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San Diego Unified chooses Lamont Jackson, longtime district educator, as its new superintendent

Lamont Jackson
Lamont Jackson, who has served as the San Diego Unified School District’s interim leader since May, has been named the district’s permanent superintendent.
(Bill Wechter)

Jackson has been serving as interim superintendent since May.

Lamont Jackson, a San Diego Unified School District alumnus and longtime educator, was chosen as the district’s new permanent superintendent, the school board announced March 7.

The board picked Jackson, who has been serving as the interim superintendent since May, after conducting a search that spanned more than a year.

Jackson, 52, will lead California’s second-largest school district, which has 95,000 students, 15,000 employees, more than 170 schools and a $1.7 billion budget.

Many major challenges face Jackson, including developing game plans for closing achievement gaps and ensuring equity for disadvantaged students, helping students recover from the academic and mental health toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing the district’s student COVID vaccination mandate next school year and adjusting to declining enrollment that was accelerated by COVID.

Jackson was chosen from an undisclosed number of people who applied for the superintendent position. The only other finalist was Susan Enfield, superintendent from a Seattle-area school district about one-fifth the size of San Diego Unified.

The choice of Jackson, a district insider, matches with the board’s previous pattern in that its last superintendent, Cindy Marten, had worked in San Diego Unified for 10 years as a principal and 17 years as a teacher before the board appointed her in 2013.

She left the district last year to become deputy U.S. education secretary.

Jackson attended San Diego Unified schools in the Clairemont cluster: Longfellow Elementary, Marston Middle and Clairemont High. He earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social sciences from San Diego State University and a master’s and doctorate in educational leadership from the University of San Diego.

He was recruited to become a teacher through a previous district program that aimed to diversify the teaching workforce.

Jackson started as a teaching assistant and head girls basketball coach at Clairemont High, where he helped create a program to support historically disadvantaged students. He later became a teacher, then served as principal at Montgomery, Challenger and Wangenheim middle schools.

He became a human-resources administrator, then human-resources officer from 2010 to 2013 as the district dealt with hundreds of layoffs to address budget deficits.

Afterward, he was an area superintendent, overseeing mostly elementary and middle schools in the Morse, Mira Mesa, Clairemont and University City clusters. Jackson was credited at the time with helping to develop the district’s new teacher evaluation method, which was meant to focus on improvement rather than punishing teachers for poor performance.

Principals have said Jackson is charismatic and caring about students and staff. He remembers details about people’s lives, makes jokes, visits schools often and has cried with fellow employees when having deep conversations, colleagues said.

Jackson, who has openly shared his experiences as a Black man, often says the district “needs to be unapologetic” about equity and serving the district’s most marginalized students, particularly students who are Black, Latino, have disabilities or are learning English as a second language.

“When we can get it right for our students … who have been marginalized for far too long … then we can say that we are about equity,” he said in January. “But until then, it’s just talk. And we have to stay committed ... about that.”

His ideas to improve the district include using a “grow-your-own” program to help district students become teachers, eliminating barriers such as course prerequisites that prevent disadvantaged students from taking advanced or rigorous courses, and raising teacher pay.

Jackson also has said he will accelerate the district’s efforts to reform its grading practices, grow its transitional kindergarten programs and expand anti-bias and anti-racism training to more staff.


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