Education “reformer” scheduled to speak at OB Town Council not received well in Tierrasanta

by on July 23, 2010 · 17 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Ocean Beach

Scott Himelstein

2005 photo of Scott Himelstein.

The same guy who will be speaking about “education reform” at the next OB Town Council meeting on July 28th, spoke at a Tierrasanta community meeting Wednesday night (7/21/10).  He wasn’t received all that well by local residents there.

Scott Himelstein, the leader of the newly named “San Diegans 4 Great Schools”, told the residents gathered at the Tierrasanta meeting that his group was disappointed with test scores in San Diego Unified schools and that “governance” was the problem. “Governance” is a cloaked term for “how the school board works”.  (Our Doug Porter explained what the new group is all about here.)

Himelstein is scheduled to speak in OB next Wednesday, July 28th, at the Masonic Temple general meeting of our local Town Council.  The meeting starts at 7pm.

At the Tierrasanta community meeting, as the Voice of San Diego reported, local residents didn’t understand the new group.

“What is your mission statement? … We have no idea where you’re coming from,” said Tracy Conroy, a member of the Tierrasanta Community Council.

The Voice reported:

… the idea of “governance” seemed vague to several people who spoke up. One asked what Himelstein meant by it. Another asked if the group wants to add appointed members to the school board, one idea that San Diegans 4 Great Schools has discussed. Himelstein dodged the question, saying that “there are many different proposals.”

“If we come out with a specific proposal right now it kind of limits public input,” Himelstein said.

The lack of specifics, however, was exactly what seemed to worry some of the Tierrasantans. “We don’t know what you’re asking for,” said Alan Campbell, another community member.

Himelstein said he’s planning to visit dozens of meetings like this to seek public input and get the group’s message out.

And one of those meetings he will speak at is the OB Town Council meeting next week.

Himelstein is one of the point persons for this business elite-backed group, full of big-time businessmen, corporate trustees, investors and others, which is calling for changes to San Diego Unified such as adding four members to the School Board – all to be appointed by some elite committee. It is an attempt by San Diego’s establishment to rein in the democratic nature of the school board. Some critics see their effort as a step along the road to the privatization of public education.

obtc_logoWe are joining voices that are calling out for OBceans to attend the upcoming Town Council meeting and meet Mr. Himelstein head-on. Every resident who has been involved in our school district and/or who has kids in local public schools needs to attend this meeting and hear what the establishment’s plans for our schools are.

Himelstein is currently an instructor in the USD School of Leadership and Education Sciences and School of Law. His establishment credentials are as follows:

he is the former deputy secretary of Education and later acting secretary of Education for the state of California. In that capacity he served as chief policy advisor to the governor on K-12 and higher education. Prior to his appointment by Governor Schwarzenegger, he served as chairman and CEO of the National Even Start Association, president of the William D. Lynch Foundation for Children, and chairman and CEO of San Diego Reads.  He was recently appointed by the governor to the California Community College Board of Governors.

Himelstein’s wife, Lynn Himelstein, an elementary school teacher, was involved in a shady hiring practice up in the San Marcos school district about four years ago. Apparently due to Scott’s heavy-weight stature at the time, she was able to fly over the heads of 700 other teacher applicants and be hired, despite being rejected earlier by the hiring committee.

Other outstanding members of this so-called “reform” group include Mayor Jerry Sanders, Buzz Woolley – a venture capitalist and founder of Voice of San Diego, former councilmember Byron Wear – a conservative Republican, Dr. Irwin Jacbos – the billionaire owner of Qualcomm, Mike Chapin – former CEO of Geocon, a leading West Coast geotechnical engineering firm, Stephen Cushman – who has been on over 60 Boards and Commissions and is currently the Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, Chairman of the College of Business Administration Board at SDSU and who got his start in San Diego’s establishment circles as a car salesman (Cush Automotive Group) – just to name a few.

