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San Diegans 4 Great Schools is unsure if it will try to re-launch its campaign to remake the school board or do something different after it fell short on signatures to get onto the ballot.
“All of us don’t view this as a total end,” said Scott Himelstein, president of the group. “The question is, where do we go from here? People are ready to continue the work. But we don’t know what form that takes.”
The campaign argued the school district was failing its students and aimed to expand the school board and change the way it was chosen, adding four appointed members to the five existing elected trustees. It grew out of a group of philanthropists, business leaders, parents and others frustrated with the exit of former Superintendent Terry Grier.
The group argued that changing the way San Diego Unified was governed would depoliticize and stabilize it. Their bid to add appointed members to the school board was loathed by existing school board members and unions who painted it as a simple power grab.
San Diegans 4 Great Schools turned in almost 130,000 signatures to get onto the ballot and needed roughly 93,000 to be valid in order to qualify for the ballot. But almost one in three signatures were invalid. Many were not registered voters. Others signed the petition twice.
The episode echoes what happened to another campaign run by City Councilman Carl DeMaio, who wanted to overhaul city contracting. DeMaio relied on the same firm to gather signatures, the La Jolla Group, and came up short on valid signatures in a small sample.
Bobby Glaser, who leads the La Jolla Group, said he could not speak about what happened this time.
“I’m still investigating and researching that,” Glaser said, adding that he couldn’t say anything more.
Himelstein said they chose the La Jolla Group because they had been “extremely successful” in the past. San Diegans 4 Great Schools paid the firm more than $300,000, according to its campaign filings. Himelstein stopped short of blaming the firm but said they needed to see what had happened.
“I think it’s incumbent upon them and incumbent upon us to figure out what went wrong so it doesn’t happen again,” Himelstein said. “It’s a tremendous loss in terms of time and dollars.”