Struggling Schools Trustee Uses Address Outside of Her District

Struggling Schools Trustee Uses Address Outside of Her District

Photo by Sam Hodgson

School board trustee Shelia Jackson exits the parking garage of a Kearny Mesa apartment complex on Monday at about 10:15 a.m.

 

Voters in the southeastern stretches of San Diego elected Shelia Jackson to represent them on the school board, but documents and her activities raise questions about whether she actually lives in the area.

Jackson is registered to vote at a home in her district. However, she used another address from a residential apartment outside her district as both the owner address and the business address when she registered a new company, Action Forward Consulting, with the county in August of last year. She used that same Kearny Mesa address in an online listing with the California Disabled Veteran Business Alliance.

Four times in the last week, voiceofsandiego.org reporters viewed Jackson leaving that Kearny Mesa address in the morning or returning there after a long night at the school board. When a school board meeting ended late last Tuesday night, Jackson drove to the Mira Bella Apartments complex just before 11 p.m.

Jackson left the complex’s parking garage in her Hyundai on three different mornings, once around 6:30 a.m., once just after 7 a.m., and again just after 10 a.m. Monday, pulling out from Shelia Driveway onto Kearny Villa Road. In one other instance, a reporter visited the apartments in Kearny Mesa almost two weeks ago and did not see her coming or going.

When confronted at the apartments Monday morning, Jackson said the Kearny Mesa apartment belonged to her daughter Kendra and she only stays there once or twice a week.

“I don’t live here,” she said. She initially claimed she lived on Deaton Drive, where she lost a home to foreclosure in 2007.

But a few minutes later, Jackson abruptly changed her story after a reporter brought up the foreclosure and asked why she was registered to vote at a different address on Radio Drive in Valencia Park. “That’s where I do live. I’m sorry,” Jackson said, referring to the Radio Drive address.

San Diego Unified school board members must reside in the areas that they are elected to represent, according to the state law and the city charter. The state attorney general has opined that they must also remain a resident the whole time they are in office.

In a later telephone interview, Jackson said she splits her time between two addresses as she struggles financially, bunking with a school administrator in her area and her daughter in Kearny Mesa. She said she had been spending more nights than usual with her daughter because her nieces had been in town.

“I’m sure I’m not the only person that’s suffering in this financial crisis,” Jackson said. “I don’t want my case to be made such a big deal. I’m part of the working people. That’s part of what I will always be.”

The Radio Drive address falls squarely in the area she was elected to represent. Jackson began listing it on campaign forms last spring. She said she used her daughter’s address in Kearny Mesa for her business because she did not want to burden the school administrator who had allowed her to stay in her home.

The house on Radio Drive belongs to longtime San Diego educator Gwendolyn Kirkland and her husband. In an interview, Kirkland said Jackson has a room there and stays with them “probably three or four days a week.”

Kirkland was unsure exactly how long Jackson had lived there and refused to say whether she paid rent. “She needed help and we basically helped her out,” Kirkland said.

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Jackson said she had lived there for a couple of years and does not pay rent.

Kirkland has a lengthy history in San Diego Unified as a school administrator and was tapped to temporarily lead Fulton K-8 School in Bay Terraces last summer. School board members used to vote to approve the principals chosen for each school. When Kirkland was chosen for Fulton last summer, Jackson voted with the rest of the board to approve her.

Jackson said she had nothing to do with the selection process that led up to Kirkland being put up for a vote by the board. Kirkland, who didn’t get the permanent job, dismissed the idea that Jackson might be swayed to favor her.

“It’s not about, ‘You scratch my back and I scratch yours.’ A lot of that goes on in that district and it’s not her doing it,” Kirkland said.

Jackson did not report the free rent as a gift on her economic disclosure forms. In California, public officials are allowed to accept gifts, but they must publicly report what they get and who gives it to them. There are some exceptions: Politicians do not need to report gifts given to them by some family members or people they date. Jackson said she didn’t think she needed to report the free rent.

“I just viewed it as helping a friend in need,” Jackson said. Public officials are generally not allowed to accept more than $420 in gifts from one source, according to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Jackson twice turned in campaign finance forms that listed the wrong street number on Radio Drive. Three nights in a row after midnight last weekend — Friday, Saturday and Sunday — her car was nowhere to be seen on the street outside the Radio Street address. Jackson said she was out of town.

