Voter's Edge California Voter Guide
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Presentado por
League of Women Voters of California Education Fund
November 6, 2018 — Elección General de California

Distrito Escolar Unificado de San DiegoCandidato para Síndico, Area de Síndico B

Photo de Tom Keliinoi

Tom Keliinoi

Business Executive and Charter School Leader
80,388 votos (21%)
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Mis 3 prioridades principales

  • School Safety utilizing statistical, demographic, geographic data combined with qualified experts to assess the District sites
  • Review and analysis of bond spending. Challenge why the District has not cleaned up schools but can authorize multi-million dollar projects while asking for more money from taxpayers.
  • Bring executive experience with a clear understanding of potential legal challenges. Engage and collaborate with parents, students, and teachers where warranted with full transparency of who is advising the board.



Profesión:Business Executive and Charter School Leader
President & CEO, Westport Property Group (2008–current)
CFO, Elevate Elementary Board of Directors — Cargo designado (2018–current)
Vice President Community Affairs, Tierrasanta Foundation — Cargo designado (2017–current)
Commercial Director, Tierrasanta Community Council — Cargo designado (2017–current)
President, Elevate Elementary Board of Directors — Cargo designado (2014–2018)
Program Manager, Novatel Wireless (2005–2008)
Vice President, Qualcomm (1989–2000)


Keliinoi, a former Qualcomm executive, CEO & President of San Terra Properties, and co-founder, Board President and current Chief Financial Officer of Elevate Elementary, one of California’s top academic public charter schools, is seeking a seat on the San Diego Unified School Board. 

A native Hawaiian, Tom moved to San Diego in 1975, has 5 children, 3 grandchildren, and is passionate about providing a quality public education for all. Growing up in a blue collar single-income family of 7, Tom is a self-made business leader that worked his way up from plantation worker to become executive and one of the early pioneering leaders during QUALCOMM’s meteoric startup phase from 1989 - 2000. Built on the spirit of innovation and collaboration, QUALCOMM’s technology touches every corner of the world through smartphones and tablets, to smart appliances and the internet of things.

“Growing up in a diverse family and community that was near the lower end of the economic and educational spectrums, I understand the challenges San Diego families face as they hope for a better future for their kids. I’ve been fortunate to have had parents that, despite only achieving an 8th grade education, provided a priceless education of hard work, discipline, and service to others. I continue to apply those principles to my desire to serve on the San Diego Unified School Board.”

After leaving Qualcomm, Tom pursued volunteer and business ventures that brought needed services to the poor and oppressed, including the victims of the tragedy in New York City on September 11, 2001.

As an independent business leader, he founded San Terra Properties with his wife Kim Klecan. In 10 years, their property management and real estate company has grown at an average annualized growth rate of nearly 60%.

As an education leader, Tom co-founded Elevate Elementary, a San Diego Unified public charter school. After serving as Board President for nearly 3 of the school’s first 4 years, Elevate Elementary expanded student enrollment and is recognized as one of the top academic public schools in California, earning distinction as a California Distinguished School in 2018. Tom presently serves as Chief Financial Officer.


¿Quién apoya a este candidato?

Featured Endorsements

  • The Republican Party
  • Women VIP's

Organizaciónes (3)

  • LAPA - Latino American Political Association
  • Lincoln Club of San Diego
  • SDAR - San Diego Association of Realtors

Preguntas y Respuestas

Preguntas de KPBS and the League of Women Voters of San Diego (5)

Do you support Measure H to impose term limits on San Diego Unified School District board members? Why or why not?
Respuesta de Tom Keliinoi:

Yes, I agree with term limits for SDUSD board members. Term limits ensure balance, new ideas, and challenge the status quo. We should make it consistent with how we elect City Council members. 

Currently, San Diego Unified School District board member candidates are nominated by trustee areas in June, and then face voters in the entire district in November. Do you think that SDUSD board members should only be elected by the voters within their own trustee area? Why or why not?
Respuesta de Tom Keliinoi:

Yes, board members should be elected by the voters within their own community. The city charter is outdated with respect to how board members are elected. The city charter was changed in 1988 to account for this in City Council district representation. Thirty years later, we are still having the same conversation for school board members. It's time for change. 

Would you vote to approve new charter petitions that are found to be legally compliant and educationally sound? Why or why not?
Respuesta de Tom Keliinoi:

I support legally compliant and educationally sound charter petitions. The idea that we would not carefully adhere to the law makes no sense to me. Education, like all other aspects of a free society, should be about choice.  Encumbering parents and students to failing schools while criticizing public charter schools does a severe injustice to both the parents and children of this district anytime a parent's ability to choose what they believe is the best educational experience for their child is restricted.  In business, as in life, competition forces companies to constantly improve the goods and services they offer to consumers. I believe the business of education is no different. Competition should be encouraged rather than restricted. This will incentivize the district to make concrete and substantial changes to the current state of affair, allowing for more opportunities for children with the district to receive the quality education that they deserve. 

Should school board members weigh in on political issues, such as immigration and gun control? Why or why not?
Respuesta de Tom Keliinoi:

School board members should not weigh in on political issues in their professional capacity. They need to stay out of politics and govern the schools. 

Should the district curb its school choice initiatives, separate from charter schools, so more students stay in their neighborhood schools? Why or why not?
Respuesta de Tom Keliinoi:

Districts should not curb school choice initiatives and separate from charter schools. I agree the long-term sustainability and success of our district schools are crucial in accomplishing the goal of creating an equal education for all children in our district. Taking away choice, and subsequently competition within our educational system, is not a step in the right direction towards achieving that goal.

In business, if a company can offer a product of superior quality, at a price cheaper than that of its competitors, then the company with the lower quality product is forced to make a change to improve the quality of their product, if they wish to survive. The consumer is better off now by having two quality products to choose from instead of only one. We must look at the business of education through the same lens. Just like the consumer, a parent will always choose what they believe to be the best school for their child to succeed, regardless of whether the school is a district school or a charter school. SDUSD, or any form of government, should not be allowed to tell parents that their right to take advantage of the best educational opportunity available for their child is being restricted, simply because the district is incapable of offering an educational experience that can compete with charter schools. Instead, we should look at this issue as a challenge to district leaders to continually improve the quality of a district education and offer an experience comparable to that of a charter school. This level of competition is the best way to ensure that no school within our district falls victim to complacency. It is the best way to ensure a quality education for all in our district.

Creencias poliza

Filosofía política

Experienced Leadership

As a founding member and board president of a San Diego Unified public charter school, I know it takes collaboration and leadership to create success. Within four years Elevate Elementary received  designation as a California Distinguished School.


Quality Education For ALL

Every child, no matter where they live or what they look like, should have access to a quality education. Promoting diversity in education fosters a healthy educational environment. Every child is worth investing in because every child is unique.


Responsible Management 

As the second largest publicly funded school district in California, taxpayers ultimately fund public education. The business of education requires business leadership and experience. As an accomplished business executive, I understand the importance of balancing institutional needs with accountability to taxpayers.


Time For Change

As a parent and grandparent, I want to advocate for a community where all voices are heard: parents, teachers, and students alike. Building a community that offers support, safety, and collaboration improves the opportunity for educational excellence and accountability.

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