56 minutes | Feb 1st 2018

Poway Unified's New Leader

The Poway Unified School District is one of the highest regarded school districts in the state. Its schools are good and its students are high-performing.

But the district's sterling reputation has a few big dings. Poway Unified's leadership has been under a cloud of suspicion since 2011 when Voice of San Diego broke a story about a strange bond that allowed the district to immediately borrow $150 million, but then required it to pay back $1 billion by 2035.

That financial scandal shook the school and resulted in lots of negative attention from the media and the families inside the district. California lawmakers changed laws preventing other districts to do what Poway did, and the San Diego County Grand Jury scrutinized the deal.

But former Poway Unified superintendent John Collins downplayed the whole issue and kept his job. But in 2016, he was fired amid another financial scandal. This time, Collins was charged with five felony charges for allegedly misusing public money, vacation, sick and leave time − charges he denies.

As that case plays out in the courts, Poway Unified has moved on, naming Marian Kim-Phelps as its new superintendent. She's the district's first women and the first person of color to serve in that role.

On the podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn talk to Kim-Phelps about her leadership style. She said transparency is extremely important to her and that being open moving forward is the only way to leave the past turmoil behind.

“I believe that I am a transparent leader,” she said. “People forget, we’re public education. Nothing's private. Nothing's a secret.”

Kim-Phelps also talks about how she wants to find funding to expand the district's multi-language programs, she discusses the innovation relationship between the Poway teachers' union and the school leadership, the district's innovative Design 39 school, the big change in school board elections and more.

Also on the podcast, Lewis talks about how his 5-year-old daughter, who just barely missed the cutoff dates for transitional kindergarten, is already advocating for universal TK for all 4-year-olds.

What's Working

Dual-language programs in Chula Vista:  An education think tank recently released a report  report showing how, despite legislation that made bilingual education difficult to implement, the Chula Vista Elementary School District has successfully built 21 Spanish-English dual-language immersion programs that now reach over 4,000 students.

Number of the Week

95 percent: A new report shows that 95 percent of Latino youth in California were born in the United States. Latino students continue to face barriers in our country's education system that make it harder for them to succeed. These are American children, and the educational system needs to get better at educating them.

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