Image: Huckster PropagandaStatement: “It’s not appropriate for people to come to us and be upset. We didn’t even know what the criteria was, we didn’t even tell the staff which direction we wanted,” Shelia Jackson, a member of the San Diego Unified school board told a capacity crowd at the Nov. 1 school board meeting.

Determination: Huckster Propaganda

Analysis: Emotions were high at the San Diego Unified school board meeting Nov. 1. Hundreds of parents, teachers and children had gathered to protest a recent school district committee recommendation to close or combine more than a dozen local schools.

That committee had spent almost a year investigating which schools could potentially be shuttered to save the district $5 million towards an estimated budget shortfall of $60 million. The committee’s short list, announced a week before, had been met with jeers and boos from an angry crowd.

Public speakers at the meeting expressed disbelief that their schools had been placed on the list. They wanted to know how seemingly successful, high-performing schools had been targeted for closure. Speaker after speaker demanded to know how the district’s criteria could possibly have resulted in their school being chosen.

As board President Richard Barrera made a motion to radically scale back the school closures plan, each of the school board members spoke passionately about the issue.

Trustee Shelia Jackson appeared almost apologetic. The board deserved some of the blame for the unpopular plan the committee had come up with, she said, since it hadn’t provided staff with a clear enough mission and had allowed staff members to decide the criteria.

But, Jackson said, given that the committee — not the board — had been in charge of the selection process, the public shouldn’t blame her and her colleagues.

It’s not appropriate for people to come to us and be upset. We didn’t even know what the criteria was, we didn’t even tell the staff which direction we wanted.

But the board was highly involved in setting those criteria. The trustees had discussed and voted on the criteria at least three times in the previous two years

Last July, Jackson and her colleagues voted unanimously to approve a 37-page document that precisely lays out the process by which schools would be chosen for closure. The document includes a four-page board policy detailing all the criteria by which schools should be selected.

The committee used that board policy as the basis for its selection of which schools to close.

We’re calling this one Huckster Propaganda because Jackson used her claim to distance herself and the rest of the board from the unpopular process by which schools were chosen for closure.

Our definition of Huckster Propaganda is that the statement is not only inaccurate, but it’s reasonable to expect the person who made it knew that and made the claim anyway to gain an advantage.

Jackson attempted to blame a staff committee for coming up with a list of recommended school closures that proved highly controversial. In fact, that process was defined by Jackson and her fellow board members, and the committee did what Jackson and her colleagues had told them to do, in the way they were told to do it.

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Will Carless is an investigative reporter at You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

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Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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