Two new school board members sworn in

By Claire Trageser

City News Service

Two new members of the San Diego Unified School District’s Board of Education were sworn in Monday to replace incumbents defeated in the November election.

Scott Barnett narrowly defeated 20-year school board veteran John De Beck to represent Sub District C, while Kevin Beiser beat Steve Rosen and incumbent Katherine Nakamura, who was a write-in candidate, to represent Sub District B.

During the swearing-in ceremony, Barnett was joined by his two daughters and older sister. His oath of office was administered by Anthony Brandenburg, the chief judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California.

Beiser took his oath alone, and said his family was in Oregon with his ailing father. Beiser was sworn in by Rabbi Laurie Coskey, the director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice.

“I stand before you today a child of poverty,” Beiser told the audience after being sworn in. “I overcame many challenges to come to where I am today.”

Beiser said his experiences with poverty make him aware of the children in the school district who struggle with the same things he did.

“We have a moral obligation to those children in our care who are also living in poverty today, to do everything we can to lift them up,” Beiser said. “There is no challenge we can not overcome if we work together.”

Before making his speech, Barnett joked that his first lesson on the board would be learning how to turn on the microphone. He then recognized De Beck, who was watching the meeting from the audience.

“Whatever our differences, we can all appreciate and respect that he truly served the children of this district,” Barnett said.

Barnett, the president of the advocacy group

, spoke about the district’s need for fiscal discipline in the coming year.

“For many years, the district has not had a handle on its finances and personnel and does not have a grasp on how it spends its money,” Barnett said.

Barnett also said the district employs some teachers who “shouldn’t be in the classroom any more,” and said that although the district he represents is wealthier than the other districts, the school board has a responsibility to all San Diego students.

“We pay in the long run if they’re not successful,” he said.

School board President Richard Barerra suggested that the board establish an Operations and Efficiency Ad Hoc Committee to find cost-saving efficiencies in the district’s operation, and that Barnett and Beiser run it.

“They have tremendous perspective and fresh eyes to look at the district,” he said.

Board member Sheila Jackson at first objected to Barnett and Beiser’s leadership of the committee because she said the other board members should be able to appoint committee members, and to do otherwise would “thwart democracy.”

Jackson then attached an amendment to the proposal for the committee that said any board member can suggest members for the committee, and the board approved her amendment unanimously.