Sand Diego School's Budget Panacea: Just Sell More Land
San Diego Unified is moving forward with its plans to sell four pieces of land, including an undeveloped plot in Tierrasanta known as Camp Elliott. 1/20/13, Voice of San Diego, By WILL CARLESS— Excerpt: Gov. Jerry Brown has spent the last couple of years trying to rid Sacramento of its budget gimmickry.
But San Diego Unified has gone full speed ahead in the opposite direction: On Tuesday the school board voted to ratchet up its efforts to sell off some of its properties, a one-time budget solution that patches over the district's deficit in the short-term but leaves the district a few properties poorer forever.
In a workshop Tuesday morning, school board trustees voted 4-0 (trustee Scott Barnett was absent from the meeting but opposed land sales last year) to move forward on selling four properties to raise $50 million — thus solving the bulk of the district's projected $84 million deficit in the 2013-14 school year. Full Article
School "Reform" Group 99% Funded By Fat Cats
by DOUG PORTER on JANUARY 28, 2011
in: CIVIL RIGHTS, ECONOMY, EDUCATION, SAN DIEGO, THE CHRONICLES OF EDUMACATION San Diego Unified School District headquarters. According to documents filed with the City of San Diego this week, the secretive group behind the campaign for appointed school board officials is 99.75% funded by just two individuals: Chicago financier Ron Dammeyer ($300,000 via CAC Advisory
Same Insiders Are At It Again, Under New Group Name Sept. 2010, San Diego 4 Greater Schools is making the rounds at community planning board meetings. They went to OBPB in Aug. Tyler Crammer presented a bunch of nothing about upgrading school scores, and adding more school board districts, (nothing having much to do with land use). He did talk about the benefits of the Mayor being Superintendent.
Seems the list of so-called philanthropists are the many of the same insiders that were pushing the sale of school lands and joint-use under Bersin.
Renewed Talk of School Closures Amid Rumbles of Budget Cuts
By EMILY ALPERT, Voice of San Diego, Nov. 7, 2008
Excerpt: Bracing for budget cuts that rival or exceed the reductions suffered by San Diego Unified last year, Superintendent Terry Grier has quietly tapped a committee of parent activists and retirees to weigh the question of which under-enrolled schools should be shuttered to save money.
Elementary Schools Being Considered for Closure:
Adams, Banard, Bayview Terrace, Cabrillo, Cadman, Carver, Central, Crown Point, Cubberley, Jefferson, Lafayette, North Park, Paradise Hills, Perry, Rolando Park, Rowan, Sequoia
READ FULL ARTICLE
Schools exec resigns post for $100,406 from district
By Helen GaoUnion Tribune, STAFF WRITER, Aug. 23, 2007
SAN DIEGO – A high-ranking official with the San Diego Unified School District agreed to resign in exchange for six months of compensation totaling $100,406, according to a settlement agreement released yesterday.
Chief Administrative Officer Jose Luis Betancourt came under pressure to step down after he pleaded guilty last month to a misdemeanor charge of violating federal conflict-of-interest laws.Shortly after retiring as a rear admiral and commander of the Navy Region Southwest in October 2005, Betancourt became a consultant for a company that sought a $300 million contract with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.
Federal law requires a one-year “cooling-off period” before certain high-ranking government officials can lobby their former employer. Breaking the law resulted in a $15,000 fine and one year of probation for Betancourt.
The board was divided over whether the settlement with Betancourt was too generous. Trustee Mitz Lee said she preferred to give him three months of pay, because under his contract, Betancourt could be terminated with three months of notice, without cause. He had 18 months left on his contract.Betancourt's critics felt his guilty plea reflected poorly on the district as it is emphasizing a culture of ethics. Last year, the district hired an ethics officer and started a fraud hotline.
Betancourt did not return a call for comment.
As chief administrative officer since November 2005, Betancourt was paid $185,000 a year to oversee business, finance, transportation, facilities and food services. His last day was Aug. 10.
Chief Financial Officer Bill Kowba was named interim chief administrative officer Aug. 13.
District officials characterized the settlement as a “mutual separation agreement,” not a buyout. As part of the settlement, Betancourt agreed not to make any disparaging remarks about the district and the school board, and the board agreed not to make remarks that would damage his reputation.
This is not the first time the district has paid to get rid of a high-ranking employee. In January 2005, the school board agreed to buy out then-Superintendent Alan Bersin's contract for $240,000.
Betancourt has aspirations to become a school superintendent. He's a member of the class of 2007 at the Broad Superintendents Academy, which has trained many business and military leaders to become urban education reformers. He is due to graduate in November.
The settlement further stipulated that when prospective employers inquire about Betancourt, their requests for reference checks would be directed to Superintendent Carl Cohn or his successor.
Cohn, who tapped Betancourt to join his management team, defended him as a “stellar employee” in the aftermath of his guilty plea. That put Cohn at odds with the school board.
Senate Rules Committee Ignores the Truth
By Mike MacCarthy
Re: “Panel endorses schools nominee” (4/20/06), Press, the legislature, and the people of this state have no idea how badly they were served by the Senate Rules Committee (SRC) during April hearings about whether or not state education secretary Alan Bersin should be appointed to the California Board of Education (CBE).
In personal testimony, I and others provided well-documented reasons as to why the SRC should have rejected the Bersin appointment.
Even before the hearing, we had faxed all members a 53-page annotated report, spelling out in detail why Mr. Bersin was unfit to serve on the CBE.
But alas, none of the Committee seemed to really care about the truth—only political power and Eli Broad’s money seemed to matter. And Mr. Bersin has never been bashful about using both to further his career.
How else can the SRC explain their decision to disregard Mr. Bersin’s obvious misrepresentations, on the record?
Case in Point: A ray of hope filled the SRC hearing room immediately following my testimony as Senator Ashburn leaned forward and addressed me. He had already taken Mr. Bersin to task for providing long-winded and evasive answers to simple questions.
Maybe there was a chance Senator Ashburn had actually read our report.
One of our documented points was that Mr. Bersin had a long history of non-collaboration with most of the education stakeholders in San Diego. One example we cited of his ongoing distain for working-class parents was how mothers of truant city students were roused from their beds in one pre-dawn police dragnet during the first week of June 2001; six mothers were actually put in jail.
“You’ve raised some pretty serious charges here, Mr. MacCarthy, “Ashburn began. “For instance, what proof do we have that these pre-dawn raids on city school mothers actually took place.”We had excerpted a quote from one San Diego newspaper in our report to the SRC, but maybe Senator Ashburn hadn’t had a chance to read that particular piece. “It was in the local papers, Senator. I’d be glad to provide you copies, if you like.”
Ashburn continued, “What about that, Mr. Bersin? Did those raids take place?” I thought to myself that Secretary Bersin wouldn’t dare misrepresent the facts before this Committee—it would be too easy to prove.
In June 2001, at least two San Diego newspapers covered the “hooky” raids, not to mention local TV and radio stations.There was a split second of silence while Mr. Bersin considered his answer. “No,” was how he finally answered Senator Ashburn’s question; it was his total response.
I couldn’t believe my ears, and my mind scrambled to find the right words—Mr. Bersin had told the SRC something on the record that was untrue.
I said to Senator Ashburn, “Senator, I’ll make sure to send you a copy of all the newspaper reports as soon as I get back to San Diego.” With that, Senator Ashburn turned off his mike and sat back in his chair.
When no other SRC members indicated an interest in asking follow-up questions, I requested that our report together with its exhibits become a part of the Committee’s permanent record. Chairman Perata agreed, and I handed a copy to the court reporter who had been taking notes of the entire hearing.
Shortly after my testimony, the Committee voted 4-0 to approve Mr. Bersin’s nomination to the California Board of Education
The next day, I sent Senator Perata and the SRC copies of newspaper articles detailing the June 2001 pre-dawn raid on parents of truant San Diego students.
To date, I have not heard from Senator Perata nor any other SRC members. Clearly, the SRC has little interest in the truth about Mr. Bersin. Why else would they deliberately ignore such an obvious misrepresentation of fact, not to mention all the other facts brought to their attention during the hearings about Mr. Bersin?
Senator Perata, the people of California have a right to a clear and simple answer.
—Mike MacCarthy is a freelance writer and President of Voters for Truth in Education (VOTE), a California non-profit, public benefit corporation; he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alan Bersin's "Superintendent's Fund
San Diego Reader City Lights, April 13, 2006, Breaking Stories
Wino If nothing else, release of that school-district audit of Alan Bersin's "Superintendent's Fund for School Innovation" is casting yet more light on the ex-San Diego school chief's eating and dining habits. According to the document, Bersin spent $3925 from the charitable fund just on booze alone. Expenditures included $190.64 at the Wine Bank for "business dinner party at Bersin home."
The audit also provided more detail about the relationship between Bersin and George Mitrovich, onetime PR man for Del Mar swindler J. David Dominelli. Mitrovich took a leading role in promoting Bersin during his tumultuous tenure as superintendent.In an April 16, 2001, memo, Bersin promised to pay Mitrovich $1000 a month for ten months. Only two "responsibilities" were listed in the memo, prepared on school district stationery: "You will work with our district in establishing a program involving ASB presidents and their participation in City Club of San Diego programs." In addition, "You will continue to offer a program that permits ten San Diego Unified School District high school students and their faculty advisers to attend City Club luncheons as your guests.
"Mitrovich runs the City Club, a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization that throws banquets with big-name speakers. The memo provided no explanation as to why the money went to Mitrovich and not the club. He was eventually paid a total of $12,000, the audit says.
The Bersin Slush Funds, By Mike MacCarthy
Just like some of us have been saying since 1998 concerning Superintendent Bersin, San Diego City Schools (SDCS), and their questionable finances, the tip of that iceberg has finally been exposed for all to see (see attached article below). Congratulations to the U-T and reporter Helen Gao for getting it right (at least the U-T News Department gets it). Too bad this vital information about the Bersin slush fund wasn’t revealed while the old U.S. Attorney turned local school superintendent was under contract to SDCS and would therefore have had to answer hard questions about district finances. The truth is that Mr. Bersin thought and acted as if the school board (during his reign) was irrelevant when trustees disagreed or criticized his policies.
Like President Nixon felt toward Congress and the law, Mr. Bersin thought (and still thinks) the SDCS school board was only there to bow and genuflect in adoration of his every word and deed. And since that wasn’t always the case, his lawyerly training compelled him to find ways to “bend” the rules. Mr. Bersin never understood that as Superintendent he was to serve the school board, not the other way around. Is it any surprise that Mr. Bersin doesn’t want this “old news” about his inappropriate slush fund brought up now that he’s moved on to “greener” pastures in the employ of “Arnuld”? "Leave Alan Bersin alone, that would be the request," he said late last week. "If there is news, let's not go back because someone wants to drag my name through the mud."
How feeble is that—someone who wants us to call him an educator and California’s Education Secretary has the audacity to think the public has no right to question why he conducted the finances of SDCS away from the oversight and purview of his bosses? And this is just for openers. What about all the foundation monies he sweet-talked friends and political fellow-travelers to place under his control, but outside the oversight and control of the school board by the use of “administering foundations” such as the San Diego Foundation and the San Diego State Foundation (to name but two)? Mr. Bersin and his supporters love to point to the fact that he brought over $50 million in grant money to SDCS, but fail to mention the truth about how those funds were administered. The fact is that too much of the funds nominally awarded to SDCS were controlled by Bersin through outside non-profit organizations that did not report to the city school board, thus enabling Mr. Bersin to make policy independent of the board. The question that still needs to be answered is: Did Mr. Bersin and/or his administration violate the law? For instance, there is a growing body of evidence that during the Bersin years, SDCS enrollment records were overstated, which could mean that the district owes the state and the federal government considerable sums of money, not to mention other possibilities.
The plain truth is that SDCS needs to conduct an immediate forensic audit of all its books and records during the Bersin years to make sure the public knows everything our ex-superintendent hid from us between 1998 and 2005.
Bersin fund raised about $524,000, report says
Spending on consultants, travel spurs controversy
By Helen Gao, Union Tribune, September 21, 2005
As he awaits confirmation to the state Board of Education, former San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Alan Bersin is facing renewed controversy over a private fund that he controlled and spent in the name of improving schools.
Bersin, now the state secretary of education, collected about $524,000 in donations for a special account and spent more than half of it on consultants and a former district official's travel and housing costs, according to a new report.
The remainder of the Superintendent's Fund for School Innovation was spent on a variety of purposes, ranging from $25,000 in "salary support" for a communications director to more than $44,000 to reimburse Bersin's "meeting, entertainment and travel expenses," according to the report prepared by the nonprofit group that administered the fund.
Bersin also used a small portion of the fund to reward students directly, such as a $300 prize for an art exhibition winner.
Condemned by critics as a slush fund, the superintendent's fund was a source of friction between Bersin and some school board members because Bersin did not need official approval to draw from it.
Who contributed to the fund and how it was used did not have to be docketed for school board discussions. It was administered by the nonprofit San Diego Foundation, which collected donations for the account and issued checks under Bersin's direction.
Bersin dismissed the 13-page report – produced at the request of Bersin critic and school trustee Mitz Lee, and released last week – as "old news" dug up by detractors who want to prevent him from being confirmed as a state education trustee. He said it was known all along that he would use the superintendent's fund to pay for consultants and former Chancellor of Instruction Anthony Alvarado's expenses.
"Leave Alan Bersin alone, that would be the request," he said late last week. "If there is news, let's not go back because someone wants to drag my name through the mud."
Bersin established the fund in 1998 during his first few months in office and closed it June 15, with a zero balance, two weeks before he left the school district in June. The board bought out his contract a year early.
Donations for the fund came from wealthy individuals, foundations and corporations. Wells Fargo and the Walton Family Foundation were among the donors.
Bersin said he used the fund to reimburse himself so the district wouldn't have to cover his expenses, much of which he said stemmed from his fundraising efforts and book donation drive. He helped the district raise $53 million in private grants and 1.6 million books. His reimbursements were not excessive, he said, given that they were incurred over seven years.
According to an itemized computer printout of Bersin's last two reimbursements that was provided separately by the district, he frequently took guests to upscale restaurants such as Laurel and Morton's.
Lee, the school board member who asked for the report, is seeking an internal investigation into the superintendent's fund "to eliminate the perception of undue outside influence."
The report showed that nearly $158,000 was spent to hire the Florida-based International Center on Collaboration.
The consulting firm advised Bersin during his transition from U.S. attorney to superintendent, held workshops to help him and trustees get along, and assisted in the school district's reorganization.
Another chunk of money reimbursed Alvarado for travel and housing. The architect of Bersin's controversial Blueprint for Student Success commuted from his New York home to his San Diego job between 1999 and 2000, racking up more than $123,000 in expenses.
About $51,000 went to San Diego READS, a nonprofit foundation run by close Bersin ally Scott Himelstein, who now is the state deputy secretary of education. The money was spent on a book donation drive and a now-defunct fundraising initiative to expand preschool.
Other beneficiaries of Bersin's fund include former district communications director John Spelich, who received $25,000 in "salary support" in 2002; and George Mitrovich, the politically connected president of the City Club of San Diego, who received $12,000 for consulting work from May 2001 to June 2002, according to the report.
