Four years ago Alan Bersin became the Superintendent of the San Diego City Schools and with him came Anthony Alvarado and the much-touted “Blueprint for Student Success”. In order to ensure fulfillment of the Blueprint a school board majority was required and this majority was found in and with the elections of Sue Braun, Ron Ottinger, and Ed Lopez whose campaigns were financed and supported by the Chamber of Commerce, the San Diego Union Tribune, and big business. Since then Bersin and Alvarado have had carte blanc authority to do whatever they felt was necessary to carry out the Blueprint.
Since the initially hiring of Bersin and Alvarado, behind closed doors, there has been a sense of mistrust. And this mistrust has been compounding throughout the years, beginning with the firing of 600 teacher aides, many Hispanic aiding monolingual students, the firing of Principals who had unique relationships within their communities, the misrepresentation of test scores, misuse of funds, the elimination of school programs, and the list goes on and on.
Bersin and Alvarado instituted sweeping educational change, and change, even under the best of circumstances, is a scary proposition. In a public institution, in particular an educational intuition where the hopes and dreams of our children lie, this administration and school board needed the public’s understanding and support. They needed the teachers to buy into the program. But, under Bersin’s autocratic style of management, these two crucial groups, needed for success, were left out, disenfranchised, parents felt unwelcome at the school board meetings and on their campuses. And out of this frustration, mistrust grew.
Blame for the deterioration of the relationship between the school district and the community could be laid at the feet of Bersin and while he does deserve his fair share, the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the San Diego Unified School Board, in particular the three-vote majority of Braun, Ottinger and Lopez. Bersin is their employee.
This board majority has unwaveringly supported Bersin, Alvarado, the Blueprint and the methods used for implement. Not once in four years did they cast a no vote in regards to the blueprint. Not once in four years did they question the blueprint, the implementation, the firings, or spending in regards to the blueprint. This board majority, instead of representing the people that voted them into office, represented the Bersin and the Blueprint.
It was this friction of constantly battling the board minority and the community that finally caused board president Sue Braun to issue her infamous email where she threatened to shoot the two minority board members with one bullet. And, it was this friction with the community that has caused board members Ottinger and Lopez to constantly lecture and berate the community in attendance at board meetings. It is no wonder there is mistrust with this school board.
Change is problematic, but it can be dealt with. The Blueprint has some problems, but there are some good aspects to it. Bersin’s style of management better fits the corporate world, but he can be worked with. The biggest problem with the San Diego Unified is the school board that is where changes are needed.
Incumbent, and one of the two board minorities who has questioned the blueprint, John De Beck, running for Seat C, is facing opposition from Clyde Fuller.
Fuller is an ex-FBI agent, who campaigns like an FBI agent - aggressively and only on one issue the discord among board members with little grasp of educational issues. Fuller would join the board majority in support, and represent the Blueprint, Bersin, and Alvarado, not the community. There would be no change in the attitude of the school board; it would continue to operate in the same cavalier manner.
De Beck is a long time board trustee, and while he originally, supported the hiring of Bersin and the blueprint, he lived up to his responsibility of representing the community and began questioning the implementation and asking the questions that the community wanted answers to. Because of this he earned the wrath of the board majority and of being ostracized. At the same time he has earned the respect of the community and deserves to continue in his role as Trustee.
Running for Seat B, is Katherine Nakamura. Nakamura was handpicked by Sue Braun to be her replacement. This in-of-itself is enough evidence to show that there will be no change. Coupled with this, the company that Nakamura’s husband works for, has had multi-million dollar business ties with San Diego City Schools and the Bersin administration, again reinforcing the idea that there will be no change.
At a time when change is desperately needed, Jeff Lee, campaigning for Seat B, represents the best and only opportunity for change on the school board.
Jeff Lee has had over a decade’s worth of experience in dealing with education issues. He has spent his time and money researching the educational process as founder of the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit, community based organization. And throughout this tenure Lee has attended school board meetings. Lee is not running for or against any particular agenda other than ensuring that “every child receives a quality education.”
Originally Lee did not receive the teacher’s union support or endorsement, nor did he receive the support or endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, which means that he is his own man not ideologically tied to either group.
The school system needs reform. Before Bersin and the Blueprint, City Schools were not educating Hispanic children. The Blueprint may provide some of the answers, but it doesn’t hold all the answers. Lee has the experience to ask the right questions and he has the community network to ensure that parent’s voices will be heard.
It is time that we elect school board members who bring experience and dedication to the school board. It is time we elect candidates who have the best interests of the children at heart. It is time to elect Jeff Lee and John De Beck to the San Diego Unified School Board.
La Prensa San Diego Board of Editors Endorses:
John De Beck
For re-election to District C
For District B