Thursday, May 27, 2010
Carmella Franco, who has been appointed by the state board of education to singlehandedly run the troubled Alisal school district in Salinas, was on the job this week, chatting up kids on the playground at Cesar Chavez School and telling reporters she’ll focus like a laser beam on raising student achievement: job one for the district that ranks dead last in California.
Franco, who headed the Whittier School District from 2003 until her retirement in 2008, hedges when asked if she significantly raised Whittier’s test scores. Some schools improved, she says. But Whittier remains one of the state’s low-performing districts. In Franco’s last year on the job, five of 13 schools missed the state mark for improvement on standardized tests, up from four in 2006.
Still, Franco scores high marks from some colleagues. Board member Linda Small says, “[Franco] was very open and willing to work with parents and work through situations.”
“She moved us into the 21st century,” says Patty Britton, then-president of the Whittier teacher’s union, adding that Franco brought Internet access to classrooms and otherwise modernized the schools.
But when the money dried up, so did trust between Franco and teachers, who picketed schools because they had trouble coming to terms on a contract, Britton says.
But Woodland School District union leader Dennis Faron-Wilson lauds Franco for her honesty when she was interim superintendent – and for her karaoke skills. He says she does a mean version of the Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”