Bersin said the "salary support" was for a signing bonus and relocation reimbursement for Spelich, who came from the computer maker Gateway. District records show the $25,000 as a "consultant fee" with no detail of the scope of work. Spelich worked for the district from the end of 2001 to June 2002.
Mitrovich said he set up community appearances for Bersin at churches to talk about his education plan, worked with then-City Attorney Casey Gwinn to combat truancy and helped with the San Diego READS' book donation drive.
Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a Chicago-based watchdog group, said school district employees could have been subject to the superintendent's "manipulation" if he were boosting their pay. He is also concerned that the fund gave the superintendent extra power over the school board.
"It's a good arrangement for the superintendent. It gives him more discretion," he said. "I don't think it's a good arrangement in the best interest of the schools. The school board should be making overall budgetary decisions and policy."
Lee said the report leaves many questions unanswered about the circumstances under which the funds were spent.
"We have to make sure from now on the board will not allow this kind of arrangement. From now on, any kind of money that comes to the district has to come through the purview of the board."
Carl Cohn, Bersin's successor, has seen a copy of the report. He said he doesn't feel the need to set up a discretionary fund. If he has legitimate expenses, he said, he expects the district to cover them.
Cohn did not have a superintendent's fund during his 10 years as chief of the Long Beach Unified School District. Although the Long Beach district has a foundation, he did not control its budget.
"What people may be surprised about my leadership style is everything doesn't begin and end with me. I believe in empowering a team to do the work," Cohn said. "If people have a legitimate need, they don't need to come to me to fund it."
Senate Bill (SB) 767
Today (8/24/05), CA. Senator Gloria Romero's Senate Bill (SB) 767 (pending legislation which would turn control of local school boards over to city mayors; for more detailed info, see below) was voted upon and passed 8-2 in the Education Committee. It now goes to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which will consider it within the next few days--at least by Monday. The Appropriations Committee is chaired by San Francisco Democrat Senator Carole Migden.
The Appropriations web site is: http://www.cmta.net/committee.php?committee_id=s_appropriations You can obtain the email and fax information for all committee members at this web site. Senator Migden's contact info is: email: Senator.Midgen@sen.ca.gov fax: (916) 445-1412
Although the Chamber of Commerce crowd (read Voice of San Diego [see article below], the U-T, Alan Bersin, Malin Burnham, Eli Broad, the Lincoln Club, etc.) would like us to believe that the current push to promote legislation in Sacramento that empowers city Mayors to assume control of their local school boards is an issue to limit the power of unions (especially local and state teachers unions), that's NOT the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It's true that school related unions have made their share of mistakes (and continue to do so) when it comes to why California public schools still leave so much to be desired, but they're not alone--there's more than enough blame to go around between teachers, administrators, certified employees, parents, PTA groups, local and national foundations, local and national special interest groups, school boards, superintendents, etc.
Nonetheless, the plain and undeniable truth (once we peel away the PR spin and high density political demagoguery) is that this latest power grab by the big money interests (giving control of school boards to city mayors) is actually about the new "Corporatism" that has been infiltrating the American public school system since the middle and late 90s. Inhabitants of San Diego have surely noticed this movement since these same forces were the ones who (by their own admission) stuffed Alan Bersin down our collective throats beginning in 1998, and have continued to prop him up ever since, despite his many well-documented failures, especially with respect to the disadvantaged so-called "minorities" (students who now comprise close 75% of SD city school enrollment) as well as to city middle and high school students.
The time is now for all Americans, but especially San Diego residents, to decide if we really want the decisions of what's in the best interests of educating our children in the hands of non-educators and the greedy monied interests. I (like many of you) thought we made that decision at the polls in November 2004 when we elected a new SD school board majority. It just shows that these same corporate interests are (in many ways) like vampires--the only way to truly defeat them is to drive a political stake through their blood-sucking hearts. Defeating this latest proposal (State Senate Bill 767) would be the first serious blow toward that end.
My hope is that each of you will take the time to contact the Appropriations Committee ASAP and express your opposition to SB 767. Once again, representative democracy is NOT a spectator sport--the work never ends.
Thank you for all that you already do, but we really need your help on this one (for more in-depth info, read below).
Mike MacCarthy,President, Voters For Truth in Education (VOTE)
email@example.com (858) 715-9831
The Push for Mayor-Appointed School Boards Bypasses San Diego -- For Now
By MARSHA SUTTON, Voice Education Writer, June 15, 2005
This is part one in a two-part series.
With the beleaguered city of San Diego embroiled in fiscal and legal controversy and a paralyzed mayor leaving office next month amid charges of irresponsibility and incompetence, the idea of having big-city mayors appoint school board members seems almost laughable.
Yet, the proposal is gaining momentum in California, as supporters point to other major cities in the United States -- including New York, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Cleveland -- that have adopted the plan and as a result have seen some degree of success in raising student achievement, increasing accountability and providing fiscal stability.
Proposed legislation to allow large urban centers in California to adopt the plan is being sponsored by EdVoice, a powerful statewide organization made up of wealthy philanthropists who seek to promote education reform for California's public schools through grassroots efforts and the legislative process.
Only those cities with a strong-mayor form of government, with populations of more than 400,000 and with school districts of more than 50,000 students would qualify, under the proposed plan.
"The focus is on the largest cities in California that have strong-mayor forms of government," said Christopher Cabaldon, president of EdVoice. Initially, EdVoice hopes to convert Oakland, Fresno and Los Angeles, all of whose mayors support the idea.
Although certainly worthy of inclusion in the plan, San Diego is not being considered at this time because of current political upheaval at City Hall and an as yet unimplemented strong-mayor form of government, Cabaldon said.
State Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles). is said to support the proposed legislation, and a newly formed Select Committee on Urban School Governance, chaired by Romero, is now holding hearings on the matter. Select Committees study specific California policy issues and problems in order to develop long-range solutions.
Other members of the senate committee include Abel Maldonado (R-San Jose), George Runner (R-Antelope Valley), Jack Scott (D-Pasadena) and Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch).
Cabaldon said the committee held a hearing in Sacramento last Thursday to learn about the status of urban education and the relationship between student performance and governance. And the committee has scheduled a second hearing in Los Angeles this Friday that will focus on governance solutions to the identified problems facing urban school districts.
According to Cabaldon, who is also the mayor of West Sacramento, education leaders asked to speak at the hearings include University of California researchers and educators, officials from state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell's office, former and current superintendents, out-of-state mayors, school board members and representatives from the school boards association and the teachers' union. Former San Diego Unified School District trustee Ron Ottinger has been asked to appear at the second hearing in Los Angeles.
EdVoice was founded by some of California's leading education philanthropists, including Southern California members Eli Broad of Los Angeles' Broad Foundation and Buzz Woolley of San Diego's Girard Foundation. Other members of the EdVoice board include Wal-Mart Stores director John Walton and Silicon Valley-based Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings. Hastings, a Democrat and former president of the state Board of Education, was recently denied reappointment to the board by the Senate Democratic Caucus.
The proposed legislation, which Cabaldon said is still in its conceptual stage, would give mayors the authority to appoint school board members from names submitted by a group of education experts, business leaders and community members. Implementation would be gradual. As each elected board member's term expires, the mayor would appoint replacements who could be dismissed by the mayor at will. The mayor would also appoint a superintendent, after the existing superintendent's contract expires or is bought out. Current superintendents and board members would be eligible for mayoral appointment.
Boundary issues complicate the legislation. In some areas, the school districts include parts of other cities and municipalities. In this case, voters in those adjacent cities could choose to opt out of the school district and form their own school district, join another school district or stay with the urban district.
In the reverse case, where some cities extend into other school districts, the mayor would not control those districts. This is the case, for example, in Carmel Valley, which is part of the city of San Diego but its schools are in the Del Mar Union, Solana Beach and San Dieguito Union High school districts. The governance of these schools would be unaffected by the change.
Cabaldon said the proposal is on an accelerated timeframe, because EdVoice is hopeful that legislation can be enacted this calendar year.
Experts say urban school districts educate one-fourth of all public school students in the country and are faced with unique academic, fiscal and managerial challenges, including widespread under-achievement, decaying buildings, high dropout rates and unsafe learning environments. This proposal for California's urban school districts, initiated and advanced by wealthy Los Angeles business leader and philanthropist Eli Broad, would give mayors direct responsibility for city schools, in the same way they are held accountable for parks, libraries, streets, fire, police and other community services.
"Cities aren't run perfectly, but they are far more efficient than school districts," said Broad, in a recent Los Angeles Times interview.
Voters are generally more aware of mayoral issues than of school board issues, Cabaldon said in response to the charge that the mayoral appointment system severs direct voter involvement with school governance. "It's a fallacy to say that voters don't control fire, police and other public services. The whole community is more focused on student achievement this way."
Cabaldon also said this plan gives one person the authority to implement change and the sole responsibility for success or failure, and voters will know whom to hold accountable. With elected school boards, supporters of the measure say no one person has the authority to make changes and blame is too easily passed among the players who are often indebted to special interests that paralyze efforts at progress.
Proponents say the idea has merit because it can eliminate duplication of effort and improve resource efficiency by linking urban school issues with other city services like budgets, crime fighting, safety and security, parks and libraries, capital improvements of public facilities and other infrastructure concerns. They also believe it would ensure that school board members are knowledgeable about a wide range of education issues, having been screened by a panel of experts.
However, John de Beck, trustee for the San Diego Unified School District since 1990, said school board members can be voted out of office whenever the public disapproves of the job they are doing. "I'm accountable to the public right now," he said, calling elected school boards an American institution. "If you believe in local control, you believe in school board elections."
Labeling the idea "an East Coast thing," de Beck said this was not a viable solution for urban school districts. He worried that "if you get a lousy mayor, you get a lousy school board." He said if San Diegans were asked whether the mayor should have the power to appoint school board members, "they'd laugh you right out of town."
De Beck also raised the specter of cronyism, saying, "People are not ready for a one-man show."
Opponents of the proposal point to mixed results in New York and the failure in Detroit to implement a successful state takeover in 1999 of the 140,000-student district. Cabaldon said the Detroit effort fell short because of a lack of mayoral authority and a unique political situation between the state and the city that made it impossible to achieve the necessary level of reform. Nevertheless, the experiment did fail and the city's appointed school board is now being replaced by elected officials.
New York City's success since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took control of the school district's 1.1 million students in 2002 has been questioned by some who say that school morale has plummeted as a result of micromanagement by the mayor's team. But Bloomberg dismisses that assessment and claims he has made a dysfunctional system more efficient and accountable to the public. Boston made the switch to mayoral control in 1991 and hired like-minded school district superintendent Tom Payzant in 1995 to reorganize the district. Observers credit Payzant, who was San Diego's superintendent from 1982 to 1993, with making much-needed progress in closing the achievement gap and say the improvements were made possible under Boston's mayoral appointment system.
In 1995 the Illinois legislature granted the mayor of Chicago the authority to appoint his own school board and take sweeping control of Chicago's school district. Since that time, many education leaders say the changes have been dramatic, with rising test scores, stiffer standards for grade promotion and high school graduation, a budget deficit reduction and restructuring of the city's lowest-performing schools. "Chicago's success demonstrates that a centralized system with a strong mayor can improve an urban school district," said a Philadelphia-based group of education leaders during their push to adopt a similar system of governance for their city in 1997. Read part two. Please contact Marsha Sutton directly firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts, ideas, personal stories or tips.
FINALLY, there is something to cheer about in SDCS during 2005 (see below). Up until now, the only good news in the past year was the election of last November. Now the wisdom of buying out Mr. Bersin's contract is obvious, and the decision by the new board to make sure they had a superintendent in place before the new school year began has already paid huge dividends.
Praise God for the new board members and John De Beck and Carl Cohn. There's a real chance now that the joy of learning for all city students can once again return to the halls of SDCS! Now maybe all those rumblings (in the U-T) about the San Diego Mayor taking over our city's schools like NYC and what's proposed for LA can be put where they belong, once and for all--in the trash can!
Free at last, free at last . . . thank God Almighty, we're free at last!
Cohn to be San Diego schools' new chief
Educator is credited with turning around Long Beach district
By Maureen Magee & Helen Gao, Union Tribune, July 23, 2005
Carl Cohn, who garnered national acclaim for turning around the Long Beach school system, will become San Diego's next superintendent.
Washington Post The San Diego school board is expected to make the announcement at a news conference today, putting an end to a superintendent search process criticized by some as too secretive.
Trustees announced 11 days ago that they had unanimously chosen a superintendent but, in an unusual move, withheld his identity pending contract negotiations.
Yesterday, district officials again declined to discuss the board's selection. However, Cohn's family acknowleged that he has accepted the job.
Educators and civic leaders were abuzz with excitement about the prospect of having such a highly regarded educator who is admired by teacher unions, academics and big-name philanthropists.
"They have one of the top superintendents in the nation by anybody's standards, who is a proven commodity for years and years," said Richard Loveall, director of executive search services for the California School Boards Association.
Under Cohn's leadership, the Long Beach Unified School District was recognized as one of the best urban districts nationwide for having made dramatic improvements in student performance, attendance and behavior.
The 97,000-student district was the first in the nation to require school uniforms for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. During his tenure, from 1992 to 2002, student absenteeism and suspensions dropped significantly.
After rising through the ranks, from teacher and counselor to the top post in California's third-largest school district, Cohn, 59, has the type of traditional résumé that the San Diego school board had sought. He also possesses the political savvy considered vital to surviving the rough-and-tumble world of urban education.
Cohn's decade-long tenure in Long Beach is triple that of an average urban superintendent. Running an urban district is a tough assignment because new trustees are elected every two years, often with new agendas, and because there is enormous pressure to raise test scores.
Longtime Long Beach school trustee Mary Stanton attributed Cohn's longevity to his people skills.
"The most important thing about Carl as a superintendent is he knew the right people to ask for help; he can attract the best and brightest," Stanton said. "As a boss, people always admired him. He had an open-door policy. You can go in and tell him anything, you never have to worry about your ideas getting shot down. He would always listen and mull it over."
In 2003, Long Beach Unified earned the prestigious $500,000 National Broad Prize for Urban Education, an achievement largely credited to Cohn's efforts.
After retiring from Long Beach, Cohn taught up-and-coming principals and superintendents at USC's Rossier School of Education and helped train school trustees and district administrators nationwide. He had been the top choice to lead the troubled Washington, D.C., school district last year but withdrew his candidacy at the last minute.
Cohn retired from USC, but he continues to teach as a visiting professor.
He will succeed Alan Bersin, who stepped down as superintendent last month after seven years of dizzying changes in the classroom and tumultuous relations with labor and the school board.
When a new board majority was elected in November, Bersin lost political support and his contract was bought out a year early. He left the San Diego district June 30 and is now the state secretary of education under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
A former U.S. Attorney and border czar, Bersin was perceived as abrasive and dictatorial; Cohn has a reputation for collaboration.
"Carl Cohn is the answer to our prayers," said Robin Whitlow, executive director of the San Diego Education Association, the union that represents nearly 9,000 teachers in the district.
In Long Beach, Cohn worked well with the teachers union.
