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The future of education: Meet the panelists

June 1, 2013

As we head into the Second Craft Beer Debate on June 6th (free to attend, must pre-register here), I want to introduce our panelists as a way of helping frame this “future of education” debate.  First, though, obviously it’s not possible to take on the whole future of anything, let alone something as complex as educating our young people.  So the first point is to realize what piece of that puzzle we’ll be toasting to on the 6th. For background on this debate or this whole series click here.

The issue we’ll consider is summed up by the debate resolution (calling it a ‘resolution’ is just a slightly fancier way to say that this is the topic the two sides will weigh in on).  That resolution is:

For the future economic success of the San Diego region, we must switch from a focus on “every child college ready” and the “A through G” curriculum to more of a focus on alternative or vocational/career education.

One other point before I introduce the panelists.  Education  isn’t a one size fits all proposition.  So even though I’ve asked the panelists to defend a particular position on this resolution, it’s reasonable that their views will be mixed, so we should view the resolution as a good starting point rather than a hard and fast rule.  Our fearless moderator, Stone Brewing Company CEO & Co-Founder Greg Koch will help keep everyone moving in the right direction.  Now for the panelists…


On the side of continuing our focus on “every child college ready” and the “A through G” curriculum (click here for explanation of the A through G curriculum), we have:

Richard Barrera, Secretary-Treasurer – San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council & SDUSD School Board Trustee

Richard Barrera, Secretary Treasurer of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council

Richard Barrera, Secretary Treasurer of the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council

Richard Barrera is a current Trustee of the San Diego Unified School Board and the Secretary-Treasurer of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.  He has spent more than 20 years as a community and labor organizer, helping working families build power to win economic, political and social justice.  In 2008, Richard was elected to the San Diego Unified School Board, representing the communities surrounding San Diego and Hoover High Schools.  During a period in which public schools in San Diego faced historic budget cuts from the State of California, Richard helped build coalitions of parents, students, teachers, classified workers, administrators and community leaders to protect the outstanding work going on in neighborhood schools.  This process of community-based reform has produced unprecedented gains in student achievement, narrowing of the achievement gap, and reduced dropout rates in San Diego’s public schools.  San Diego Unified is now recognized as one of the top performing large, urban districts in the nation, and has received prestigious awards for its groundbreaking work in science instruction, arts and music education, career technical education, and classroom technology. Richard was re-elected to the School Board in 2012 with 98% of the vote.

Richard is a first generation American who’s father immigrated from Colombia and who’s grandparents immigrated from Europe through Ellis Island.  Richard grew up in El Cajon, graduated from El Cajon Valley High School, and went on to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in History from UC San Diego and a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Harvard University. Richard currently serves on the boards of the United Way of San Diego and the Cesar E. Chavez Service Club, is an Adjunct Faculty member at San Diego City College, and coached both of his sons for seven years in the North Park Little League.

Rachel Laing, parent and Director of Communications for Public Policy Strategies

Superhero children of panelist Rachel Laing, Director of Communications of Public Policy Strategies

Superhero children of panelist Rachel Laing, Director of Communications of Public Policy Strategies

Rachel Laing is a parent of two school-aged children in the Pt. Loma area.  She is the communications director for Public Policy Strategies (PPS), a local public affairs firm that helps its private-sector clients successfully navigate regulatory and business interactions with government agencies.

Prior to joining PPS, Laing was deputy press secretary for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders; a public relations manager with Sempra Energy/SDG&E; and the communications manager for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. Laing’s career in strategic communications was preceded by nearly a decade in business and political journalism.  Laing has two children, ages 10 and 7, who attend public school in Point Loma. She and her husband, Greg, explored charter and magnet schools before their son went to kindergarten, and frequently threaten their children that they’ll be sent off to a military academy if they keep it up, but in truth are reasonably happy with the public schools so far.

Dr. Helen Griffith, Executive Director  e³ Civic High School

Dr. Helen Griffith, Executive Director e-3 Civic High School

Dr. Helen Griffith, Executive Director e-3 Civic High School

Dr. Helen Griffith is the Executive Director of e³ Civic High School, the new High School opening in San Diego’s downtown library.  Dr. Griffith’s career in education spans nearly 18 years. During her career she has specialized in the coaching and mentoring experiences of transformational principals in urban schools. In 2007, she served as vice principal of the newly constructed Lincoln High, joining an administrative team tasked with opening four small schools on one campus. Her experience also includes serving as lead teacher, facilitator, and later, dean of students of a new small school at the Crawford High Educational Complex — CHAMPs Community Health and Medical Practices.

As executive director, Griffith’s primary responsibilities will be the efficient, day-to-day management of the school with an emphasis on student instruction and well-being. Prior to joining e³ Civic High, Dr. Griffith served as the founding principal of Millennial Tech Middle School from 2008. During her tenure, the school was designated a “high performing middle school,” achieving a 40-point growth in student achievement gains in the 2010-2011 academic year.  “This new school is an innovative educational partnership and under her leadership, will be a rewarding endeavor for everyone involved — particularly the students.”  “I am honored and excited to join this new venture in education and look forward to recruiting a faculty of talented, committed educators,” said Dr. Griffith. “Together, we will make e³ Civic High a successful and special place for learning, friendship and the exchange of ideas.” She added, “Our core principles of personalized learning, engaging curriculum and high standards for all will provide an invaluable experience for our students.”

The mission of e³ Civic High is to engage the students of urban San Diego in a successful high school experience by providing a meaningful college and career preparatory education focused on a broad spectrum of 21st century literacy.

