School board member Shelia Jackson voted against a plan that would continue awarding business to a company that employs her daughter, quietly avoiding a controversy that dogged her earlier this year.

Jackson did not bring up the fact that her daughter Kendra Jackson works for URS Corporation Americas, one of three companies hired by San Diego Unified to help carry out its $2.1 billion school construction and renovation bond. Instead, the schools trustee said she was concerned that San Diego Unified would be replacing one of the other companies it had used before, causing turmoil in the program.

That company, Arcadis, came to the meeting to complain about the selection process, arguing that it should be included. Despite its complaints, the school board moved ahead with the plan to hire three other companies to help run the bond, including URS. It passed 4 to 1 with Jackson voting against it.

Last October, Jackson voted to extend the URS contract. The item was on the consent agenda, a long list of routine items approved without discussion. Extending the contract increased the company’s fee by $4.5 million. Her vote came despite the fact that she had earlier said she would abstain if the company came up for approval.

This time around, San Diego Unified advertised the job and interviewed and ranked six firms. A committee made up of staff and residents chose three of them. Two of the companies — Harris & Associates and URS — were already working with the school district. Each will get up to $12 million for the next three years.

Is it a problem to vote on a contract that could help your kid? California law prohibits public officials from entering into contracts that could profit them, their spouse or their dependent children. That usually doesn’t include children who have grown up and become financially independent.

However, Shelia Jackson may have a financial stake in what her grown daughter earns because she registered a consulting business to the apartment where her daughter lives and admitted to staying there at least part-time.

That came to light as a result of a investigation that raised questions about whether Jackson actually lives in her district. She claimed splitting time between her daughter’s apartment at that of longtime educator Gwendolyn Kirkland.

The situation with Kirkland also posed possible conflicts, as the school board member voted for Kirkland to receive an interim principal position while she says she was staying with Kirkland for free.

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

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Emily Alpert

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

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