Go here for the full Voice of San Diego article by Emily Alpert.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar jettyboy July 23, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Can you say “privatization”? These right wing folks won’t rest until everything is privatized. Running schools as a for profit organization has been a disaster every where it’s been tried. But facts be damned, we’re republicans…

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avatar RB July 24, 2010 at 7:28 am

Can you say “unionization”? These left wing folks won’t rest until everything is unionized. Running schools as a jobs program has been a disaster every where it’s been tried. But facts be damned, we’re democrats…

Until the schools are run for the benefit of the children rather than the adults (business or labor), there will be no improvement.

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avatar doug porter July 24, 2010 at 11:26 am

FYI lots of us aren’t union members. unions are part (but only a part) of the problem. given that they are players, they can also be part of the solution.
that said, the mantra of the extreme right has been to destroy unions because they are a primary source of funding for democrats. unions are not inherently good or evil. they are made up of people, with all their frailties and idiosyncrasies. blaming the ills of the school system–which is a national problem, regardless of union activity–on the unions is a non-starter.
following a path the leads to a one party system (which is the goal of the far right) is not something that seems very American to me.

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avatar RB July 24, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I am not anti union. Unions can be an important representative for employees in terms of salaries and safe working conditions. The teachers union effectively and vigorously represent their members. I have no problem with teachers freely becoming a member of a union. In fact, I was a founding member of a union at UCSD.

However, people need to understand the teacher’s union represents the interest of teachers and not the students. My focus is the interest of students, who have been given too few of the assets directed at their education. When it comes to the schools, I find left vs right, Rep vs Dem and privatization vs unionization just a bunch adults stealing money from the students. The adults have plenty of issues to argue about, plenty of politicians to bribe without corrupting the school board, and this school board has been corrupted with union money. If or when other adult groups seek to gain by purchasing the school board at the expense of student programs, I will attack them.

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avatar jettyboy July 24, 2010 at 1:13 pm

This is more right wing crap. Union membership has dropped dramatically in the last 20 years. One of the main reasons the teachers ever even became involved in unionizing is because of people on right durning the 1950s anti-communism, McCarthyism era. Teachers had no tenure rights and were routinely fired for using their free speech rights in class. Not at all just political speech, but saying anything their administrations didn’t like, or simply being accused by anyone that didn’t like them. The first teachers union role was to be able to gain tenure so they had to at least have a hearing before they were fired for unknown reasons, including using their 1st Amendment rights.

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avatar jettyboy July 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Doug, this was ment for the poster above you RB, not you.

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avatar RB July 24, 2010 at 4:53 pm

Jettyboy, you are wrong. Tenure was a right given to higher education teachers to protect their freedoms when they took new and or unpopular positions. University professors and teachers are not unionized and the McCarthyism era did not result in the unionization of teachers. Although I was not here at the time, teachers and other state employees were allow to form unions and bargain collectively in the late ’70s not 1950.

Jettyboy, did you notice my post merely attempted to replace one adult group (privatization or business) with another adult group (unionization or unions)?
I hate all adult groups that attempt to enrich themselves at the expense of the students.

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avatar jec July 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Question RB – why aren’t you happy, almost nothing is unionized. And why hate those who labor? I’m sure you know that labor is taxed at more than twice what capital is taxed at; why? Do you really think those conspiring left wing folks fooled the republicans to give captial and those who produce nothing the greatest benefits. More enforcement is applied to taxing those who earn tips than the corporations who earn billions (and pay nothing – 60% of US Corporations pay NO tax). And as you think I understand nothing, have you all wrong – you’re right, I only know your words, but they clearly communicate hostility. Why? Don’t like to pay taxes, fine, just tell us what not to do; what social institution should we eliminate? The Constitution? Democracy and voting? Justice and the courts? The Military, now that will save a bunch. Police, firec, public health? Disease control, I’m sure you can’t like the EPA or NASA; sewers are broken, roads filled with pot holes. Just one question (again) when, or how, do you support your community, your nation. If you believe in freedom for all how do you defend that freedom for all? And consider, schools reflect us – the collective us. There failure is our shared failure.

