Two candidates wanting to fix a school district’s tarnished image advance to the November ballot.
They’re vying for a seat on San Diego Unified’s Board of Education District E, which has made headlines for scandal after scandal.
LaShae Collins had a 59 to 41 percent lead over Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, as of Wednesday morning.
"It is clear that the overall message has resonated through District E,” said Collins.
"We're ready for round three,” said Whitehurst-Payne.
Retired teacher and administrator, Whitehurst-Payne refers to round three as the November Election. Round two was the primary election. And round one was when she was unanimously selected earlier this year to fill the vacancy on the board caused by the resignation of Marne Foster.
Foster resigned in February after pleading guilty to receiving financial gifts over the legal limit. She admitted that a benefactor gave her son money toward a theater camp in 2014 and paid for his airline tickets.
Whitehurst-Payne says she has already begun to move the district forward.
"For one, I brought the focus back to the children,” said Whitehurst-Payne.
Whitehurst-Payne says one of her goals was to get out and visit every school in the district. She's been to 80 percent of them already.
"I've had several principals to tell me this is the first time we had a board member visit our campus,” added Whitehurst-Payne.
Whitehurst-Payne says she's already gotten the district to make changes to the facilities at Crawford High School, which she says has been neglected for decades.
Collins says she’d put the focus back on the children as well. She’d also push for more transparency, accountability, technology and college and career opportunities. She will also push for more cultural enrichment curriculum so students feel validated and a part of the process.
“One way is to highlight people's rich history and culture and that can bring peace not only to the district but to the country,” added Collins.
Both say the district has gotten a negative reputation due to past events such as an incident at Lincoln High that involved a student attacking an officer.
"We have to stop looking at the negatives and highlighting the positives,” said Collins.
"One incident didn't define Lincoln High school. In fact, I'm proud of some of the things they're doing there,’ said Whitehurst-Payne.
Whitehurst-Payne pointed out that the Rotary Club of Southeast San Diego will be sending three students from Lincoln High to Europe.
She adds her 44 years experience in public education, including 31 in the San Diego Unified School District make her a strong candidate.
Collins says her strengths lie in her experience with policy making and having deep roots in the community. She’s worked extensively in local government, currently as District Director for Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego.