READER RANT: Open Letter to Sec’y of Homeland Security re: Alan Bersin

by on March 27, 2009 · 7 comments

in Civil Rights, Education, From the Soul, Reader Rant, San Diego, War and Peace

by Ernie McCray – retired San Diego principal

An Open Letter to Janet Napolitano,
Secretary of Homeland Security,
Regarding One of the Top Candidates for Customs and Border Protection: Alan Bersin

Dear Secretary Napolitano:

I write this letter because Alan Bersin is rumored to be on a short list of people who seek to run the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency. If I didn’t say anything against the possibility of him rising to such a position I would feel as though I was letting my fellow citizens down, especially in light of the faith that so many, like me, have placed in President Barack Obama.

Obama has declared before the world that he is about reaching across aisles, about collaborating, about listening, so that better minds can make the changes our country and, indeed, our world needs if our troubled times are to be turned around. His recent outreach to the Iranian people said volumes about how dedicated he is to working with others, no matter how different their ideals and ways of thinking might be compared to ours.

Well, whales will be dancing at the Apollo before Alan Bersin works in collaboration with anyone, before he listens to anybody, before he treats anybody with the human respect and understanding they need to feel satisfied that they’re contributing to the creation of a better world.

Oh, he’ll give you and Obama and any upper level person in the administration a smile that will sweep you off your feet. He’ll shake your hand in standard ways or like a soulbrother, whatever will make him seem like “the man.” He’ll say whatever needs to be said to impress but, Lordy, the people who work under him will face a level of humiliation and stress no wellmeaning human would deserve. There will be no “Yes ‘We’ Can” under his command. He’s the epitome of the cliche: His way or the highway.

As a principal when he was at the helm of San Diego City Schools I saw him dismiss people’s concerns and ideas as though he was trying to set a “Guinness record for ignoring people.”

At a meeting in my neighborhood at the beginning of his term he literally turned his back to Latino activist friends of mine because he didn’t “respect” them or their questions. That sure showed.

He took us principals on a yacht cruise around the harbor and before we had barely sailed he made it clear that parents would have very little to say regarding what happened in our schools. Wasn’t long before that was old news.

He demoted some principals for reasons never disclosed. Now that was his prerogative but some in that group were among the most outstanding educators on this planet, let alone San Diego City Schools.

I once made a statement at a meeting reacting to something he had said, nothing contentious, just a different slant – and when I was done he went on to the next agenda item as though I didn’t even exist. I had never experienced anything quite like that and I have sat at the back of a few buses.
I spent my entire career in the school system working to make it human and caring and respectful and child oriented and he, in his first moments on the job, blasted that kind of thinking to kingdom come. The school system, years later, still suffers from a lack of morale.

This will be your U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency if you select Alan Bersin to run it. It will be a sore thumb, an hypocrisy in an administration that is promoting hope and change.

As a native of Tucson, a “Sonoran” to my very core, I shiver at the thought that this man would have anything to do with the Arizona border. I don’t know who else is on your list but there has to be somebody available who will be tough on terrorists, who will “serve the American public with vigilance, integrity and professionalism” without going about it like the Godfather.


Ernie McCray

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

J. Stone March 28, 2009 at 5:02 pm

Amen to that brother. This guy knows absolutely nothing about treating anyone with respect. His tenure with San Diego City Schools should prove to anyone that was involved with his rein that “his way or the highway” was the cause of broken moral that still exists with the folks working there. Many, many excellent teachers and administrators were thrown overboard, or left. Any creativity was squashed. Teachers had to become drones who were forced to follow his dictates or else. San Diego City Schools lost many outstanding educators because they refused to bow before him and his hired guns. The years he was superintendent live in infamy.


OB Joe March 28, 2009 at 7:02 pm

j stone – man, i feel pain in your words. maybe you and other teachers – how could you know all this without being a teacher – someday will get the real story out on this guy Bersin. he blew into town, and boom, all of a sudden he was the local attorney general. his wife has big connections. his party affiliation is Democrat but Bersin floats with the big guys – and who are they but developers.


Patty Jones March 30, 2009 at 8:04 pm

As a fellow citizen, thank you Mr. McCray.


Ernie McCray April 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm

You are welcome, Patty.


Sue B April 6, 2009 at 6:32 am

I agree wholeheartedly with Ernie. I have worked as a teacher for 28 years in the SDUSD. A few of those years Ernie was my principal. We could not ask for a more dedicated educator. Whenever I come across one of his editorials I feel so fortunate that he is still expressing his views because I always agree with him and he says it much better than I. The point is that Bersin is a slimy self-serving manipulator and the federal government is no place for him!!!


Ed April 12, 2009 at 10:33 am

You are all so short sided in perspective. Knowing the individual personally, he has given more to this country than a multitude combined. His advancements and achievements speak for themselves. Ms. Napalatano would not have stood by him had she not known his integrity and ability. Please look beyond your own self interest at a person who can get the job done right.


Ernie McCray April 15, 2009 at 2:35 pm

And I’d venture to say, Ed, that you’ve never worked for the man. I did and I didn’t see anything approaching integrity from him. Please don’t insult us with your “short sided in perspective” accusations. Oh, he’s an “advancing machine.” But just what is it specifically – or generally – that he’s achieved that’s benefitted our country. I’d take Sue B’s accomplishments in special ed over his anyday. I’ve seen her give students hope when all Bersin had to offer were edicts to be followed to the T in an atmosphere of “no excuses, no exceptions” as though the world operates according to a precise formula of some kind.


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