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At least four people could be running to replace school board member Shelia Jackson, who told us last week that she won’t be running for re-election. They will vie to represent the southeastern stretches of San Diego Unified, which include some of the most disadvantaged schools in the district.

Who are the candidates? Here are the basics we know so far:

Gerald Brown is a minister who works with a nonprofit aimed at empowering the African American community. He is known as a progressive activist on school issues.

Brown took a stand on one of the more controversial decisions the current school board has faced: He supported shifting funds for disadvantaged students exclusively to schools with the very highest poverty rates, a decision that would take from schools with significant but lower percentages of poor children. He says the focus of his campaign will be ensuring that all students in the school district have equal educational opportunities. Brown is a Democrat.

William Ponder is a retired college administrator. He previously worked at Eastern Washington University as the vice president of student services. Here in San Diego, Ponder worked for San Diego Unified through a federal grant to support advanced courses. One of his key talking points is that the school board has made bad decisions that worsened its financial situation, such as promising raises. Ponder says he usually votes Democrat.

Jerome Torres works for the city of Coronado and used to be a policy analyst for San Diego Unified. He also worked recently as a consultant to San Diegans 4 Great Schools, which campaigned to change the way the school board was chosen. (The plan involved expanding the school board to include four members appointed by an outside committee of parents, business and university leaders. Torres says while he agreed with the idea of expanding the school board, he disagreed with the idea of them being appointed.) Like Ponder, Torres believes the existing board members have made poor financial decisions. He is a Democrat.

Tony Burks is a former area superintendent. (Area superintendents oversee specific regions of the district, supervising school principals in San Diego Unified.) He now works for the National Center for Urban School Transformation based at San Diego State University, which collaborates with urban school districts to try to improve academic achievement. He says that while the school board race is likely to focus on financial woes and blaming the state, it should be focused on dramatically improving how students do. Burks, who is also a Democrat, says he is still deciding whether or not to run.

This is just the beginning. If you know more about these candidates or others, help us! Tell us more about their records. We’ll be following them throughout the year as the school board race starts to heat up.

And so far we haven’t heard about anyone running against Richard Barrera and John Lee Evans. Have you?

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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