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Remember the kerfuffle over the money that school board member Shelia Jackson borrowed for a back-to-school conference that wasn’t a San Diego Unified event?

No? Let me refresh your memory: Jackson had used a school district procurement card to buy some supplies for the event, which was mistakenly given to her by staffers who thought the event was a San Diego Unified conference. It is not. Jackson and the nonprofit that organized the conference, PAZZAZ, said they had planned to repay the school district anyhow and questioned why the school district did not raise the questions earlier.

It got pretty ugly: Jackson asserted that it was a politically motivated mess to get her to clam up on her objections to key policies and initiatives begun by Superintendent Terry Grier. Then-school board member Mitz Lee questioned how Jackson, who regularly combs the school board agendas for questionable expenditures and contracts, could have misunderstood district policies about procurement cards.

To settle the question, the school board ended up budgeting $60,000 for five conferences sponsored by the school district that would be scattered across the city.

The idea was that the school district would take on responsibility for the events once and for all, clearing controversy about where the line was drawn with the community events and what money was appropriate to spend. It would also create numerous events across the school district instead of a strictly local event that was perceived by some trustees as a political boost for Jackson in her district.

Now Jackson, who was elected as board president in the months following that upset, is advocating that the board authorize $14,000 to cover outstanding expenses for meals, school supplies and building rental at the last conference, reduce the money allocated to the planned events for next year to $25,000, and return the planning and organizational power behind the back-to-school event to local community organizations.

EMILY ALPERT

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