Diego school reformer to leave
Superintendent calls departure 'mutual'
by Chris Moran, Union-Tribune, February 5, 2003
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Anthony Alvarado, the chief architect of a controversial
curriculum overhaul in San Diego city schools, will leave the
district at the end of September under an agreement approved
by the board of education yesterday.
Alvarado will immediately relinquish his title of chancellor
of instruction, the No. 2 educator in the 141,000-student San
Diego Unified district. He will continue to advise the
district 20 hours a week through September from his new office
at the University of San Diego, where he'll be a guest
Superintendent Alan Bersin called Alvarado's departure "a
mutual decision based on a joint and shared assessment of
where we are" in reforming San Diego city schools. Alvarado's
contract had been through December 2004.
Alvarado was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Although the district will pay Alvarado $130,000 for this
year's work and $129,000 in what amounts to severance pay, the
finance division expects that Alvarado's early exit will save
city schools $460,000 over the next two years.
Alvarado could have earned as much as $270,000 this year in
salary and incentives had he remained as chancellor.
Bersin said saving money played a minor role in scaling back
Alvarado's duties. Last week, the board cut $47 million from
this year's budget.
The superintendent said he has no plans to appoint another
chancellor, and Alvarado's work will be divided among three
Bersin said that Alvarado's "genius" is in designing education
reform. It's been three years since the school board approved
the Blueprint for Student Success but four years since its
first elements began.
There are political and financial benefits to taking Alvarado
out of his role as the second-ranking educator in the nation's
eighth-largest school district, Bersin said, but they were
"It comes as no surprise that the kind of lightning rod Tony
represents made the change process even more difficult,"
Bersin said, though Alvarado "acquitted himself brilliantly"
in overseeing changes to teaching under heavy criticism from
Teachers have roundly criticized Bersin and Alvarado.
Instructors say the reforms have been imposed without their
"I think it's good news," teachers union President Terry Pesta
said after the board acted. "I believe a lot of the problems
in the way people have been treated the last four years were
from Tony's style."
The Blueprint dramatically increased teacher training, set up
a training academy for principals, doubled and sometimes
tripled the amount of student time spent on reading and
writing instruction, beefed up classroom libraries, expanded
summer school and dispatched teaching coaches to most of the
Before the Blueprint, the district's annual professional
development cost was $1 million. This year, the district plans
to spend $55 million. The board has split 3-2 on some
Blueprint aspects, particularly authorizing the expenses for
consultants to provide teacher training.
The last two school board races were widely considered a
referendum on the Blueprint, and Bersin has held on to a 3-2
board majority after backers of school board candidates spent
hundreds of thousands of dollars on the campaigns.
When asked recently about his plans, Alvarado said only that
he intends to continue working in education reform.
In mid-January, New York city schools announced that Alvarado
joined the advisory board of its new leadership academy to
When Alvarado came to San Diego in June 1998, he was already
recognized nationally for his work in raising test scores in
New York City school districts in the 1980s and 1990s. He also
resigned as chancellor of the nation's largest school district
nearly 20 years ago after disclosures that he had lied on
mortgage applications and used a limousine service at taxpayer
For the first 18 months of his employment here, he commuted
weekly from New York. The commuting costs were covered by
taxpayers and reimbursed by the San Diego Community
Foundation. His $5,300 down payment and $2,400 monthly rent
for a Coronado condominium was partially paid for by a private
superintendent's account funded by community donors.
As controversial as he's been here, San Diego's reforms
directed by Alvarado have received praise from researchers and
foundations nationally. Philanthropists have contributed tens
of millions of dollars to the district contingent upon
Alvarado's continued employment.
Bersin said yesterday that the donor agreements will be
amended to allow continued funding for the reforms even in