Opinion/Letters to the Editor October, November, December 2021; February, March 2022
Oct. 8 issue:
SDUHSD needs to delay its superintendent search
Texas-based search firm JGConsulting held a series of town halls recently to solicit community input on San Dieguito Union High School District’s search for a superintendent. After attending four meetings I was heartened by the united voice of attendees. Our community’s desires are clear: a superintendent who supports teachers and students; understands California public education; has meaningful classroom experience; implements policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and unites our district’s stakeholders.
At the final meeting, CEO James Guerra reflected on the consistency he heard across 70 meetings. However, when asked if that meant that we would be sure to get a superintendent who meets these criteria, he hedged. The ultimate choice lies with board trustees. Guerra admitted he has little influence on whether they choose a candidate who matches the community’s priorities. The public will likely not know whether or not the board chooses from his list of recommended candidates.
Furthermore, Guerra touted the use of videos in the selection process which are subject to the risks of implicit bias. Our board has a track record of hiring white men, and this history must be interrogated. A decision based on race, white or otherwise, does not guarantee a candidate will successfully implement policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Only a proven record of experience and evidence-based knowledge of equitable education practices can serve as qualification.
These facts deepen my grave concerns about this search. The rushed timeline of five weeks is unusual and suspect. It ensures that the choice of our district’s executive leader will be made without the full input of three key areas: area 5 residents whose board seat is currently vacant; area 4 which is recalling their current representative; and area 1 whose trustee will likely soon have a change of residency.
Community outreach has also been limited. Only in response to community pressure was the survey translated into Spanish and a last-minute forum in Spanish announced (after JGConsulting’s departure). Teachers were invited to meet during school hours at the district office and therefore unable to attend. Students were notified of the survey half-way through the week. Only a handful of student leaders were invited to meet with the firm, and student affinity groups whose voices are already so often excluded were not consulted.
This district, one of the finest in the country, is already paying a year’s salary for a failed superintendent replaced last spring. The choice of our next superintendent is too vital to undertake without ample time, full transparency, and outreach to all stakeholders in the community. This search must be halted and replaced with one that includes all voices and allows the time necessary to do our district justice.
Kathy Stenger (she/her), co-lead
Equity in Education Group
Oct. 22 issue:
A need for school choice
The last 18 months have brought much-needed attention and discussion to matters regarding racial inequities embedded in our institutions. Nowhere is this more obvious than in our education system. We, in this community, are blessed with the privilege to send our children to some of the best schools in the country where they are given the best opportunities to excel in life. Sadly, many other families are not afforded that luxury. The grim reality is that California’s PK-12 education ranks #40 in our nation.. Five out of 10 students, grades 3 to 8, can’t read at the grade level, and 6 out of 10 are not proficient in math. Luckily, we now have the opportunity to correct this imbalance by voting for school choice.
Californians for School Choice has submitted a ballot initiative called the Education Freedom Act. This initiative will grant every parent of a K-12 child the opportunity to establish an Educational Savings Account. Each account will receive an equal share of Prop 98 state education dollars (currently $14,000 per student per year). Parents can then use these funds to enroll and pay for tuition at any accredited private school of their choice. Per the American Federation for Children: “The vast majority of credible evidence shows that school choice programs improve academic outcomes for not only the program participants but also the students in public schools; save taxpayers money; and reduce racial segregation.” Starting October 31st, Californians for School Choice will begin collecting signatures in order to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. I encourage everyone to learn about the benefits of school choice for every child and consider supporting this powerful initiative to bring about positive change for our historically underserved communities. The road to a better future starts with education. More information can be found at californiaschoolchoice.org.
School board handled issue in an altruistic way
I am writing in response to the article titled “Critical Race Theory ban removed from San Dieguito agenda,” published on your website on Oct. 18. From my understanding, your article focuses on the ban upon Critical Race Theory (CRT) as how it should not be a part of San Dieguito’s school curriculum or taught in classrooms. The quote, “The instruction shall not reflect adversely upon persons because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability, religion, or any other basis prohibited by law,” displays the rule as presented in this district. The school board handled this situation in a very altruistic way. The school understood the problem and fixed it in a way that was professional and considerate which is something that I can take away from this article, that faculty knows when they are wrong and what to do when problems like this come up. The interdependence of the district, board, and family members holds each accountable for situations like these. Overall, the way this article addresses the issue and faces it head on is important in today’s society as problems sprout rapidly in our daily lives.
Nov. 19 issue:
When Brandon and The Cardiff Way collide
Most Cardiff residents are familiar with “The Cardiff Way”: four rules displayed boldly on the grounds of two Cardiff elementary schools. These rules counsel children to “Act Responsibly”, “Care for Others”, and “Show Respect”.
