Carlos Garcia, the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, tells us why he chose a career in education, his own achievement goal and why he thinks The City’s public schools are unparalleled.
Why do you do what you do? What made you choose this for a career? It’s good for my soul. Growing up, I saw too many people fall through the cracks. I realized that by being in charge of the system, I could take charge to fix the cracks. I wanted to devote my life to helping people succeed.
What do you consider to be the guiding principles or philosophy that has gotten you to your current position in life? Growing up, I learned a lot boxing in the streets. You’re going to fall down, but you can’t stay down too long. You have to get back in the ring.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement so far? I’m not sure I’ve achieved it yet. I want my greatest achievement to be making social justice a reality for all children and that means eliminating the disparity between the academic achievement of different ethnic groups. It’s the greatest civil-rights issue.
Everything we need to know we learned in kindergarten. True or false? False. I was just trying to learn English in kindergarten. You’re always learning new things everyday. Maybe life is just one big kindergarten.
What did you learn there that you still use today? I saw horrible inequities. In kindergarten, teachers called me Charlie instead of Carlos. They sent me a message that my language and culture wasn’t valued. I told myself that I would never run a system where you treat people like that.
There’s an expression that kids are cruel. Are they? If not, what do you think is the intent behind this expression? Cruelty is learned. It is not an innate thing you’re born with. Somewhere along the line cruelty, is modeled for us. Perhaps, when adults use this phrase, we’re just speaking of ourselves.
The last few SFUSD superintendents, for better or worse, have been quite controversial. Is it necessarily a bad thing to be controversial? Absolutely not. It depends on the controversy. A plan where everyone is comfortable seldom brings about change.
Why do you think during hard economic times, budget committees slice into education first? Children don’t vote. Society is full of hypocrites that say our children are a priority, but their behavior doesn’t reflect that.
What’s the best thing about public schools in San Francisco? The people. There is no other city like San Francisco — the diversity and intelligence of the teachers, students, parents and community is unmatched.