To Richard Barrera, his roles as a San Diego Unified trustee and leader within the local labor movement don’t conflict – they complement each other perfectly. On the school board, Barrera led a deal to hire more union workers for school construction projects, helped elect union-backed school board members and selected Cindy Marten as superintendent without a public search.

Training and conferences only account for a quarter of San Diego Unified school board president Kevin Beiser’s time out of the classroom. The rest are sick and personal days. That likely doesn’t violate any rules, but it does highlight a problem with the system itself.

Lindsay Burningham, the new president of the San Diego Education Association, is seen as more moderate and likely to compromise than some members of the union’s more aggressive faction. But she’s also holding strong to the kinds of teacher protections that have rankled reformers for years.

The contract between San Diego Unified and the teachers union expires at the end of June. That means San Diego Unified will currently have a little more than a month to make some big choices – with less money than it hoped to have. In other words, it’s about to get real.

David Lopez, executive director of San Diego’s Teach for America chapter, says the key to bringing the program here was figuring out how it could complement the existing educational landscape.

School board trustee John Lee Evans called San Diego Unified “one of the most charter-friendly districts in the nation.” The numbers, to some extent, bear that out. But there’s plenty of disagreement over what that means.