By Mel Freilicher
Gregg Robinson is running as a candidate for the County Board of Education. He has dedicated his life to addressing, and working toward redressing, the growing inaccessibility of educational opportunities due to poverty. This is reflected in his scholarly research and publications, his career as a teacher as well as his ongoing involvement in community organizations.
Gregg’s Ph.D. is from UCSD: he has spent the last 22 years as a sociology professor at Grossmont College. Before that, he worked at UT San Antonio; Austin State; University of Maryland at Eastern Shore, and as a substitute teacher for the SD Unified school district. So while he speaks from experience, eloquently and directly, about issues concerning income gap and educational access and success, he also easily cites major studies from schools like Stanford or UCLA to substantiate his positions.
Gregg’s involvement with community organizations is longstanding. He’s served as head of the Affordable Housing Coalition, and is its current vice chair. Gregg was especially active during the condo conversion craze in San Diego, when it looked like renters would end up being shut out of the market.
I myself live in a large apartment complex in Hillcrest (an older one with many longtime, senior citizen residents): when it was put on the condo conversion chopping block for awhile, many of the residents here told me that Gregg had been in touch with them on a fact-finding investigation. He has also been Vice Chair of the Peninsula Community Planning Board, and served on the Point Loma Traffic Commission.
Gregg tells me that he’s particularly interested in the County Board of Ed because of its role in helping all 42 school districts in S.D. County deal with reductions in services as the result of recent budget cuts. The County Office of Education, which operates under the auspices of the Board of Education, plays an important role in ensuring that all students get a quality education during these difficult times. Gregg is dedicated to making sure this commitment to quality education for all students is the primary commitment of the Board.
In addition, the County Board itself directly controls a number of school facilities around the county, which include about 3000 of the most high-risk students: those in juvenile hall, residential programs, homeless children, and special programs established for children of farm workers.
Gregg has never run for elected office before, and had never really envisioned himself doing so. But he tells me that although he feels his rival, the incumbent, “has made a great contribution,” he’s been on the Board for 25 years. Given the urgency of the fiscal and educational crises in California, Gregg believes that it’s a crucial time for new energy, and new approaches to framing issues, and problem-solving.
There seems to be considerable unanimity around this feeling, since Gregg’s endorsements include the County Democratic Party; the American Federation of Teachers; Democrats for Equality; San Diego Imperial Labor Council; U.S. Congressman and San Diego mayoral candidate Bob Filner; Mark Anderson, the current Chair of the County Board of Education; Richard Barrera, the former Chair of San Diego Unified Board of Ed.
On a personal note, although I don’t know Gregg well, I’ve known, and admired, him for a long time: we were grad students together at UCSD (in different departments), and in the same antiwar group there. Those were obviously difficult and frustrating years.
Much like the recent Occupy movements, most groups like ours tended to work by consensus: undoubtedly a very significant learning process for its participants, but also very demanding: meetings could last forever, and involve much grandstanding (I’m certainly not exempting myself here). But I am exempting Gregg. He never manifested any kind of egotistical or self-aggrandizing behavior. What he said was consistently well thought out, pointed, and highly rational. And Gregg was always there on the follow through. He’s smart, responsible, straightforward, hard working, perseverant, and very passionate about social justice: county residents would be quite fortunate if he wins this election.