June 2011
San Diegans 4 Great Schools
Blog posts re SD4GS
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Blog posts re UPforEd
A short-lived organization founded by wealthy businessmen and others for the purpose of
packing the San Diego Unified School Board with unelected board members.

"San Diego’s schools are failing. Is it because teachers aren’t working hard enough? Or
that schools need more funding? No, the problem is with the school board’s leadership."

Scott Himelstein of University of San Diego (
USD) spearheaded the organization.
San Diego Education
Report Blog
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Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz v. Maura
Larkins defamation



Castle Park
Elementary School

Law Enforcement



Stutz Artiano Shinoff
& Holtz

Silence is Golden

Schools and Violence

Office Admin Hearings

Larkins OAH Hearing
How a School Board
Makeover Fizzled
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Updated:Jan 5, 2012.
Voice of San Diego

The backers of an unusual plan
to remake the school board
turned in their petition with a
bang. The mayor was there. So
was a former state senator
known for her controversial
stands on schools. They were
confident that it would move
ahead, having gathered
roughly 40 percent more
signatures than the bare
minimum they needed, a big
margin for error.

Now their plan is going out with
a whimper, killed not by tough
debates or attack ads but just
about the most mundane thing
imaginable: It didn't get enough
signatures to get onto the ballot.

The campaign said it turned in
133,000 signatures, more than
the roughly 93,000 they
needed. City Clerk elections
analyst Denise Jenkins put the
count a little lower, slightly shy
of 130,000 signatures. The
County Registrar of Voters
sampled 3 percent of them and
projected roughly 88,000 valid
signatures, lower than the bar
needed to put the initiative on
the ballot.

That was so close that elections
officials were legally bound to
count every signature to be
sure. So they went over every
one and found 90,000 were
valid, but more than 39,000
were not.
That comes out to almost one
third of the signatures.
Seventeen percent of all the
signatures came from people
who weren't registered to vote.
Eleven percent were duplicate
signatures. The rest were for a
scattering of other reasons,
including being in the wrong
district or not including an

"It's kind of mind-boggling," said
Erica Holloway, a
spokeswoman for San Diegans
4 Great Schools. Holloway said
they had already fished out
some duplicate signatures
before turning them in.

Its downfall was strikingly similar
to a bid by City Councilman
Carl DeMaio to dramatically
change contracting and
outsourcing in the city last
spring. DeMaio turned in more
than 134,000 signatures, but a
random sampling of 3 percent
of those signatures found an
unusually high number of
duplicates, disqualifying it. The
signature effort fell so far short
that it did not qualify for a hand
Both campaigns hired the La
Jolla Group, a political
consulting firm led by Bobby
Glaser, to gather signatures. I
left a message for Glaser this
morning to ask about the
signatures and how it could
come up so far short. I've also
phoned Tom Shepard, another
consultant on the campaign,
but we haven't yet connected
Local politicos who have
worked on other campaigns say
the error rates are high.
Conservative political
consultant Jen Jacobs, who
worked DeMaio's aborted
campaign, said she normally
prepares for 10 to 15 percent
of signatures to be tossed. (In
this case, 30 percent were
disqualified.) The firms that are
paid to gather signatures are
supposed to verify signatures
to catch duplicates and
unregistered voters.

Evan McLaughlin, political and
legislative director for the
regional Labor Council, which
has spoken out against the
school board measure, was
stunned that one of every nine
signatures was a duplicate.

"Firms should be
double-checking these,"
McLaughlin said.

A group of philanthropists,
business leaders, parents and
others led the push to remake
the school board. Known as
San Diegans 4 Great Schools,
they argued that expanding the
school board and changing the
way it was chosen would
depoliticize the school board
and reform a school district that
was failing too many kids.
It would have expanded the
board to include four new
members appointed by a
committee of university chiefs,
parent leaders and a business
representative. It would also
have imposed term limits on
school board members and
changed the election system so
that board members only ran
within smaller subdistricts,
instead of campaigning for
votes from everyone in the
school district.

Existing school board members
and the teachers union
opposed the idea of appointed
school board members, calling
it elitist and undemocratic.
Labor leaders saw it as a power
grab against the teachers
union, which has been the
biggest political force in recent
school board races.
Education Advisory
Panel Members
Linda Sturak, former
SDUSD teacher,
administrator and

Tom Goodman, former
SDUSD superintendent

Other EAP members

Ann Armstrong-Ash,
SDUSD eight-year board
member and former
president SDUSD PTA

Bill Fox, former SDUSD
teacher, counselor,
principal and district

Punky Fristrom, former
SDUSD teacher, coach,
former vice principal and
district director

Mary Gilliland, former
SDUSD teacher,
principal and

Cindy Moser, charter
school founder and

Jose Orozco, charter
school principal

Dana Shelburne, La
Jolla High School

George Walker Smith,
former SDUSD board of
president/member for 16

Mel Zeddies, former
SDUSD teacher, former
university professor and
former senior scientist

Each of the EAP
members willingly
volunteered his or her
time to be part of this
Education Advisory
Panel Vision Statement

1855 First Ave.
Suite 300A
San Diego, CA 92101

(619) 770-1871


Paid for by San Diegans
for Great Schools with

major funding
provided by CAC
Services LLC and
Irwin Jacobs.
Two Donors Still Biggest
Backers of School Board
Posted:  May 10, 2011
Updated: Jul 12, 2011.