VOSD also asked Jackson to provide any proof that she lived in her area, including utility bills or recent mail. She provided a paycheck with the Radio Drive address on it, but said she picked it up from the school district office and didn’t receive it at that address.

Jackson has had financial problems in the past: Four years ago her home on Deaton Drive was repossessed. She had refinanced it four times over four years. Jackson, who became a teacher after retiring from the Navy, said she had struggled to get by on her military pension and a stipend from the school board after California cut funding for a job she held with a math program.

After giving up the home on Deaton Drive to foreclosure, Jackson rented in Scripps Ranch, then Valencia Park, she told VOSD last year. Jackson changed her voter registration to Peter Pan Avenue, on the edge of Bay Terraces, three and a half years ago. Last spring she switched it to Radio Drive.

As a school board trustee, she’s one of five people overseeing the second-largest school district in California, which has a $1 billion operating budget. Jackson said her financial woes shouldn’t reflect on her ability to lead the district.

“I think that even though you may have problems in your personal side it doesn’t mean you can’t make the best decisions on behalf of the students or the populace,” she said.

The school board pays $18,000 a year. It is supposed to be a part-time job, but often consumes much more time in meetings, workshops and community events. Jackson has argued in the past that the paltry salary makes it difficult for working people to serve.

“I’ve already made it public that I’m not going to be running for the school board next year anyway because I know that I need to move myself to a better financial picture,” Jackson said.

VOSD began looking into where Jackson lives after noticing that the Registrar of Voters tried to send her a reminder about campaign forms, but it bounced back from her old address on Peter Pan Avenue.

In San Diego Unified, the school district is broken into five different areas. Candidates run in those smaller areas in the primary and then vie for votes from the entire school district in the general election. The Kearny Mesa address falls into Sub-District B, which is represented by math teacher Kevin Beiser. Jackson represents Sub-District E, which stretches from Paradise Hills through part of City Heights.

California has defined a residence as “the place where one remains when not called elsewhere for labor or other special or temporary purpose.” Politicians elsewhere in California have been prosecuted for perjury and voter fraud for falsely claiming an address.

The state attorney general looks at tax returns, vehicle registrations, phone listings and voter registrations, among other things, to see if an elected official has changed his or her residence. It also looks at whether the person intended to make their new place a permanent home or not.

Conversations over where politicians live sometimes crop up during campaigns. Political candidates are often accused of carpetbagging after moving into new areas to run for office. School board member Scott Barnett was criticized for moving from University City to Little Italy not long before launching his campaign.

Jackson said she originally moved to her district from Scripps Ranch to run for the seat. Elected officials are also supposed to keep living in their area once elected. The rules are meant to ensure lawmakers are tied to the areas they represent and every part of the school district has a voice.

Jackson was first elected to the school board in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. She is known for pressing the school district about how it serves its most disadvantaged students, long pushing to concentrate its federal funding for poor children in schools with the very highest poverty levels. She lost a bid for county supervisor last year.

Another San Diego Unified school board member was accused of living outside of his area in the past: Eight years ago, a group upset with the school policies of Superintendent Alan Bersin challenged whether board member Ron Ottinger lived in the school district at all, pointing to the fact that his second wife and her children lived in Coronado. It sought to remove him.

The attorney general denied their bid to oust Ottinger. In its opinion, the Attorney General’s Office found that while Ottinger spent more time at the Coronado house than his apartment in San Diego, he kept the apartment fully furnished, had been regularly seen there, got mail and was registered to vote there.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org.

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Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert
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54 comments
Mandy Lanier
Mandy Lanier subscriber

At all of you who are trying to make this out to be a race issue....CUT IT OUT. You make it impossible for those of us who may REALLY encounter race issues to have people believe us. Racism is alive and well BUT NOT IN THIS CASE. If Ottinger was allowed to get away with it then shame on the Board, district, newspaper for letting him get away with it but that's not the issue right now. The difference this time may be that Emily is not a coward who is going to let people bully her into backing down. Keep it up Emily.

bigfan
bigfan

At all of you who are trying to make this out to be a race issue....CUT IT OUT. You make it impossible for those of us who may REALLY encounter race issues to have people believe us. Racism is alive and well BUT NOT IN THIS CASE. If Ottinger was allowed to get away with it then shame on the Board, district, newspaper for letting him get away with it but that's not the issue right now. The difference this time may be that Emily is not a coward who is going to let people bully her into backing down. Keep it up Emily.

