California Superintendent Nominated for Department of Education Position

CMEA announces that President Biden has picked an Arts Education-supporting Californian to be Deputy Secretary of Education, Cindy Marten.

Marten currently serves as Superintendent of San Diego Unified School District, where she has been recognized for her support for arts and music in the district. CMEA awarded her its “Administrator of the Year” award in 2017 because of her consistent presence at music and arts events in the schools and community, as well as her continued supportive words that have translated into a vibrant visual and performing arts program in San Diego Unified. In support of CMEA, Marten spoke at a recent Stand Up 4 Music rally on the Capitol steps in Sacramento.

Along with Biden’s pick for Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona, who currently serves as Connecticut’s education commissioner, these appointments represent stark departures from the previous administration and reflect President Biden’s desire to bring expertise back to the government.

Marten comes highly recommended by CMEA President-elect Anne Fennell and former CMEA President and current CMEA Advocacy Representative Russ Sperling, who both work with Marten in San Diego. They refer to her as “a firm believer in educational access and equity,” and both speak of her efforts to support arts and music education in SDUSD. She supported changes in policy to eliminate “student pull-outs” from music class for remediation and supported the purchase of instruments so students could use one free of cost. During her tenure as SDUSD Superintendent, Marten shepherded through a new strategic plan for the district that boosted arts education funding by several means, including Title I funds into “Learning Through the Arts,” an arts integration program. This investment, which amounted to $5 million over six years, is the first of its kind in the state of California.

Ms. Marten also exhibits a personal commitment to the arts in her community. Having lost her husband to a long illness, she realized that the arts were necessary for her to get out in the world. Sperling explained that Marten would sit down with him quarterly to create an arts calendar and that she has now attended events at virtually all arts venues and organizations in San Diego. Both Sperling and Fennell described Marten as “authentic” and “a true supporter of the Visual and Performing Arts,” and commended her ability to speak eloquently about the value music and the arts provide students.

A lifelong champion of equity, San Diego Unified labels itself as an “anti-racist” district and has implemented a Restorative Justice discipline policy and Standards-Based Grading to make ensure the success of all students.

Marten’s nomination is supported by California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Secretary of State Shirley Weber, as well as educational leader Diane Ravitch.

CMEA believes that both Dr. Cardona and Ms. Marten will be staunch supporters of music and arts education, and we applaud their nominations to lead the U.S. Department of Education. CMEA looks forward to working with this administration to address the many challenges that lay ahead.

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