When seven Cardiff schoolchildren, approximately 6-10 years old, rang my doorbell on Halloween, The Cardiff Way was completely dishonored. These kids did not say “trick-or-treat” when I opened the door. Instead, they shoved forward, reaching into the candy bowl I was holding to grab hands full of candy. Most did not have containers to hold their haul. When asked where their bags were, one responded that their parents were holding them. It seems they weren’t actually at my home to collect candy. Not one child said “thank you.” As they turned and ran back up the driveway to where their parents stood, several began yelling “Let’s go Brandon.” Many of you know what this phrase means. For those who don’t, it means “F*** Joe Biden.”
My surveillance cameras recorded much more than I could take in during the siege. The parents standing in the street in front of my home can be heard coaching the children to say “Let’s go Brandon”. One man demanded “... do it now” to which one costumed boy firmly replied “No”. The 6-year-old girl in a costume was told by her mother to “Just say it and then run.” Moments later, the boy’s father started chanting the phrase. As the children ran toward the street, one mother said “Ye-ah, woo-hoo!”, cheering for her child’s behavior. The group continued chanting as they headed away, briefly starting another chant of “build our school,” then resumed “Let’s go Brandon.”
The rude behavior of these children was shocking enough. That these cowardly parents pushed their kids into being disrespectful and chanting vulgarities is shameful. If you have a complaint -- act like responsible adults. Don’t poison your children with hate or encourage them to bully.
If these parents are frustrated, they should ask Cardiff school officials why there has been no progress. Save the Park’s lawsuit was dismissed more than a year ago. The problem is the National Park Service’s pesky insistence that federal law be followed – a requirement that the school district has known about for nearly four years and still hasn’t complied. And when school officials answer the parents’ questions, one hopes they will honor The Cardiff Way and observe the fourth rule -- “Be Honest.”
Dec. 3 issue:
U.S. flags deserve better care and display
In driving around Encinitas, it is sad to see the number of ragged U.S. flags that are displayed. Although it is impractical for homeowners to take down a flag in bad weather, it is recommended that flags should be made of a material that can withstand wind and rain. The flag, if it is flown at night, should be lighted. Also, it is upsetting to see flags of commercial businesses on the same flagpole as the U.S. flag.
Feb. 25 issue
‘North Coast Singers soldiers on despite challenges’
The article titled “North Coast Singers soldiers on despite challenges” in the Feb. 11, 2022 issue (page 11) about the tests that COVID has created for our choirs captured many of the issues we have faced. However, the reader may have come away with the misimpression that our choirs will close if more funding was not found.
We have been proactive in seeking other sources of funding for our choirs throughout the pandemic. Fortunately, there have been government programs that have come to rescue arts organizations like ours. We applied for, and received, a federally-backed PPP loan in 2020. This spring we received a State of California grant for the arts. Both infusions of cash have covered our income shortfall. The PPP loan has been released. Over the past 29 years, when we have had more revenue than our operating cost we have banked this money in a “rainy day fund”.
Today we are fiscally just about at the same place we were before the pandemic started. We expect that the 22/23 school year will bring us back to 80% of our former size and by 23/24 we will be at our full pre- pandemic choir size.
We welcome community support and intend to provide singing opportunities for children from grammar school through high school for years to come.
Richard B. Stevens
March 11 issue:
Our teachers are not the enemy
It’s revealing to observe how leaders behave when a huge problem lands in their lap. Covid qualifies as the challenge of our generation, demanding much from the people representing us, fair or not.
On the local school board level, what the SDUHSD community needed from its board was robust problem-solving. What we were offered, though, was the intellectually simpler approach of scapegoating the teachers, their union, both. Trustee Michael Allman, then brand new to the board, vilified these teachers, accusing them of being lazy and not wanting to teach in person. The chats on his private Facebook group read like a diary stolen from a rival clique. Members gleefully discussed which administrators should be fired, how badly the teachers were doing, etc. I’d never seen so much hostility leveled towards public teachers by anyone, let alone someone serving on a board… of a public school district.
Covid seems to be waning, but our teachers aren’t off the hook yet: Enter the “union map.” New census results obligated the district to “gently change” the trustee electoral areas. Trustees Allman, followed by Trustees Muir and Mossy, voted for a new map that was redrawn beyond recognition, even after a warning that its revision was likely illegal. What was so wrong with the other map, the gently redrawn map that was not illegal? Allman called it a “union map.” Beats me how a map can be for or against teachers, but I do know Michael Allman deflected the real answer to that question with another teacher jab.
I submit that we in this award-winning district deserve more from our leaders. Our kids certainly don’t need more bad behavior modeled for them. They’ve endured the masks, the internet connections, and the isolation with strength and grace. And please ask any teacher how “easy” it was for them to teach online. There were no winners during Covid. How needless, then, to make a difficult situation worse for teachers who literally scrambled multiple times to adapt their craft to the ever-changing situation.
Don’t let this become the norm.
Kate Takahashi, district parent
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