Veteran Principal Named to Helm at Lincoln High


A veteran principal from Morse High School in Encanto has been appointed to the same position at Lincoln High School, even though she did not apply for the high-visibility post.

San Diego city schools trustees on Thursday announced that Virginia Foster, 48, will take over Lincoln, long the educational centerpiece for the black community in Southeast San Diego and struggling to shed a long-tarnished reputation.

The announcement followed by a day the board’s selection of Dale W. Vigil, a bilingual-second-language specialist for Denver public schools, as San Diego’s new assistant superintendent for community relations and integration.

Foster did not apply for the Lincoln position vacated in June when Ruby-Cremaschi-Schwimmer announced her resignation both because of her health and over frustration at the difficulty of solving minority education problems.


But schools Supt. Tom Payzant prevailed upon Foster Wednesday to take the job after trustees rejected three finalists in the application process, all vice principals, because of lack of experience, board president Kay Davis said Thursday.

“We wanted someone who would be a really good fit for the position, who had enough experienceto meet the challenge of Lincoln, and we decided on her,” Davis said. “She has run a good school (Morse), which has a lot of complicated programs, and kept high standards.

“We need someone to go to Lincoln and manage its budget better, get the kids to perform better, and Virginia has a nice balance between being tough and very demanding, on the one hand, and being supportive, humorous and touchy-feely on the other hand.”

Regarding the three vice-principal candidates, Davis said, “You don’t put someone at Lincoln for their first principal experience.” Davis has called the principalship at Lincoln “one tough, tough job” because of having to deal with the neighborhood’s tough socioeconomics.


Foster has been principal at Morse since July, 1983, the second-largest of the district’s 15 high schools, with 2,421 students balanced between blacks, Latinos, whites and Filipinos, and with upward trends in academic achievement.

At Lincoln, she will run the district’s smallest high school--but with strong identity with the surrounding black community. Lincoln has 924 students, 58.4% of them black, along with the lowest standardized test scores among all county high schools.

But there are bright spots as a result of Cremaschi-Schwimmer’s tenure, including higher daily student attendance, lower dropout rates, a new college-preparatory curriculum and a greater number of students who believe learning is not something only for white students to pursue.

Foster, adhering to her longstanding policy of not dealing with the media, did not return calls from reporters or from the district’s public information office Thursday seeking comment on her new position.

Foster, who is black, will be replaced at Morse by Russell C. Vowinkel, now principal at De Portola Middle School in Tierrasanta.

Vowinkel is white, a fact noted by Davis on Thursday. “Just like we like to have minority principals north of Interstate 8 (in predominantly white areas), we want some whites south of Interstate 8,” Davis said. Trustee Ann Armstrong called Vowinkel a “strong, strong candidate,” adding that she has known him more than 15 years, since he was a counselor.

Payzant, in an interview earlier this month, had said he would be hard-pressed “to have a non-black at Lincoln at this point because there are community perceptions that are part of political reality.”

“But you can’t have a double standard policy and say it is OK to have an Asian or black or Hispanic in a white community but not a white in a non-white community,” Payzant insisted.


Robert Saunders, vice principal at the School of Creative and Performing Arts, will become principal at De Portola.

On Tuesday, the board announced its selection of Vigil, 46, a longtime teacher and administrator in Colorado. He will be the first Latino to hold the assistant superintendent position. Vigil will oversee the district’s voluntary integration plan, which includes magnet academic programs, voluntary busing, and the race-human relations program.

Vigil replaces George Frey, who committed suicide in February.