Bertha Pendleton was superintendent of the San Diego City Schools from 1993-1998. She was the first woman and first African American to hold the position. She served as a teacher, counselor, principal, program director, assistant and deputy superintendent during her 40-year career in education. She championed equity in education and led reform policies that influenced state education trends. Pendleton strengthened reading programs, reduced class size in primary grades and imposed a rigorous accountability system. During her tenure fourteen schools were built in overcrowded urban areas and zero tolerance policies toward violence were instituted throughout the district. In 1991,Pendleton was awarded the Outstanding Alumna Award by the university.
Pendleton led a statewide task force on reading and instituted a Reading Recovery program in San Diego schools. Her rapid reform efforts combined with an economic recession contributed to a teacher strike in 1996. Pendleton’s leadership in working with teacher union representatives to negotiate a new contract led to a more positive, peaceful interest-based relationship between the teachers and administration.
Superintendent Pendleton hosted two visits by President Bill Clinton, including a 2000 visit when he signed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act into law. She participated in the U.S. Information Agency’s AMPART program, lecturing to officials in South Africa on educational issues. She was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Urban Education Exchange in London and served on visitation teams to review Department of Defense schools in England, Germany, Italy, and Japan. She was a founder of the Association of African American Educators.
Pendleton was educated at Knoxville College, San Diego State University and United States International University. She earned her doctorate in educational leadership at the University of San Diego in 1989. She served as co-chair of the Advisory Committee for the Danforth Foundation`s Forum for the American Superintendent and on the Advisory Council on Dependent’s Education in the Department of Defense. Pendleton was a member of the National Science Foundation, the McKenzie Group, the American Association of School Administrators-Urban Schools Committee, the Association of California School Administrators, the Beyond Books Academic Advisory Board, and the San Diego Association of Administrative Women in Education. Now a retired consultant, Pendleton is a member of the Board of Directors of the I Have A Dream Foundation Las Vegas and continues volunteer efforts in education.