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A meeting of the San Diego Unified school board / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

This week on the podcast, we joked that we were changing our “Goat of the Week” designation to the “San Diego Unified of the Week” because of how often the district’s actions land it in that spot.

This week’s San Diego Unified of the Week was … San Diego Unified.

This time, it was because the district has effectively denied parents an opportunity that is a cornerstone of elected government bodies – the right to bring comments and concerns before our representatives during public meetings. As Will Huntsberry reported this week, the school board decided to move public comment for non-agenda items to the end of its meetings. That means folks with children must somehow sit through four-hour meetings and air their concerns around 9 p.m. on a school night.

The district at this point isn’t even trying to maintain a façade of caring about the public it serves.

The district is currently facing a lawsuit challenging its refusal to enact subdistrict-only elections, despite the fact that a grand jury report recommended the change, and the district’s own community survey suggested a majority supported such a change. The current method of electing board members, the lawsuit alleges, “disenfranchises African Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Latinos, Inda-Chinese, Native Americans, Filipinos, and others, who together make up 77% of the SDUSD school district.”

Our most recent Schools Guide included an important essay from a local parent, who documented the ways in which the district is failing to engage parents in the Local Control Funding Formula process – the crucial plan that guides how funds are directed to schools. The 2013 law that created the process was meant to bolster parent participation. At San Diego Unified, parent engagement has actually gone down.

And, of course, the district’s failure to act transparently and follow the law guiding its release of public records has been well-documented.

In light of the district’s change to its public comment policy this week, I decided to go back and read Superintendent Cindy Marten’s most recent State of the District speech to see whether she discussed openness or transparency goals.

I was surprised to see that the last several paragraphs of the speech was devoted to Marten simply reciting various quotes from Dr. Marten Luther King Jr.

Relying on quotes like those is rather convenient, because it would suggest that disagreeing with Marten’s approach would be quibbling with King himself.

And yet I wonder what King – who gave his life to ensure vulnerable populations could access democracy as easily as those who are white and privileged – would think of a board that walls itself off from the public.

What would King think of a board that has steadfastly refused to accept an election process meant to ensure minorities have a seat at the table?

What would he think of public officials willfully violating laws meant to give people a window into how their government is operating?

I’d ask board members what they believe the answers to these questions might be, but I don’t have four hours to spare on a Tuesday night.

What VOSD Learned This Week

This week we dropped the latest installment of our investigation into sexual misconduct in local public schools, and it centers on a deeply disturbing incident: More than a dozen middle school girls complained about a teacher’s behavior, and those complaints went nowhere. Then, one girl reported a rape.

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Assemblyman Brian Maienschein announced this week that he’s becoming a Democrat. In the Sacramento Report, we examined the ways in which the GOP responses to the news mirror larger tensions in the party. On the podcast, we bathed in the tea of the Maienschein flip.

Speaking of switches, the mayor flipped then flipped again on whether the city should allow taller buildings near a stop on the Mid-Coast trolley line.

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The Plaza de Panama is a San Diego Special, no doubt. (Here’s a refresher on what that is.) The latest in the long-running saga: Bids for the project are about $20 million more than what the city anticipated.

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Family separations at the border are still happening, and the case of a family split apart by border agents near Calexico highlights the murkiness of the rules that spell out when those separations can take place.

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Last year, the state Supreme Court ruled San Diego’s policy of making people in civil court cases pay for their own court reporters was unconstitutional. This week, an appellate court went a step further: It said that cases in which poor people were denied a court reporter can be overturned.

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Wondering why some gnarly streets get repaired and others go untouched for years? We’ve got the answer.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“Hagfish produce slime the way humans produce opinions—readily, swiftly, defensively, and prodigiously.” — I guess I’m obsessed with hagfish now?

Correction: An earlier version of this post said the San Diego Unified board did not include any Latino members. Trustee Richard Barrera is Latino.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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