Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

We’re two weeks out from the primary elections, and you might not have paid much attention to who’s running for a seat on the San Diego Unified School District board of trustees.

So, you should take a few minutes now to get schooled.

With city schools facing an unprecedented financial crisis, the makeup of the school board could be vital in determining whether the district remains solvent in the next couple of years and, if so, what cuts are made to keep it afloat.

We’ve made it easy for you to quickly find out where the candidates stand on some of the key issues.

The candidates are:

• Mark Powell, Jared Hamilton and incumbent school board President John Lee Evans, who are running in sub-district A, which encompasses Clairemont, University City and Mira Mesa (Map here).

• Bill Ponder and Marne Foster, who are running in sub-district E, which is being vacated by Shelia Jackson. Sub-district E encompasses most of southeastern San Diego. (Map here).

Each of the candidates was asked the same series of questions. Every candidate responded except Foster.

When I last connected with Foster on Wednesday, she told me she was working on her responses. I cautioned her that I would need hard-and-fast answers to all of the questions. For example: Would she support asking teachers to cut their pay to help fill the deficit gap in 2012-2013? Foster sounded rather flustered. “That’s very difficult for me to do,” she said. Nevertheless, she promised me the answers to the survey by 4 p.m. Wednesday. That was the last I heard of her. She hasn’t answered my calls or texts or emails since.

Powell was the only candidate to clearly lay out his position on each of the issues from the start. So, I had to follow up with the other candidates to get straight answers out of them. At times, that was tricky, and I had to really press to get them to take a stand.

Without further ado, here is the 2012 Report Card for the school board candidates. Click here or on the graphic to enlarge.

Evans, in particular, took umbrage with my methodology, saying that requesting simple one-word answers cheapened the debate. So, in fairness to all the candidates, we’ve included a link to a PDF with their full answers on it.

Each of the candidate responses also includes a description of how they would close the budget deficits in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 schools years. There was no way to shorten those answers to fit them on the card.

Incumbent Richard Barrera is running unopposed. We did not include him in this survey since he does not have an opponent. You can read more about Barrera here.

The top two vote-getters in each race advance to a runoff election against each other that will be decided by voters district-wide. No one can win outright on June 5. That means Ponder and Foster will face each other again, and the top two vote-getters in the Evans-Hamilton-Powell race will advance.

• Read John Lee Evans’ full answers here.

• Read Mark Powell’s full answers here and his profile here.

• Read Jared Hamilton’s full answers here and his profile here.

• Read Bill Ponder’s full answers here and his profile here.

• Read Marne Foster’s profile here.

I’ve covered several of the above issues pretty extensively over the last few months. Here’s a quick reading list for some background to the questions I asked:

• Insolvency at the school district: Read this reader’s guide.

• Raises, furlough days and the 2010 “ticking time bomb” deal made by the school board: Read this story and this follow-up to understand why three of the four candidates questioned think the deal was irresponsible.

• Selling school property: I haven’t covered this, yet. But read this story and this story in The San Diego Reader for some background.

• Teacher evaluation: Read my extensive story on why San Diego isn’t joining the teacher evaluation revolution.

• Last-in-first-out layoffs: Watch my former colleague Emily Alpert’s two-minute explainer on how this system affects struggling schools hardest.

• The 2012 school bond: Read this explainer on how the board wants to save money, by borrowing $2 billion.

• Pay cuts vs. layoffs: Watch this video explainer to understand the deal the district wants to make with the unions to avoid more than 1,600 layoffs this year.

• Closing schools: Read this story for background on the district’s history of making big promises on closing schools, but not following up on them

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

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Will Carless

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.