Election 2012: Schools - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Election 2012: Schools

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Two members of the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education -- the current and previous presidents of the board -- are up for re-election Tuesday, while two candidates are vying to replace a board member who is stepping aside.

Board member Richard Barrera is running unopposed for a second time to represent the district covering south and central San Diego.

Board President John Lee Evans, a psychologist and former teacher, has two challengers to represent district A, which includes Clairemont and Mira Mesa. Mark Powell, a university instructor and real estate business owner, and Jared Hamilton, a recent University of San Diego graduate and clothing shop co-owner, are also vying for the post.

Despite being hit with the worst budget crisis in a generation, San Diego Unified came a long way in four years, but more can be done to improve schools, Evans said.

"People are starting to realize that the state has not given enough money to fund education and we have held off as long as we can on some of these really horrible cuts," Evans said.

He noted that the district cut millions from administration costs and shifted those funds to schools during his term.

Powell, whose two children attend city schools, said he could no longer stand by as education was undermined by misguided leadership and poor decisions, such as promises of raises given in the absence of additional funding and property sales he compared to "selling your water heater to pay your gas bill."

Powell said a community-based advisory board should review district financial matters. He also called for open, transparent district-union negotiations so "all the cards are laid on the table," and for districts, unions and parents to lobby the state Legislature for education funding.

Hamilton, 26, said he would bring a more youthful viewpoint to the board.

"It makes a lot of sense to have a younger perspective and someone who can relate more to the students," Hamilton said.

The district should be run more efficiently, reduce wasteful spending and be pro-active in fundraising, regardless of whether money comes from the state or the community, Hamilton said. He also supported a mentoring program with area colleges.

Hamilton also stressed a performance-based instead of a seniority-based system in layoff decisions.

"There are some teachers that have been around for a long time who are continually excellent for our students, and yes we should keep them around. But there are also some very young, new, bright individuals," he said.

Shelia Jackson, who represented the city's southeastern region for eight years, opted not to seek reelection. Vying to replace her on the board are Marne Foster and William Ponder, both of whom graduated from area high schools.

Foster, a community college teacher and administrator, has four children who are either enrolled in or have graduated from district schools.

She said she has first-hand experience with the challenges of the school system. She advocated for an individual education plan for her son with special needs, prompting other parents to ask for her assistance, she said.

Foster said she would focus on ensuring all students had a high quality education through leadership, communication and financial accountability.

"In order to educate young people, we have to have teachers in the classroom," Foster said.

Ponder worked as a teacher and university administrator before retiring and has written two books on education. He said his decision to run for office was based on things he saw changing within the district, including community mistrust for the board.

"We cannot make decisions and spend money and decide our priorities unless we first ask the question, does this benefit student learning and success," Ponder said.

Ponder said the district could create new revenue, run more efficiently and reduce costs through partnerships with local businesses and foundations, while working harder with legislators to increase funding.

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