Carlos Garcia, SF schools chief, plans to retire

By: Jill Tucker

SFUSD Superintendent Carlos Garcia talked with seven
year old Jackson Moran before the event.Educational
leaders gathered at Leonard R. Flynn elementary school 
in San Francisco, Calif. Thursday August 11, 2011 to 
announce that for the fourth year in a row, San Francisco 
has reduced the number of habitually and chronically 
absent children enrolled in public schools.
San Francisco schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia said Wednesday he will retire at the end of the academic year after 37 years in public education.

Garcia, 60, has led the district for five years during which test scores steadily improved despite several years of staffing and program cuts throughout the city's 140 k-12 schools.

"Ending my career here at San Francisco Unified School District for me is a dream come true," he said. "It's been the best job I've ever had in my life."

When he was hired, the superintendent promised to stay five years and will have kept that promise when he leaves the $293,000-a-year post in early July. School board members, attempting to avoid a costly search for a new superintendent, have offered the job to Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza. They are hoping to agree on a contract within the next couple of weeks.

"Doing a search would be saying we want to go in a different direction," said board member Rachel Norton. "We are on a good path."

A peacemaker

Garcia was hired in 2007 by a frequently squabbling school board and he has been credited with establishing cohesion among the seven members, who now rarely bicker at public meetings and frequently vote unanimously.

He has had few vocal critics, something almost unheard of in San Francisco's public arena.
Jim Dierke, principal of Visitacion Valley Middle School and a 40-year veteran of the district, ranked him as one of the best superintendents of the last 10.

"He was respected for being honest," said Dierke, who is also the president of United Administrators of San Francisco. "If he couldn't do something, he'd tell you."

An economic recession during most of Garcia's tenure required him to issue hundreds of layoff notices to teachers and other school workers, reduce school busing, increase class sizes and cut programs.

But Garcia focused much of his time and resources on boosting student achievement in the city's lowest-performing schools, at times delivering fiery sermons on the unacceptable test scores and graduation rates of African American and Hispanic students.

He frequently called that achievement gap the biggest civil rights issue of our time - a "modern-day apartheid."
"If we allow that to happen in a place like San Francisco, then shame on us," he said.

He called his five-year plan to address the problem "Beyond the Talk," a slogan that was featured on posters carrying an image of Jimi Hendrix. Garcia said the iconic rock star reflected his answer to what he anticipated would be the community reaction to his plan: "You may not be sure of what you think about it, but it starts to grow on you; eventually, it's acknowledged as revolutionary."