Interview with San Diego Unified School Board Candidate Crystal Trull

Tell us a little about your background?

I’ve lived in San Diego since 1976 and I grew up in District A. My family moved to University City when I was in second grade and I attended Spreckles Elementary. We then moved to Mira Mesa when I was in fifth grade and attended Mason Elementary, then Wangenheim Junior High, then Mira Mesa High School. My husband and I have lived in Clairemont since 2003 and it’s where we are raising our three children.

Professionally, my background is in nonprofits. After I began my career in nonprofits, I went on to earn a master’s degree in nonprofit management and leadership and then a doctorate in leadership studies with an emphasis on nonprofits and philanthropy. My research areas focus on the regulatory and taxation of nonprofit organizations and board governance. Having held executive and management positions I’m now a consultant and help nonprofits build their capacity. I’m also a part-time professor at the University of San Diego and University of California San Diego where I teach graduate courses in nonprofit management and leadership and board governance.

What makes you a qualified candidate for the San Diego Unified School District Board?

My qualifications are rooted in my experience in the nonprofit sector because it trained me to focus on the mission and has provided me with a clear understanding of what it means to serve as a trustee. One of the distinguishing features of nonprofit organizations is that they serve the public and must be governed by the public. What this means is that trustees are “entrusted” to fulfill their roles and responsibilities and legally bound to uphold their fiduciary duties of loyalty, care, and obedience. These duties hold trustees accountable to make decisions that support the mission of an organization. In this case, my role as a trustee of the school board requires that I act in the best interests of the mission: Educating all students. I believe the school board is a critical, important decision-making body that is often overlooked and undervalued. Yet, it plays a key role in ensuring that the district is well-run, accountable, and effective.  

I would also say that I am qualified because of my involvement in the schools. I’ve served on the PTA, School Site Councils (SSC) and School Governance Teams (SGT) which has allowed me to get a “behind the scenes” look into the many requirements that the District places on schools, but provide limited resources to actually implement.

What do you see as the major challenges facing San Diego Unified?

There are many challenges that San Diego Unified faces. But, the most pressing are related to accountability and transparency, accessibility, allocating resources, and ensuring that the mission is fulfilled. However, what is most troubling to me, is the lack of quality education. While the graduation rates are at 90%, 44% of students, district-wide, are failing to meet English grade-level standards and 53% are failing to meet math grade-level standards. What this data tells me is that nearly half of our students are not prepared to fully contribute to their communities. Furthermore, the District is making little to no progress with English Learners, Special Education, Latino and African American populations. I believe that when students are left behind, the entire community suffers.

What are your solutions to these issues?

To address these issues, I am focusing on three areas that I believe will have the biggest impact: Accountability, Prioritizing Resources, and Excellence. Accountability means transparency in how and why decisions are made. It also means being accessible in the community. My plan is to hold regular community meetings, open to all, to learn about the issues affecting our schools and work together to create solutions.  

Prioritizing resources is about making sure all of the resources, physical, financial, and the people, are used for student success. This means that the right people are in the right jobs, campuses are workable and safe, and the finances directly impact students.  

Excellence is just that. San Diego is known worldwide for innovations in technology, biotech, healthcare, and academia. My plan is for San Diego Unified, the second-largest school district in California, to reflect our region’s excellence through its graduates who make our community even better.

As a first time candidate running for a school board that clearly has a lot of work to do, why should voters believe you will be able to deliver on your proposals?

That’s a great question. I myself have been disappointed with elected officials who make promises that they do not deliver on. I do not want to make promises that I cannot guarantee that will come to fruition. So, as a candidate, I can promise to be transparent as a trustee and to keep digging until I find answers to solutions and mobilize resources to fulfill the mission. I’m also committed to making every effort to include multiple perspectives and voices in the process, ask the tough questions and make data-driven decisions that focus on student success.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

Over the past several months, as I talk to families and the community, I learn more and more about the many issues that San Diego Unified faces. We have a lot of work to do. But, I believe that if we can start to be honest and transparent about what we are facing, focus on the mission, and partner with parents and the community to come up with solutions, we can transform our schools and ensure that ALL students be prepared for the next chapter of their lives after they graduate.


To learn more about Crystal Trull, visit