A retired math teacher is competing for Shelia Jackson’s seat on the San Diego Unified school board.

Marjorie Watson Thomas, who retired five years ago after more than 20 years teaching math and science, mostly in elementary schools, is collecting signatures to get on the ballot, she said. Thomas, a Democrat, has never before run for office. She runs a company that makes textbooks for math teachers, teaches religious classes at the Bayview Baptist Church, and has lived in southeast San Diego for more than 25 years.

“I don’t feel we have the voice that the community needs to have on the school board,” Thomas said. “When our community is more informed, we can be much more vocal about our needs, and be heard.”

Thomas and Jackson differ in their attitudes toward charter schools. While Jackson has criticized charter schools for taking enrollment from district-run public schools, Thomas seems more supportive of charters, which are heavily concentrated in southeast San Diego, Jackson’s district, and sits on the board of the Nubia Leadership Academy Charter School.

“I respect the rights of parents to choose … I would never infringe on that right,” Thomas said. “… That may get me in trouble with some people, but we need to be concerned about the education of all children in this area.”

Asked about the key problems in southeast San Diego schools, Thomas cited a lack of parent involvement and the challenges of educating English-language learners. Thomas joins a field of school board challengers that includes John Lee Evans (competing with Mitz Lee) and Richard Barrera (competing with Luis Acle).

EMILY ALPERT

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