Saying goodbye to Ken Noah and hello to an interesting lawsuit

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

The saying goes that nice guys finish last. But in the case of this nice guy, retiring superintendent Ken Noah comes out on top.

Noah, whose last day with the San Dieguito Union High School District is June 30, has been an ethical bellwether – not just in San Dieguito but with parents, board members and educators from surrounding districts, many of whom have looked to him for guidance and inspiration.

He’s demanded high standards of behavior from adults in the system and has skillfully managed to disarm critics, even turning some former adversaries into allies. He has also inspired colleagues and supporters with his uncanny ability to traverse treacherous ground without stepping in quicksand.

The public education system can be a bureaucratic nightmare with often upside-down values, a CYA mentality and human inertia that resists change with astonishing zeal.

But there is another side to the depressing aspect of this equation: those people behind the scenes whose purpose in life is to support and improve public education and help children become compassionate, educated, open-minded, curious, vibrant, contributing members of society.

Noah – a man of genuine integrity, honesty and commitment to student success – is one of the stars in local education who deserves recognition for never losing sight of the goal and using the highest degree of ethics as his guide. Challenging himself to always stay true to what’s best for kids has been his greatest virtue.

Personnel changes are inevitable, healthy for an organization and necessary for careers. But our gut reaction when a true leader departs is sadness and frustration.

You get to know these people and how they think and operate. And if we like what we see, their departure is met with trepidation and anxiety.

Even though he’s retiring after only five years leading San Dieguito, Noah leaves behind a culture and legacy that feels strong and lasting.

One of Noah’s biggest fans is incoming superintendent Rick Schmitt, who has pledged to continue Noah’s commitment to the strongest ethical standards and to put kids first in every decision. Schmitt will be a stellar leader, cut from the same cloth as his predecessor, so in many ways we don’t have to say goodbye to Noah after all.

Gratitude goes to Ken Noah for making the district a better place, and best wishes for many happy and fulfilling years of retirement.

Getting access to your child’s tests

When Schmitt takes over on July 1, one of the first challenges he will face is one of the more interesting lawsuits to come before the district in years.

After being frustrated by teachers who refused to provide copies of his child’s tests, San Dieguito parent and Del Mar resident Michael Robertson filed a California Public Records Act and is suing SDUHSD to release those exams.

His case is centered around the idea that if teachers allow parents to come to school, to their classroom, to review their child’s tests, then they’ve tacitly made the exams public information.

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