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County Grand Jury Says It Is 'Time For A Change' In San Diego Unified School Board Elections

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.
Katie Schoolov
The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified School District is shown in this photo, March 24, 2016.

The county grand jury called Tuesday for a change in how trustees are elected to the San Diego Unified School District Board of Education, recommending that term limits and sub-district-only elections be instituted.

"The grand jury believes that limiting one person's service will create positive change, guarantee new voices, and allow new perspectives to be considered by the board," the report says. "There is a perception among some that being in office for decades allow some board members to grow complacent and out of touch. Being a school board member is powerful. Even a little power can lead to abuse or simply give the perception of abuse. Either is dangerous."

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In its report, titled "San Diego Unified School District School Board Elections, Time for a Change," the grand jury said the position of school board trustee should not be intended as be a career, but rather an opportunity to "contribute to the democratic process" involving public schools.

"School boards should first and foremost look out for the students of their district," the report says. "Education should not be a line item, but the main objective before the board.When making decisions about school programs, school boards should incorporate their community's view of what students should know and be able to do."

The grand jury made three recommendations to the San Diego City Council:

–Consider placing a measure on a future ballot allowing voters to decide if they want to amend the city charter to change the elections to sub-district only in both the primary and general elections;

–Consider placing a measure on the ballot to allow voters to decide if a candidate who receives a majority of the vote in the primary election be considered elected and not have to run again in the general election; and

–Allow voters to decide if the trustees should have term limits, which would be another amendment to the city charter.

Under state law, the San Diego City Council has 90 days to respond to the recommendations.

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"Board members should be accessible to the public and accountable for the performance of their schools," the report says. "Board members are the watchdog for their communities, ensuring that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent."