March 1, 2002

City School Board Meeting Update

City School Board Postpones Two Key Issues

By Mike MacCarthy

At the February 26 San Diego city school board meeting, several new controversial issues drew heated testimony from both board members and public alike, but two stood out.

Item: Superintendent Bersin and his staff have recommended that the following schools (Chollas/Meade, Knox, Valencia Park, Keiller, Memorial Junior High, and Roosevelt) lose their magnet funding and that their Integration funds beginning with the school year 2002-2003 be redirected. Translated into plain English that means that the Bersin administration wants to remove and end many of the elective and arts programs in these schools and use that money to fund even higher expenditures on the so-called "Blueprint For Success." The practical effect of this recommendation would be to gut the strides these schools have made to excite the creative imaginations of their students.

At first, board President Ottinger wasn't going to allow testimony by all the parents, teachers, students, and community members who had shown up to speak to this agenda item. Mr. Ottinger kept repeating his usual mantra of how Roberts Rules of Order and the "new" board rules only allow 15 minutes for public testimony, but in the end the parliamentarian told Mr. Ottinger, "They must be heard." This item was tabled until the next school board meeting.

Item: Another unusual agenda item that was tabled until the next board meeting was the proposal by Trustee Fran Zimmerman for a "Code of Ethical Governance For Board Members." In her introduction, Ms. Zimmerman wrote, "For the record, it should be noted here that Board members are not subject to zero tolerance rules that apply to students and district employees." This led to a considerable difference of opinion between the trustees as to whether or not board members should be subject to the same laws as district personnel, parents, and students. It also brought to light the fact that Mr. Bersin and district staff-without advising trustees Zimmerman and de Beck-have been working with SDEA and administrators to develop a recommendation with respect to ethics problems that are not covered by existing applicable laws. Board Vice-President Ed Lopez labeled Ms. Zimmer-man's proposal, "Nothing new."

The next board meeting is March 12.

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Mike MacCarthy is Publisher of San Diego Writer's Monthly and President of Voters For Truth in Education (VO/TE), a California public benefit corporation dedicated "to better the education of students attending the public schools within the cities and towns of San Diego County." He can be reached at mcarthy@sandiego-online.com.

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