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avatar Danny Morales July 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

The great fact, largely ignored, is that public education exists for the benefit of the working class, adult and child alike. As the organized sector of the working class, the labor movement advocates for class interests at its foundation and not solely for the economic interests of its several organizations as some would have us believe. Dialectically opposed, is private education which exists for the benefit of the capitalist class. Having an educated and organized working class has no place in this New Wirld Oder that some of us are getting sucked up into. Nothing more elegant than that! :>p

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avatar doug porter July 23, 2010 at 12:32 pm

There are videos on youtube (search San Diegans 4 Great Schools) of their press conference this week. If you need help sleeping tonight, go ahead and tune in. They won’t get anymore specific about their plans than using the word “governance” in public. This is a simply a PR campaign, so when they make their grand plan public to amend the City Charter, they can say it was based on input from the public.
Rod Dammeyer, who’s the money behind this effort, claimed that the district has no plan or vision. Fact is, they do. It’s called the 2020 plan and it’s right there on the District website. Their problem is that this plan calls for building in citizen/parental participation at every level. Not cool if your planning a strongman type takeover.
School Board member John Evans asked them (at the press conf.) to bring their concerns to the school board so all parties could work together. Ugh, no, they weren’t really interested in actually doing that….maybe you could come to us…
Problem is if Evans (or any ordinary citizen) wanted to come to them, well, their meetings are held in secret. There isn’t any contact info on their website.
I hope that everybody will come out to this meeting. Make them reveal who’s really involved in this. Make them say what they really think. Okay… an address or phone number, maybe?

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avatar annagrace July 23, 2010 at 12:42 pm

This is not only about privatizing the schools, it is also about shifting the governance process away from voter driven (i.e democratic) to that of appointees (i.e. oligarchy). That should give us all pause.

These critiques and solutions applied locally to not schools but municipal governments reflect not too surprisingly what is being spun on the national level. Eliminate the Department of Education! Unions are the number one domestic problem. Government must not simply be made smaller, it must be replaced by the free market. Repeal the 17th amendment and eliminate the election of the Senators. Etc. Lots to think about.

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avatar Ernie McCray July 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm

All I need to know is that this dude was in cahoots with Alan Bersin, a man who ran the school system like a Godfather on steroids. So my trust in him on a scale of 1 – 10 is -999,999,999.999. I won’t, out of earned respect for Jerry Sanders, make a comment on these people’s intent but I see tons upon tons of unsavoriness written all over what they might produce.

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avatar Deb July 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

The OBTC website is way out of date. How many members does this group have?

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Not sure of membership. The OB Rag is a member! I know about the out-of-date-ness of their website and we called for volunteers to help them with it over a week ago.

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avatar CJ July 23, 2010 at 6:37 pm

The San Diego Unified School District is still recovering from the last attempt by the San Diego business community to hijack our schools under the dictatorship of Bersin. I applaud the Tierrasanta community members for challenging this pseudo education group and encourage OB to do the same at the upcoming meeting.

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avatar Marisa July 24, 2010 at 6:45 am

I concur, this sounds like Tea Party posturing. Their typical keynote is to repeat buzz words with no clear plans or even focus. While that kind of brainwashing (repetitive use of vague buzz words) may work in the sticks, we city folk are hopefully more clued in to these tactics. I don’t have children, but come voting time, who to vote for in the school board is always one of the most difficult choices for me to make. I often refrain from voting for school board members because It is to difficult. Having said that, I usually go for those running who are educators. It’s terribly important for the future of our society as a whole that we have a good school system. I hope OB sends this guy packing!

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avatar John de Beck July 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

This is a continuation of the Battle for Normal Street. We had a group prior to Bersin that decided that the union beat Sup. Bertha Pendleton in bargaining, and they got a “non partisan” committee to recommend Bersin. A significant number of the members on the committee were from social agencies that depend on contributions from the rich…it included a representative from SDU…Alice Hayes. That connection continues to this day. The folks that keep supporting Mr. Himmelstein in different roles were the same folks that supported Bersin. So what can we expect? Sore losers again who want to take away the citizens right to choose board members, and who use the achievement gap that they have no clue about solving as the reason to redesign “governance.” No where in the country has a change in governance, or having a union or not shown to significantly improve student achievement. USD’s educational research department should know that, but they live off of contributions and taking a political view should make their non profit status questionable. If they are a source of tax exemptions for these contributors…maybe that could be questioned….

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