School activists are calling for the resignation of the San Diego Unified School Board president after she held a private fundraiser to send two of her kids back to college.
On Tuesday, Marne Foster apologized for a "mistake of the heart" made July 25 when she hosted a “Brothers 2 College Benefit” event at the Neighborhood House Association Headquarters - a nonprofit with a district contract that Foster voted on for the past two years.
An attendee said guests included contractors with financial dealings with the district and employees who may seek favors in return, as first reported by our media partner the Voice of San Diego.
Sally Smith, an active watchdog within the community, said she first found out about the fundraiser on the district's website. A Facebook post advertised the event and told people donations would be tax deductible, even though that is not the case.
"Trustee Marne Foster should resign as president of the San Diego Unified School District. She has shown poor judgement,” said Smith.
Foster and her sons sold raffle tickets for donated prizes, with proceeds running through a friend's nonprofit.
According to the California Attorney General's office, the nonprofit failed to register with them prior to holding the raffle as required by law.
Critics said by using her position and political clout to bring in money for her own children, Foster violated the public's trust.
"I have lost all faith in her,” said Gloria Tran, an activist and the parent of an SDUSD student. “You cannot mistake being a mama bear, or a mistake of the heart, with your job as an elected official."
Foster has apologized, saying " Although it may sound naïve, it never occurred to me that 'Marne the Mom', by supporting an effort to help my sons go to college, was stepping into territory occupied by 'Marne the Elected Official.’” She said she takes full responsibility for her mistakes.
Foster pledged to return all donations contributed by anyone who works for or does business with the district. She has made a list of all contributions and their donors public in the interests of transparency.
The SDUSD president added that she broke no laws by holding the fundraiser, but she will return the money out of openness and transparency.