San Diego school board backs embattled president

Marne FosterLast week, at least one member of the San Diego school board — Vice President John Lee Evans — appeared to be deeply concerned at the least after a series of reports from the Voice of San Diego about school board President Marne Foster’s improper interference with the School of Creative and Performing Arts over her son’s treatment there. But now it appears the board is going to launch a probe of Foster while at the same time most members signal that they consider recent controversies much ado about nothing.

This is from VOSD’s weekend report on the odd way the scandal is unfolding in California’s second-largest school district:

Last Tuesday, trustees emerged from a three-hour closed-session meeting and announced they’ll vote this week on hiring an investigator to look into a private fundraiser Foster held for her sons, and whether Foster was behind a complaint that sought $250,000 in response to a negative college evaluation letter written about her son.


Trustee Richard Barrera said he will ask the board to consider which issues are truly relevant to the school district.


“With the legal claim, we need to be thoughtful about what is in the district’s interest considering that this claim was already dismissed, and no money was paid,” Barrera said. “From the district’s standpoint, the matter is settled.”


Barrera said conversation about the allegations should be tempered with a show of support for Foster’s efforts to promote equity for all students. That’s why he and trustee Mike McQuary moved forward on the proclamation.


“I’m concerned there’s a single story getting out there about Marne,” Barrera said. “I just want to make sure we don’t lose sight of the work she’s done.”

Powerful union leader backs his protege

San Diego Unified School DistrictBarrera’s emergence as a Foster defender is a big development in that he has far more political clout than all the other board members combined. His full-time job is as secretary-treasurer of the San Diego Labor Council, an omnibus union group. He helped persuade Foster, a community college teacher and school activist, to run for school board.

It’s also good news for district Superintendent Cindy Marten. Many school boards would have reacted differently to news of a superintendent countenancing a board member throwing her weight around and causing major problems at a respected district school because her son didn’t get a favorable college reference.

As CalWatchdog reported previously …

Kim Abagat, a school counselor, came forward to tell the Voice of San Diego that she had been suspended by the district for nine days for not writing a laudatory college recommendation for Foster’s son, who was ranked 100th in GPA in a class of 147. Abagat said she was punished for telling the truth.

Mitzi Lizarraga, the school principal, also was punished for the actions of her staff. This is from the Voice of San Diego:

Lizarraga said as the 2013-2014 school year drew to a close, Foster’s son had unresolved behavioral issues. Students have to meet with a school committee to review the issues before they’re allowed to participate in end-of-the-year activities. Foster’s son did not appear for the review, Lizarraga said. For that, he couldn’t go to prom – the same consequences students in similar situations face.


Not long after, Lamont Jackson, the area superintendent responsible for the school, requested a meeting with Lizarraga. He was there to tell her Foster’s son would be attending the dance, she said.


“At that point, I just threw my hands up and said, ‘Fine. I’m so sick of Marne Foster. I’m tired of her throwing her weight around and her thinking the rules don’t apply to her,’” Lizarraga said.


She said she was shocked by what came next.


“He said, ‘Good. Now that that’s resolved, let’s talk about where you’re going to be next year. We have some questions about your leadership at this school,’ ” Lizarraga said.


Lizarraga would not complete the year. Jackson asked for her keys to the school, she said, and she was not allowed to attend the school’s graduation ceremony.

The same article details how Barrera made Foster his handpicked candidate to run for the school board in 2012.

Foster is up for re-election in 2016.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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