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New School Board Leaders Want Open, Honest Dialogue

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San Diego Unified's new school board leader and vice president are expected to hold a news conference this morning talk about the district's money problems. They say its part of their overall strategy to make the district a more open and honest place.

— San Diego Unified's new school board leader and vice president are expected to hold a news conference this morning talk about the district's money problems. They say it's part of their overall strategy to make the district a more open and honest place.

Trustee Richard Barrera is San Diego Unified's new school board president. Trustee John Evans is the board's vice president. Both men were tapped to lead the panel this week. They were both elected about a year ago.

Since becoming trustees, they're credited with taking district officials to task on budget issues and engaging the public more than ever before.

Barrera says the only way to get through the district's money problems is for everyone in the district to work together -- and they have to get their message across to state legislators.

“Right now, all of us who deeply care about the public school system need to realize that we need to stick together,” Barrera said. “We do have a real threat. I believe the threat is coming from a set of people who fundamentally don't care about education or who care to sacrifice for other priorities.”

The school board wrapped up a series of budget town hall meetings this week. Those gatherings brought more than 1,000 community members to the table. Trustee John Evans says the input is expected to guide the board's decision-making.

“We presented them with real figures about what is going on in this district, and we said, ‘This is the problem we have,’” Evans said. “It was really gratifying for me to walk around the room and listen to people because they were really struggling with what are our basic priorities.”

However, both men have their critics. Fellow trustee Katherine Nakamura says their approach to education policy helped to drive-out former School Superintendent Terry Grier. And Nakamura has also previously expressed concern about the influence of labor unions on school board policy. Three of the five trustees are backed by the teachers union.

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