For the past four years we have watched the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and its board implement the "Blueprint for Student Success" under the stewardship of Superintendent Alan Bersin and the Chancellor of Instruction, Anthony Alvarado. Over the years we have watched the board become more and more polarized, divided between the majority who have loyally supported Bersin, Alvarado, and the Blueprint, and the minority board members who have questioned the implementation and the stewardship of Alan Bersin at every turn.
These four years have mark-ed the deterioration of SDUSD board relations to the point of the absurd. Termed-out Trustee and then board president, Sue Braun, lost all common sense when she proposed a solution to her problems with two board members. In an e-mail sent to two other board members and key district employees, she suggested shooting her colleagues "with one bullet." Despite ethics coaches, weekend getaways, and other various forms of reconciliation, the board still does not function effectively. In particular, it does not revolve around what is in the best interests of the children.
Despite being given carte blanche to implement the Blueprint due to the board majority's unwavering support, the promised success of this reform has failed to materialize. More importantly, the cavalier attitude of the majority board members has alienated many of the parents, and the heavy handedness of the Superintendent has nullified the morale of the teachers.
On March 5, voters will have the
opportunity to take the first step toward rectifying the
problems within the SDUSD board. There are two seats up for election.
Five candidates are seeking to replace Sue Braun in the District B seat. It is the more contentious of the two races, and the candidates are: Robert Cornelius, Jeff Lee, Katherine Nakamura, Johnnie Perkins and Marcia Sachs. Of the five candidates, the two top vote getters will face off in the November general election. The next representative for District B, could be a pivotal swing vote and could bring some civility back to the board. The district includes the communities of Scripps Ranch, Mira Mesa, San Carlos, Allied Gardens, Del Cerro, Miramar Ranch North, and the San Diego State College area.
There are only two candidates in the race for District C: John de Beck and Clyde Fuller. Both will move on to the general election.
Of the five candidates running for District B seat, Robert Cornelius and Marcia Sachs have not demonstrated the commitment necessary to win. Sachs has not campaigned and Cornelius is depending upon a word of mouth campaign to get him into the general election. Katherine Nakamura has the stigma of being Sue Braun's hand-picked candidate, and she represents a continuation of the problems with which the school board is now faced.
Johnnie Perkins is certainly an interesting school board candidate. Perkins, who is without even the most basic educational experience, threw his hat into the race at the last minute. Almost immediately he received the endorsement of the teach-er's union, which was then followed by the Chamber of Commerce's endorsement. The fact that these two competing organizations (the Chamber has been 110 percent behind Bersin, while the Union has been Bersin's strongest opponent) are both endorsing the same candidate, immediately raises a red flag.
Perkins, a political lobbyist for a waste disposal company, attended only one school board meeting prior to announcing his intent to run for office. He has never been involved with educational organizations or groups, he doesn't have any children in the school system, and he has had to learn about the issues as he goes. With these credentials, the endorsement of the teacher's union is baffling.
As a lobbyist, Perkins clearly understands the art of deal making `quid pro quo,' which puts the Chamber of Com-merce's endorsement into perspective. In him, they see a man who speaks their language.
Jeff Lee, on the other hand, has over a decade's worth of experience in dealing with educational issues. Lee, a retired Navy commander, has spent his time and money researching the maze that constitutes the educational process while his children have been going through the San Diego school system. Along with his wife, they founded the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit, community based organization that shares education research and analysis with the community. It's aim is to ensure that "every child receives a quality education."
Lee has studied the Blueprint for Success, and he has attended school board meetings for the past seven years. He has talked with teachers, and he knows what they need in order to succeed.
What Lee doesn't have is the endorsement of the teacher's union or the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, which means there is no `quid pro quo' with either organization.
Jeff Lee knows that the school system needs reform. Before Bersin, City Schools was not educating the Hispanic and black children of our neighborhoods. With the Blueprint, these same students continue to fail. Reform is still needed within City Schools, and the Blueprint may hold some of the answers - but not in its present state. The Blueprint needs to be analyzed and refined if it is going to work, and Jeff Lee brings the experience and background necessary to make decisions that are in the best interests of the children, the teachers and the district.
Jeff Lee has also established a network with parents, which will allow this presently disenfranchised group an opportunity to once again have their voices heard and their issues taken seriously.
It is time that we elect a school board member who brings experience and dedication to the school board, and one who truly has the best interests of the children at heart. It is time to elect someone who is not beholden to the special interests of any particular group.
La Prensa San Diego endorses Jeff Lee for School Board, District B.