A campaign to revamp the way the San Diego Unified
school board is chosen has continued to get the vast
majority of its funding from two prominent donors:
Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs and
CAC Advisory Services LLC, a company
owned by businessman and philanthropist
Rod Dammeyer.

That isn't a big surprise: While the name of the group of parents, philanthropists and
others pushing for a bigger, partly appointed school board is "San Diegans 4 Great
Schools," the official name of their campaign filing committee is "San Diegans 4 Great
Schools with major funding provided by CAC Advisory Services LLC & Irwin Jacobs."

Those same donors had chipped in most of the campaign money last calendar year. In
the first three months of this year, Jacobs gave another $225,000, while the company
that Dammeyer runs gave $100,000 and provided more than $6,200 worth in catering
and valet parking for an event. No other donors gave from January through March.

"From the beginning, they committed to funding signature gathering," wrote Erica
Holloway, a spokeswoman for the campaign, in an email. "We are now raising funds
from many supporters of education reform from throughout the community."
More than $160,000 of that funding went to the La Jolla Group, which paid signature
gatherers to circulate its petition. (San Diegans 4 Great Schools turned in roughly
133,000 signatures last month, hoping to secure a spot on the next citywide ballot.)
Donations also paid for consulting, rent, an executive assistant and a string of
meetings at the University Club, a private business club downtown.
The group is seeking to expand the school board, now made up of five elected
members, to include four more appointed members chosen by a new committee of
parent leaders, university chief and a business representative. The campaign would
also set term limits and elect school board members exclusively from geographical
subdistricts, not the school district at large.

I always take a peek at campaign finance reports to see who's putting money behind
their politics and how campaigns are spending it.

But money is especially touchy in this campaign because opponents like the teachers
union and the existing school board have pegged the school board makeover as
elitist. San Diegans 4 Great Schools has resisted that label, pointing to parents and
community leaders in its ranks.

(Disclosure: Both Jacobs and Dammeyer have also donated to

[A more complete list of donors to SD4GS with connections to
Voice of San Diego:

Irwin Jacobs

Rod Dammeyer

Buzz Woolley (Voice of San Diego
founder,  major donor and
Chairman of the Board)

San Diego Foundation (rents offices to Voice of San Diego)

Camille Gustafson, VOSD's marketing director, also donated $100 to the
It appears that San Diegans 4 Great Schools may have transferred its assets to new
organization called
UPforEd when SD4GS closed down in 2011
Rod Dammeyer
Buzz Woolley
Irwin Jacobs
Wealthy San Diegans
Back Charter School
By Matt Potter
San Diego Reader
August 19, 2011

Things don't seem to be going so well
for the future of charter schools in
California, what with news today,
reported by the Sacramento Bee,
that the federal government has
pulled $11.5 million of funding to
set up new California charter
schools and could take away more.

According to the Bee, the U.S. Department of Education warned state education
officials for months that they were not in compliance with requirements of the
Charter Schools Program, providing funding for two- and three-year grants for new
charter schools, because they didn’t pay enough attention to keeping track of
student achievement.

The Bee quoted Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools
Association, as disputing the federal agency's findings: "In California we have a
robust accountability system and are working to make it stronger. I don't think it is
a reason to deny any portion of this grant."

In the meanwhile, a few wealthy San Diegans have been anteing up big
money for future political efforts in the state capital on behalf of charter

They are channeling their contributions through the Alliance of California
Charter Schools, which state records show has set up both a political
action committee and a separate independent expenditure committee.

According to state records, the PAC raised $52,625.28 during the first six months
of this year. Local contributors included $6,500 each from

Point Loma resident and cross-border real estate mogul Malin Burnham;

La Jolla investor, philanthropist, and
Voice of San Diego founder Buzz Woolley

CAC Advisory Services,
run by Woolley ally and
fellow charter schools
advocate Rod Dammeyer.

CAC and Dammeyer were
major financial backers of
San Diegans 4 Great Schools,
a political committee which also
received significant funding from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.

That effort, opposed by the teachers union, foundered last month when the group
was not able to collect sufficient signatures to qualify its controversial ballot
measure to expand the school board, in part with appointed members.

In addition to his April 8 PAC contribution, on June 24
Woolley gave $25,000 to
the charter school alliance’s independent expenditure committee. On the
same day, CAC Advisory Services gave the committee $150,000.

The biggest donor of all was Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings, who
contributed $493,500.

In all, the independent expenditure committee raised a total of $1,287,000.
La Jolla investor, philanthropist,
Voice of San Diego
founder Buzz Woolley
Rod Dammeyer
Irwin Jacobs
News, information and ideas about our
education system
by Maura Larkins