“Dr. Griffith is an excellent educator and administrator who brings great experience, academic insight and energy to Downtown Charter High (now called e³ Civic High),” said Bill Kowba, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. “This new school is an innovative educational partnership and under her leadership, will be a rewarding endeavor for everyone involved — particularly the students.”

Among many professional honors, Dr. Griffith received the 2010-11 Educator of the Year award from the California League of Middle Schools — Region 9, the 2010 Outstanding Educator of the Year award from Lambda Kappa Mu and Pi Delta Kappa’s 2007 award for Outstanding African-American Educator of the Year. In addition, Dr. Griffith was selected as one of San Diego’s 50 People to Watch in 2013 by San Diego Magazine.

Dr. Griffith is a wife and the mother of three children. She received her Doctorate of Education from San Diego State University in Educational Leadership, a Master’s in Educational Technology, and the Administrative Services Credential from the same institution with honors. Dr. Griffith holds an undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego.


On the side of shifting our focus to alternative or vocational/career-based styles of education, we have

Ed Hidalgo, Qualcomm, Inc.

Ed Hidalgo, Senior Director for Global Contingent Workforce, Qualcomm, Inc.

Ed Hidalgo, Senior Director for Global Contingent Workforce, Qualcomm, Inc.

Ed Hidalgo joined Qualcomm in 2005 as Director of Staffing and is currently Sr. Director responsible for global contingent workforce and supplier management, immigration and relocation teams.  He is also one of the founders of the Career Explorations group which provides career counseling and coaching to Qualcomm employees’ world wide.  During his tenure at Qualcomm he has also lead ATS systems, full-time hiring for emerging businesses and government group.  Qualcomm is the world’s largest fabless semiconductor company providing the worlds device manufacturers with the technology to power their wireless devices.

His background includes 15 years of Staffing and Staffing Agency experience.  Prior to Qualcomm he worked at Manpower and was responsible for technical recruiting and site-management operations employing thousands of workers throughout San Diego County.

A graduate of the University of Miami, Ed is also dedicated to education and workforce development initiatives in his community.  He co-founded the Manpower High Tech High Academic Internship Program which created more than 650 internships in over 200 community businesses and agencies. He is the Executive sponsor for Workforce Development Labs at Qualcomm a program to promote youth and veteran engagement in workforce development and lifelong learning through hands on experiential internships.  He is also the Chair of the San Diego Workforce Partnership Workforce Investment Board which is dedicated to serving the community by distributing and awarding funds to youth and dislocated workers.

Rob Atterbury – ConnectED: California Center for Career and College

Rob Atterbury - ConnectEd: California Center for College and Career

Rob Atterbury – ConnectEd: California Center for College and Career

Rob Atterbury is Director of Professional Development and District Coach for ConnectEd: The California Center for College and Career.  Prior to joining ConnectEd, Rob served as a teacher, Program Manager, Director in the Office of Secondary School Innovation for San Diego Unified Schools and High School Transformation Associate Superintendent for Atlanta Public Schools.   In each of these roles, Rob has been involved in transforming comprehensive high schools into small, career-theme schools, career academies, and/or smaller learning communities that better prepare students for college and career.

Rob is a graduate of San Diego State University and has a Master’s degree in Education Administration from United States International University.  Rob lives in San Diego with his wife of 34 years and two kids.

Again, the debate is free to attend but please register here.  Check back each day leading up to the debate for more updates and useful information about education in San Diego. If  you want to make reservations to have dinner (highly recommended to save time) before or after the debate, click here.

From → Education

  1. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman permalink

    Where are the PARENTS — not political insiders or aspirants who happen to be parents or big businessmen who happen to be parents — but PARENTS, as in those who participate in community/school clusters of K-12 public schools who are trying to make substantive over-all improvement in the way public education works on the ground for kids? As in school-to-further-education, not just the narrowly fashionable “school-to-work” which is what’s being pushed here.

    People should know that a recent SDUSD attempt to turn voc ed school-to-work courses into general requirements for high school graduation was shot down by a coalition of PARENTS of college-bound kids from across the city who (rightly) recognized another disastrous one-size-fits-all
    straightjacket being promulgated by the central office in collusion with local business.

    Here you offer a representative from the School Board/Labor Council; a PR person from the former Mayor Sanders administration; a principal from a Jacobs-funded charter school; an executive (formerly with Phil Blair/Mel Katz’s Manpower temp worker agency) now at Jacobs’ Qualcomm in charge of that company’s large special-visa foreign-national workforce; and a school-to-work specialist from the private sector.

    Not one active knowledgeable PARENT of kids in the public school system?
    This looks like another Jacobs-funded version of the failed initiative to expand the local School Board with business appointees.

    • Frances – First, thanks for taking the time to offer your opinion. We don’t know each other, so you have no reason to know that I reached out to every parent I could find, asked several teachers if they had any active parents they knew, sent a note to a couple principals I know asking for help and asked many of my friends and colleagues. And we also don’t know each other enough to know any more than what we might find in the comments section on Voice of San Diego. Whatever personal opinion you may have, Rachel Laing has two kids in public elementary school in San Diego. Richard Barrera has (or at least had when last we talked about it) kids in local public schools. I am a volunteer, doing this around my day job in an effort to get more people engaged in San Diego issues. I’ve never turned anyone away who wants to help, and will be emailing you on the side to see if you are so inclined. I recruited lots of people to participate and ended with a panel of people who are very passionate about their views and about young people. You can choose to make assumptions about the panelists based on their day jobs or you can register and come and see a bit about who these people are as human beings.

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