Early this month, San Diego Unified Trustee Scott Barnet surprised the public with a midnight Facebook post announcing he wouldn’t run for re-election.

Now, just a few months before the June primary, Barnett appears bent on taking school board president Kevin Beiser along with him.

Barnett called me up this week to give me a better idea of why he was endorsing Amy Redding, who’s challenging Beiser. He sang Redding’s virtues – she’s smart, focused and would put kids first, he said.

But then, Barnett torched his colleague – for 40 minutes straight. He said that over the course of Beiser’s tenure he’s been too busy promoting himself to help other school board members reshape San Diego Unified.

Here are some pieces of shrapnel from that conversation:

• “This guy goes to more parades and ribbon-cutting ceremonies than any other politician I’ve ever met. He’s more interested in improving his image than he is in helping us make the tough decisions that improve the district.”

We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

• “Time and time again we’ve been abandoned by a school board member who’s gone off to get himself nominated for an award.”

• “I’ve seen him run out in the hallway in the middle of a meeting to pacify the labor union and tell them he’s on their side.”

• “In his heart, he truly cares about children. But without exception he almost never acts on it. I saw this in him as a candidate — but I thought it would die down when he became a trustee.”

Barnett’s penchant for going rogue and throwing bombs has been well documented. But his sustained attack on a colleague is bold even for him.

Barnett bases part of his criticism on Beiser’s voting record. In February, Beiser told LGBT weekly that he’s tirelessly advocated for preserving music and visual arts programs in schools. He’s even won an award for his commitment to the arts.

Barnett says that Beiser’s votes contradict his image. He points to a vote in 2013 in which Beiser voted against a policy that Barnett says could have saved art and music teachers.

The two politicians have often found themselves on opposite sides of votes, but they’ve never been as openly critical of each other.

Barnett was speaking in the context of why he’s decided to back Redding against Beiser in the coming primaries.

Redding, who works as a parent-volunteer full time, has a long track record serving on district oversight committees and pushing for greater transparency on how the district spends its money.

When I reached Beiser, he said he knew Barnett endorsed Redding, but seemed surprised at the accusations his colleague leveled.

Beiser said his voting record clearly represents that children are his primary motivation, and that the decisions he’s made in his board tenure helped the district close the achievement gap and earn national recognition as a Broad Prize finalist.

“Those results I think speak volumes for the work I’ve done as a school board member,” Beiser said.

Beiser has a lengthy list of endorsements even without Barnett’s blessing, from the teacher’s union to the California Charter Schools Association.

Barnett said the endorsements point to the time Beiser has spent vote-seeking instead of helping other school board members carry the burden.

“Look, we’re politicians,” said Barnett. “We’re insecure narcissists — we all have that to a certain degree. But Beiser rises to a new level.”

    This article relates to: Education, News, School Leadership, Share

    Written by Mario Koran

    Mario is an investigative reporter focused on immigration, border and related criminal justice issues. Reach him directly at 619.325.0531, or by email: mario@vosd.org.

    Sam K.
    Sam K. subscriber

    It is almost impossible to serve on San Diego Unified Board without being hammered. There are too many challenges, budget restraints, political pressure. I see the determination in Beiser's standing. He is no magician, yet his educator background is a big advantage for San Diego. He understands the needs of the schools and expectations of each individual parent. As a charter school parent and an educator, I am also excited seeing Beiser's support for charter schools. Beiser understands the importance of charter schools for our community and he will be supported by me and by my community who respect his standing for charter schools.

    DDunn subscriber

    Hard to believe getting trashed for some serious concerns regarding district policy and spending. So, if Mr. Barnett ruffles a few feathers - gee wiz...! This district is tanking at a progressive rate and all we hear is "planning to plan, to gather input, pull people together, etc, etc. - and maybe get a quality school in every neighborhood. Please wake and smell the weeds - this is all discussion without action (except for district staff shuffling). 2020 is less than six years away, and this school board will be long gone by then.


    For the Kids
    For the Kids subscriber

    I have seen the way Barnett treats Kevin and other colleagues during board meetings and Barnett is a bully. Doesn't the district have an anti-bullying policy? It should start at the top. Yet Kevin never strikes back and takes the high road. The statement in the article, "In his heart he cares about children. But without exception he almost never acts on it," is libellous. I realize there's a higher burden of proof for libel against public officials, but a lie is a lie.

    I am an active parent with two kids in SDUSD. When I first met Kevin, I thought he was your typical politician. But after working with him on many projects, he has proven that he puts kids first. He was the first school board member to see the importance of not having kids in dangerously hot classrooms (100+ degrees, where kids pass out, throw up, get nose bleeds, etc.) and worked extremely hard to rectify the situation. No one had done anything in the 15 years since a Grand Jury report focused on the serious health effects of kids in hot SDUSD classrooms. He convinced his fellow board members of the importance of this issue and they voted to help kids. This is just one example of how I have personally witnessed him put kids first.

    Kevin's accessibility is extraordinary. As for Barnett, I did a "happy dance" when I heard he was not running for reelection. Good riddance. I would run as fast as possible from anyone Barnett endorses.