"He has a personal style that is firm and commanding and yet not abrasive – very balanced in his approach – and he is one of these guys when he starts talking about an issue he speaks with such compelling command that people listen, and they trust him and they absolutely appreciate his sincerity," said Scott Plotkin, the executive director of the California School Board Association, who has known Cohn for 20 years.
Cohn, who was born and raised in Long Beach, was one of six children raised by a single mother who was a victim of domestic violence. According to an essay he wrote last year, his first home was in a housing project and his childhood experiences made him a passionate advocate for the disadvantaged.
He attended Catholic schools and later a seminary, at one point aspiring to join the priesthood. He earned a degree in philosophy from St. John's Seminary College in Camarillo; a master's degree in counseling from Chapman University in Orange; and a doctorate of education from UCLA.
Cohn's wife, Kathleen, is an administrator at Cal State University Long Beach. They have two children, ages 21 and 18, who are in college and who attended Long Beach public schools.
Cohn will become San Diego's second black superintendent. The first, Bertha Pendleton, ran the district from 1993 to 1998.
Former San Diego school trustee Dorothy Smith, a former Long Beach teacher, said Cohn "has a wonderful name in education in California."
Smith, who is black, said she was hopeful that Cohn would improve the chronic underperformance of black and Latino children. Like most urban districts, San Diego has struggled with a persistent achievement gap between white and some minority students. The district has a disproportionately high dropout rate among black and Latino students.
"My number one priority is to have a superintendent who will work to raise the achievement level of every single student in the district," said Smith, who left the board in 1988. "If he can do that then I will be thrilled."
With some 200 campuses, more than 130,000 students and a $1.1 billion budget, San Diego Unified is California's second-largest school district.
In addition to assuming academic and administrative duties for the San Diego Unified School District, Cohn also will be charged with healing an organization still recovering from the turmoil of the Bersin administration.
Elementary school test scores improved under Bersin, but critics say the progress came at the expense of teacher morale. While Bersin's legacy remains controversial in San Diego, his record is touted nationally by academics and philanthropists.
The San Diego school board has recently dismantled portions of his signature "Blueprint for Student Success," including eliminating key personnel installed by Bersin to boost teacher training.
It's unclear whether Cohn will scrap what remains of the blueprint or build on it. Bersin and some school board members have said they hope the new superintendent would refine the work already in place.
The new superintendent will work for a board of five bosses perceived by some education experts as micro-managers or mini-superintendents. David Marsh, associate dean for USC's education school, said Cohn has been a vital player at the university. However, it was clear to him that Cohn's work in public education was unfinished. "In the past two years, you could feel the itch growing. He would say, 'I'm not done yet.' There was more in him," Marsh said. "He's gained more perspective since he retired (from Long Beach). There is nothing like coaching others to learn about your own work."
Staff writer Kristen Green contributed to this report.
The bad and the good of Alan Bersin No surprise, I disagree with outgoing Superintendent Alan Bersin's 11th-hour rumination, "Making schools productive" (Opinion, June 5). It's true that Bersin didn't make changes "around the edge and on the margins" during his protected seven-year tenure. Indeed, his damaging legacy will take years to undo.
He eliminated a broad academic curriculum that once included art and music and theater, history, civics and social studies, a range of science and math experiences in grammar school and differentiated courses in high school. Student enrollment has dropped to 128,000 kids from 143,000 when I started on the Board of Education in 1996. Over the same period, student dropouts rose from 14 percent to almost 20 percent at last report more than a year ago.
Bersin redirected millions of Title I dollars to teacher training and then squandered the money on exorbitantly expensive outside consultants – certainly not an example of "capacity building." He replaced 84 percent of experienced principals with newbies who are learning on the job and few of whom are people of color – this, in a school district where almost 70 percent of the children are not Anglo. Any vestige of legally permitted bilingual education has been stamped out.
The "paradigm shift" we need in public education is to fund it as if it really mattered, to stop scapegoating our practitioners and really help them instead, to encourage community participation in the schools and to reject the business model in which children are referred to as "product(s)" by a self-serving business community.
Public education in this country is an essential, democratic, painstaking and deeply humane enterprise that depends on dedicated intelligent adults who engage in teaching and learning on behalf of all children. The system works best when everyone pulls together under the direction of a charismatic, committed and experienced leader.
—FRANCES O'NEILL ZIMMERMAN
San Diego Board of Education Member (1996-2004)
La Jolla , Union Tribune Letters to the editor, June 12, 2005
Bersin is Really a Regressionist, not a Reformer:
An open letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger from San Diego:
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
On 4/29/05 a national Associated Press news story and many large daily newspapers announced that you had appointed San Diego City Schools (SDCS) Superintendent Alan Bersin California’s new Secretary of Education. The same stories quoted you as saying, “Alan is a reformer, and that's what I love about him.”
Sorry, Governor, you couldn’t have been more ill-informed. Unfortunately, LA billionaire Eli Broad and his new “boy”, Alan Bersin, (Richard Riordan, exit stage right) have duped you again. You’ve made a pack with the devil—they’ve promised you money, contacts, and clout to help you win your ballot initiatives this fall, and you’ve fallen for it. Now that Mr. Bersin is “in” Sacramento (thanks to you), you’ll probably get your promised money, but that’s all. Come Election Day this November, you’ll find yourself politically alone and slowing, slowly twisting in the wind. By then, you’ll also have learned that Alan Bersin most definitely is not an educational reformer; in fact, quite the contrary.
Here are some verifiable facts concerning Mr. Bersin's record of so-called “educational reform” in San Diego obtained from state, county, and SDCS websites:
(1) Between school years 2000-2001 and 2003-2004, Mr. Bersin “redirected” (despite well-reasoned objections from parents, students, and the voting public) over $350 million from Title I funds to underwrite his “Blueprint for Success”. Before examining the results, bear in mind Mr. Bersin’s “minimum” promises when hired in 1998: (A) A substantial reduction in the “achievement gap” (the difference between how well white students and underprivileged students do on standardized tests); (B) a substantial increase in how well high school graduates test on the SAT/ACT college board entrance exams.
The actual results? The combined SAT/ACT test scores for all SDCS high school seniors showed: 2000-2001—verbal 490, math 509; 2003-2004—verbal 492, math 505.
That’s not school reform, that’s educational malpractice. And, by the way, according to the rules given the Federal Department of Education by the Congress, “redirecting” Title I funds away from Title I schools is a violation of law.
(2) The failures of Mr. Bersin in San Diego are even more chilling when we examine the “achievement gap” (AG) of high school seniors. We’ll only examine the AG for African-Americans and Latinos because together they’re the two largest underachieving groups in SDCS, currently comprising almost 60% of district enrollment. At the end of 2000-2001, the AG for Latinos was: verbal 95, math 92; African-Americans verbal 115; math 123. At the end of 2003-2004 (adjusted for the decrease in white student scores), the AG for Latinos was: verbal 104, math 102; African-Americans verbal 117, math 128.
So the facts are that the “achievement gap” in SDCS actually grew during Mr. Bersin’s administration—and this was after “redirecting” over $350 million away from district Title I schools for the “Blueprint.” And where did all that money go? To so-called “consultants” from New Zealand and their fellow-traveling “Whole Language” comrades from all over the United States—especially New York.
(3) And what about how well San Diego City parents and students liked and supported Mr. Bersin’s “reform” program (after all, if Mr. Bersin’s programs produced the great results he and Eli Broad claim, isn’t it reasonable to assume that parents (at the very least) would see the value of Mr. Bersin’s programs, and flock to SDCS?
Between September 2000 (when Mr. Bersin’s “Blueprint” was first fully implemented) and September 2004, enrollment at SDCS dropped from 142,260 to 135,807 (per SDCS)—a decrease of 6,453 students (4.5%).
During the 2001-2002 school year (second year of the “Blueprint”), student enrollment in SDCS stood at 141,599, San Diego county public school enrollment stood at 494,533, and county private school enrollment stood at 41,985. By the end of the 2003-2004 school year, county school enrollment had risen 2.4%, county private school enrollment had risen 3.6%, but SDCS enrollment had fallen 2.6%. Mr. Bersin and his PR team (larger than that of Gray Davis) blamed district enrollment loss on population decreases and/or demographics. Nonetheless, during this same time period (2001-2004, total San Diego city population rose approximately 4%.
Since 2000, at virtually every meeting members of our organization have attended (many hundreds) in connection with the evolving situation in SDCS, thousands of parents, students, and teachers have told us in person basically the same thing—that the loss in SDCS enrollment was due mostly to parents removing students from city schools because they realized Mr. Bersin’s “Blueprint” was not real reform; it was a prescription for regression.
In conclusion, Mr. Governor, it should be clear (sooner we hope than later) that you have a made a terrible mistake in selecting Mr. Bersin to not only sit on the state’s school board, but to act as your Secretary of Education. And we haven’t even mentioned (in detail) Mr. Bersin’s admitted violation of criminal law in his capacity as district Superintendent, his mismanagement of Prop MM funds, his refusal to obtain an “in-depth” audit of district books, his non-transparent use of district resources and test score results, or his six-year “reign of terror” against SDCS parents, students, teacher’s aides, non-certified district personnel, principals, assistant principals, teachers, vendors, subcontractors, general contractors, and other members of the business community.
On behalf of the innocent children and parents of California, we beseech you to reconsider your appointments of Alan D. Bersin.
Bottomline Governor, with Mr. Bersin dual appointments, you have probable lost San Diego County as a political stronghold for you and your political agenda. If you have any hope of retaining your voting majority in this county, you need to immediately “go in a different direction” from Mr. Bersin, before he and his “friends” do you any more political damage.
A child’s future is a terrible thing to waste for any reason, but especially in the name of power politics and “back-room” deals. You know that, Governor. It’s hard to believe you care so little about the future of innocent children and their families that you would inflict Messers Broad and Bersin upon the educational community of this beautiful state.
Mike MacCarthy, President, Voters for Truth in Education (VOTE)
Redevelopment: The Unknown Government
Tax Increment Diversion, Chapter 3
Excerpt: Once a redevelopment project area is created, all property tax increment within it goes directly to the agency. This means all increases in property tax revenues are diverted to the redevelopment agency and away from the cities, counties and school districts that would normally receive them.
While inflation naturally forces up expenses for public services such as education and police, their property tax revenues within a redevelopment area are thus frozen. All new revenues beyond the base year can be spent only for redevelopment purposes.
In 1997, this revenue diversion was just over $1.5 billion statewide. This means 8% of all property taxes was diverted from public services to redevelopment schemes. Even with modest inflation, the percent taken has roughly doubled every 15 years. At current trends, redevelopment agencies will consume 64% of all statewide property taxes by 2040!
If redevelopment were a temporary measure, as advocates once claimed, this diversion might be sustainable. Once an agency is disbanded, all the new property tax revenues would be restored to local governments. Legally, agencies are supposed to sunset after 40 years, but the law contains many exceptions and is easily circumvented. Of 359 redevelopment agencies created by cities statewide, only four have ever been disbanded.
Once a redevelopment project area is created, all property tax increment within it goes directly to the agency. This means all increases in property tax revenues are diverted to the redevelopment agency and away from the cities, counties and school districts that would normally receive them.
While inflation naturally forces up expenses for public services such as education and police, their property tax revenues within a redevelopment area are thus frozen. All new revenues beyond the base year can be spent only for redevelopment purposes.
In 1997, this revenue diversion was just over $1.5 billion statewide. This means 8% of all property taxes was diverted from public services to redevelopment schemes. Even with modest inflation, the percent taken has roughly doubled every 15 years. At current trends, redevelopment agencies will consume 64% of all statewide property taxes by 2040!
If redevelopment were a temporary measure, as advocates once claimed, this diversion might be sustainable. Once an agency is disbanded, all the new property tax revenues would be restored to local governments. Legally, agencies are supposed to sunset after 40 years, but the law contains many exceptions and is easily circumvented. Of 359 redevelopment agencies created by cities statewide, only four have ever been disbanded.
Finally, hard-pressed counties are well aware of the cost of this diversion, and often go to court to challenge new redevelopment areas. In 1994, the Los Angeles County Grand Jury released its exhaustive report on redevelopment, calling for more public accountability and citing its negative effects on county services. The Los Angeles County Fire Dept. stated that it lost $16 million to redevelopment diversions in 1994 alone.
School districts have also responded with lawsuits, sometimes forcing "pass-through" agreements to restore part of their lost revenue. They have levied new builder fees on residential development, thus passing the burden of redevelopment on to new renters and homeowners.
Cities themselves are impacted by redevelopment diversions. That part of the tax increment that would have gone to the cities' general fund (averaging 11%) is lost, and can now be used only by redevelopment agencies. Thus, there is now money to build auto malls and hotels, but less for police, fire fighters and librarians. Cities cannot use redevelopment money to pay for operations, public safety or maintenance, which are by far the largest share of municipal budgets.
—Unknown Government, www.redevelopment.com
A canyon in conflict
Plan for school playing field being labeled a threat to scenic spot
By Kristen Green, Union Tribune, May 11, 2005
Two years ago, a group of residents in Golden Hill won a battle to prevent the San Diego Unified School District from building an elementary school in a neighborhood canyon.
Tershia d'Elgin, trailing Mary Ann Sandersfeld and Eric Bowlby on a trek through the 32nd Street Canyon, said it would be "a real shame" if development of Golden Hill Elementary (background) extends into the canyon. They are members of the Friends of 32nd Street Canyon.
The project received community support only after school officials agreed to downsize and move it to the southeastern edge of the canyon, a more level, less scenic spot than originally proposed.
Now residents say they are fighting the district again as it pursues a plan to build a playing field on property immediately west of the new school.
District officials say a field was always planned for the second phase of the school construction and that all new schools have playing fields.
But Tershia d'Elgin, a member of Friends of 32nd Street Canyon who wrote two grants for funding to restore a streambed that runs through the canyon, said she and other members of the group feel duped.
She said filling the canyon to build a field would destroy the stream's hydrology and create radical water quality and flooding problems. Depending on the size of the field, it would also make the restoration project challenging, if not impossible. "It would just be a real shame," she said.
Fighting other fights
Battles over canyons have become increasingly common as urban growth paves over the city's open space. Canyons serve as urban parks for many residents who value the open preserves, home to wildlife and native plants.
Four years ago, residents in North Park were galvanized to fight a plan by the city's Metropolitan Wastewater Department to build access roads into Switzer Canyon – and won.
The University City community has for years debated whether to build a bridge over Rose Canyon. Some say it would relieve traffic on Genesee Avenue, but opponents argue it would degrade the canyon.
Friends of 32nd Street Canyon formed four years ago in response to the threat of development by the school district. Since the early meetings in neighborhood bars and at residents' homes, the group has attracted 150 members and received more than $55,000 in private and public funds.
The Friends group has removed thousands of pounds of trash, including tires and sofas, from the canyon during two cleanups. Last fall, the group removed two acres of the invasive arundo donax plant and replanted the area with 500 native plants, including coast lilac and deergrass.
They see the canyon as an ideal outdoor laboratory for the new elementary school. The canyon is home to the threatened plant communities of chaparral, coastal sage scrub and riparian woodland and such creatures as the California gnatcatcher, as well as foxes, coyotes, hawks, swallows and butterflies.
