Six Candidates Face Off To Fill Three Seats On San Diego Unified School Board
UPDATE: 9:15 p.m., Nov.3, 2020:
Sabrina Bazzo defeated her opponent Crystal Trull to fill the seat outgoing Board President John Lee Evans to represent Subdistrict A. which includes the communities in Clairemont, Mira Mesa and University City.
In Subdistrict D, incumbent Richard Barrera defeated Miramar College professor and school counselor Camille Harris who ran against him in the primary as a write-in candidate.
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Six candidates are competing to fill three seats on San Diego Unified School District’s board.
The election comes during unprecedented times for California’s second largest school district. The COVID-19 pandemic and the summer of reckoning over racial justice has raised the stakes for education leadership in San Diego.
With students continuing distance learning during the months ahead, San Diego Unified’s board has the responsibility of mitigating learning loss and maintaining equity during this educational crisis.
San Diego Unified students also participated in the protests following the killing of George Floyd by police. They’ve called for eliminating the district’s police department and diverting those funds to more counseling and mental health services.
It’s against this backdrop that the candidates are vying for the three seats on San Diego Unified’s board.
Long-time parent volunteers Sabrina Bazzo and Crystal Trull are facing off to fill the seat outgoing Board President John Lee Evans to represent the communities in Clairemont, Mira Mesa and University City.
Bazzo currently works for a nonprofit that provides training for physicians. She said the district should rely on data and expert opinions before reopening schools. Trull said the district has done a poor job of communicating with parents why schools have remained closed for so long.
Bazzo said the district could promote racial justice in its classrooms by investing more in restorative justice and implicit bias training to reduce disparities in suspension and expulsion rates among Black students.
Trull said the time for complacency has passed. She said implementing an ethnic studies requirement was a good start for the district, but she said it should have happened a long time ago. She did not have specific proposals for reforms surrounding racial justice but said she would start by hearing input from students and parents.
In response to local students calling to defund school police, both Bazzo and Trull said they were reluctant to completely dismantle San Diego Unified’s police department.
This subdistrict serves Downtown San Diego as well as the neighborhoods of North Park, Barrio Logan and City Heights. The incumbent is Richard Barrera, a labor-rights and community advocate. Barrera is currently the board vice president and has served since 2008, running unopposed in both 2012 and 2016. He said the work he’s done helped prepare the district for COVID-19.
"Our district has become a much stronger district with much better outcomes for students, much more equitable outcomes for students, and I think we’re much clearer about what we need to do moving forward," Barrera said.
Barrera’s is challenged by Miramar College professor and school counselor Camille Harris who ran against him in the primary as a write-in candidate. She said the COVID-19 crisis in education gives leaders an opportunity to steer the district in a new direction.
"These kiddos are suffering, parents are suffering, parents who have to work from home.," Harris said. "I have people who I know who are two-parent families and they have to teach their students and monitor them, and they’re in charge of their education."
In this subdistrict, organizational development manager LaWana Richmond is challenging incumbent Sharon Whitehurst-Payne. It serves a disproportionate number of the district’s low-income students and students of color.
Richmond said she’s running because the current leadership has failed to communicate with families and close the achievement gap in the subdistrict.
“I couldn’t stand on the sidelines,” she said. “I care about kids and their families, and their interests need to be at the forefront.”
Whitehurst-Payne, who’s vying for a second term, says as a board member she made sure the district acted swiftly to distribute food and devices when schools first shut down.
“We wanted to get learning devices out to all our children,” she said. “We know our schools, and we knew that in some communities there’s a digital divide.”