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Voters to decide fate of SDUSD bond measure, five candidates

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Voters will have the final say Tuesday on the San Diego Unified School District's proposed $2.8 billion bond measure, while also deciding who should serve in several seats on the district's Board of Education.

District officials said the funds generated by the "San Diego Neighborhood Schools Classroom Safety and Repair Measure of 2012," or Proposition Z, would allow for building repairs and renovations and technology upgrades.

If approved, the bond measure would fund projects including asbestos and mold removal; wiring, plumbing and roof repairs; and ongoing maintenance, according to the district. It would also go toward improvements in disabled access and upgraded fire alarms and security systems

If Proposition Z fails, funding for the technology education program would end, according to the district.

The proposed bond issue would add a maximum of $60 in taxes per $100,000 of assessed value of properties within the district's boundaries, according to the district. The district would establish an oversight committee and conventional financing would be used, not capital appreciation bonds.

Voters approved a $2.1 billion bond program in 2008.

Opponents argued the district had yet to spend the majority of the money authorized under that bond, and should finish those projects before increasing taxes again. The proposed bond issue also lacks safeguards against balloon payments or high-interest financing, opponents contend, adding that long-term financing should not be used on technology that would only be used for a few years.

Voters will also decide whether university instructor Mark Powell should replace Board of Education President John Lee Evans, a psychologist and former teacher who represents sub-district A, which includes Clairemont and Mira Mesa.

Evans said despite being hit with the worst budget crisis in a generation, SDUSD has come a long way in four years.

During his term, the district spared 1,500 teachers from layoffs, cut millions in administration costs and saw improvements in students' test scores, Evans said.

"We are beginning to reap the fruits of our reform efforts for the past four years," Evans said in a campaign statement. "People are beginning to believe in public education again and this will be reflected in the school board election results."

Powell, who collected more votes than Evans in the June primary election, said he could no longer stand by as education was undermined by misguided leadership and poor decisions.

Powell said he would work to restore trust by demanding financial accountability, promote teacher effectiveness and restore parent confidence.

"In my 20 years in education, I've always been an advocate for parents, teachers, administrators and the community," Powell said in a campaign video. "But, I've always based my decisions on what's best for the student."

Board member Richard Barrera is running unopposed to represent south and central San Diego's sub-district D.

Shelia Jackson, who represented the southeastern sub-district E for eight years, opted not to seek reelection. Running to replace her are Marne Foster and William Ponder.

Foster, a community college teacher and administrator, said she had experience with the challenges of the school system. She said she would focus on fixing problems and ensuring all students had a high-quality education through leadership, communication and financial accountability.

Foster was endorsed by the San Diego Education Association and the San Diego Democratic Party. She was easily the top vote-getter in the June primary election.

Ponder worked as a teacher and university administrator before retiring and has written two books on education. Amid funding cuts and an increasingly competitive global economy, schools needed leadership that can prompt positive change for students, he said.

His campaign focused on educating students in a curriculum based on global standards, transparency and accountability, student achievement and community collaboration.

Ponder was endorsed by the San Diego Schools Police Officers Association and San Diego City Council President Tony Young.

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