California Primary – Part 6: the School Board Races – Secret Societies, Oxymorons and the ‘Evil’ Teachers Union

by on May 24, 2010 · 11 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Education, Election, Labor, Organizing, San Diego, The Chronicles of Edumacation

schoolboardSchool board races are often overlooked and belittled. Not everybody has kids, the local press usually portrays school board members without nuance and the positions just aren’t as glamorous enough to warrant the kind of train-wreck television advertising that Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner are running. And it only pays $18 grand a year, even though most board members will tell you that it’s more than a full-time job.

The position of school board member is so far down on the totem pole that a secretive group of local residents, supposedly showing their “concern” for education have been floating a proposal to expand the Board by bypassing the electorate and expanding it with a “committee” that will select new Board members. (See earlier story here)

Having paid political consultants for polling and having found out that gathering signatures for an initiative would be an uphill battle, this group has been shopping the idea with various City Council members. So far, they’ve been unable to drum enough support to get the Council to place this half-baked idea on the November ballot. But they haven’t given up, once they find the right wording, something along the lines of “stop pedophiles, illegal aliens and terrorists by giving up your right to vote” you can be sure that you’ll be asked for your consent to unelect at least part of the school board.

With 130,000 students and nearly 200 schools, San Diego Unified is California’s second-largest district. The Board of Trustees, aka the School Board is made up of five members, who are elected to rotating four year terms. This year incumbents John De Beck (Representing District C, which includes Point Loma and Ocean Beach) and Katharine Nakamura (Representing District B, which includes Tierra Santa and Scripps Ranch) are facing stiff competition. Although the post is non-partisan, the present School Board and nearly all of the candidates running this year are Democrats. The candidates appear on the primary ballot within their district, and the top two vote getters go on to appear on the city-wide ballot in the general election.

school board in session

The District C Races

John De Beck

John De Beck has been sitting on the School Board for two decades. He started out teaching in San Diego Schools back in 1954. During the mid-1990’s he was the sole Democrat sitting on the school board. Once upon a time he was even considered to be in the pocket of the dreaded teacher’s union. Lately he’s been known as the most contrary member of the Board, which, by itself, should be a good thing.

But he’s become kinda become like the older relative that nobody wants to sit next to at holiday meals cause he passes gas and tends to be argumentative just for the sake being argumentative. In De Beck’s case the stink arises from his not-so-clandestine relationship with Union-Trib editorial writer and school board critic Chris Reed. De Beck’s disagreements with other Board members have been spelled out in agonizing detail on the pages of the local fishwrap. He’s giving ammunition to assholes who would like nothing better to see our public schools privatized. The worst part is that he doesn’t seem to realize or care that Reed is playing him for a fool, openly bragging around town about his “inside” information on the School Board.

At school board meetings De Beck’s inability to hide his disgust with anybody who dares to disagree with him is seen by many as an embarrassment to the School District. It’s a shame, because the man has always been full of ideas and was willing to ask tough questions during this year’s budget hearings. While there is truth to the charge that he’s being opposed by the SDEA this time around because of differences with the teachers throughout the budget crisis, the root cause of their anger has more to do with his cozy relationship with the U-T, whose editorials regularly equate unions with [insert fear inducing word of the week here].

Scott Barnett

Now here’s a word association game for you:

Which oxymoron applies to the school board race?

Kosher = Ham

Military = Intelligence

Progressive = Republican

Scott Barnett is an actual “progressive” Republican, although I doubt that he’d use that term to describe himself. He leans left on social issues and helped run Proposition MM a few years back, raising monies for school renovations. He has cred as a taxpayer advocate, having served as head of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association. And, interestingly enough, he’s also managed to secure the endorsement of the San Diego Education Association, otherwise known by readers of the daily paper as the dreaded teachers union. (Never mind that 40% of the union’s members are registered Republicans.)

It might be worth voting for Barnett as a gesture to save an endangered species, that of the less-than-foaming-at-the-mouth Republican.

Michelle Crisci

Point Loma resident and school psychologist Michelle Crisci entered the School Board race on the premise that John de Beck wasn’t going to run. Now she hopes that by sticking in the race, she can knock Barnett out of the running, because she’s really a fan of De Beck. Huh? Crisci has filed a form saying she won’t be raising or spending more than $1,000 on the race and does not have a web site.

The District B Races

Katherine Nakamura

She’s the incumbent in this race. An attorney and former administrator at USD, she’s gained distinction during her tenure as a trustee through her unwavering support for music and arts programs in the face of constant pressure to cut those programs brought on by the State’s budget crisis. She’s also crossed swords just often enough with the SDEA for them to refuse to support her this time around. Although she’s had her differences with the School Board’s majority, what differentiates her from De Beck is that she’s refused to make it personal. At least in public.

