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Barrera sees community model as future for SD schools

San Diego Unified School District Board of Education President Richard Barrera Wednesday night called on district officials to detach themselves from federal and state control and embrace a new community-based reform model.

Barrera, in a 45-minute “State of the District” address at Cherokee Point Elementary School, rejected inconsistent state funding, the “big idea” of the No Child Left Behind Act and other “top-down” programs imposed on local schools. He described the so-called “corporate model” a failure.

“The reason for this is clear, and goes beyond ideology or politics,” Barrera said. “The community model works, and continues to produce the consistent gains in student achievement that has eluded the corporate model after more than a decade of practice.”

Barrera, a former community organizer and union official, cited recent improvements in test scores at a number of district schools, including some in low-income neighborhoods, as an example of community model success.

Barrera said his vision has been implemented by making food stamps accessible in schools, creating joint-use parks with the city of San Diego, re- investing in neighborhoods through a Project Labor Agreement that governs Proposition S construction, and increased parental involvement.

“The community model might not be flashy, and it might mean that nobody gets to be hailed as a savior, but if we want our kids to have a real shot at a bright future, it is change that we can believe in,” Barrera said.

Barrera called on school officials and parents to demand that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature prevent further funding cuts to public education as they try to balance California’s budget.

“If nothing changes, and if these cuts from Sacramento continue, that will mean disaster for our local schools,” Barrera said. “It will mean 30 kids in a kindergarten class, with kindergarten going from full-day to half-day. It will mean no more vice principals for middle and high schools, vice principals who serve both as instructional leaders and who ensure safety and security on our campuses.

“It will mean cutbacks in counselors, nurses and librarians, closing sixth-grade camp, cutting music, arts and sports programs, and cutting busing for magnet schools.”

Barrera also called on local voters to pass in November a parcel tax that would raise money for the district.

Barrera was introduced by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, who called him an “energetic” leader for the district.