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Monday, March 07, 2005 | Many San Diegans watched the antics of the past San Diego Unified School District Board of Education embarrass themselves as they ranted at each other. Now a new board is in place and the hopes of bringing civility back to board activity was a hope for many.

So far we have seen an extremely energetic board spending hours in meetings getting background on most everything involving San Diego schools. They have also found it necessary to intrude into operational detail of the District and making decisions that go far beyond smart management practice. They are doing this mostly with a three to two vote. These are the same voting numbers that supported many of Bersin’s reform ideas. It seems a divided board continues. This time not in Bersin’s favor.

Enough has been said about the right or wrong of the last seven years of the past board and the school district. Let’s focus on what is going on now with the current board. If they continue to follow the path they are on we may wonder about the price paid for an uncomfortable civility.

No superintendent will be able to run the district with the kind of intrusive behavior we have seen in the last two months. Boards should not make management decisions. The board can hire and fire the superintendent. They also should be involved in matters of policy. Of course this can’t be absolute, but it’s clear when it’s out of balance.

The board has asked Bersin to leave. They have now given themselves six months to replace him. Not a lot of time. It will not be an easy hire. If any potential replacement is aware of the way this new board has been intruding they would have little interest in this job. If they don’t mind this kind of intrusiveness, it’s questionable if they would have the strength to run this district. Any new superintendent better insist they have the authority to be the chief executive of the district. Let’s hope there is someone is skilled enough to do the job and get authority from the board to run the district.

Civility or intrusiveness, things seem to be more civil now. Why should Bersin swim up stream and stand up for what he believes? He’s gone. He fought the good fight. No matter what is said, he won more than he lost, and the district is better off for it.

So who stops this crippling intrusiveness? Maybe no one.

Neil Derrough spent 25 years with CBS and was President of NBC/39 in San Diego for 12 years. He has devoted the last few years to community issues with an emphasis on education.

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