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

If we are to be scrupulously fair-minded, the disparity and the reasons for it are worth thinking about. To her credit, which I have also noted, Emily Alpert mentions this in her original story.

Joe Jones
Joe Jones subscriber

I wish to thank Ms. Zimmerman for defending Ms. Jackson's right to ignore the law because someone else did the same thing once in Coronado. The next time I'm stopped for a traffic ticket, I'll point out that other people are speeding, too. The officer will have no choice but to apologize and let me go.

jad555
jad555

I wish to thank Ms. Zimmerman for defending Ms. Jackson's right to ignore the law because someone else did the same thing once in Coronado. The next time I'm stopped for a traffic ticket, I'll point out that other people are speeding, too. The officer will have no choice but to apologize and let me go.

Jim . Dodd
Jim . Dodd subscriber

Did she phone in her state required ethics training? I have to take it as a volunteer on a county commission, and I assure you she would know what she did was a conflict with ethics laws. Unless of course she just blew it off as a member of the ruling class...jim dodd

HunterJim
HunterJim

Did she phone in her state required ethics training? I have to take it as a volunteer on a county commission, and I assure you she would know what she did was a conflict with ethics laws. Unless of course she just blew it off as a member of the ruling class...jim dodd

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill subscribermember

It is not illegal to be homeless. It is illegal to hold that position, collect a government check for that position and not reside in the district. She can couch-surf in the district and keep her job, or she can couch-surf outside the district and resign her job.

Akamai
Akamai

It is not illegal to be homeless. It is illegal to hold that position, collect a government check for that position and not reside in the district. She can couch-surf in the district and keep her job, or she can couch-surf outside the district and resign her job.

Amanda Hammond-Williams
Amanda Hammond-Williams subscriber

Kudos to VOSD and Emily for doing another great job - keeping 'em honest.

anotherview
anotherview

Kudos to VOSD and Emily for doing another great job - keeping 'em honest.

Kelly Donivan
Kelly Donivan subscriber

I am sorry that Ms. Jackson is having personal financial problems. I can well relate, as can many of us dealing with the current economy. However, she needs to make some hard decisions about her board position.

Genxer65
Genxer65

I am sorry that Ms. Jackson is having personal financial problems. I can well relate, as can many of us dealing with the current economy. However, she needs to make some hard decisions about her board position.

Judi OBoyle
Judi OBoyle subscriber

Just hope that in the future, voters will elect School Board members who understand public education and have participated in it in some form. They should not be tied too closely to partisan politics or private business. They should be able to demonstrate that they are all in for public education, including special education, for our students. I am an advocate for kids in foster care and have a young person who attended Bell Middle School--he graduated in June. The teachers, counselors, and support folks at Bell have been wonderful. I would suggest that board members and school administrators do case studies on kids as they move through the system--foster kids, language learners, kids that attend under-achieving schools, etc. Don't focus on teachers, focus on the learning experience of students.

Judith
Judith

Just hope that in the future, voters will elect School Board members who understand public education and have participated in it in some form. They should not be tied too closely to partisan politics or private business. They should be able to demonstrate that they are all in for public education, including special education, for our students. I am an advocate for kids in foster care and have a young person who attended Bell Middle School--he graduated in June. The teachers, counselors, and support folks at Bell have been wonderful. I would suggest that board members and school administrators do case studies on kids as they move through the system--foster kids, language learners, kids that attend under-achieving schools, etc. Don't focus on teachers, focus on the learning experience of students.

Judi OBoyle
Judi OBoyle subscriber

I just want to thank Emily for her reporting and Fran Zimmerman about her comments about the relevance of real, heart-felt community service. I serve on several boards for no pay. Ms. Jackson violated the law and lied to the media and to the public. I'm sorry she has financial problems, so does the City Schools that she represents. Can she be trusted to deal with complex financial, legal, and ethical issues. I think not. Many of the folks who posted here in her support are known union activists. Nothing wrong with that, but they should be upfront about it as Ms. Jackson should be upfront about where she lives.

