waiting until after next year’s elections to begin the search. With six major Board seats up for grabs and a lot of turnover expected, it may be more prudent for the new incoming Board to make this decision rather than a lame-duck Board.


The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Meanwhile, no fresh news today on the San Diego end of things, but we’ll be monitoring the wires. Here’s the link again to yesterday’s Union-Tribune article…and notice these interesting comments from UT readers:

HG – How much will his salary and relocation, housing, health, retirement, etc. perks cost? What did Cohn get paid? At an approximate 7 to 1 student/employee ratio does that mean more hires or fires here? How many employees does this district have? What’s the pay difference? What is NCs nationwide scholastic rating? SDs?


How about promoting from within. We don’t need anymore carpet-baggers who don’t give a darn about us. We need home grown people who live amongst, no matter what type of job they desire to have. You know, people who aren’t in it just for a pay check or a promotion.

************************ Meanwhile, local San Diego TV has picked up the story.

See this brief from NBC-7/39:

SAN DIEGO — A North Carolina superintendent is among the finalists for the top job at the San Diego Unified School District, according to a report published Tuesday. Terry Grier was approached for the job by the San Diego school board, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. He is the superintendent of the Guilford County Schools, North Carolina’s third-largest school district. Grier has been in that position since May of 2000. It is not known how many other finalists are in the running for the San Diego job.


The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. ABC-10 in San Diego did a story back in May on just how much past San Diego area school superintendents have made. Retiring school chief Dr. Carl Cohn currently makes $250,000.

So Grier has the potential to do very well financially out there, but do keep in mind the cost of living is a whole lot more out there.

ABC-10 excerpt:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. San Diego Unified School District superintendent Dr. Carl Cohn said, “The pay is going up because there are not a lot of people available to do the job.”

Cohn runs the largest district in the county, with over 132,000 students. He earns $250,000, which is about $1.89 per student. He also currently draws a pension because he came out of retirement to take the job.”I think it’s driven by market forces; a lot depends on your experience,” said Cohn. Board member John De Beck said there are several factors.”When you’re picking the person, what their past experience is, whether they’re willing to come and take a job they know isn’t going to last long, school boards are fickle,” said De Beck. However, taxpayer advocate Richard Rider said the salaries have grown much faster than the private sector and the rate of inflation.” Public sector salaries from bottom to top have grown dramatically, looks like faster at the top,” said Rider. Rider believes the pay is based more on a school board’s whim than test scores, experience or the size of the district.” And let’s not forget their pensions; their pensions are calculated on the top salaries,” said Rider.


UPDATE: 12/12/07, 9:50AM: Joe Stafford just made a dynamite point over at the N&R Chalkboard:

 Joe Stafford said:

This group that met with the SD people? Who decided who should be invited?

I would suspect it was a Grier-friendly bunch, but I too would be interested in who hand-picked the crowd, just for curiosity’s sake.


More information as it comes in.

E.C. 🙂


2 Responses

  1. Erik,

    A few pieces of information. A reliable source said that Grier’s comp package here at GCS is $300,000, so a salary of $250,000 in San Diego wouldn’t be to attractive. Housing in California is horrendous, so the salary wold have to be much higher to be attractive to Grier. I’m very surprised that Cohn’s salary is so low, as superintendent’s salaries in large districts typically are closer to $500,000.

    Grier is likely starting to feel uncomfortable here as the heat is starting to be turned-up. His expiration date in GCS may have arrived.

    Terrina Picarello has stated that she was involved with the parent interviews locally for the San Diego people. It’s not clear, though, what the process was at to who was selected for the interviews. It’s also not clear who the parents were that met with the San Diego people. You can be sure, though, that they were hand-picked to give Grier good press. Actually, the process used by CMS was one of the best that I have seen. It placed candidates in stress situations in meeting with a citizen group who asked hard questions. It was that environment where Grier melted-down and had a vision of his commitment to Guilford County. Man, have you ever seen one man sweat so profusely before?

  2. Garth says over on the Chalkboard that it was not a hand-picked Grier-friendly group, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck. How could it have not been a Grier-friendly group of people? I agree with you in the sense that he’s feeling his time is up here.

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