Grier getting an early start (SD U-T)

From today’s San Diego Union-Tribune (make sure you look at the comments if you click on this link):

New schools chief meets community half a year before job begins

January 22, 2008

HOWARD LIPIN / Union-Tribune

Terry Grier (right), the new San Diego Unified School District superintendent, spoke with board member Robert Robinson after a community breakfast yesterday.

San Diego’s newest superintendent has made the rounds at a whirlwind pace since the school board voted unanimously to hire him Saturday.

Labor leaders, mayoral candidates and education advocates have all had something to say to the next schools chief. He has even received advice on where to find his native North Carolina barbecue here.

Terry Grier is plotting his introduction to the community and school system. It probably will be an abbreviated reception overshadowed by looming budget cuts, tense union talks and plenty of analysis of district programs.

Although Grier won’t officially start his job until July 1, he plans to make several working trips to San Diego in the interim. He’s also developing what he calls a “100-day entry plan.”

“I want to hear what people have to say,” Grier, 57, said after a community breakfast in Encanto to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights legacy. “But then you have to check to see if the perceptions match up with the facts. Our perceptions are not always true.”

Grier will leave his post as superintendent of North Carolina’s 71,400-student Guilford County Schools to take the helm of the San Diego Unified School District and its roughly 135,000 students. He will replace Carl Cohn, the self-professed peacemaker from Long Beach who stepped down from the position last month – about two years shy of his contract – after losing interest in the job.

A career educator, Grier is well-regarded for his work in reducing high school dropout rates with innovative programs for at-risk students. Among them are special schools that boast classes of no more than 15 students and evening schools for working students.

Grier also has generated controversy by creating an incentive-pay program aimed at wooing top teachers and principals to hard-to-staff schools.

He said there are no plans to immediately scrap local programs or wholly import Guilford County programs. But because the two districts face many of the same problems, Grier said, he will draw on his successes.

“I’m going to want to keep programs that work, those with evidence that they work,” Grier said.

Grier wants to take a hard look at secondary schools, saying that middle and high schools need to do better. That means figuring out how to work with students who can’t read at their grade level and carefully selecting their teachers and principals.

In particular, he said, principals often are hired based on their success as teachers.

“We need to make sure we are hiring people who like working with adults – parents, teachers, faith communities – not just children,” Grier said.

Grier also wants to talk with the teachers union about ways to give district-run schools the same kind of freedoms and innovations that independent charter schools enjoy.

“Charter schools are not going to go away in San Diego,” he said. “If the union continues to dig its heels and not be flexible in meeting the needs of children, charter schools will continue to grow.”

The San Diego school district’s new superintendent must grapple with deep funding cuts proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for fiscal 2008-09. The budget will be “a huge challenge” that will include making reductions, Grier said.

Along with his wife, Nancy, Grier spent the holiday weekend at the Tower 23 luxury hotel in Pacific Beach. It’s a place their four grown children would love, Nancy Grier said.

But most of the couple’s time was occupied by meetings, dinner parties and tours.

“I really believe the success of our school district will be determined by the relationships we forge,” Grier told the crowd at yesterday’s breakfast.

He expressed eagerness in addressing many of the concerns he fielded over the weekend, including the persistent achievement gap between students of different races and economic backgrounds. But Grier said high-achieving populations will not be ignored.

“We spend too much time labeling kids,” he said. “They are all our children. Instead of worrying about how much we put in each bucket, let’s make sure all their buckets are full.”

Grier plans to hold forums throughout San Diego to meet parents, teachers and residents. After sensing that many San Diegans are hard-core sports fans, he said he can steer the conversation if need be.

“I’m a Tony Gwynn fan, and (Chargers quarterback) Philip Rivers is a North Carolina alumni,” Grier said with a subtle Southern twang. “I predict a smooth transition.”


E.C. 🙂


Grier’s gone: His legacy (N&R)

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

(SD U-T)

From the lead editorial in today’s N&R:

Terry Grier’s legacy

Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2008 

After eight stormy, but productive, years as superintendent of the Guilford County Schools, Terry Grier will take charge of the San Diego Unified School District, effective July 1.

Many wish he would stay. Others would have gladly bought him a one-way ticket to somewhere else years ago.

Among Grier’s allies, he won unprecedented levels of assistance from the business community. He also enjoyed consistent support from the school board, even as its personalities and politics changed over the years.

As for his detractors, some have lobbied, passionately, to “Get Terry Grier Outta Here” for more than three years.

That’s too bad. Grier, 57, hasn’t been a perfect superintendent, but he has been a good one, having just completed, arguably, his best year on the job.

Guilford County last year beat the North Carolina averages in state and federal testing results. Graduation rates are up; dropout rates are down. Eastern Guilford High School successfully finished the 2006-07 academic year after the campus was destroyed by fire on Nov. 1, 2006.

Grier was named the state’s Superintendent of the Year for 2007 and will vie for the national award next month.

Also during his tenure Grier forged partnerships with area colleges to create middle college and early college programs for struggling students and high achievers.

The district began a promising new program, Mission Possible, which offers incentives and bonuses to attract high-demand math and reading teachers to poor and low-performing schools. The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams has more than doubled.

Despite his successes, and thicker skin than most, Grier has at times felt unappreciated. When the subject of his pay once came up, he didn’t hesitate to point out that a superintendent in a smaller system earned more than he. (In San Diego, Grier will command a base salary of $269,000 a year versus his current pay of $202,903.)

He still bristles as well at the perception that he conceived the unpopular High Point reassignment plan that fueled much of the “Get Grier Outta Here” commotion. The now-abandoned plan originated with the school board (which seemed content all the same to let Grier take the heat for it).

There were bumps and potholes on Grier’s watch. The district struggled to manage its construction projects. A school bus-hub system went painfully awry in 2004. Two local high schools — Dudley and Smith — were among 17 statewide ordered by a Wake County Superior Court judge to improve student performance or be closed.

On balance, however, Grier has seen more victories than setbacks. And he has kept the ideas coming, including an audacious proposal to offer two years of free tuition to Guilford County Schools graduates at GTCC.

Effective superintendents are a precious commodity everywhere. He won’t be easy to replace.


Umm…yes he will.

E.C. 🙂

Grier’s Gone: the tale of two boards

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Just comparing apples to oranges here…

Thomas Paine said that government is best which governs least. And that certainly applies when looking at the GCS Board versus the San Diego School Board.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.Here in Guilford County Schools, we have 71,xxx students in 119 school facilities with 10,000 employees, which is governed by an 11-member school board.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. In San Diego, their system has 135,000 students in 221 school facilities with 15,800 employees, which is governed by a 5-member school board.

Something to think about…

E.C. 🙂

Bus Delays for 1/22/08

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2008 8:34 AM

Due to unforeseen changes with the weather that have negatively impacted road conditions, buses have been instructed to hold at a safe location until further notice. Buses will be released as soon as temperatures rise and road conditions improve – no later than 10 a.m., sooner if possible. Buses will run their engines to maintain heat while being held.

Schools are not delayed.

District high schools that are on a block schedule will begin end-of-course exams on Tuesday, January 22.  Exams will continue through Monday, January 28.


E.C. 🙂