Judith
Judith

I just want to thank Emily for her reporting and Fran Zimmerman about her comments about the relevance of real, heart-felt community service. I serve on several boards for no pay. Ms. Jackson violated the law and lied to the media and to the public. I'm sorry she has financial problems, so does the City Schools that she represents. Can she be trusted to deal with complex financial, legal, and ethical issues. I think not. Many of the folks who posted here in her support are known union activists. Nothing wrong with that, but they should be upfront about it as Ms. Jackson should be upfront about where she lives.

Emily Alpert
Emily Alpert subscriber

Just to reiterate, we were not given any tip to pursue this story. I decided to start looking into where she lives after seeing that her mail was bouncing from her former address back to the County Registrar. We then did some records searches that turned up the Kearny Mesa address. voiceofsandiego.org reporters watched the apartment ourselves.

ealpert
ealpert

Just to reiterate, we were not given any tip to pursue this story. I decided to start looking into where she lives after seeing that her mail was bouncing from her former address back to the County Registrar. We then did some records searches that turned up the Kearny Mesa address. voiceofsandiego.org reporters watched the apartment ourselves.

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa subscriber

In reading this article I couldn't help but get the feeling that someone was stalking Ms. Jackson. This is very disturbing to me. I suspect it wasn't VoSD. At least not without prompting. So who was it? Could it be that the SD4GS have decided to target each board member in order to gain their seats? Has Irwin Jacobs decided it would be a better and more efficient use of his money to target each school board member individually as they come up for re-election. That would certainly be a lot cheaper than paying for petition signatures that fail to make the grade. Is Jacobs setting himself up to be a mini-Murdoch?

mlaiuppa
mlaiuppa

In reading this article I couldn't help but get the feeling that someone was stalking Ms. Jackson. This is very disturbing to me. I suspect it wasn't VoSD. At least not without prompting. So who was it? Could it be that the SD4GS have decided to target each board member in order to gain their seats? Has Irwin Jacobs decided it would be a better and more efficient use of his money to target each school board member individually as they come up for re-election. That would certainly be a lot cheaper than paying for petition signatures that fail to make the grade. Is Jacobs setting himself up to be a mini-Murdoch?

joshuajay619
joshuajay619

Part of the story makes me feel sympathetic about her situation. But the part above is disturbing.

Allen Hemphill
Allen Hemphill subscribermember

If she can't handles her life on her income, how can we expect her to properly handle tens or hundreds of millions of dollars?

Akamai
Akamai

If she can't handles her life on her income, how can we expect her to properly handle tens or hundreds of millions of dollars?

Emily Alpert
Emily Alpert subscriber

I just wanted to respond to jagsdo1 -- we did not get any tip on this story. I started looking into where Jackson lived after seeing that mail was bouncing back to the County Registrar from her address on Peter Pan Drive.

ealpert
ealpert

I just wanted to respond to jagsdo1 -- we did not get any tip on this story. I started looking into where Jackson lived after seeing that mail was bouncing back to the County Registrar from her address on Peter Pan Drive.

Blanca Jimenez
Blanca Jimenez subscriber

SDUSD doesn't take kindly to bullies. Remember people, you're just as much a bully if you stand by and do nothing. So, this is me standing up to you for her, leave her alone!

exist4noone
exist4noone

SDUSD doesn't take kindly to bullies. Remember people, you're just as much a bully if you stand by and do nothing. So, this is me standing up to you for her, leave her alone!

Kevin Montgomery
Kevin Montgomery subscriber

It seems ridiculous that political positions with so much responsibility, and requiring such levels of knowledge, effort, and commitment, should be paid so poorly. Setting aside Ms Jackson's controversy for the moment, should we expect the people who serve us in elected positions to be virtual volunteers? Only five trustees are elected from our large city, and they have substantial influence on the lives of our children, our resources, and thousands of employees. Shouldn't they be compensated adequately to support the levels of competence and effort they are expected to provide? $18,000 a year is paltry. Even the $75,000 paid to City Council members is inadequate.

