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It’s not the easiest job in town, yet at least two people are still lining up to try and become the next member of the San Diego Unified School District’s board of trustees.

Three seats on the board are coming up for reelection in June, those of Richard Barrera, John Lee Evans and Shelia Jackson. Barrera and Evans both say they’re running, but Jackson announced late last year that she’s stepping down.

It’s a tough time for the school board. Four years of state cuts to education have resulted in hundreds of staff layoffs in the last few years and the district warned recently of insolvency.

With the board currently tied into a commitment to give staff across-the-board raises starting this year, the district’s budget is going to be even tighter in the next couple of years, and the board could face some tough decisions on laying off teachers and possibly even closing schools.

So far, we haven’t heard about any potential opponents to against the two incumbents, Barrera and Evans. In November, we identified four people who were lining up to fight for Jackson’s seat.

Two of those four, Jerome Torres and Tony Burks, told me they have now dropped out of the race. Torres said the financial pressure of moving to the district made the decision to run too ominous and Burke said he’s going to focus on things “beyond the school board.”

The remaining possible candidates are:

• Bill Ponder, a retired college administrator, and

• Gerald Brown, a local minister and nonprofit employee.

Ponder already lives in the southeastern San Diego district he would represent, and Brown said he’s moving into the district on Feb. 1.

I plan on getting to know these two guys pretty well in the coming months, in addition to anybody else who throws their hat into the race. And I wanted to share what I learn about them with our readers.

So, I’m going to introduce a feature that worked well for our visiting fellow Lamii Kpargoi, who for several months last year completed a weekly survey of the various mayoral candidates.

Every two weeks, I’m going to email Barrera, Evans, Brown, Ponder and anyone else who decides to run a relevant question related to their duties on the school board. I’ll then post each candidate’s reply here.

And I’d like you to get involved, too.

Please send me an email letting me know the questions you would like to ask of each candidate.

And get in touch if you hear about anybody else who’s lining up to run against either the incumbents or for Jackson’s seat.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at currently focused on local education. You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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