San Diego Education Leaders React to News of Bersin Appointment to State Posts
By MARSHA SUTTON, Voice Education Writer, May 2, 2005
Reaction from local education leaders ranged from wary to jubilant over the announcement Friday that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had named outgoing San Diego Unified School District Superintendent Alan Bersin as his next Secretary for Education.
Few were shocked about the cabinet appointment, saying Bersin was the logical choice after current Secretary for Education Richard Riordan resigned last week. But many expressed surprise that Bersin was also chosen by Schwarzenegger to serve on the state Board of Education.
It is unprecedented that an education secretary, largely an advisory position, has simultaneously been a member of the powerful state board, so many view this as an unmistakable signal that the governor expects Bersin to play a major role in shaping education policy.
The following local education leaders offered their comments on the appointments, the message it sends and how San Diego may be affected.
John de Beck, SDUSD trustee:
"It's a perfect match, Alan and the governor. I don't agree with either of them. They're both macho guys. Alan's saying the right stuff. Politically, it's the right thing for Alan. They're aligned as far as their philosophy about teachers."
The message to the teachers' union is that] it's a declaration of war. Alan Bersin has for the whole seven years never negotiated a teachers' contract. He believes the unions are a problem for advancing education, but the cooperation he wants is all one way. Alan's biggest weakness is compromise. I never felt Alan's attitude toward labor was Democratic."
He hasn't got any power in this new job [as education secretary]; it's just advisory. But the seat on the state board is more powerful. Working with [State Superintendent for Public Instruction] Jack O'Connell will be like mixing oil and water. Alan doesn't have the same depth of education knowledge."
I can't imagine that [Bersin will bring more resources to San Diego]. Why would Alan divert money from other areas? This brings Alan to the forefront, not San Diego."
Terry Pesta, president of the San Diego Education Association (SDUSD's teachers' union):
"The secretary for education is a useless bureaucracy. We already have an elected state superintendent for public instruction. It's a shame to put anyone in there. The governor could have used the opportunity after Riordan resigned to have left it open.
"Alan Bersin has no track record of consensus. He hasn't learned how to work with teachers and parents. I don't think he'll accomplish much. He's left the district in disarray. He promised they'd double test scores, but overall they've been flat. We have not out-performed the rest of the county. It's taken a human toll. He's wasted money on outside consultants, and the principals have been taught to lead by intimidation. Before, we had strong site-based management.
"[Bersin and the governor] are two of a kind. They've shown they're both anti-public education and anti-union. Eventually the governor's agenda will go down in flames."
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman, former SDUSD trustee:
"This means little or nothing for education in California. The position was an invented position by Pete Wilson to undercut the elected position of the state superintendent of public instruction who is often of the opposite political party, as is the case now. His seat on the [state] board was tossed in there to sweeten the deal.'
Alan is a titular Democrat - he's no Democrat by my standards. From a political point of view, he and Arnold have a lot in common. He will harm the governor, and both will plummet in public standing. Alan is not a people person, not an education person. Alan is a very abrasive figure. His real forte is public relations. This will further inflame the teachers of California."
City Lights, March 3, 2005
Words from his sponsor Ex-New York
Times correspondent turned public-TV documentarian Hedrick Smith parachuted into
town last week to shoot his take on the long, controversial saga of soon-to-depart
San Diego Unified School District chief Alan Bersin. Though
Smith reassured those he interviewed that the show about the district's "reforms"
under Bersin would be carefully balanced between Bersin backers and detractors,
skeptical anti-Bersinitas point to a description of the program on the website
of the L.A.-based Broad Foundation. "The Foundation is one of a consortium
of funders supporting the production of a national primetime PBS documentary entitled
'Schools That Work' by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hedrick Smith,"
the Broad site says. "The documentary will highlight school districts and
models of reform that have demonstrated success at improving student achievement
and narrowing achievement gaps, including Houston, San Diego, and the former District
2 in New York City." In the summer of 2000, the Broad Foundation, run by
billionaire Democrat developer Eli Broad, gave $170,000 to two small East
Coast liberal foundations that ended up contributing about the same amount of
money to a nasty $720,000 TV-ad campaign designed to defeat avid Bersin foe
Frances Zimmerman in her school-board reelection race. The Broad Foundation
later insisted it had nothing to do with those contributions. In November 2002,
Broad personally poured $65,000 into last-minute hit pieces against school-board
candidates and Bersin critics Jeff Lee and John de Beck. "I made an independent
expenditure because I want to see the dramatic improvements in student achievement
continue in San Diego," Broad said in a statement at the time. Incumbent
de Beck won; Lee lost. Last November, Broad again came through with $45,000
for campaign attacks on Lee's wife Mitz Lee, who won her race on an overt
promise to dump Bersin.
Teacher credential processing is swamped, The waiting time now is four months, and officials don't hold out much hope for improvement.
By Clea Benson -- Bee Capitol Bureau, Sacramento Bee, 6/26/05
At the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, staff is not answering any e-mail until July 5. They're taking calls only five hours a day. Backlogged by a recent switch to a new computer system and by staff cuts, the 21 employees who issue and renew credentials are working on mandatory overtime to sift through about 63,000 pending applications.
Though state law requires the commission to process credentials within 75 days, officials said the current waiting period has ballooned to about four months. Because of the wait, some colleges are providing their teacher graduates with letters vouching that they qualify for credentials so that they will be able to get jobs before the commission gets around to issuing the actual credentials. And the Legislature is considering merging the independent commission into the Department of Education for better oversight. If the workers aren't able to catch up with the credential overload, "I don't know what we are going to do, to be honest," said Dale Janssen, director of the credentialing division of the commission. "We have lost so much staff in the last year."
The credential backlog is just the latest complication for the commission, which has had financial problems in recent years due to a decline in the number of credentials it issues. The commission was almost $3 million over budget this year and expects a shortfall of $4 million in next year's budget of nearly $51 million. State law allows applicants to get a refund of their $55 filing fees if they don't get their credential within the 75-day period, a situation that could exacerbate the budget problem.
The commission, which has an appointed board, sets standards for teacher education and disciplines teachers who violate professional practices. But its role certifying teachers is the major part of its staff workload, with about 220,000 applications coming in a year. Commission officials say they are hit with a confluence of problems: The commission, which supports itself with revenues from credential and teacher-testing fees, has seen a decline in the number of teachers applying for emergency credentials.
Hiring on an emergency basis, which skyrocketed after the state implemented class-size reductions in 1996, is dropping. In addition, the commission's budget has been out of balance since fees were reduced from $70 to $55 in 2001. The commission dropped fees in part to give a break to teachers with emergency credentials who had to pay to renew annually.
Regular credentials must be renewed only once every five years. The state addressed the budget problems, in part, with staff cuts. The number of credential specialists has dropped from 30 to 21 in the past two years. A new computer system went online in February, and it was supposed to make up for the loss in staff with increased productivity. Instead, staff have been stuck in what Janssen called a "learning curve" in the switch from the antiquated old system to new, Windows-based technology. "It hurts when you have a system where you have a learning curve, and you were down (staff) in the first place," Janssen said. "It takes people time." Virginia Dixon, associate dean of the College of Education at California State University, Sacramento, said the university is giving letters to its graduates to ensure that students don't have trouble proving they qualify for jobs.
"While (the backlog at the credentialing commission) has delayed it for our candidates, we haven't had a problem," she said. But Clark Kelso, the state's chief information officer, said the state would be keeping a close watch on whether the commission is able to make up for lost time by the end of the year with its existing staff.
While applicants will eventually get their credentials, he said, there is clearly a "bureaucratic and a customer service problem, and a serious one." "We took staff out of that commission on the assumption there would be improvements in productivity because of this (new computer) system," Kelso said. "That's one we're going to watch carefully because obviously in the transition period, they've had a little difficulty." Assemblyman Mervyn Dymally, D-Compton, is planning to convene a task force on how the commission can improve.
The Bureau of State Audits last year issued a report titled "The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing: It Could Better Manage Its Credentialing Responsibilities," in which auditors criticized the commission's handling of the credential workload. In response to the audit, Dymally also introduced AB 123, which would seek better oversight of the independent commission by merging it into the Department of Education.
Hearings on the bill are planned for the fall. "A lot of people graduate in May and are trying to get provisional credentials, and a lot of times people are delayed past their hire date, which starts in early August," said Warren Quann, a spokesman for Dymally. "We're still looking at a way to speed up the process."
Meanwhile, the 15 appointed members of the commission tried earlier this year to solve the budget problem by raising credential fees back up to $70.
Schools Chief To Leave At End Of School Year, Financial Details Of Deal Not Released
4:24 pm PST Jan. 27 UPDATED: 5:45 pm PST Jan 27, 2005
-- The San Diego Unified School Board and Superintendent Alan Bersin
announced Thursday afternoon that he would leave his post at the end of the school
The board approved a modification of Bersin's contract by a 4-0
margin. Board President Luis Acle abstained from voting.
While the financial
details of Bersin's buyout have been worked out with the board, those specifics
have not yet been made public. Acle said the details will be released later as
part of a formal agreement. Acle did say that all the parties had worked together
on how the issue was resolved.
"This outcome means that we will continue
for the rest of the school year to work together," said Acle. "The main
feature of this agreement is that it is a collaborative agreement as opposed to
a confrontational agreement.
For his part, Bersin, who had said that he would
not seek a renewal of his contract, told NBC 7/39 he looked forward to completing
the school year before making his departure.
"I'm eager to finish the
last half of the school year, to work with our teachers and our principals and
staff to continue to improve student achievement, and to work with this board
to see that there is smooth and deliberate transition," said Bersin.
situation heated up between the board and Bersin in November 2004, when the San
Diego Education Association submitted 40,000 signatures from teachers and parents
in a petition urging the board to remove Bersin. The organizers of the petition
were frustrated about the superintendent's costly Blueprint for Student Success
The program forced low-performing, low-revenue schools to
spend money to hire peer coaches. The schools no longer have to do so because
of a new board policy. The petition was also critical of Bersin's management style,
arguing that he excluded teachers from major decisions and that he hired too many
consultants and midlevel administrators.
board freezes spending on math, literacy consultants, Trustee says district experts
can do jobs
By Helen Gao, Union tribune, January 12, 2005
The San Diego school board voted last night to freeze spending on math and
literacy consultants and discussed returning the savings to schools to ease deep
cuts made in recent years to library, counseling and maintenance staffs.
board voted 4-1 but agreed to consider hiring consultants on a case-by-case basis
if needs arise. Trustee Katherine Nakamura opposed the freeze, saying teachers
need the support and training the consultants provide. She reflected the sentiments
of more than two dozen principals and teachers who spoke at the meeting.
district spokesman said it was unclear if the freeze would affect money already
allocated but not yet spent for consultant contracts. District staff members will
work today to clarify how to carry out the board's direction.
could not say how many consultants would be affected. However, a district report
shows that San Diego Unified has 129 instructional consultants under contract,
some recruited from as far away as New Zealand and Australia. That figure does
not include consultants who work in special education, gifted-student programs
and other specialty areas.
Some of the instructional consultants are hired
by schools and some by the central office. The consultant contracts for the
current school year and part of the next total an estimated $2 million.
John de Beck, who proposed the freeze, said experts within the district can take
over the work consultants have been doing. The San Diego Education Association,
the teachers union, takes the same position.
For 61„2 years under the
leadership of Superintendent Alan Bersin, the district has invested heavily in
consultants to train staff. With the state poised to make further cuts to education,
de Beck said it was time to stop pouring money into consultants.
is a collective expertise in this district that can accomplish anything those
external consultants have provided," said de Beck, a former teacher who
has done work as a consultant for other districts.
new S.D. school trustees sworn in, Acle installed as board president
Helen Gao, Union Tribune, December 7, 2004
The San Diego
Unified School District yesterday swore in three newly elected trustees and then
installed two of them as president and vice president of the five-member board,
promising new leadership, unity and healing from past divisiveness.
three hundred supporters of the new board members Luis Acle, Shelia Jackson
and Mitz Lee attended the ceremony at the district's Normal Street headquarters.
They greeted the trustees with standing ovations.
Acle, a former substitute
teacher, was chosen by the board as president, a ceremonial post that puts him
at the center of the dais to run meetings. The selection of the president
took six rounds of balloting with the board deadlocked between Acle and Jackson,
a former elementary school teacher and Navy medic. Trustee Katherine Nakamura
broke the tie by switching her vote for Jackson to Acle, both of whom she considered
to be highly qualified.
Lee, a travel agent and parent advocate who ran
on a platform to get rid of Superintendent Alan Bersin, was elected vice president.
Acle and Lee will work with Bersin to shape board meeting agendas,
and represent the school board at community events.
Nakamura, who often
supported Bersin's reform efforts, was adamant that newly elected trustees serve
as board officers to represent a clean break from the past, and therefore did
not support fellow trustee John de Beck for president. De Beck has been a vocal
critic of Bersin.
Acle asked for the public's support to overcome the divisiveness
that has dominated the board since 1998 when Bersin instituted his reform plan,
the Blueprint for Student Success.
"I want you to join in an effort
to reunite, to heal wounds, to come together to focus on classroom instructions
and operations of schools, to be rigorous in terms of our management of funds,
to be fair, to be honest, to be people of integrity," said Acle, to thunderous
The new majority takes office facing financial challenges due to
shrinking enrollment, as well as pressure to raise academic achievement under
the federal No Child Left Behind law.
Typically, the board president and vice
president serve one-year terms.
Acle, who impressed observers with his reasoned
answers and gentlemanly manners during election debates, succeeds outgoing board
member and president Ron Ottinger. Lee succeeds Nakamura.
Ottinger, an ardent
supporter of Bersin's reforms, leaves along with board ally Edward Lopez and Bersin
critic Frances O'Neill Zimmerman. Ottinger, Nakamura and Lopez made up the majority
that frequently backed Bersin.
The new board majority generally has been
critical of Bersin's reforms and leadership style, but only one of them
Lee wants to buy out his contract before it ends in 2006. Lee made
no mention of that campaign promise yesterday but did say her top priority is
"Today, I am reaffirming my commitment,
as I promised during the campaign, to bring trust and confidence back to our Board
of Education," said Lee, who also asked the new board to shun "special
interests whose agendas do not serve our children."
Acle and Jackson
oppose an early contract buyout, which could cost the district $250,000 to $283,000.
They want to work with the superintendent to make changes and heal relations strained
by his reforms.
But already, the new board is under pressure to remove
The San Diego Education Association, the union representing teachers,
librarians and other certificated staff, has initiated a signature petition and
a radio campaign urging the new board to oust Bersin.
The new trustees have
reacted coolly to the association's campaign, saying the new board should be trusted
and left alone to make decisions in the best interest of the public.
Three new trustees for S.D. schools
By Maureen Magee and Helen Gao, November 4, 2004
San Diego voters have sent a message to the education establishment. They want change.
They want a school board that is independent. And flexible. And with minimal ties to special-interest groups.
For a fresh start and new brand of governance, voters selected travel agent Mitz Lee, substitute teacher Luis Acle and former teacher Shelia Jackson. They were chosen over candidates financed by business and labor leaders.
Even Superintendent Alan Bersin said the election results indicate the need to take the San Diego Unified School District in a different direction. The reign of the infamously divided board that for six years has advanced Bersin's reforms 3-2 will preside over its final meeting next week.
