More than a year after San Diego Unified's superintendent stepped down to take a role in the Biden administration, the school district announced her permanent successor on Monday.
The Board of Education assembled at 4:30 p.m. outside its headquarters on Normal Street to announce that Lamont Jackson, who had served as interim superintendent since Cindy Marten stepped down in 2021, would be taking on the role permanently. Officials on the board said the vote for Jackson was unanimous.
Cindy Marten, who was the district's supervisor for eight years, went to Washington D.C., last year, taking a position as Deputy Education Secretary. Prior to her departure, she served as an educator in various roles in local school districts. She got her start as a teacher and schoolwide literacy specialist in the Poway Unified School District and spent 17 years as a teacher before long stretches as a principal and vice-principal.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
Jackson stepped into a challenging role in January 2021, with students transitioning from remote learning to hybrid to in-person learning. Recently, there has been controversy as the district opted to continue an indoor mask mandate despite state health officials giving the green light to make face coverings optional indoors. Last week, however, SDUSD officials said the district would be dropping the requirement in early April.
"I want [our families] to know that we did our best to pick the very best candidate for the future of their childen, our students," said board president Sharon Whitehurst-Payne. "It is my great pleasure to announce that the Board of Eduation has voted unanymously -- and also with the students' concurrence -- to hire Dr. Lamont Jackson."
The crowd that came out with the board then let out yells of approval, all of it eliciting a huge smile from the new superintendent.
"With a deep commitment to equity, inclusion and empathy for all students and employees, Dr. Jackson is the right person to lead San Diego Unified," Whitehurst-Payne added once the cheering died down.
"This is an amazing community," Jackson began, "and it is just truly an honor to serve as the next superintendent for the San Diego Unified District," then thanking the board "for running a very transparent process."
"I accept this role -- and it is a role, because it's not who I am … on behalf of my family, my friends, my colleagues, many are standing here today," Jackson said. "I thank you for your incredible support always. I accept this position on behalf of our students, our families … our entire community."
Board Trustee Richard Barrera said, "This is the time when we need a community builder at the helm. And I have never seen a person who builds community as skillfully or powerfully as Dr. Lamont Jackson.''
Jackson graduated from Clairemont High School and has worked for the district as a classroom teacher, principal and district administrator. With more than 26 years' experience in education, he said at the time he was named interim superintendent that he was at San Diego Unified because of the “wonderful educators and leaders.”
Jackson and Susan Enfield, the superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Washington state, which is just south of Seattle, were the two finalists for San Diego Unified's leader, and they both appeared late last month at a Community Engagement Forum held at Woodrow Wilson Middle School, in Normal Heights, where parents were invited to attend,
“This is home," Jackson told those in attendance at the forum in February. "I was born and raised in San Diego. I grew up in the San Diego Unified School District."
Parents were able to submit questions ahead of time. Both candidates provided their perspectives on topics such as curriculum, staffing and diversity initiatives.
“We will be about diversity," Jackson said. "We will be about equity and we will be unapologetic about being inclusive.”
Mental health, training protocols and disciplinary policies were also discussed.
The City News Service contributed to this report -- Ed.