Drpaddle
Drpaddle

It seems ridiculous that political positions with so much responsibility, and requiring such levels of knowledge, effort, and commitment, should be paid so poorly. Setting aside Ms Jackson's controversy for the moment, should we expect the people who serve us in elected positions to be virtual volunteers? Only five trustees are elected from our large city, and they have substantial influence on the lives of our children, our resources, and thousands of employees. Shouldn't they be compensated adequately to support the levels of competence and effort they are expected to provide? $18,000 a year is paltry. Even the $75,000 paid to City Council members is inadequate.

Scott Kovacik
Scott Kovacik subscriber

What's next, a sleazy sex scandal involving another Board member? Certainly would be more interesting than THIS blip.

sdnative1958
sdnative1958

What's next, a sleazy sex scandal involving another Board member? Certainly would be more interesting than THIS blip.

Wade Pavlick
Wade Pavlick subscriber

It's clear she's ready to cut and run now that she knows the ins and out of the School Board. I agree with the poster above, "Shame on you, Sheila."

metawex
metawex

It's clear she's ready to cut and run now that she knows the ins and out of the School Board. I agree with the poster above, "Shame on you, Sheila."

Frances O'Neill Zimmerman
Frances O'Neill Zimmerman

In these things, as in the saga of her multiply-refinanced and now-foreclosed home and the current scramble for a place to lay her head, Shelia Jackson is indeed like a lot of people. If she runs for re-election or casts her eyes on some other public office, voters will have to decide if they are comfortable with her style, if she represents their interests and if she has worked to improve the public education of children.

dana deima
dana deima subscriber

I agree with Dr. Pat Washington here. Shelia Jackson is obviously a hard working individual who is trying to improve conditions for students in her district. Before we judge too harshly, we should keep that in mind. She is doing a service for the students in District E and for the school district that many of us will not or cannot find the time or inclination to do.

TheChristianslade
TheChristianslade

I agree with Dr. Pat Washington here. Shelia Jackson is obviously a hard working individual who is trying to improve conditions for students in her district. Before we judge too harshly, we should keep that in mind. She is doing a service for the students in District E and for the school district that many of us will not or cannot find the time or inclination to do.

John Gordon
John Gordon subscriber

(2) someone in your party is extremely bored and has no social life and feels the need to trail people and hang out on street corners--shhhesh--what a bad life !

jagsd01
jagsd01

(2) someone in your party is extremely bored and has no social life and feels the need to trail people and hang out on street corners--shhhesh--what a bad life !

Sam Hodgson
Sam Hodgson memberauthor

To be clear, we know of no connection between the street name, Shelia Drwy., and Shelia Jackson. We found it appropriate to photograph the image so that the street name was clear, as it is the most indisputable identifying mark that shows these are the Mira Bella apartments in Kearny Mesa.

Sam Hodgson
Sam Hodgson

To be clear, we know of no connection between the street name, Shelia Drwy., and Shelia Jackson. We found it appropriate to photograph the image so that the street name was clear, as it is the most indisputable identifying mark that shows these are the Mira Bella apartments in Kearny Mesa.

Mandy Lanier
Mandy Lanier subscriber

So she sees nothing wrong with lying about where she lives (because we are supposed to feel sorry for her financial plight) and she doesn't see any conflict of interest that she is supposedly living with a school administrator (because ofcourse Shelia has shown a history of being soooo objective) and she didn't think she had to claim it as a gift (plead ignorance?) She shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. Shame on you Shelia.

bigfan
bigfan

So she sees nothing wrong with lying about where she lives (because we are supposed to feel sorry for her financial plight) and she doesn't see any conflict of interest that she is supposedly living with a school administrator (because ofcourse Shelia has shown a history of being soooo objective) and she didn't think she had to claim it as a gift (plead ignorance?) She shouldn't be allowed to get away with this. Shame on you Shelia.

john nienstedt
john nienstedt subscribermember

Hang on now. Ms. Jackson is pulling out of a driveway that has an official San Diego City street sign with her name on it! What's up with that? Where do I get a Nienstedt Way sign for my street?

John Nienstedt
John Nienstedt

Hang on now. Ms. Jackson is pulling out of a driveway that has an official San Diego City street sign with her name on it! What's up with that? Where do I get a Nienstedt Way sign for my street?

Debbie O'Toole
Debbie O'Toole

Wow, she lives on Shelia Driveway, what a coincidence!