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga memberauthor

    Serious question: Wouldn't a kid be considered a bully (and possibly suspended) if he/she launched this kind of brutal and personal attack against a rival in a student council race? 

    Picture it: "Karlie may have the 11th grade's best interests in her heart, but she betrays her values every single day. I thought this would die down when Karlie became class president, but she violates our trust without exception at almost every opportunity and is a nothing more than a tool of the fourth-period AP English class. Not only that, Karlie spends her time glad-handing everyone in the teacher's lounge. She's pathetic. " 

    Look, politics are nasty, and civility in politics is overrated. But if there's a line between nasty politics and bullying, I know exactly where this attack stands.   

    Randy Dotinga
    Randy Dotinga memberauthor

    @Mario Koran @Randy Dotinga  Naw. I'm just the schoolyard blogger. ("The Hilltop Middle School Picayune-Gazette is corrupted by its donor, Johah's mom, and her boxes of printer paper from Costco!!!" #freetheP-G)

    Rena Marrocco
    Rena Marrocco subscriber

    Oh come on VOSD!!! You can do better than this.  You didn't even interview Kevin Beiser to get his side of this.  That's not what I would call "journalism."  The fact of the matter is that Kevin has devoted his ENTIRE life to serving his students.  All you have to do is attend something that he attends and he's got a slew of students who follow him and ADORE him.  He's the only educator on the school board- and that's not past educator, he's a current educator.  That gives him a unique perspective on what is best for the schools. 
    And he gets honored for his devotion.  Since when is accepting awards a bad thing?
    As for being a champion of the teachers- of course he would be.  In the past decade, we've seen a health scare with the potential outbreak of H1N1 flu.  If there ever were an epidemic, it would be our teachers who would be the first ones to see it, report it and be exposed to it.  In addition, in the past decade we've seen teachers give up their lives to protect their students.  I don't know of any teacher anywhere who, when getting their credential, was told that the duties of "first responder" was going to be part of their job description, but that is what has taken place.  And with no training as first responders, we've seen time and time again how our teachers not just take on this role, but actually live up to it.  They deserve to paid accordingly.  Shame on you for acting as if looking out for teachers is a bad thing.

    Please be fair about your reporting.  Your "article" here in no way adds anything beneficial to the conversation about education in San Diego.  We should be focused on what is best for the children, yet all you did was give one man an outlet to rant.  Pardon me, but isn't that what blogs are for?  Except that with a blog, the person doing the ranting actually has to put in some effort to write it.  This was not even the case in this piece.  I would like to quote from your own website about who VOSD is:

    "Voice of San Diego is a member-based nonprofit investigative news organization that gives concerned citizens the tools they need to engage in important conversations about their community. We are unlike any news outlet in San Diego because we dig deeper to uncover the truth and devote the time necessary to turn the chaos of news into a story people can access and understand."

    Now there in not one thing in this article that I find "investigative."  And if you had truly dug deeper to uncover the truth, you would have given equal time to Kevin Beiser's side in this.  But this is nothing more than exploitative, tabloid stuff. 

    Mario Koran
    Mario Koran author

    @Rena Marrocco  From the story:

    When I reached Beiser, he said he knew Barnett endorsed Redding, but seemed surprised at the accusations his colleague leveled.

    Beiser said his voting record clearly represents that children are his primary motivation, and that the decisions he’s made in his board tenure helped the district close the achievement gap and earn national recognition as a Broad Prize finalist.

    “Those results I think speak volumes for the work I’ve done as a school board member,” Beiser said.

    Beiser has a lengthy list of endorsements even without Barnett’s blessing, from the teacher’s union to the California Charter Schools Association.

    Ilka subscriber

    As a business woman selling to businesses it is obvious that Barnett is the one leading a slam campaign against the right candidate.  Barnett never acted in his role as President and Kevin Beiser does.  He endorses what he claims as a teacher, active president visiting schools in and out of the district and yes also doing parades and public events but this has made this business impressed.  Barnett has nothing more to say but vote a "maybe" not the for sure real deal.  As a business woman I support Kevin Beiser as he is the ideal balance for president and works around the clock to be everywhere.

    As a mother of a first grader whom has spoken to Unified I was not impressed with Barnett at all.  He never responded about serious issues, he never looked at the speaker.. He was just filling a seat it seemed.  But Kevin always looked and listened and responded as VP or President of SD Unified.  He goes to schools and thankfully does parades as my first grader understands what supports the schools he goes to.  When at the parade, event or school function Kevin Beiser knows his name, plays math games with my son making him feel special as out children should.  He does that with every child and also makes educational recommendations meaning "Try playing counting by 5's" If you asked my son he would understand and say "I vote for Kevin Beiser because he cares and works hard and why is this man Barnett being a Bully."  Actually I read him the article and that is his words.

    The above article is lacking the facts as Kevin Beiser is teacher by day, off that clock he is visiting schools, approachable on concerns , empowers every parent and also informative.

