Philanthropists, parents and business leaders upset with the state of San Diego Unified schools have been quietly talking about whether a bigger school board could be better for schools.
The budding plan would add four new members to the board. Unlike the existing five elected members, they would be chosen by an outside group that could include the leaders of local universities, parent groups, labor unions and business chiefs, among others.
Scott Himelstein, who organizes the informal group and leads an education policy center at the University of San Diego, declined to talk about the idea and how far it has gone. He stressed that the coalition of local leaders has no “definitive strategy” at this point.
But numerous people close to the talks were familiar with the same controversial idea. Pollsters have already been quizzing parents about who they’d want to be in the group that chooses the new school board members — and who they wouldn’t. And its plans seem to be advancing.
The coalition has hired political consultant Tom Shepard, for instance. Several sources said the group has also hired a public relations firm, Katz & Associates, and is tossing around potential names like San Diegans 4 Great Schools to start drumming up donations.
While the group says it is merely exploring ideas to help schools, the fledgling plan is also a sign of critics’ growing discontent with the existing school board, which swung toward labor two years ago. They believe expanding and altering the board would help depoliticize it and prevent power from tilting rapidly from one political force to another, a common phenomenon on small boards.