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So many important things happened at the San Diego Unified school board meeting tonight that I’m still catching my breath. Here is a rundown of what happened:

• The school district isn’t the agency that would investigate the questions surrounding school board member Shelia Jackson, school district attorney Lawrence Schoenke said.

The school board got legal advice behind closed doors about questions we raised regarding where board member Shelia Jackson lives and whether she failed to report receiving free rent from a school district employee.

The legal advice wasn’t made public and the school board took no action. Schoenke said the residency issue was in the jurisdiction of the state attorney general, while the gift issue rests with the attorney general, the district attorney, the city attorney and the Fair Political Practices Commission. (Jackson was not in the closed meeting.)

• School board member Scott Barnett yanked his controversial plan to deviate from seniority when rehiring laid off teachers.

His reason: Superintendent Bill Kowba announced the school district will rehire an additional 100 elementary school teachers. It previously restored more than 300 jobs for elementary school teachers, but had added only 86 teachers because of timing issues. Now it adds another 100 to that 86.

Barnett wanted to ensure that rehired teachers could go back to their old positions, keeping successful teams intact. The more teachers the district restores, the more likely it is they can go back to their old positions, versus having other displaced teachers snap up those jobs.

• The school board voted to shut down Promise, an embattled charter school in Chollas View, ending a bitter odyssey over a school that excelled on state tests but was plagued with discord. A school district investigation found Promise had violated state laws and its own charter.

Promise argued that it had fixed or disproved those concerns. Some parents defended its principal. The two sides tried to strike a deal to save the school earlier this summer, but it fell apart.

The only board member to vote against it was Barnett, who said he did not support the Promise leaders, but compared closing Promise to trying to cure cancer by killing the patient.

• Kowba got his report card from the school board. The board gave him high marks for financial management, building up trust and being accessible to the community.

They said he needed to continue to pay attention to balancing the academic needs of San Diego Unified with its financial ones and spelling out for the community exactly what its reform plans mean. The board was also concerned that the school district still needs to strengthen its staffing department to get more timely, accurate information.

Here’s our account of his first year on the job.

• The board unanimously picked its choice for the school to occupy the new downtown library that’s currently under construction.

It granted space to Downtown Charter High School, the institution that was planned by library boosters specifically for the site.

Four charter schools applied for the downtown space. King-Chavez Charter High School argued it was a better candidate because it has an existing program downtown that includes internships.

• San Diego Unified is exploring whether to close as many as 10 schools to save an estimated $5 million in its future budget. Now it is embarking on the painful process of deciding which schools to close.

The school board decided to accelerate its official process of gathering community input, analyzing data and coming up with a recommendation, which normally takes nine months, so that staff can make suggestions to the school board by December about which schools, if any, to shut down.

School board President Richard Barrera said he was happy to speed up the process because he is skeptical that closures will save any money. “I don’t want staff wasting its time and the community wasting its emotions on this any further,” Barrera said.

Emily Alpert is the education reporter for What should she write about next? Please contact her directly at

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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