Statement: “Want to help San Diego schools? Get more accountability on the board? Get more teacher voices on the school board? Sign here,” Jeff Smith, a professional signature collector, told potential voters about a proposal to expand the San Diego Unified board to include appointees, according to Union-Tribune article on Dec. 29.
Analysis: A group called San Diegans 4 Great Schools is campaigning to expand the school board to include four new members appointed by a new committee of parent leaders, university chiefs and a business representative. The plan would also impose term limits and change the way the elected members are chosen, making them run exclusively in subdistricts instead of the whole district.
Right now, the group has hired professional signature gatherers to help get the idea onto the ballot. The Union-Tribune quoted Jeff Smith telling possible voters at a Target store in Mission Valley that the proposal would get more teacher voices on the board, among other selling points.
Will their plan help schools or bring more accountability to the board, as Smith said? Those questions are at the heart of the debate over the unusual idea. And we won’t really know unless or until it actually plays out.
But the other point that Smith made — getting more teacher voices on the school board — isn’t just a matter of opinion. Getting more teachers or “teacher voices” on the board isn’t included anywhere in the plan that Smith was advocating. While it’s possible that the committee could appoint teachers to the board, they could just as easily appoint more parents, CEOs or chiropractors if they chose.
That’s why we’ve determined this statement is misleading.
Scott Himelstein, the president of San Diegans 4 Great Schools, says the group is not advancing the claim that Smith made about teachers on the board. However, Himelstein did make a separate argument that the proposal would help teachers do their jobs better by stabilizing the board.
Bob Glaser, the consultant who is coordinating the signature collectors, said he also told the crews that “more teacher voices” can’t be used as a pitch for signatures. “That’s gone,” Glaser said.
We tried to track down Jeff Smith himself, since we usually talk to anyone we’re fact checking and run our findings past them. But Glaser said they don’t have any signature gatherers named Jeff Smith. Glaser believes whoever was quoted and photographed by the U-T gave a fake name to the reporter. (A trick that all us journalists are susceptible to. I don’t ask for ID either.) We stopped by the Mission Valley Target to look for him. No luck. Jeff Smith, if you’re out there, call us!
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