Someone San Diego Should Know: Vernon Moore

Excellence and passion.

These two words define the life and work of San Diego native Richard Vernon Moore more than any others that come to mind. At a time when we appropriately focus on the many ways our nation has made success an elusive dream for generations of African Americans, the story of generations of Moores is one of tremendous accomplishment.

Moore grew up in San Diego and despite his parents first being turned away from Allied Gardens in the late 1960s, they ultimately purchased a home in San Carlos, near Patrick Henry High School, where Vernon would move through the public schools to graduate as a Patriot. The son of a dentist and an elementary school principal, Moore’s early life was shaped by the time he spent in his immediate neighborhood as well as by the experiences he had around the Southeast Medical Center that his father, Gene Moore, co-founded — near community landmarks, such as the Elementary Institute of Science and the Jackie Robinson YMCA.

He developed a sense of purpose seeing the variation in his world. So when he headed to UCLA to begin what has become nearly 25 years in education, it was no surprise that a commitment to equity animated his journey — a passionate commitment to equity.

Sitting with Moore and talking about why he chose to quickly return to the San Diego community he loves so much after graduating from college, it was immediately clear that his passion for what he calls the “beautiful diversity” of San Diego runs deep. He spoke about taking his children and other students to experience cultural ceremonies of the Kumeyaay Band of Indian Tribes and exposing young people to the languages and cultures of dozens of countries all from the City Heights community, where his wife, Gwen, is also an educator. These examples of beauty are as much a part of Vernon’s San Diego as the natural beauty that makes San Diego an international destination.

Moore, now chief compliance officer in the Sweetwater Union School District, has spent his life as an educator and administrator committed to the kids society frequently forgets. He went from co-principal at Lincoln High School to the principal of ALBA Community Day School for youth who have been expelled from district schools to shaping San Diego Unified’s ethnic studies course requirement four years ago. His passion for the youth he serves, and to helping them live out their promise, comes through as he describes one truth most non-educators never see. “You know,” he said after a pensive moment and a flash of his trademark bright smile, “a mentor of mine always told me that all children are brilliant. So, from that premise, we are charged with building and supporting programs that develop our students’ innate brilliance.”

His professional life has taken him into the administration of one of the region’s most diverse school systems in Sweetwater in the South Bay. And one of the things he has carried with him into that work is that deep belief in creating opportunity and equity for every young person. It is precisely why he is excited to work with Acting Superintendent Moises Aguirre, colleagues and community members in developing the plans and programs to support the Black Lives Matter resolution recently passed by the Sweetwater Union High School District board of trustees.

Excellence and passion that result in empowerment for every youth . . . that is exactly the legacy that Vernon has built throughout his career. And it is shaping the future for generations of San Diegans.

About This Series

Omar Passons a member of the U-T Community Advisory Board. He is an executive in San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency and leader in regional economic inclusion and growth efforts.

Someone San Diego Should Know is a weekly column about local people who are interesting and noteworthy because of their experiences, achievements, creativity or credentials.

If you know of someone you believe San Diego should know, please send your idea to

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