SD Rostra

New Ballot Measure Promises School Reform

As published in The Presidio Sentinel on April 1, 2011.

By Paul M Bowers

A new ballot measure aims to make San Diego schools better for kids by increasing accountability and focusing the school board’s attention away from politics and onto student performance. The initiative was created by San Diegans 4 Great Schools, a broad-based coalition of parents, taxpayers and community leaders who support a forward-thinking solution to the current governance structure that frustrates many at San Diego Unified School District.

“We reached out to parents, teachers, administrators and local business leaders – the future employers of our children – to see what’s needed to improve student performance,” says Scott Himelstein, President of San Diegans 4 Great Schools. “We worked together to create a solution that will move San Diego’s public schools forward.”

Their solution: Greater community oversight, transparency and involvement. A broader and deeper representation of parents and the community would be implemented at the school board level. Adding support to the existing elected board, the measure would provide four additional board members selected by a panel of education experts and parents. They would be selected based on their expertise and experience, not on their ties to special interests who financed their election campaigns.

The initiative would empower parents and educators by requiring the district to develop school-site specific plans to improve student achievement, which would be subject to annual public review to determine progress.

“Voters told us they felt the school board candidates often represented political, rather than educational interests,” Himelstein said. “We’re suggesting a solution that brings more options to the table. Parents see this reform as a way to be heard in an otherwise politicized venue.”

The reasons for change are clear: According to research by the University of San Diego Center for Education Policy and Law, more than half of San Diego Unified School District elementary and middle school students test below grade level for mathematics and reading as the district struggles to close a $114 million budget gap.

Parents are frustrated at what appears to be a district run with its employees, not its students, as a priority. More information on San Diegans 4 Great Schools can be found at


Paul M Bowers is a Mission Hills parent, former trustee of the Mission Hills Town Council and author of the blog and other articles on education issues in San Diego.

– Follow me @erica_holloway.

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