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Sharon Whitehurst-Payne


Having spent 44 years supporting students and teachers in the San Diego Unified School District in various capacities, from professional educator to volunteer, I have worked to improve education with my expertise, resources, and support. I am well prepared to serve as a member of the Board of Education. San Diego Unified has helped me to be the individual and professional I am today, and I owe the benefit of my expertise to help both educators and students to reach their maximum potential.

I first came to San Diego at the age of 21 with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and history and spent my career in mathematics teaching and administration. Though I studied mechanical and electrical engineering at Virginia Tech for one summer during high school and was accepted with full scholarships at MIT, Virginia Tech, and Carnegie Mellon, I attended Duke University with my sister. I chose mathematics education, rather than the engineering profession, so that I could enlighten the minds of youth.

While teaching and serving as a district resource teacher in San Diego Unified, I earned a Master of Science. in Mathematics from Duke and a Ph.D. degree in Administrative and Policy Studies from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). My dissertation focused on the district's attempt to transform from a role-based system to a goal-based system. This reflects my interest in outcomes: What are the results? Who benefited? What did students learn? How have students been enriched? What are improvements in learning and achievement, and how have suspensions, referrals, and absences been decreased?

I helped diversify the teaching force by designing, developing, and managing a unique teacher internship program in partnership with private and public universities. I will help the board to effectively evaluate, improve, and communicate teacher improvements through the use of training models rather than a deficit model.

Consulting positions have included: California Commission for Teacher Credentialing, the California Department of Education, the California Academic Partnership Program, and Project GEAR UP for middle schools. Board memberships have included San Diego Education Fund, Girl Scouts of San Diego County, California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) University Auxiliary and Research Services Corporation (UARSC), Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, church boards, and Southeast San Diego Rotary Club.

The district's mission is excellent but misunderstood and/or unknown. It empowers each school to operate as an autonomous unit to educate its students optimally. The difficulty arises when schools have uneven expectations, knowledge, curriculum, resources, and skills. I will assist in implementing this decentralized approach by helping to provide the strategies and support needed to fulfill the mission.

I will bring experience, insight, and solutions regarding the major issues facing the district. The issues of providing a safe and superior education with sufficient revenue and effectively closing the achievement gap for the diverse student population require the deployment of enrichment strategies and not merely remediation. I will share solutions, revenue generation strategies, and innovative ideas to address these and other key issues. I look forward to the opportunity to serve.

Testimony to City Council

On July 31st, 2019, Dr. Whitehurst-Payne testified in favor of reforming how Board of Education Trustees are elected. Speaking before the City Council Rules Committee, Dr. Whitehurst-Payne asked for the City Attorney to consider four changes in the current electoral system.

"We appreciate the Committee's continued interest on this issue. We are especially grateful to Council President Pro Tem Bry who has taken a leadership position on this important topic and who continues to be a strong supporter of public education.

As this Committee is aware, San Diego Unified convened a 24-member Advisory Committee on school board elections last year. The process lasted several months and included public meetings across the city. Based on extensive stakeholder feedback, and in consultation with the community, the Board of Education took action to support term limits for Trustees on May 29, 2018. That decision was approved by voters last fall.

The Board of Education also announced plans to further study other recommendations from the advisory committee, including a move to single-district elections for the second round of voting to select our trustees."

Dr. Whitehurst-Payne also requested the Council to look into the following items:

  • Single-district elections for the second round of voting on trustees

  • Allowing for the participation of all city residents of legal age in Board elections - regardless of their immigration status.

  • Lowering the legal age to 16 to allow for student voting

  • Increasing the number of districts with representation

"We also urge the Committee to only consider the above measures for the November ballot and not the March Primary, where participation is historically far lower -- especially for those communities this measure seeks to support.

Finally, we ask that this Committee move forward with equity in mind and responsive to the fact that 40 percent of our students attend schools outside their neighborhood of residence, which is the rationale behind our current electoral system allowing for citywide participation in all elections. We do not want to take any action that would compromise our current position as one of the best big-city school systems in the nation."