"I think the outcome . . . indicated a desire for a new direction," said Bersin, who reaffirmed his intent yesterday to complete his contract through mid-2006.
Unlike past elections, this school board contest did not play out as a referendum on the superintendent.
"It really is a new day," Bersin said. "Trying to force people into the old categories, for or against the blueprint, for or against the superintendent, is not a constructive way or accurate way to portray the situation."
With the exception of Lee, who has advocated buying out the superintendent's contract, the candidates have been more nuanced in their positions. They want to work with Bersin. But the trustees-elect say there needs to be swift changes in Bersin's "Blueprint for Student Success" reform package.
"The message is that voters are not buying the blueprint," said Sam Salazar, president of the San Diego High School Alumni Association, a close-knit group that is part of the city's strong grass-roots education network.
With a focus on literacy, math and teacher training, the blueprint has delivered mixed results. The most dramatic success has been in early elementary grades.
Some say it is no accident that Lee, the harshest Bersin critic on the ballot, was elected handily. She won nearly 60 percent of the votes to defeat scientist Miyo Reff, herself a longtime education advocate and fund-raiser. Local and out-of-town business leaders donated generously to Reff's campaign.
"Voters have spoken, they don't think the reform is working," said Lee, whose husband ran unsuccessfully for a school board seat two years ago.
With an endorsement from her predecessor outspoken trustee Frances O'Neill Zimmerman Lee will represent the northern reaches of the city in District A. Lee said she will carry on Zimmerman's established role as the region's watchdog trustee.
Denise Ouellette, who has three children in the district and one in college, said she grappled with whom to vote for in District A.
"I did feel like voting for Mitz Lee was voting against Bersin," said Ouellette, a parent activist in Scripps Ranch. "I was a huge proponent of giving Bersin a chance when he first came in."
"I just feel like the status quo isn't working," she said. "I am very disheartened by the tenor of the school board, I just think, I don't know if things are worse than when Bersin came in, I think they are bad in a different way."
Education-minded voters in San Diego seemed to dismiss much of the propaganda put out by the teachers union and business community.
Instead, they promoted candidates through e-mail. They distributed fliers door to door. And they talked to parents and teachers at school and on the soccer fields.
The San Diego Education Association endorsed only one candidate, retired district administrator Sharon Whitehurst-Payne in District E.
Whitehurst-Payne's campaign was also the recipient of large donations from businessmen and allies of Bersin, which some say alienated voters. She lost to Jackson, a former teacher and Navy medic whose firsthand accounts of working under the blueprint resonated with voters at various forums leading up to Election Day.
"Teachers want more say over what goes on in the classroom," said Jackson, who fell out of favor with the union over an endorsement selection two years ago. "I fully intend to support teachers. But the teachers have to know that the union leadership is going to be supportive of them."
Walter Kudumu, executive director for the Center for Parent Involvement, a nonprofit group that works to empower inner-city parents, said the big-money contributions hurt candidates and unfairly branded them as pro-Bersin.
"People don't like the money pouring in like that," said Kudumu, who endorsed Whitehurst-Payne. "Folks want to make sure that those who are serving them are doing it from the heart and not for some kind of payoff."
Like Jackson, Acle, whose early campaign was largely unfunded, believes his recent teaching experience appealed to voters. He also thinks he came away as the most fair and impartial candidate.
"It is clear, voters want change," said Acle, who said his opponent, Benjamin Hueso, was hurt by endorsements from each member of the board majority. "It will be an independent school board in San Diego."
unions' radio ads rap Bersin, Aim is to pressure three new trustees
By Maureen Magee, Union Tribune, December 2, 2004
and local teachers unions have taken their gripes against Superintendent Alan
Bersin to the airwaves.
Radio advertisements that began airing this week
criticize Bersin and put pressure on three newly elected San Diego school trustees
to rein him in. The campaign all but calls for the board to oust the superintendent
some 18 months before his contract expires.
"Let your school board members
know it's time that San Diego had a superintendent who will listen, . . . "
a woman tells listeners in the ad.
Two of the three trustees-elect characterized
the ads as misguided and premature, and suggested that the union may be hurting
its own image. However, union officials say they are attempting to open lines
of communication between the board and the district's employees.
don't see it as pressure," said teachers union chief Terry Pesta. "We
are supporting the board, urging them to do as they promised throughout the campaign:
to cede Bersin's power and really put the school board back in control."
Pesta said teachers want the board to know they want a voice in developing
reforms and an end to Bersin's "top-down management style."
teachers union has been at odds with Bersin since he was hired in 1998. The superintendent's
reforms and management decisions were carried out by a narrow board majority that
ended with the election of three new trustees.
The county registrar of
voters certified the election results Tuesday, a week before Luis Acle, Shelia
Jackson and Mitz Lee are scheduled to be sworn into office at the district's Normal
The three won election without endorsements from the
teachers union, which backed a losing candidate in just one of the three races.
All three of the trustees-elect criticized Bersin in their campaigns.
But only Lee openly called for a buyout of the superintendent's contract.
Acle and Jackson said they were surprised the union spent its money on radio ads
after the election. The union declined to say how much was spent on the campaign.
"Not only did the union not endorse me, they went against me. And now
they want to tell me what to do. It doesn't make sense," said Jackson, a
former district teacher. "I heard what the voters said. We don't need the
teachers union telling us what to do before we even take office. We need the teachers
union to take care of the teachers."
The minute-long radio spots, which
can be heard on 11 local stations, began airing Monday and will continue through
Dec. 14. The ads feature several women, parents and a former San Diego teacher
of the year complaining about Bersin.
"After years of turmoil, it's time
the school board took back control of our schools," a woman says in the opening.
Acle said, "I'm not sure if there is a great logical reason for this.
All three of us were openly critical of the superintendent. Maybe the views of
the CTA and the leadership of SDEA are a little outside the bell curve of how
most people feel."
The radio advertisements expand a postelection petition
Shortly after the November voting, the teachers union and the local
chapter of the California School Employees Association, which together represent
about 15,000 San Diego Unified School District teachers and school workers, began
distributing copies of petitions calling for an end to "Bersin's monopoly
of failed educational initiatives."
The superintendent is out of
town and was unavailable to discuss the union's campaign.
Since Bersin was
hired in 1998, test scores have risen in some elementary grades, but his Blueprint
for Student Success reform initiative has been less successful in secondary grades.
Stories, December 2, 2004
Dinner at eight Embattled
San Diego Unified school superintendent Alan Bersin is already
trying to make amends with those three new board members elected against his wishes
who will take office next week, but his first olive-branch offering may
have come close to violating the state's open-meeting law, otherwise known as
the Brown Act. In an e-mail message dated November 17, Bersin's second-in-command
Leslie Fausset invited the new board to a fancy dinner in San Francisco, where
an education conference is being held, on Tuesday, November 30, or Wednesday,
December 1. "We're looking forward to spending some time getting to know
each other and opening lines of communication. Thank you!!" Newly elected
board member Luis Acle replied: "I am very much in favor of getting to know
each other and opening lines of communication. Would all five (next term) Trustees
be present at the same time? Is there a Brown Act problem? Would an objective
observer conclude that we are not going to discuss 'business'? P.S. Dinner
in San Francisco sounds extremely attractive, but could it be that we might
better open our lines of communication in an open office setting?" Responded
Fausett: "The dinner that we are proposing is purely social. We would certainly
not discuss district business or policy and would, in fact, stay away from discussion
about education. I have asked our General Counsel to provide some guidelines for
us so that we will all be protected. The San Francisco location was recommended
because we will all be in the City, I believe." That brought a response
from board veteran John de Beck: "I would suggest that a reporter representing
some San Diego media be invited to assure the 'social context.' At a minimum,
they should be notified of the time and place of this meeting. This needs to be
monitored by more than our good will. Folks will refer to this meeting as
evidence of 'untold conspiracies', no matter what we say. A media witness is essential."
To which Fausset replied: "Absolutely!" This Tuesday de Beck reported
that, because of the questions raised by the board members, the dinner had been
doesnt this City about the safety of our school children?
Dec. 2, at Council, Councilmember Zucchet moved forward the Explorer Academy
going on Naval Training Center.
According to the City; State and Aeronautic
laws on health, safety and toxic risks dont apply if the City gives the
land to a developer, then he gives it away (McMillin gets a mega tax write-off,
so the public loses tax revenu).
- State law says the school has to be
1,500 feet from the jet fuel line. The school will be less than 150 ft. away.
the Rock Church (100 ft. from the Explorer Academy bldg.) process, the Navy first
lied saying there had never been any breaks in the jet fuel line. At the following
SD Planning Commission the Navy came back and said. SEVEN breaks had accrued.
The Jan. 2004 Airport Authority report, the Peninsula Community Planning
Board received, said the whole Rock Church building is under the 70 decibel
level. How can it drop to 60 decibel 100 ft away at the Explorer Academy building?
... By using old reports from 1990s. The bad air quality issues referenced in
the report werent addressed by Council.
- The Coastal Commission originally
approved the plans for an Adult School, NOT a childrens school.
parents from La Jolla have done their own research and are not going to have their
children go to the Explorer Academy when it moves to NTC. We hope more parents
will take precautions when it come to the safety of their children.
Peters Disregaurd for Our Childrens Safety
has reversed a decision made last year and recently voted in closed session to
have the City appeal the Superior Court ruling in favor of the Torrey Hillls Community
in regard to the community's suit against increasing traffic and allowing hazardous
waste to be used next to the neighborhood elementary school. More retribution
against our little community, but against children? .
principals win case against district, Judge: 11 demoted in '99 should get their
By Maureen Magee,
Union Tribune, November 6, 2004
Plaintiffs' attorney George "Bill"
Shaeffer congratulated former principals Jose Melcher and Alex Cremidan, who went
from principal at Whitman Elementary School to physical education teacher.
School unions push for superintendent's ouster
Nearly a dozen San Diego
school principals stripped of their management duties during a 1999 personnel
shake-up led by Superintendent Alan Bersin should get their jobs back in addition
to lost pay and benefits, a Superior Court judge ruled yesterday.
part of a series of swift, controversial changes made soon after his arrival as
superintendent, Bersin recommended that 15 principals and vice principals be reassigned
to teaching positions.
San Diego Superior Court Judge William Pate said the
district violated its own procedures when it demoted the educators without giving
them due process.
Attorneys representing the district are preparing to
appeal the case. They insisted the employees were not demoted; rather they were
legally reassigned without any intent to punish them. They also said the now-defunct
due-process procedure, which would have allowed the educators to discuss the cause
of their demotions with the superintendent and trustees, violated state law.
can't leave my common sense at the door," said Pate, a former Coronado school
board trustee. "You can call it whatever you want, it's a demotion. It's
clearly a demotion under any use of the English language."
estimates, the judgment could cost the San Diego Unified School District well
over $1 million in retroactive salaries, benefits and legal fees.
the 15 demoted educators are represented in the lawsuit. All but three have retired.
Sitting in the courtroom yesterday, they pumped their fists and wiped away tears
as the ruling was announced.
"It's amazing. The message is you can't
treat good people so badly, so unfairly," said Anne Tracy Bolton, who
was assigned a teaching job after losing her post as principal at University City
The school board voted unanimously to approve the demotions
in June 1999. Afterward, the administrators were put on a two-week administrative
leave, escorted to their offices by police officers and armed security guards
and ordered to remove their belongings.
The district contends that
the employees were reassigned because their leadership skills were out of step
with the new direction of the school system under Bersin. However, several of
the plaintiffs had glowing performance evaluations and supervised schools where
Bersin declined to discuss the ruling yesterday, instead
referring questions to a district lawyer.
"These were principals that
didn't have the skill set to implement the reforms," said attorney Ricardo
Soto, who added that the judge's school board experience may have hurt the district's
case. Furthermore, public officials are legally blameless for these kinds of decisions
except in cases of incompetence or when the law has knowingly been violated, he
Contrary to the confidential tone of most delicate personnel situations,
Bersin's treatment of the matter was considered brazen. The media were provided
a list of the reassigned educators' names, and TV crews subsequently camped outside
some of the principals' homes.
Many educators have said the demotions
fueled perceptions that the U.S. attorney-turned-superintendent was an intimidating
force and not to be questioned.
The personnel shake-up came less than a year
into Bersin's tenure and helped establish his reputation as a top-down manager.
Principals, fearful of losing their jobs, often enforced Bersin's reforms so
forcefully that many teachers developed a resentment for the programs and the
"The whole district fell under this cloud of worry
and fear. He did it deliberately," said Barry Bernstein, who lost his
job as principal at Angier Elementary School. "Will this ruling help lift
the cloud? This, and a new school board, just might."
Most of the
demoted educators accepted classroom positions and pay cuts ranging from $12,000
to $35,000 a year.
San Diego Superior Court Judge William Pate, a former Coronado
school board trustee, said San Diego Unified violated its own procedures when
it demoted the administrators without giving them due process.
Diego Administrators Association and the San Diego Education Association contributed
to the educators' legal fund. But over the years, the determined group scrimped
and sacrificed to pay attorney fees.
Brenda Campbell, for example, lost her
job running the ALBA alternative school. She accepted a position teaching English
at Mission Bay High School, but said she was forced to take a second job at National
University to pay for her daughter's college tuition.
Similarly, Alex Cremidan
went from principal at Whitman Elementary School to physical education teacher.
After the pay cut, he told his USC-bound son that the family couldn't afford the
tuition, so his son went to UC San Diego.
"It was hard," Cremidan
said. "I don't think any job is beneath anyone. But my first day wheeling
out the P.E. cart, that was tough."
Soto plans to brief the school board
on the case Tuesday during a closed-door meeting. It will be the current board's
final meeting before three newly elected trustees take office next month. He said
the case should be appealed.
But two of the three trustees-elect
Shelia Jackson and Luis Acle have said they want to reinstate the principals.
And trustee John de Beck would not support an appeal.
to all of the administrators long ago," de Beck said. "I never should
have voted for it. I have always regretted it. . . . I went along with it because
I gave Bersin the benefit of the doubt."
During a candidates forum
before Tuesday's election, Acle called the 1999 demotions disgraceful.
said yesterday that any decision regarding an appeal belongs to the new board.
"I don't think we should go against the judge's ruling."
decision is tentative until he finalizes it within about 10 days. In the meantime,
the plaintiffs and their lawyer will decide how to tally the back pay and benefits
owed to them. They also will request that the district reimburse their attorney
fees, which so far have reached nearly half a million dollars.
When the case
was in federal court, which was determined to be the wrong jurisdiction, the district
hired outside lawyers. District officials could not provide the amount spent on
attorney fees yesterday. However, Soto said, the Superior Court case has been
paid for entirely by the district's liability insurance policy.
Some of the
educators said they might come out of retirement to reclaim their jobs. Others
have no plans to rekindle any kind of relationship with the district.
George "Bill" Shaeffer, who represents the educators, said the significance
of the case goes beyond the legal system.
"There were rules in
place, and Alan Bersin came in and decided he didn't have to follow them,"
he said. "But more importantly, this was about human beings and how
you treat people."
