February 13, 2004

Opinion

SD City School Board Races: Déjà Vu All Over Again

By Mike MacCarthy

In a recent local news story “Superintendent is leading issue” (1/31/04), San Diego’s only daily newspaper reminded us all of the truth of the old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same”? The pure facts are that for the upcoming March 2nd primary and the fall elections for the three open school board seats for San Diego City Schools (SDCS), a new Bersin majority now paces in the wings ready, willing, and eager to “rubber stamp” his every whim and self-aggrandizing policy “recommendation,” beginning December 2004. Listed below you will find the power politics reality of how things have been setup by the Bersin forces (as witnessed by the candidates the San Diego Chamber of Commerce endorsed within the past week). The only thing that would frustrate Mr. Bersin’s elaborate plans is if a significant, grassroots number of San Diego residents were willing to get off their complacency couches and do what they haven’t been willing to do for the past six years—i.e., fight with every fiber of their being to regain control of their own city schools on behalf of ALL local children and grandchildren.

In District A, the Bersin team’s choice is Miyo Reff. In the 1/31 article, Ms. Reff said, “Alan Bersin has brought needed reforms.” And at a recent school board candidate’s debate, she said, “If elected, I will help choose a new superintendent, once Mr. Bersin’s contract has ended (He’s already said he would resign in 2006).” Employing Larry Remer as her political consultant—the same “consultant” who successfully (while breaking the law) got Prop MM passed by the San Diego voters—it’s clear Ms. Reff is also a Katherine Nakamura clone. Remember Ms. K’s promise while still a candidate in 2002? “I will be an independent and consensus-building voice on the board, if elected.” In the approximate 10,000 votes she’s made during the past 14 months as a new member of the board, Ms. K has voted against Mr. Bersin’s “recommendations” to the board once, and that was only a grandstand play so she could propose an alternate redistricting plan which ignored public testimony and displaced sitting trustee Fran Zimmerman from her own district.

In District D, the Bersin team’s choice is Ben Hueso. In the 1/31 story, Mr. Hueso is quoted regarding the question if Mr. Bersin should be replaced as follows: “I’m not going to run to rash decisions that mean losing funding and increasing the burden on our budget. I wouldn’t be so quick to come in, guns blaring, wanting to can somebody.” In the same article, Hueso also thought the search for a new superintendent (whenever it comes) “should remain confidential to protect the candidates’ privacy.” Also, another published report (1/29/04, The Reader) had this to say about Mr. Hueso: “Meanwhile, Nick Inzunza’s wife Olga, who is said to hail from a wealthy Tijuana family, has kicked in $250 to the campaign of the Inzunza brothers’ close ally, Benjamin Hueso, the city redevelopment staffer for Barrio Logan who is running for the school board from that district. Hueso, whose various family members also own considerable real estate in the neighborhood and have contributed to his candidacy, is expected to rely on the extended Inzunza clan’s South Bay political organization... The Primacy Group company of Larry Remer shows up on Hueso’s newly filed list of campaign vendors.”

In District E, the Bersin team’s choice is Mshinda Nyofu, a legislative aide to City Councilman Charles Lewis. According to the 1/31 piece, Nyofu opposes a buyout of Mr. Bersin’s contract. “I’m focused on how we can work together on academic achievement,” he told reporter Magee. In connection with Mr. Nyofu’s candidacy, it should be noted that one of the main (behind the scenes) players in city schools politics and Mr. Bersin is the Urban League (and its several “affiliated” community organizations—all heavy supporters of Mr. Nyofu and Mr. Bersin). A close inspection of UL’s Board of Directors and that of the Chamber of Commerce and/or its Business Roundtable for Education quickly reveals the interconnection between both entities. In short, the San Diego Chamber is now in a position to control the Urban League; that’s no coincidence. It’s also no accident that Mr. Bersin enjoys such a close relationship with the major labor groups of San Diego County (other than the teachers union)—witness the many groups in which major labor leaders (such as Jerry Butkiewicz) and Mr. Bersin and/or one of his “fellow-traveler” associates sit on the same board.

Clearly, the city school board “fix” is in. The question then becomes. What can parents, grandparents, students, and ordinary citizens do to prevent the Bersin junta from perpetuating itself again to the great detriment of ALL our children and the future of the city of San Diego? Answer: Decide whether you believe democracy is only entertainment for TV news watching or a participatory activity intended for everyone. While you’re thinking about that, please consider this: Since Mr. Bersin has been superintendent of SDCS, district dropout rates have soared, overall enrollment has fallen from 144,000 to 137,000 students, and SAT college board test scores have plummeted as follows (according information provided by SDCS):

                 1997-1998  -            2002-2003   -    Loss Under Bersin
African-American students:
English Arts:        426  -                 416     -     10 points
Math                 429  -                 411     -     18 points
Hispanic students:
English Arts         455  -                 447    -      8 points
Math                 460  -                 451    -      9 points

Do you want more of the same for our city? Is that what’s in the best interests of ALL our students? By the way, did you know that children of color represent 73% of all SDCS enrollment?

Mike MacCarthy is President of voters for Truth in Education and can be reached at mcarthy@sandiegomag.com

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