Glynn Thompson, new San Juan Unified superintendent, served as the district's chief academic officer and then interim leader.

Q&A: New San Juan Unified superintendent keeps focus on stability, instruction

Published: Monday, Apr. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Saturday, May. 11, 2013 - 12:40 pm

Glynn Thompson bounded out from behind the large wooden desk in his office at San Juan Unified School District headquarters and thrust out his hand, welcoming visitors with a warm Southern drawl. San Juan trustees changed Thompson's title from interim superintendent to superintendent April 14 with a unanimous vote. His salary is $225,000.

Thompson will oversee 47,116 students in 70 schools and special education centers, preschools and adult education programs.

Thompson spent 23 years as a teacher and administrator, most recently serving as San Juan Unified's chief academic officer before being named interim superintendent.

The Louisiana native and former Texas Christian University gymnast was animated as he spoke about the new job Thursday. He punctuated his sentences with laughter and said, "I like to have fun."

Why did you become interested in being an educator?

I was working at Starpoint School for children with disabilities. I was a volunteer, and I got hooked. I went to UCLA for my doctorate.

Why do you have children's books in your office?

I keep children's books around to remind me why I'm here.

Why do you think the board decided you should be the superintendent?

They are sending a message that stability in learning is critical. The district's strategic plan is important, and I know it the best. The community and board also wanted someone with a track record in instruction.>

There has been a lot of turnover in school district leadership across the region. Are you planning to stay?

I have a three-year contract, but I plan to be here for many years.

Isn't being the leader of a school district very stressful right now?

It is stressful. You need a trifecta: a strong, stable board; a strong partnership with labor groups, and community buy-in. I have these.

Some teachers say the district sent out too many preliminary pink slips. They say most are usually rescinded by May and that the large number of layoff notices are bad for morale. Why send out so many?

I hear their concerns and understand them. But given the size of the deficit and the unknowns, I think we approached it wisely. We have already pulled 110 back.

San Juan Unified has been able to weather budget cuts better than other districts in the past. Are those days over?

We have had a very healthy reserve in this district – unlike others around us. But we can no longer rely on one-time funds. We have to budget according to the Sacramento County Office of Education, which has directed us to plan for a worst-case scenario. … If the (tax) initiative passes, we will be able to look at where we are right now and could possibly create new programs.

What happens if the state continues to cut educational funding? Is there a possibility of furlough days or a reduced school year?

Everything is on the table.

What program at San Juan Unified makes you the proudest?

The visual and performing arts programs. Every school has some sort of program. It's important for forming 21st-century learners and leaders. I'm extremely proud of it. Music and bands are the first cuts at most districts.

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