The San Diego Unified School District’s newest school board member, Marne Foster, was sworn in Monday night at an unusually festive school board meeting.

Foster, who handily beat opponent Bill Ponder in November’s election, replaces Shelia Jackson as the board representative for Sub-District E in southeastern San Diego. Her inauguration was met with whoops of applause from the audience and a standing ovation.

Newly elected state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber encouraged Foster to think of every child in the school district as her own. Foster, who has raised four children, grinned in agreement.

In a short speech, Foster acknowledged the friends and colleagues who helped her win election and quoted the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children,” Foster said. “Let us, the village, pass the test and do great things for our children.”

Now she’s on the board, I’m hoping to find out soon what Foster’s vision is for her office. Apart from one interview last April, she’s been slow to elaborate on how she feels about certain key issues facing the district. After several unsuccessful attempts to interview her last month, I accepted her invitation to email over some questions. She never replied.

At Monday’s meeting Foster, who said she hadn’t seen the email, promised to sit down with me next week for an interview. I look forward to learning more about her plans for the district.

Meanwhile, two incumbent school board members were also sworn in Monday. Richard Barrera, who ran unchallenged in November, was sworn in by a group of students, who each read part of his ceremony. John Lee Evans, who beat challenger Mark Powell, was sworn in by San Diego’s new mayor, Bob Filner.

Filner, who sat on the school board 34 years ago, repeated a pledge he made on the campaign trail to involve the whole community in the education of the city’s children. He didn’t elaborate.

The school board also voted unanimously to reappoint Evans as school board president and to appoint Kevin Beiser as vice president.

I think there were more jokes cracked at Monday’s meeting than in all the other school board meetings I’ve sat through combined. That could just be the non-controversial subject of the proceedings, or it could be indicative of a coming era of optimism for local education.

With the passing of Proposition 30 set to boost education funding for the first time in years and with almost $3 billion now on the table to spend on facilities thanks to Proposition Z, San Diego Unified’s future is looking hopeful for the first time in a long while.

Maybe the jocularity will last. We’ll see as the board starts to debate its budget for next year and begins to sketch out a plan to close the next looming deficit, which currently stands at about $80 million.

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.

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

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