School board member John de Beck came back from a vacation in Turkey this week to find himself trailing budget consultant Scott Barnett in his bid to keep his seat at San Diego Unified.

De Beck now has 49.3 percent of the vote, Barnett 50.7 percent, with absentee votes still being tallied up.

“It’s pretty clear I lost,” de Beck said. He thinks voters turned from him because he supported a school board resolution condemning a controversial immigration law in Arizona. “The only thing I could have done is waffled on Arizona.”

The Arizona vote rarely came up in school board candidate debates. I never heard Barnett mention it. But de Beck said he was flooded with emails after the Arizona vote and was targeted because of it.

De Beck has often said he’d stay on the school board until he was voted out or died. But it was also obvious that de Beck has grown increasingly frustrated with the school board. Today, he called this “the most depressing year I think I’ve ever had” and said nobody on the board paid attention to him.

De Beck has been endlessly creative, always tossing out new ideas, but often struggled to get other people to back them. He proposed splitting off part of the school district and slashing employee pay across the board. Some of his ideas eventually took root, such as giving the clusters of schools that feed into each high school more power to make decisions, but de Beck was dissatisfied with the results.

He has also been known for his frank talk. De Beck says he’ll be even franker now. “I was hampered by being on the board. I had to be a company man,” de Beck said. “Now I can say what I feel like.”

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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