    In business we never slam the competition we empower what we believe and that is where objectively Barnett's statements loose ground and substantial ground at that.

    How Kevin does it all I do not know but he has my support as well as my son's.  Thanks.

    Michael Russell
    Michael Russell subscriber

    Seems to me if Scott really wanted to help students in this district, he wouldn't have quit. 

    Katie Anderson
    Katie Anderson subscriber

    So, all I care about is what's going to happen next. We have an opportunity to place a parent voice on the board. Amy Redding has no other political aspirations and has proven herself to be committed to the the welfare and education of children. She has served numerous times tirelessly as a committee member, chair, president, lunch monitor....You name it she's had the experience doing it in this district. And while she is straight forward, she is able to work with many types of people without abandoning  the overarching goal of educating children well in a safe, effective environment. Mario, how about an interview with her and an article which focuses on the opportunity our community has in electing her?

    Mario Koran
    Mario Koran author

    Hi, @Katie Anderson. Thanks for the feedback. I plan on writing more in depth about all candidates, including Amy Redding, as we get closer to the primaries. Thanks again.

    Mario Koran
    Mario Koran author

    @francesca Yes, it's Amy Redding and Beiser in district B, and Mike McQuarry running unopposed, I believe, in district C.

    Scott Hasson
    Scott Hasson subscriber

    I have to say that this conversation is interesting.  The last 4 years have been a tragic nightmare for students and as much as I have ranted about how the SDUSD is an employment center, I am certainly glad others are seeing it.  Now the SDUSD board has taken shots at Charter schools.  The charter schools helped sway voters to pass the incredibly stupid bond that taxpayers approved( of which I voted no).  And if you look deep into the situation, you see that this board needs to be blown up and started again.  One member is the head of the mafia driven labor council who have no children in their motto iof take all we can get.  Parents are not stupid, we see the best way to get an education for our children in SD is to send them to a charter(for now), I am sure that will be ended soon, or to private school if you can afford it, or like some people move to the poway or san dieguito districts.

    SDUSD is a broken and old place that needs a clean sweep.

    If there is a board member running for for re-election it is time to vote the other way, if there is a board candidate that is supported by any labor union vote the other way...especially if the labor council, teachers union or any union calling them self an association is supporting that candidate. Unions can ruin our city, our govt and take all the money for our services, but as parents we cant have them ruining our children's education.  WE NEED TO VOTE OPPOSITE ANY UNION SUPPORTED CANDIDATE OR ISSUE!!

    Judy Neufeld-Fernandez
    Judy Neufeld-Fernandez subscribermember

    My extensive experience advocating for improving the child abuse reporting procedures and exposing the lack of true investigations within SDUSD has given me an opportunity to see both board members in different meetings. Beiser has called honest parents advocating for safer practices "witch hunters". He has been extremely dismissive of parents bringing up predation in schools/mental anguish and physical assault issues. Barnett DID meet with child advocates and admitted how broken the system is in protecting kids but then did zero to assist us as we formed a multi agency focus group to address the lack of agency response to parent allegations of abuse within schools. I grade them both with a solid "F" in FAILURE TO PROTECT CHILDREN". Both receive an "F" in FAILURE TO ACT AS MANDATED REPORTERS of CHILD ABUSE. I stopped teaching in SDUSD and removed my kids due to one of them being abused at school. Despite each board member being in receipt of over 200 pages of documentation and a damning SD Civil grand jury investigation, these board members continue to employ the abusive teacher and many more dangerous employees. Stop referring to SDUSD as an "educational" system. In reality it is an "employment agency" for adults.

    Amy Redding is the true thing. She actually puts kids first. Parents know this.

    Matty Azure
    Matty Azure subscriber

    Dear VoSD,

    You ain't use "going rogue" without permission by asking me firstly or my counselor of the legal.


    Sarah Palin

    Dennis subscriber


    Last September my wife and I had a concern with about the high number of kinder's in our son's class and I included Mr. Beiser in the email and received a genuine response in less than 15 minutes.

    We were impressed!

    David subscriber

    I feel for Mario having to listen to an egotist for 40 minutes. I am conservative in thought; however, I can only stand 10 seconds of "The Scott Barnett Show." This man forces his opinion and domination on board members and seems to fight for an issue after being against the same issue. Mr. Barnett has sold us out in the business community who supported him by leaving his own seat vacant a week before the candidate filing deadline? Further adding to my confusing, I was told that Mr. Barnett voted for Kevin as board president just three months ago - who's political? Now, we are putting down another board member, Mr, Beiser, who attends student performance, support children, and attends school functions - what!!!

    DDunn subscriber

    Well said, Mr. Barnett. Will also do a wait and see how SDUSD board president Beiser responds to the San Diego/SDEA contract negotiations - seems quite outspoken at the Sweetwater teacher's rally this week. And what's with Marne Foster as board VP - quite a rookie and doesn't seem very much informed. Oh, forgot  - grooming time!!! Hello, Dr. Campbell and Dr. Weber.

    Good luck, Mr. Barnett - good timing.