With the San Diego school board debates finishing last Thursday, October 18, voters are now left to their own information gathering on the races. O'Farrell Community School, a charter and middle school, hosted the final gathering of the four candidates. The debate was moderated by O'Farrell's Executive Director Jonathan Dean and Mary Searcy Bixby with the Charter School Collaborative. Candidates Dr. John Lee Evans, Marne Foster, Mark Powell, and William Ponder were in attendance.
The questions covered several topics specific to candidates' sub-district and San Diego Unified as a whole. Dr. Evans and Mr. Powell, who are competing for sub-district A, were asked how they would deal with further budget cuts if they were to occur. Ms. Foster and Mr. Ponder were asked about necessary action to take for Lincoln High School, in sub-district E, to overcome underachievement.
Some questions covered new ground, such as positions on decentralization of the school system and declaring insolvency. O'Farrell being a charter school, candidates were asked if they would make changes to the chartering process to include a committee of current charter schools. Familiar topics like defining student achievement and details of Proposition Z.
The audience was able to jump in and ask the candidates questions directly. Audience inquiries ranged from questioning the role of the district superintendent to constructing a grass field for O'Farrell Middle School. School board debates traditionally refer to written audience questions.
Past school board debates took place across the district. Politifest 2012 gave time for candidates to discuss school board issues, which can be viewed here. Candidates also gathered at Central Elementary, Malcolm X Library, Marston Middle School. There is overlap in the content of the discussion within each of the school board debates, but each host dedicated time to regional issues.
IVN San Diego will be covering the detail of these discussions leading up to election day. Handling the San Diego Unified School District is very complex. Candidates refer to terminology and past events that parents, teachers and students may not pick up immediately. Taking the time to understand the school board and its role is important to making an informed decision on the 6th of November.