Richard Barrera will get another year as the San Diego Unified school board president, a job with little if any extra power technically but a political cachet that visible and vocal leaders can play up.
Sticking with Barrera was a bit of a surprise. The school board usually changes its president each year, and the obvious move would be to choose John Lee Evans, who has served as long as Barrera but has not been president yet.
Board member Shelia Jackson, who served as president the year before Barrera, argued that the presidency should be rotated instead of appointed by school board members. But Evans said it would be better to wait a year before changing presidents, since San Diego Unified has already undergone so much change. It got a new superintendent this year, new staff and now has two new board members.
While Barrera has been a controversial figure with critics from the business world, who see the labor organizer as the embodiment of how San Diego Unified has tilted towards unions, he has been a diplomatic personality on the school board, able to bring people together on causes from lobbying Sacramento and reassessing science education to getting more kids signed up for food stamps.
Picking a new president was also the first action taken by new school board members Scott Barnett and Kevin Beiser, who were sworn in on the school board today. The only trustee to vote against the move was Jackson, who voted for Evans. Evans, in turn, was chosen unanimously as vice president.
This all might seem like a lot of fuss over a job with no remarkable powers, but as I wrote a few years ago, choosing the president symbolizes where the board is going: