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After a kerfuffle over how public resources were used on a back-to-school conference, the San Diego Unified school board may give a belated blessing to the conference costs.
It is also considering budgeting money for five similar events scattered across the school district that will be held before school begins next year.
Two weeks ago, board members and the superintendent expressed concern that a school district procurement card was used to buy supplies for New ERAA, an annual school readiness event held this fall at Lincoln High School and championed by school board member Shelia Jackson, because the event was not sponsored by San Diego Unified.
Zoneice Jones, cofounder of the nonprofit PAZZAZ that cosponsors the event, was surprised by the controversy months after the event was presented to Superintendent Terry Grier.
“Why would you wait months later to bring this to everyone’s attention?” Jones asked.
The costs from the procurement card were reimbursed, but other costs such as security and custodial services for the event had not been repaid when Superintendent Grier asked an attorney to study whether public money was improperly spent on the conference.
“It’s a matter of judgment that Ms. Jackson should have exercised,” said school board member Mitz Lee, who said it was inappropriate for Jackson to borrow the procurement card for a non-district event, even if she reimbursed the costs, and that she should have followed other protocols such as filling out a form and paying an application fee to use the Lincoln High site.
Jackson had gotten permission from staffers to use the card, but Grier has said that staffers mistakenly believed the event was sponsored by the school district. New board policies approved after the conference prohibit board members from giving directions to San Diego Unified staffers, requiring that they delegate requests through the superintendent.
The policy is meant to stop board members from micromanaging the school district, and also bans them from publicly criticizing the superintendent or his staff. Jackson was the sole school board member to vote against it.
Now the school board is poised to budget $60,000 for five district-sponsored events scattered across San Diego Unified that would serve a similar purpose to New ERAA, and to give its blessing to $13,500 in New ERAA expenses after the fact. The board will vote on the two proposals Tuesday.