By Matt Potter, San Diego Reader, November 18, 2004
was repeating itself. What happened in 2002, and before that, in 2000, was happening
again. Big bucks began to show up in San Diego. Much of this money came from wealthy
out-of-towners. Where this money went was to the campaigns of three San Diego
Unified school-board candidates. The money arrived in five- and six-figure
contributions to campaign committees with names like that of the Marin County-based
"Independent Committee to Support Local Schools" and the "San Diego
Lincoln Club." These committees had no apparent ties to the candidates.
Many mailings and radio ads didn't even mention the candidates. Instead, they
attacked their opponents. "Our Children Can't Afford Mitz Lee on Our School
Board!" read a piece sent by the "Independent Committee to Support Local
Schools." "Mitz Lee says she wants to buy out the Superintendent's contract
early -- at a cost of nearly $400,000! That's a lot of money to pay a person not
to work! The last thing our school board needs is Mitz Lee and her financial mismanagement."
Spots featuring Republican district attorney Bonnie Dumanis aired on the radio,
courtesy of the GOP's Lincoln Club, praising Lee's opponent, chamber of commerce
favorite Miyo Ellen Reff. Reff also was backed by the AFL-CIO's San Diego labor
council, which is often allied with the chamber on growth, construction, and possible
development of vacant school property. The labor council spent $26,000 on Reff's
It was much the same for two other board candidates endorsed
by the chamber: Ben Hueso, a city redevelopment manager and longtime friend and
associate of San Diego city councilman Ralph Inzunza, and Sharon Whitehurst-Payne,
a member of the city's Southeastern San Diego Development Corp. She was
defeated by former schoolteacher and Navy medic, Shelia Jackson, who did not enjoy
establishment support and was vastly outspent.
Hueso, who was endorsed
by the three-member school-board majority that favored Bersin, benefited from
at least $35,650 in mailings paid for by the Independent Committee for School
Reform, according to official disclosure filings. Much of that expenditure
was funded by a $35,000 loan to the committee from Mel Katz, a temporary-employment
firm owner with close ties to outgoing board member Ron Ottinger. Hueso also received
at least $10,000 in support from the AFL-CIO's San Diego Labor Council.
opponent, Luis Acle, a conservative Republican and former official in the Reagan
administration, also received support from the Lincoln Club, but the $2800 that
the group spent in mailers on his behalf was small compared to the $131,000 total
the club lavished on behalf of its favorites, Reff and Whitehurst-Payne. Thirty
thousand dollars of that came from a last-minute contribution by billionaire John
Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and a charter-school advocate who
lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The Independent Committee for Local Schools
is a "paper" committee run out of the Mill Valley offices of Vigo "Chip"
Nielsen, a lawyer who specializes in setting up and servicing campaign-finance
committees for Republican causes. San Diego's Lincoln Club, a group of
wealthy Republicans, has evolved into a cash conduit for donors who want to
shield their identity from the public. The so-called independent expenditures
of the political committees also allow big-money donors to avoid the district's
$500-per-person limit on contributions to school-board races.
For her part,
Whitehurst-Payne got at least $118,000 in support of her campaign from the San
Diego Education Association, the teachers' union, which endorsed her candidacy.
She also had the advantage of at least $32,000 in radio commercials purchased
by the Lincoln Club.
Who else was putting up the big bucks, and what were their
motives? As mail hit doorsteps in early November, campaign disclosure statements
revealed a familiar story with a cast known to those who have followed the six-year
saga of Alan Bersin and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce's attempts to take over
the school board.
At the top of the list is Eli Broad, a Los Angeles
billionaire who made his fortune building houses and in the insurance business.
According to campaign filings, on October 25, Broad contributed $45,000 to
the Independent Committee to Support Local Schools; the contribution was earmarked
to defeat Mitz Lee. Broad's close friend and political ally, Richard Riordan,
the ex-Los Angeles mayor who now serves as education secretary to Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger, gave $5000.
A champion of public school "reform,"
Democrat Broad, a longtime Bersin ally, has a history of hiding his financial
support of the superintendent's efforts to retool the school district.
involvement in San Diego school politics dates back to summer and fall 2000, when
Padres owner John Moores (along with Moores's partner, downtown real estate mogul
Malin Burnham) and Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs spent more than $720,000 on a
campaign of television spots attacking Democratic board incumbent Frances Zimmerman
and her opposition to Bersin's policies.
The commercials opened with a
shot of students walking down a hallway. A photograph of a frowning Zimmerman
was superimposed on the image while a male baritone voice intoned, "School
board member Fran Zimmerman is leading the fight against San Diego's back-to-basics
reform plan." After listing a series of Zimmerman's anti-Bersin votes, the
voice concluded, "Tell Fran Zimmerman to stop voting against back-to-basics
school reform. Because it's working."
Broad's efforts to avoid identification
with the campaign went further. Records reveal his plan to escape detection involved
two foundations from the East Coast, which gave a total of $157,000 to the
anti-Zimmerman effort: $100,000 from Essential Information, Inc., of Washington,
D.C., and $57,000 from Public Interest Projects of New York.
The two tax-exempt
organizations seemed unlikely sources of such money. Founded in 1982, Essential
Information was run by Russell Mokhiber, a then-46-year-old veteran of '60s and
'70s left-wing politics who'd made a career of bashing America's corporate culture.
foundation's website said that Mokhiber -- who grew up in Niagara Falls, New York,
the child of working-class parents, and later worked for Ralph Nader -- was "one
of the nation's leading authorities on corporate crime, is the editor of the Corporate
Crime Reporter, a legal weekly, and the author of Corporate Crime and Violence:
Big Business Power and the Abuse of the Public Trust."
are the only criminal class that has so marinated the law-making process with
their money that they both define the law and influence enforcement of the law,"
Mokhiber told Florida's St. Petersburg Times in 1997. In 1999 he told the New
York Times, "Corporate crime is crime without shame. It's gotten to the point
where when a corporation pleads guilty to some criminal act, the stock goes up."
Based on his biography, Mokhiber seemed an unlikely partner for capitalists Moores
The second foundation, Public Interest Projects, was more elusive.
Its president, Donald Ross, is a Democratic lobbyist and longtime liberal activist
in New York and Washington who founded the Ralph Nader-sponsored New York Public
Interest Research Group in 1973. He and his partner, attorney Arthur Malkin, lobbied
for the New York state trial attorneys' organization, which often pitted them
against the state's business community.
Like Essential Information, Inc.,
Public Interest Projects had no history of contributing to education issues.
No one from either foundation would respond to queries from a reporter as to why
they gave sizable donations to a campaign against a San Diego school-board member.
than two years later, after the foundations filed 2000 tax returns, it became
clear that Eli Broad had used his own nonprofit, tax-exempt foundation to funnel
his contributions to the two eastern charities that had given the money to the
anti-Zimmerman advertising campaign.
A May 2001 tax return showed that
in 2000, the Broad Foundation contributed $110,000 to Essential Information, according
to a letter signed by Broad himself. "I am pleased to inform you that
the Broad Foundation has approved your recent grant request to support Essential
Information's efforts to encourage citizens to become active in public education
issues in their communities.
"We are impressed with your prior work
in disseminating education and other urban economic development information through
conferences, journal articles, books, and reports. We are pleased to be able to
support you as you continue this important work."
In a similar letter
to Public Interest Projects, Broad wrote that his foundation had approved a $60,000
grant to support Public Interest Projects' "efforts to increase citizen
awareness of the need for urban school reform."
"We are impressed
with the mission of your organization and with your prior work in educating and
informing the general public about community, health, and education issues. We
are pleased to be able to support you as you continue this important work."
weeks after receiving the Broad Foundation money, both Essential Information and
Public Interest Projects made their respective contributions to the Partnership
for Student Achievement, which in turn spent the money to produce and air the
In the end, the Partnership's campaign backfired when
a San Diego television station discovered the identity of Moores and the others
who bankrolled the commercials. Broad escaped notice, thanks to his foundation-laundering
ploy. The report also received newspaper coverage. With backing from the teachers'
union, Zimmerman rode the backlash and was reelected.
But two years later,
as Bersin sought again to bolster his board majority, Broad was back. Jeff Lee,
a parent activist and a Zimmerman ally, faced off against Katherine Nakamura,
the wife of an architect who specialized in school construction. Lee was endorsed
by the San Diego Education Association, the teachers' union. Nakamura, who
supported Bersin, was the chamber's choice.
The race between Lee and Nakamura
to replace departing board member Sue Braun (another Bersin backer) was becoming
a reprise of Zimmerman's reelection battle two years earlier against challenger
Julie Dubick. But then, in August 2002, the Union-Tribune reported that it had
"anonymously" obtained confidential military personnel records showing
that Lee, a former Navy commander, had allegedly "abused subordinates"
and been a "hostile leader."
To avoid identifying itself in the ads,
the Moores group used a federal "527" political committee that called
itself "the Partnership for Student Achievement," formed as a conduit
for the funds. The only way to discover who paid for the campaign was to obtain
the 527 filings from the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C.
partisans suspected the material came from Pentagon sources related to retired
high-ranking Navy and Marine officers whom Bersin had surrounded himself with
as district bureaucrats. Bersin and the ex-brass denied any role, but the
hit did its job.
Lee and his backers accused the U-T -- in particular Sunday
"Opinion" writer Robert Caldwell, who wrote a 6700-word op-ed piece
attacking Lee and boosting Bersin -- of distorting his service record for political
gain. But the damage was done. Using clips from the newspaper, Broad poured
$65,000 into hit pieces against Lee and incumbent John de Beck, who
was running for reelection.
"I made an independent expenditure because
I want to see the dramatic improvements in student achievement continue in San
Diego," Broad said in a statement released by his office on Wilshire Boulevard
in Los Angeles. Nakamura narrowly beat Lee.
Fast forward two years to the spring
of 2004. Jeff Lee was now pursuing a career as a professional chef, having enrolled
in Grossmont College's culinary arts program. He passed the baton to his wife,
Mitz, a native of the Philippines who many in the city's downtown establishment,
including the Lincoln Club and the chamber of commerce, derided because she spoke
with an accent.
This time, the teachers' union withheld its endorsement
from both candidates, saying it could "work positively with either Mitz Lee
or Miyo Reff." Reff, an ex-PTA president and former biotech worker, had wrapped
up the chamber of commerce's endorsement, along with the backing of the AFL-CIO's
San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council.
The teachers' union had never
been a fan of the Lees, fearing that the couple, both Republicans, would prove
too independent and unpredictable when it came time to negotiate a new labor contract
with the district. Although the union endorsed him in 2002, Jeff Lee wasn't
the first choice. In the 2002 primary, the union backed Johnnie Perkins, a
trash-company lobbyist with ties to his former boss, ex-San Diego city councilman
Byron Wear, and Jerry Butkiewicz, secretary-treasurer of the labor
council. Only after Perkins was defeated did the teachers' union throw its support
to Jeff Lee.
Though the teachers' union remained neutral in the 2004 Mitz Lee
race, Butkiewicz's labor council joined the chamber of commerce and the Lincoln
Club in backing Republican Reff. "Our members really care a lot about
education," he told reporters, who asked why the labor council had dumped
more than $26,000 into independent expenditures on Reff's primary and general
election campaigns. "Most of our members don't make enough to send their
kids to private schools."
Others noted that Butkiewicz had long ago
formed a close alliance with the downtown business establishment and the San Diego
chamber of commerce, on whose board he sits. He and chamber executive director
Jesse Knight were lobbying to get San Diego city taxpayers to subsidize a new
football stadium for Chargers owner and Republican billionaire Alex Spanos of
Stockton. He also backed John Moores in his quest for the Padres' downtown baseball
stadium, the convention center expansion, along with hundreds of millions of dollars
of other public-works projects.
In turn, the chamber agreed not to get
in the way of unionized contracts and so-called "living" wages for public
construction, both dear to the labor council but expensive for taxpayers.
With the San Diego Unified School District mulling another multimillion-dollar
bond issue to continue its rebuilding program, a board majority could be called
on by labor and the chamber to hand out contracts for owners and construction
The chamber and labor shared another agenda, their critics charged:
liquidation of the school district's "surplus" real estate. Early
in his tenure, Bersin had set up a real estate advisory committee, run by his
father-in-law Stanley Foster, who had made a fortune in San Diego real estate
by investing his wife's family money in South Bay property deals.
In a 1991
interview with Dirk Sutro of San Diego Executive Magazine, Foster, then 64, was
quoted as saying he bought his first Chula Vista real estate, a 17-acre tomato
field, in 1962, when he was 35, and turned it into an industrial park, earning
a tidy return.
Foster was quoted as saying that he owned 17 industrial properties,
with a total of one or two million square feet, "mostly in South Bay,"
many of which were leased to an assortment of border-related businesses, such
as freight forwarders and maquiladora-support operations.
After his marriage
to Foster's daughter Lisa, Bersin became an investor in the family real estate
business. On January 24, 1992, according to county records, Stanley Foster, his
wife Pauline, and Bersin and his wife, as well as a family-owned general par
a September 1998 interview, Bersin described his family's real estate holdings.
"It's a partnership in which my wife and I have an interest. I don't know
when we made it, but it's something my father-in-law organized. It's a truck --
Consolidated Freight -- transfer point."
The Otay border acreage was the
initial property purchased by the partnership, he added. "That's why it's
called the Otay partnership.... And then there were other investments made in
other properties. Kearny Mesa is one -- actually two in Kearny Mesa. I guess there's
one in Vista. My wife and I invested in the partnership in cash, that's what the
investment was." Bersin pointed out that the Otay Mesa purchase was made
by Stanley Foster in 1992, "before I was U.S. Attorney."
as U.S. attorney, Bersin became an outspoken proponent of the so-called Gateway
of the Americas, a commercial shopping development near the Tijuana border
crossing being assembled by Sam Marasco, a developer whose partner had once been
Ron Hahn, son of Ernie Hahn, the Horton Plaza and Fashion Valley developer.
explained in the September 1998 interview that he had backed the project because
he believed it would benefit the entire San Diego region. "Tijuana and San
Diego and Customs and INS and GSA are all trying to develop the San Ysidro gateway
between Tijuana and San Diego so that it reflects the kind of region that we're
developing and lets the region, San Diego and Tijuana, take charge of their destiny
because if we wait for federal governments to do it, we will never get the kind
of port of entry that we need to build this U.S.-Mexico border region."
took over as city schools superintendent in March 1998. The ratification by the
school board of his four-year contract and starting salary of $165,000 was unanimous,
although boardmember Zimmerman abstained on the vote approving Bersin's appointment,
saying that the selection process had been too swift and secretive.
deeply troubled by the narrow, hurried, pressured, and secretive process that
the board experienced in making its final decision,'' Zimmerman told a reporter
for the Union-Tribune. "For me, an informed and thoughtful judgment on this
most crucial matter was made impossible under such circumstances.''
included Latino lawyers, who criticized his get-tough immigration policies as
U.S. attorney. "Frankly, we're astonished that a fellow lawyer with no
proven interest in education could be named to head the second-largest school
district in California," Esther Sanchez, president of the La Raza Lawyers,
said in a written statement to reporters. "It appears to have been a result-oriented
selection process in which politics, not qualifications, played a major role."
chamber of commerce, however, was pleased. One of its top members, Malin Burnham,
was an old friend and business partner of Stanley Foster. Burnham had been a key
member of the superintendent selection committee, appointed by the school board,
that had recommended Bersin's appointment. And one of Bersin's first orders of
business was to create an ad hoc committee to accelerate the sale of so-called
surplus district real estate to development interests.
