NBC 7 Interviews Candidates for the San Diego Unified School Board

Three candidates are running in Subdistrict C, which includes Mission Bay, Point Loma, La Jolla and University High Schools

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School board elections are always important, but the June 7 primary may be more personal than ever. Voters have had an up-close experience with the decisions being made by school boards regarding the pandemic. Those decisions will be key.

“I think there’s even more at stake in school board elections,” said UCSD political science professor and department chair Thad Kousser. “I think the experience of the last two years has really shown Californians and San Diegans how important schools are in the lives of our children.”

In San Diego Unified’s Subdistrict C, there are three people running to fill one seat: parent-school advocate Lily Higman, educator, and parent Cody Petterson and charter school businesswoman Becca Williams.

Question: What is your number one priority?

“We need to get back to the basics and focus on the education of our students. We have all these distractions that are coming in and out and that will happen forever, but let’s get them reading, writing, doing math,” said Lilly Higman

“My number one priority at this point is recovering the learning loss that we experienced in the pandemic. That’s it. The first step: get back on our feet," said  Cody Petterson.

“My absolute number one priority is restoring and permanently keeping honors courses and traditional grading,” said Becca Williams.

Question: How do you think the district handled the pandemic?

"They did not reopen soon enough at all; they could have done it, but there was no plan. That’s where I’m more upset than anything else, there was no plan. I think they had just shut down and didn’t want to deal with it,” said Higman.

"I think they largely made the right calls...I was in agreement with the vaccine mandate, I was largely in agreement with the timing of the reopening, and the truth is now you have to balance the benefits of in-classroom instruction with the risk of exposure," said Petterson.

"I really think that was mismanaged.  The schools were closed for a very long time, longer than any school district I’m aware of, “ said Williams.

Question: What do you think about Ethnic studies?

“I like the idea of ethnic studies, but I think we need to make sure it’s age-appropriate. I want it to be integrated with our social studies and our history classes. I don’t need it to be a separate class on its own,” said Higman.

"Students deserve a culturally responsive education. We have a richly diverse country and students deserve to see themselves in that history," said Petterson.

“You could have an ethnic studies program that doesn’t alienate people because it’s driven by bad philosophy in my opinion,” said Williams. “I believe there’s a philosophy driving ethnic studies that sees the entire world and reality through the lens of race."

The three candidates are running for the seat left vacant by Board Trustee Michael McQuarry. However the race turns out, there will be a new face on the board.

“I’ve been in this district for 11 years fighting day after day for our students and the education of our students,” said Higman. “I’ve been here longer than three of the board members, so I want to get in there and make some real changes to benefit our students."

“I think I present the most contrast of the candidates in my race right now,” said Williams. “I think they are both good people but we have ideas that are very different from mine, and I’m running a race on ideas.”

"I have spent five years advocating in Sacramento and with Congress as well for additional education funding,” said Petterson. “If you have a school board member that is not prepared, not advocating, and prepared to fight for additional  funding,  none of these things become a reality.”

The top two vote-getters move to the general election in November.

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