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Town Halls On San Diego Unified Board Elections Begin This Week

The outside of the Board of Education building for the San Diego Unified Scho...

Photo by Katie Schoolov

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

San Diegans are being asked to weigh in on whether to change school board elections.

A committee appointed by the San Diego Unified School Board and its advisory committees will hold a series of five town hall meetings on the subject, beginning at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Mira Mesa High School. An online survey will be launched the same day.

The forums are scheduled as follows:

–6 p.m. April 11 at Mira Mesa High School

–6 p.m. April 19 at Patrick Henry High School

–6 p.m. April 23 at Mission Bay High School

–6 p.m. April 26 at Sherman Elementary School

–10 a.m. April 28 at Lincoln High School

The school board established the committee after four citizens groups tried to get an initiative on the June ballot. They wanted to set term limits for school board trustees and move to a system where voters in local districts — not the city at large — decide on their school board representatives.

The San Diego City Council, which governs school board elections, rejected those proposals in January and instead adopted a plan the school board put forward to gather community input on the matter. Under the plan, the school board would weigh a committee recommendation and decide itself whether to pursue a November ballot initiative to change how it is elected.

The committee has met four times since March, according to district documents, but is about a month behind the original timeline the board proposed. The committee was scheduled to complete the town halls in March and make its recommendation to the board this month. Now, the recommendation is expected in May, along with the board’s decision.

A city council committee would need to hear the proposal by early June in order for it to make the November ballot. That deadline is still reflected in the updated committee timeline.

The committee members are: Penny Adler, Lallia Allali, Jeff Bennett, Brian Bonner, Lindsay Burningham, Joyce Clark, Clare Crawford, Mat Kostrinsky, Linda LeGerrette, Johnny Nguyen, Suzy Reid, Fran Shimp, Michael Snyder, Chris Wilson, Marshall Sharpe, Sylvia Alvarez, Taisha Brown, Al Kasper, Zaira Linares, Cecilia Lopez, Diego Robles, John Ross and Karlesha Van Holten.

Dwayne Crenshaw, CEO and co-founder of RISE San Diego, an organization whose mission is to improve community engagement and build leadership in urban communities, will facilitate the town hall meetings.

Community members last year began calling for changes to school board elections as the district faced accusations it was not transparent enough and had mismanaged its budget. Like many school districts in the state, it had to make deep budget cuts to contend with rising pension costs and dwindling enrollment.

RELATED: On Heels Of Measure K, San Diego Republicans Look To Change School Board Elections

Some have also said the at-large November runoffs make it difficult for lesser-known candidates to campaign, even if their local district chooses them in June. In 2016, LaShae Collins won the primary vote but lost to incumbent Sharon Whitehurst-Payne in November.

This year, trustees Kevin Beiser and Michael McQuary are running unopposed.

If a ballot measure is approved in November, the changes would be implemented for the 2022 election, after redistricting in 2021.

Should the city change San Diego Unified School Board elections? The board has appointed a committee to get public input on the question.

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