Burnham, whose father
got rich buying and selling downtown real estate, was a natural ally for Foster,
who had married a daughter of the city's old-line Ratner family, which once operated
a clothing factory at the center of town. As the city grew, both men had prospered,
branching into venture-capital investments.
One was called Sorrento Associates,
which invested in local start-up companies. Burnham was a founder, and partners
included Hang Ten International, whose board chairman was Foster. According
to a November 1996 report in Venture Capital Journal, investors in the $7 million
Sorrento Ventures III Ltd., an investment fund of the parent company, included
Foster, Burnham, and Irwin Jacobs, the founder of Qualcomm who also would
become a major financial contributor to the Bersin cause.
men would play crucial roles in Bersin's career by bankrolling campaigns on behalf
of school-board candidates who supported the superintendent. Burnham used his
power as a Republican financier to muscle officeholders, such as San Diego mayor
Dick Murphy, into providing support for Bersin and his policies.
came in October 2001, when Burnham convened a luncheon meeting at downtown's exclusive
University Club to increase the 3-2 pro-Bersin board majority. One of his business
allies and a fellow Bersin backer, Mel Katz, owner of a temporary employment
firm, told the Union-Tribune that it was Murphy's duty to line up Bersin-friendly
school-board candidates and get them elected.
"Every child in public
school in San Diego is in Mayor Murphy's jurisdiction, and he should speak up
about who should run for school board...or try to help find a candidate,"
Katz was quoted as saying. "Right now, Mayor Murphy has unbelievable popularity,
and his name would mean a lot."
Stanley Foster died of cancer at age 74
on November 14, 2001, with the work of the school district's ad hoc real estate
committee unfinished. But the district continued its push for asset sales.
Any discussion of selling off school sites triggered anger among parents. As schools
faced closings, critics suspected that Bersin and his friends were lining their
own pockets at the public's expensetnership known as Marliskar, were listed on
a fictitious business-name statement for an entity called Otay Terminal.
years later, in a document recorded on October 2, 1996, the Fosters and the Bersins
were listed, along with Marliskar, as general partners in a statement of partnership
for Otay Terminal. County real estate records showed that the market value of
the four industrial parcels owned by the partnership, purchased between 1992 and
1998, including one directly across from the border, exceeded $12 million.
the time, Bersin was serving as United States attorney here, having been appointed
to the post by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Then-attorney general Janet
Reno subsequently named Bersin to the dual position of "Border Czar,"
with the responsibility for stemming illegal immigration and drug trafficking
along the Mexican border from San Diego to the Gulf of Mexico.
Elementary in Pacific Beach became a flashpoint. In January of this year,
Bersin moved to close the school on the basis of sagging attendance. Parents,
who said they were blindsided by the proposal -- which came days before it went
before the school board -- mounted a protest against the closing, arguing that
declining enrollment figures were being used as an excuse to turn the land over
to developers who coveted the school site for condominium construction. The
outcry caused Bersin to pull the item from the board agenda; the district said
it would "reevaluate" the school's attendance numbers.
reprieve was brief. In June, the school board voted, with its familiar 3-2 pro-Bersin
majority, to seek "public input" on the proposed closing of Crown Point,
Rolando Park Elementary School in Rolando, and Barnard Elementary in Point Loma.
The matter was scheduled to come before the school board November 9.
was another protest from parents, and in late October, just days before the November
election, the matter was pulled until after the new school board was seated. It
remains to be seen whether, in light of new political realities brought about
by the election, Bersin will bring school closings back before the board again.
the end, even Miyo Reff admitted to supporters that the last-minute infusions
into the campaign of big money from Broad, Riordan, and the Lincoln Club had backfired,
contributing to her election loss to Lee.
Though her own campaign committee
had accepted $1000 from Mel Katz and his wife Linda, as well as $1000 from Malin
Burnham and his wife Roberta -- along with thousands more from various members
and officials of the chamber of commerce -- Reff disavowed knowledge of the independent
committees financed by Katz, Broad, and other chamber backers.
the questions that haunt us and make us wonder if we could have run the campaign
differently," she wrote in an e-mail to a Pacific Beach voter. "Historically
[since Bersin], big money has come into school board elections. By law a candidate
has no knowledge or contact with independent expenditure campaigns.
did not know who or how much, nor what they would do. We just knew labor and business
were beginning their dance around the candidates. And because I had kept my rhetoric
tame, they were beginning to dance around me. We could refuse checks made out
directly to our campaign but had no control over the independents.
differences between Mitz and I were mainly style not substance. However, in the
end there was a $200,000 difference that any intelligent voter would add to
"I am glad I ran, because it was important to offer
the voters a choice between two good candidates. I have worked with Mitz, and
she will do a good job for the students of San Diego. I am hoping everyone will
support the new board as they meet the needs of the students, employees, and community
"People like you are what has made my campaign so rewarding,"
the e-mail continues. "There are people across San Diego who care passionately
about doing the right thing for the kids. Good luck on keeping Crown Point
open and strengthening the Mission Bay High School Cluster. I have not decided
on my next project, but I know it will involve kids."
push for superintendent's ouster, Removal of S.D.'s Bersin is focus of petition
By Helen Gao, Union Tribune, , November 6, 2004
on the momentum of Tuesday's election that swept into office three new school
board trustees who promise change, two San Diego Unified School District employee
unions have started a petition drive to oust Superintendent Alan Bersin.
San Diego Education Association and the California School Employees Association
this week handed out copies of petitions to their school representatives, calling
for an end to "Bersin's monopoly of failed educational initiatives."
The education association represents teachers, counselors and other certificated
staff while the school employees association represents clerks, technicians and
other support staff. The bulk of the district's 15,800 employees belong to the
Under Bersin's leadership, the petition says, the district has failed
to listen to teachers, adopted questionable classroom reforms and misspent
money on expensive consultants. The petition says employees are demoralized
because "fear and intimidation tactics have become commonplace during
the Bersin Administration and its top-down management style."
three trustees-elect have echoed some of these sentiments, but not all embrace
the petition drive. Two have questioned the teachers union's credibility due
to its history of endorsing candidates who fail.
Bersin, whose reforms
were supported by U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige and the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, said he would defer to the views of the newly elected trustees,
adding that what the unions are doing is "entirely inconsistent with a fresh
start." He has expressed optimism about building a working relationship with
the new trustees.
Under Bersin's leadership, test scores have risen in elementary
grades, but his reform plan, the Blueprint for Student Success, has not turned
around secondary education.
Trustee-elect Mitz Lee, a parent advocate
and travel agent, advocates buying out Bersin's contract before it expires
in mid-2006 and ending the blueprint. A buyout could cost the district $250,000
Trustees-elect Shelia Jackson, a former teacher, and substitute
teacher Luis Acle want to work with Bersin until he leaves, but they want changes
in the meantime. None of the three trustees-elect were endorsed by the teachers
union. The union's candidate, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, lost to Jackson.
and Lee said the petition drive is unnecessary and premature. The new trustees
will be sworn in Dec. 6, and the unions may submit some petition signatures at
the swearing-in ceremony.
"San Diegans have spoken loud and clear
they want a new direction. I believe the teachers union has to trust the new board,"
said Lee, who stands by her stance on Bersin and the blueprint.
prefers giving Bersin a chance to "straighten himself up." She said,
"He knows people aren't happy with what he is doing."
de Beck, one of two incumbent trustees and a Bersin critic, doesn't want anyone
telling the board what to do. "We are going to be an independent board and
decide on our own," he said.
The other incumbent, Katherine Nakamura,
has been supportive of Bersin's reforms, along with Edward Lopez and Ron Ottinger,
who are leaving office.
Terry Pesta, president of the teachers union, said
the petition drive is meant to show the public's support for the new board to
take action. He stressed it's up to the board to decide if, when and how to deal
with Bersin. It requires a majority vote to terminate the superintendent.
are really concerned it's going to be hard for the district to move forward if
Alan Bersin is still the person in charge," Pesta said.
plan to rally other community organizations and the general public to get as many
signatures for its petition drive as possible.
are Huge Donations Flooding into the School Board Election?
the last week before the November 2 election, special interest money has begun
to flood the San Diego School Board campaigns, benefiting candidates Miyo Reff
and Sharon Whithurst-Payne to the tune of more than $100,000 and $32,000 respectively.
It would appear that Reff and Whithurst-Payne are being financed by friends of
Superintendent Alan Bersin, destroying any earlier protestations of independence.
of such big bucks are generally unknown until long after elections are over, as
sums are covertly laundered through third agencies, such as the San Diego County
Lincoln Club. At midweek a single Lincoln Club contribution of $30,000 was
revealed, from Wal-Mart owner, Wyoming resident and voucher-lover John Walton,
who had to file openly.
Concurrently, the campaign laundering of two
large donations from the Bay Area, were filed through the ironically-named "Independent
Committee to Support Local Schools -- and were recorded at our County Registrar
of Voters -- $45,000 from billionaire Los Angeles developer Eli Broad (this is
the third San Diego School Board election he has interfered in) andhis buddy ex-Los
Angeles mayor Richard Riordan who gave $5,000.
Why are Reff and Whitehurst-Payne
receiving huge support from out-of-towners and downtown insiders? To perpetuate
a Bersin Board of rubber stamps.
Independent candidates Mitz Lee, Shelia
Jackson and Luis Acle have publicly stated opposition to Bersin's "Blueprint"
direction, to his plans to close three schools without serious review, and to
sell off public school property.
At the October 5 School Board Forum
in La Jolla, both Reff and Whitehurst-Payne seemed uncomfortable with public scrutiny.
Both danced around the issue of receiving money from known insiders. Reff has
received maximum $500 contributions from Manpower Inc. owner Mel Katz and his
wife whose company provides temporary workers. Reffs contributions also
include downtown real estate developer Malin Burnham and his wife, developer McMillan,
and members of the Evans hoteliers (whose Bahia Hotel sits on city leased property
that shares a small bay with the closed Mission Beach Elementary School.)
grassroots -funded campaigns for candidates Mitz Lee, Shelia Jackson and Luis
Acle. These candidates want:
- the school district returned to the people of
- an end to profligate spending on unproven educational experiments
- the academic program to follow the California State
Reff and Whitehurst-Payne have become indebted to corporate investors or
downtown insiders, the friends of Alan Bersin. Whitehurst-Payne currently is an
appointee of mayor Dick Murphy to the Southeast Development Corporation - a redevelopment
agency that diverts school funds to developers.
Likewise, Ben Huesos
experience is with the citys redevelopment districts and owns properties
in the shadow of the ballpark.
Unfortunately the press ignored the October
28th press conference that drew attention to this unfolding last-minute scandal.
Fortunately some details were reported in that days released edition
of Reader, by writer Matt Potter's in the City Lights Section as seen from the
October 28, 2004 San Diego Reader:
Sempra and other big donors are taking advantage
of a loophole in state law that allows groups like the GOP to make "independent
expenditures" in support of mailers and other material aimed at their "members"
-- in other words, registered Republican voters. The same ploy is being used in
races for the board of the SanDiego Unified School District, where on October
7 the Lincoln Club, another group of GOP fat cats, purchased $33,850 worth of
radio advertisements in support of Miyo Reff, who is favored by chief Alan Bersin
over her opponent Mitz Lee. The Lincoln Club reports it spent another $21,000
in radio spots promoting another board candidate, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, who
is running in a different district. Subsequent filings show that the club has
so far spent more than $100,000 for Reff and $31,000 for Whitehurst-Payne. If
both candidates win, insiders say, San Diego's GOP establishment will be in a
position to gain the crucial fourth board vote it has long craved to allow the
sell-off of large amounts of district real estate to developers.
school board to tackle closures, Six candidates vie for three seats
Helen Gao, Union Tribune, October 30, 2004
Before closing schools where
enrollment is shrinking, candidates running for three seats on the San Diego school
board say, they will first try to save the campuses by redrawing attendance boundaries,
reconfiguring grade levels and luring students back from private schools.
June, trustees voted 3-2 to seek public input on the proposed closures of Rolando
Park Elementary School in Rolando, Crown Point elementary in Pacific Beach
and Barnard elementary in Point Loma. Frances O'Neill Zimmerman, who
is leaving office, and John de Beck voted no. Ron Ottinger and Edward Lopez,
who also are leaving office, and Katherine Nakamura voted yes.
was to decide Nov. 9 whether to close the campuses next fall. But with most of
the candidates and parents wanting to postpone the vote, Superintendent Alan Bersin
accepted a staff recommendation to delay the matter until the new board members
Bersin said he is open to suggestions to keep the schools
"The overall arching situation remains, though. We have declining
enrollment, declining revenue and increasing costs with the new schools being
opened in City Heights and Golden Hill," he said.
The district is undertaking
a $1.5 billion school construction program that will add more than 11,000 seats
by building or rebuilding 15 campuses.
The newly composed board, which will
be sworn in in December, is expected to bring a different dynamic to the fractious
body, split often by 3-2 votes.
All six candidates have criticized the district's
handling of school closures. They want a comprehensive study on school operational
costs, demographic trends and academic achievement to set the criteria for closure.
They also want more community involvement in making decisions.
is being blamed on low birthrates and high housing costs pushing out families
with children. Mirroring a nationwide trend in major metropolitan areas, the district's
enrollment has been dwindling. Student population peaked at 142,000 in the 2000-2001
school year, and it's been going down ever since. Today the enrollment is about
Last year, enrollment dropped by about 2,500 students, costing the
district $17 million because state funding is based on attendance. The decline
is expected to continue through 2013.
The district can save about $1 million
a year in operational costs by shutting the three schools, but it also would have
to spend $180,000 to relocate staff.
Parents fighting to keep their schools
open and some candidates question the district's enrollment projections. A few
years ago, the district rushed to build a temporary elementary school in Scripps
Ranch because it underestimated enrollment.
"I've been watching all these
demographics. It's always wrong," said Mitz Lee, who is running for the District
A seat against Miyo Reff.
While the district expects enrollment decline
through 2013, estimates by the San Diego Association of Governments indicate the
school-age population will increase sharply from 2010 to 2030. The district has
not forecast that far.
School board candidates generally agree school
closures should be the last resort to balance the budget.
we done to recruit students and bring them back?" asked Shelia Jackson, a
former schoolteacher and candidate for District E. Some parents blame their
schools' declining enrollment partly on an exodus to private schools, driven,
they say, by unpopular education reforms.
Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, Jackson's
opponent, wants to examine why small charter schools are viable when traditional
public schools of similar sizes are not considered viable.
Charters are operated
independently of the school board by community, nonprofit and for-profit groups
committed to improving student achievement. They are less constrained than traditional
schools by regulations.
To save money, Reff suggested that small schools share
administrative staff or their campuses with charter schools.
Under state law,
charters can apply for use of available district facilities. Albert Einstein Charter
Academy is interested in Rolando. Promise Charter, KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy
and FANNO Academy, which is not yet open, also have applied for district campuses.
Lee and others, including the San Diego Coastal Alliance, have raised concerns
that there are ulterior motives behind school closures.
