Thomas Boysen intends to be an outspoken participant in the ongoing state battle by educators for additional school funding and classroom reforms, the new San Diego County superintendent of schools served notice on Monday.
On his first day in the post, Boysen said he intends to remake the traditionally low-key office into a "bully pulpit" to gain needed public support for more dollars and programs to prepare the county's 360,000 elementary- and secondary-school students for the 21st Century.
Boysen, after being sworn in to his $90,000-a-year post, strongly backed an effort to amend the state's constitutional spending limit to allow for greater funding of schools, which is being led by State Supt. of Public Instruction Bill Honig. In addition, Boysen suggested a special effort by school districts countywide to upgrade student writing both to boost student performance and morale, and to show the public that reforms and dollars can bring positive results.
"I believe I should be a voice for the schools in the county," Boysen told a news conference. "I should be a catalyst for getting results."
The county office of education, which Boysen now heads, coordinates a variety of educational and administrative programs for the county's 43 school districts and five community college districts, in particular for smaller districts without extensive resources of their own. The office has no legal authority over school districts, instead operating teacher training seminars, curriculum planning, drug prevention and other programs funded by the state but too costly to carry out by individual districts.
"But we do have tremendous opportunities to do things (with districts) on a voluntary basis, such as a writing program, dropout prevention and anti-drug measures," Boysen said.
Boysen's call for more cooperation was backed by Supt. Tom Payzant of the San Diego Unified School District, the county's largest with 117,000 students.
"In the last couple of years, we have been trying to work more closely together, particularly in the area of staff development, and I think that is really the area where we can break some new ground," Payzant said.
"And I think the person in that office can be a strong advocate for public education, and one who prods us to look at new things."
Funding a Primary Issue
In his remarks Monday, Boysen cast the issue of funding as primary to the future of schools, saying that educators have been "trying to get blood out of a turnip" in attempting to stretch small state funding increases this year to cover large increases in the number of students. San Diego County's school-age population is up 20,000 this year, he said.
The 47-year-old Boysen will oversee a $52-million annual budget. He came from Thousand Oaks, northwest of Los Angeles, where he managed 27 schools and 22,000 students as superintendent of the Conejo Valley Unified School District.