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Ex-Poway Unified Literacy Expert Is New Superintendent of S.D. Schools

Cindy Marten was at Los Penasquitos Elementary School before she was principal in City Heights.

A former literacy specialist in the Poway Unified School District is the new superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District.

Cindy Marten, who once worked at Los Peñasquitos Elementary School in 
San Diego, was unanimously named Wednesday night after serving the past decade as principal of Central Elementary School.

Marten will succeed Bill Kowba, who told the district’s Board of Education Tuesday he would retire June 30 when his three-year contract ends.

“In our selection of a new superintendent we wanted an educator who is a visionary leader,” board President John Lee Evans said.

“We have found such a person in our own district, Cindy Marten, an educator for 25 years who started off as a teacher then became principal of one of our most challenging schools, Central Elementary, serving 850 at-risk youth, 99 percent of whom live in poverty and 85 percent of whom are English learners.”

Marten called being selected as superintendent by the school board “an incredible honor.”

“I believe in the hope and promise of public education in America, and I believe in doing the work to show Americans what public schools are all about,” Marten said.

Asked if she was up to the task of being the superintendent of the state’s second-largest school district, with an enrollment of more than 132,000

students, after being principal of a small elementary school, Marten replied,

“It’s a team that’s going to be doing the work together. I’m ready for the challenge."

Before becoming principal at Central Elementary School in the City Heights section of San Diego, Marten was a schoolwide literacy specialist in the Poway Unified School District.

In 2002, Marten created a literacy center at Canyon Rim apartment complex adjacent to Los Peñasquitos Elementary.

Then-Councilman Scott Peters said: “Canyon Rim Literacy Center in Rancho Peñasquitos ... was the idea of Cindy Marten, a reading resource specialist at Los Peñasquitos Elementary, and has been opened to promote active reading by students throughout the year.”

Peters was able to achieve her idea by donating $8,000 from his community development block grant fund.

More support came from Joan Pelkey and Ken Sauder with Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation with a contribution of $1000 as well as new computers, and the Rancho Peñasquitos Town Council with a donation of $300 in grant money.

According to her author's biography, Marten—who wrote a book called Word Crafting: Teaching Spelling Grades K-6—“is deeply committed to creating conditions and opportunities, both in and out of school, for all children to become actively literate members of a democratic society.”

The biography continued:

Her passion for her work led her to serve as president of the San Diego Council of Literacy Professionals. The International Reading Association has honored her with the Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Award. 

School board member Scott Barnett said he was “absolutely confident Marten is the right person, at the right place, at the right time to lead the district into great success for our kids.”

Board member Marne Foster said Marten “was already doing the work of a superintendent” in directing her school in “community-based education reform.”

Board vice president Kevin Beiser said Marten exhibits the strong qualities the district was seeking in a new superintendent,  “someone passionate about kids and education and embracing research-based reform.”

—City News Service contributed to this report

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