They say the
district has plans to sell its surplus properties to developers, and that's why
the business community is active in school board races. The Lincoln Club, a business
group that has spent more than $140,000 to elect Whitehurst-Payne, Reff and
Luis Acle, has denied the charge.
Acle, who is running for the District D
seat against Benjamin Hueso, said he wants academic achievement to be factored
in when deciding school closures.
"I am frankly a little skeptical about
the policy that is strictly based on numbers," he said.
officials said besides enrollment, they also look at whether surrounding schools
can absorb the students from closed schools without having to add facilities.
The three schools targeted for closure posted double-digit academic growth
last school year. Each has met the stringent academic criteria established by
the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That means students from struggling schools
are eligible to transfer to these campuses for a better education.
whether the district has pondered the possibility of more parents taking advantage
of the transfer option.
Barnard serves 180 students, Crown Point 169 and Rolando
Park 306. Barnard is at 63 percent capacity, Crown Point at 61 percent capacity
and Rolando Park at 80 percent capacity, according to district numbers. Rolando
parents said the district overstates the school's classroom capacity because it
does not subtract space used for storage, training and other purposes. They
have submitted protest petitions with about 200 signatures.
GeorgeAnne Smith said her school is surrounded by apartments occupied by families
with children. If it closes, students will be dispersed to three different schools.
"Regardless of which school they go to, there is no busing. There is
going to be major thoroughfares these children will have to cross," she said.
The schools targeted for closure have recently undergone $9.4 million in
upgrades, paid for by Proposition MM, which was passed by voters in 1998.
They received new libraries and lunch court shelters, as well as other renovations.
Parents said it's a waste of taxpayer money if the schools close.
district's facilities chief, Bob Kiesling, said the upgrades were planned long
before it became known that the schools might close. By the time it was disclosed,
construction was under way, so the district made a decision to complete the upgrades.
backers, business fund 3 for school board
By Helen Gao, Union
Tribune, October 29, 2004
Major supporters of Superintendent Alan Bersin
and a prominent business group have marshaled about $200,000 for last-minute campaigning
to promote three San Diego school board candidates, two of whom are also backed
AdvertisementLow-key until now, the races to fill three open seats
on the board have escalated to an intensity reminiscent of past elections.
month, the Lincoln Club has spent more than $143,000 supporting the candidacies
of Miyo Reff against Mitz Lee, Luis Acle against Benjamin Hueso and Sharon
Whitehurst-Payne against Shelia Jackson.
The club, which tends to support
Republican candidates, has unleashed a torrent of mailers and radio commercials
promoting Reff, a scientist, and Whitehurst-Payne, a retired education administrator.
In one commercial, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis tells listeners that Reff
has the backing of law enforcement. Another commercial attacks Reff's opponent,
Lee, for wanting to spend "classroom money" to buy out Bersin's contract,
set to end in 2006.
William D. Lynch, a Bersin supporter and philanthropist,
serves as a Lincoln Club vice chairman.
John Walton, an heir to the
Wal-Mart fortune, recently contributed $30,000 to the Lincoln Club, but the
club's treasurer, April Boling, said his money doesn't necessarily go toward
the current board races. Boling said the money just happened to come in at the
same time campaign expenditures were made.
In 2000, Walton helped finance
an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Frances O'Neill Zimmerman, an unrelenting Bersin
critic. Lee and Reff are running to succeed Zimmerman.
Two other out-of-towners
who financed past school board races to support Bersin also have resurfaced.
Riordan, state Secretary for Education, has donated $5,000 to a Mill Valley-based
group formed to promote Whitehurst-Payne and defeat Lee. Billionaire businessman
Eli Broad has donated $45,000 to the same group.
Broad so far has invested
more than $5 million to advance Bersin's reforms, including money to defeat Zimmerman
in 2000 and to help elect two pro-Bersin candidates in 2002.
elections, this time, two of the candidates supported by the business community
are also supported by labor.
The local teachers union has paid more than $171,000
for phone banks and mailers to promote Whitehurst-Payne, and the San Diego-Imperial
Counties Labor Council has spent more than $20,000 to support Reff and Hueso.
The Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California Action Fund also has made
endorsements, sending out mailers to support Hueso, Jackson and Reff. It spent
about $4,400 on each candidate.
The bulk of the Lincoln Club's recent expenditures,
about $108,000, was for Reff, who is running for the District A seat.
Reff versus Lee race is viewed as the most critical and competitive because Lee
is running to rid the district of Bersin and his reform plan, "The Blueprint
for Student Success."
The superintendent and his reforms have dominated
past elections. The Lincoln Club in 2002 campaigned for candidates who mostly
supported Bersin's work against those backed by the teachers union, another major
Chris Niemeyer, executive director of the Lincoln Club, said
the club didn't ask candidates where they stand on Bersin and his reforms. He
said the goal is to find "quality candidates who will help all children,
who will unite our board, regardless of the type of figure who may be in charge."
Because Bersin has indicated he would not seek an extension after his contract
ends in 2006, Niemeyer said the club is looking ahead.
"This is about
finding a school board that will work together, that will probably be responsible
for finding the next superintendent," he said.
Niemeyer described Lee,
Reff's opponent, as "Fran Zimmerman-like." Zimmerman has endorsed Lee
and has contributed to her campaign, as well as to Whitehurst-Payne's and Jackson's.
But Zimmerman said she is now disappointed that Whitehurst-Payne "seems to
be a candidate of the Bersin crowd."
Lee, a travel agent who has significantly
less money than her opponent, frequently says the election is about control of
the board and implies Reff is anointed by the business community to shore up the
Two Bersin supporters, board members Ron Ottinger and Edward Lopez,
are leaving their posts. They, along with board member Katherine Nakamura, make
up the board majority that Bersin has relied on to advance his reforms.
Reff has criticized Bersin and his blueprint, she favors the superintendent serving
out his contract so the district would not have to buy it out. She also wants
to keep parts of the blueprint that work.
Pointing to the $80,000 she has
loaned her campaign, Reff declared at a candidates forum in La Jolla, "I
want to show I am independent."
The labor council has spent more than
$26,000 to support Reff's election, including $16,000 in the primary, and it has
spent $10,000 to support Hueso, a city community program director, seeking the
District D seat. Some mailers supporting Hueso portray him as an educator. One
said, "Hueso is a parent and a mentor who works hard to prepare his students
for college." Another mailer calls him a "teacher." Hueso denied
any involvement with the mailer that identifies him as a teacher.
get a little upset when people take the term loosely," said Acle, Hueso's
opponent, who is a credentialed teacher and works as a substitute in San Diego
The Lincoln Club has spent about $2,800 on Acle as part
of a slate mail. He has loaned his campaign more than $33,000, the bulk of
his campaign account, saying he doesn't want to be beholden to special interests.
In the District E race, the Lincoln Club has spent about $32,000 on slate
mail and radio spots to support Whitehurst-Payne against Jackson, a former teacher.
With unity as her platform, Whitehurst-Payne said she has accepted money from
"I think the Lincoln Club is just like any other group right
now. I think people want to see some unity," she said. "They want to
see us refocus on children. Unfortunately, we have people in one camp or another.
I think people are tired of that."
Staff writers Maureen Magee and Karen
Kucher contributed to this report.
responds to critical editorial
Letters to the editor, Union Tribune,
Oct. 8, 2004
Your Oct. 1 editorial "Appalling bigotry" falsely
accuses me of bigotry. This was a shameful attempt to shift attention from the
message and kill the messenger.
At the school board meeting on Sept. 28, I
strongly objected to Superintendent Alan Bersin's plan to abandon 10,666 students
from nine low-achieving inner-city schools by putting those schools out to bid
for unknown "restructuring" proposals. I compared this act, which passed
the board 3-2, as being analogous to those Jews in Europe who worked as ghetto
administrators for the Nazis and shepherded their own people onto death-camp trains.
It is true I should have chosen less inflammatory language, but board discussion
that day was extemporaneous, and that was the depth of betrayal I wanted to convey.
Contrary to your editorial diatribe, I do not harbor vile sentiments toward
any religious or ethnic group. For 27 years I was married to a Jewish man, my
late husband, who fathered our two children. Half of my extended family remains
within the Jewish faith. I am not an anti-Semite, and I reject your false and
Your editorial calls for my "censure," but
it is silent about censuring Bersin and his troika for abandoning 10,666 children
from nine schools in the poorest neighborhoods of our gentrifying city. Bersin
and his troika do not have the right to turn their backs on those kids and to
throw them to the outsourcing wolf. Doubtless we will enjoy higher test scores
without these struggling schools on our roster, but it is a crime to abandon our
responsibility as educators of these children.
I reject any attempt by this
troika-dominated board to "censure" me for comments which, unless I
have missed something, come under the heading of free speech. And I invite the
parents of 138,000 students in the San Diego Unified School District to step forward
and express their displeasure with those administrators and elected officials
who would sell out their children to the lowest bidder.
FRANCES O'NEILL ZIMMERMAN
, Member, Board of Education , San Diego Unified School District
than three months after the San Diego school district passed the budget ax to
its 187 campuses, the Board of Education approved hundreds of job eliminations
and reductions yesterday based on recommendations made by principals and their
By Maureen Magee, Union Tribune, April 14, 2004
the objections of union leaders, the school board voted 3-2 to eliminate 616 nonteaching
jobs and cut the hours for more than 2,000 additional positions. In the final
step toward balancing the budget, the reductions will save $22 million and help
erase a deficit once projected to reach as much as $84 million.
urban districts in the state, the San Diego Unified School District has been hurt
by dwindling enrollment, which translates to less state funding, and the rising
cost of employee benefits, among other factors.
Even so, trustees Frances
O'Neill Zimmerman and John de Beck complained about a murky budget process and
criticized the superintendent for failing to cut central office administration
jobs this year. Last year, more than $40 million was cut from the central office
Zimmerman and de Beck, who make up the board's voting minority,
issued a document yesterday called "Sacred Precincts: Central Office Administration."
The 11-page report details an "untouched $38 million
in salaries and benefits for personnel" from the superintendent's
office, the Office of Instruction and a portion of "non-classroom" school
administrators. Zimmerman indicated that the salaries and benefits were excessive
during such dire budget times.
"This administration says that everything
has been on the block during these fiscal hard times, that cuts will be kept far
from the classroom, that there are no sacred cows," Zimmerman said. "In
fact, this is just not true."
In a presentation outlining her report,
Zimmerman showed, among other things, that eight people working in the superintendent's
office earn a total of $926,228 annually in salary and benefits.
Superintendent Alan Bersin left the meeting during the presentation, he later
responded to it and the district's fiscal situation.
"We cannot pretend
that if we cut a few administrators here and a cut a few there that this problem
will be solved, because it won't," he said.
Bersin urged the public to
"get the facts right."
"Our fiscal base cannot support our
labor base. I wish it weren't the case," he said.
The district has a
$1.1 billion budget and is closing in on a deficit once projected at $60 million
to $84 million. Administrators expect to balance the budget for next year with
yesterday's cuts, additional state funding proposed in the governor's budget,
work-year reductions for principals and other employees, a transfer of district
funds and cuts in special education.
The administration earlier this year
unexpectedly turned to school principals and their parent and employee advisory
groups to help make budget cuts. Principals were allowed to decide where reductions
should be made at their schools rather than have the administration make the cuts.
To help balance the district's budget, the average-sized elementary school
cut an estimated $42,000, the average middle school cut $265,000 and the average
high school cut $380,000.
Teaching jobs were protected, and most schools tried
to keep their cuts as far from the classroom as possible.
Last month, more
than 14 nurses, about 10 librarians, 27 counselors and 14 vice principals
employees who are certificated by the state received layoff notices. Because
those employees are credentialed in other areas, they are expected to find other
jobs in the district.
Most cuts were made among clerks, bus monitors, custodians
and others from the California School Employees Association union. Last year,
412 positions were cut from the union.
"Here we go again," said
Frances Fierro, a clerk at Mason Elementary School and the president of a local
CSEA chapter. "Without these employees, the schools cannot function properly."
All told, 225 CSEA employees will receive layoff notices this year. A seniority-based
"bumping order" means employees who lose their jobs can reapply for
others. It's unknown how many people ultimately will be without a job.
addition to the CSEA job eliminations, hours were cut for 511 CSEA jobs. In addition,
1,514 central office positions were trimmed by six days a year.
asked to make reductions based on enrollment. The cuts were made from each campus's
"unrestricted funds," money that pays for everything from books and
custodial supplies to vice principals and nurses.
School board President Ron
Ottinger called the cuts painful but necessary. He also lashed out at Zimmerman,
calling her report a politically motivated "anti-student-achievement document"
aimed at dismantling recent reforms.
"What you see here is a political
game," he said. "If all you do is watch what's going on at the Board
of Education, it totally misses what's going on in our schools."
follow the money!
the Last Week, Over $180,000 Has Been Injected into the San Diego School Board
radio air-waves are burning up with ads for Mitzs opponent. The information
in them is inaccurate and misleading. Tens of thousands of dollars are pouring
in from outside San Diego (Eli Broad, Richard Riordan, et al. long-time
partners of our local power-brokers who are trying to hijack our school district).
Financial disclosure statements filed with the Registrar of Voters reveal the
The record needs to be set straight and the focus of attention
turned back to the failed policies of the present rubber-stamp board majority
and Superintendent Alan Bersin. The public needs to know:
buyout of Alan Bersins contract will cost only $250,000 (not $400,000 as
stated in Reffs ad). The $250,000 amount was cited by City Schools
Controller, Scott Patterson.
buyout can easily be paid by not having just two staff-developing consultants
from New Zealand and/or NY.
is a drop in the bucket compared to the multi-millions wasted on the expensive
and flawed Blueprint.
money saved by ridding this District of Bersin and the Blueprint can be redirected
to the classrooms.
are losing valuable and irreplaceable time while not achieving under the Blueprint.
District is suffering the loss of our most talented educators under the administration
of Alan Bersin. Morale is at an all time low.
is so much money being spent to secure a seat on the School Board that only pays
from $15,000 - $18,000?
Special interests (developers, business, providers and their friends) have been
trying to buy seats on the School Board in order to control votes regarding City
Schools properties and contracts.
(Remember the almost $1 million dollars
raised to defeat Francis Zimmerman during her last re-election campaign).
Reff/Hueso/Whitehurst-Payne are supported by the big money special interests.
Bersin continuously gave steady progress reports but now we learn
of the 8 failing schools which they want to farm out to the lowest bidder (RFPs
Requests for Proposals announced at a recent School Board meeting).
Lee wants to replace the failed and experimental Blueprint with programs
that have a proven track record of success. This includes instruction in phonics.
And she wants to get rid of fuzzy math & science.
Diego Reader, Oct. 14, 2004- School cash Some familiar
names are opening their
checkbooks in support of candidates for the board of
the San Diego Unified School District.Alliance
titan Duane Roth is backing Miyo Reff, as is Matthew Spathas, the downtown
real estate man
whose company, Sentre Partners, has been involved in
deals near the ill-fated school district food services
site on Kearny Mesa.
The district land, purchased for about $20 million in 2000, is currently listed
sale with C.B. Ellis. Reff has also been endorsed by the downtown
chamber of commerce, which seeks a widerrole for business in the district.