As John de Beck gets ready to wrap up nearly two decades on the San Diego Unified school board, parents and educators feted him Tuesday night for his time and energy. He was narrowly defeated by budget consultant Scott Barnett in the November election, ending his long tenure on the school board.

De Beck was known for prodding school district staff with pointed questions. Even Tuesday night, when de Beck was being honored by the board, he spoke forcefully about a lack of shared sacrifice as budget cuts loom.

“You hear people talking about, ‘Save us.’ Not save education. Save us,” he said, adding, “The whole bunch of us are not willing to share the pain … I hate to be right, but I think I am.”

Here’s our roundup of stories looking back at de Beck’s tenure:

  • The election gave us at a chance to reexamine what de Beck did and who he was on the school board. We examined his reputation as the idea man on the school board and why his famous candor was a double-edged sword in this election.
  • KPBS brought on de Beck Wednesday morning to talk about his tenure. Here’s a classic quote: “I have to say I’m my own worst enemy by having opinions and raising issues. I could have made it safe. But I didn’t.”
  • One of the most interesting twists in his career was that de Beck, once a self-described “labor guy,” ended up being at odds with labor. We explored why.
  • De Beck had a regular column in San Diego News Network last year. One of his most memorable columns compares the different interests in San Diego Unified to cannibals as programs are pitted against each other in a budget crunch, a theme he hit on again today.
  • Way back in the day, de Beck was a newbie on the school board. The San Diego Tribune profiled him in 1991, noting that, “With an eagle eye, he spends hours poring over the notoriously dull board agendas looking for discrepancies: expenses that don’t make sense, numbers that don’t jibe, inconsistencies in district policy.”
  • It also wrote, “Many school officials were concerned that de Beck, supported in the election by the powerful San Diego Teachers Association, would push a union agenda at every opportunity” — something the article said proved unfounded. (You need access to the U-T archives to get this one, but if you do, it’s worth it.)

Did I miss something? I’m sure I did. Please post your own links in the comments!

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

Emily Alpert

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

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