Kevin Beiser

He’s running hard for the job; has the endorsement of the local Democratic establishment, and, more importantly, the blessings of Frances O’Neill Zimmerman, a former Trustee and La Jolla activist who remains a force with local parents groups. Beiser teaches math in National City and is quick to point to his “Math Teacher of the Year” award from the Greater San Diego Math Council. His list of organizational endorsements reads like a who’s who of local Democratic politics and includes the SDEA.

Steve Rosen

He’s a parent, an entrepreneur that does business with the District, and he’s mad at hell at what he views at wasteful spending by the School Board on projects like the Schoolbrary. He’s also the outsider in this race.

Well, there you have it. You’ve managed to waste another perfectly good fifteen minutes of your time on my rantings about voting, being informed, and stuff.

Next up: Will There Be A New Sheriff in Town?

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

GJ May 24, 2010 at 10:30 am

Kevin Beiser is currently a classroom teacher. We need him on the school board.


annagrace May 25, 2010 at 9:19 am

Doug- thanks for your coverage. Keep ’em coming…


doug porter May 25, 2010 at 12:16 pm

here’s a link to the audio of the school board candidates debate sponsored by the Voice of San Diego last week for any geeks that care enough to listen:


J. Browne May 25, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Beiser needs to stay in the classroom. He doesn’t know the first thing about balancing a budget. He won’t even release a resume. Ask him. Besides, there are already too many teachers on the board. Nakamura’s dream of a bronze plaque on the library is coming to reality, so let her go… Rosen is no politician, just what we need for our kids. someone who isn’t in bed with the unions or big business.

deBeck is the only board member who returns your emails. He may be blunt, but that keeps it interesting. He also thinks outside the box, perhaps too far sometimes. Barnett blows with the wind. Don’t trust him. Cresci……hmmm…


doug porter May 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm

here’s the about page for Beiser. Doesn’t appear that he’s hiding anything. I didn’t realize that candidates had to put their stuff out their in resume format. and, no, this is not an endorsement.


Chris Sweitzer June 27, 2010 at 10:13 am

I found this site by accident and checked out Rosen’s site. If he’s elected to your school board, you have MAJOR issues. The man can’t spell and knows little grammar. Do you want someone who isn’t very well educated in charge of the education of over 100,000? Probably not.


J. Browne May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

When you look at all the other candidates websites you are given an idea of their experience with actual names of companies or institutions, their job descriptions, dates of employment etc. Those things are easy to check up on and verify. When a candidate says retail management experience, he could have been in charge of reordering underwear for Wal-Mart. This is a job that controls the same amount of money as a city councilperson; I would prefer knowing a little more about his experience. But that’s just me.


JMW May 28, 2010 at 1:50 am

Re Rosen: Have we landed in Red Flag City? Is that “school library?”


John Elton May 29, 2010 at 9:34 am

Kevin Beiser is a by far the best candidate for school board. Those other candidates who never stepped foot in a classroom as an educator have no clue what is needed for the success of students. The current school board made some crippling decisions that will have a negative impact for years to come.

For those who say teachers don’t belong on the board are flat out wrong. Currently, there are no teachers on the school board and there hasn’t been a teacher on the board in nearly 40 years. With a teacher’s voice on the board some of the terrible decisions (mistakes) of the past could have been avoided.

Beiser is running an open-book campaign — he hides nothing. It looks like J. Browne is trying to diminish Beiser’s credentials — just some dirty politics. Check out Beiser’s webpage, and if you still have questions, call him! He is running an honest and fair campaign.

Beiser is the best candidate for the future of our schools and for the students.


J. Browne May 30, 2010 at 9:38 pm

Perhaps you should start paying attention to the school board meetings. Of the five board members, four either are or have been teachers. John deBeck taught in SD Unified for more than 30 years, John Evans taught ESL for 15 years, Nakamura at USD for a few years and Jackson taught in SD Unified for 8 years and still substitute teaches in another district. No dirty politics here, just the facts. He is not running an honest campaign. If you look at his photo gallery one would assume his is married and has a child. He is not married and has no children. He refuses to give anyone a job title or description for his so-called “retail management experience”.

He is passionate and is probably a great teacher. In the classroom is where he is needed most. Why do you think the union didn’t support him? Lack of experience.


Pat Herron June 1, 2010 at 6:12 pm

I met Kevin Beiser at this year’s Earth Fair. I was very impressed with him as a person. He seemed very down-to-earth and answered every question I asked without being evasive.
He seemed like he would be a great teacher but most of all he seemed to genuinely care about
our kids and getting them the best possible education.
He’s got my vote.


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