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Meet the Cardiff School District board candidates

File photo
(Migogo - stock.adobe.com)

The Cardiff School District has two seats up for election this November. Challengers Steven Grimaldi, Courtney Lapin (write-in candidate), Rhea Stewart and Billy Swinnea, are taking on the incumbent Nancy Orr. Meet the candidates, in their own words (in alphabetical order):

Steven Grimaldi
(Courtesy)

Steven Grimaldi
Occupation: Software Business Executive
Education: San Diego State University BA Communication & BS Computer Science
Community Service: Little League Coach - East Bay Athletic League, Little League Coach - Pleasanton Little League, Tutor and Mentor at Spring Valley Elementary, Coach - Chula Vista Youth Basketball, Junior Achievement Career Speaker

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District?
I believe the three biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District currently are as follows:

  • The Covid-19 Pandemic - getting our students back in school safely
  • The Cardiff Elementary School rebuild
  • Community Discord - two sides mired in litigation with no foreseeable resolution

    2. How would you propose to address those issues?
    Creating a Covid safe environment for our students, teachers, and staff as outlined by the CDC. Staying up to date with the constantly evolving information and guidance to ensure continued safety and minimize any anxiety that the students and community are experiencing.

    Cardiff rebuild: We have two sides so focused on “Being Right” that they’ve lost sight of the end goal which is to build the school within budget. I’ve spent the last 25 years working on high stakes contracts bringing diverse cultures together for the common good. As a neutral party, I am confident I can close the gap between the two sides and get Cardiff Elementary built. Clearly, the status quo is not working.

    3. Do you agree with the way the Cardiff School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.
    I am running for a seat on the Cardiff School Board because I don’t agree with the way things are being handled. The current School Board appears to be operating as if they are in over their heads. Lack of transparency with the community, contractor mismanagement, and zero accountability for the Board and Bond Manager running the rebuild. Why are we in litigation when over 65% of our community voted for the rebuild? What was Plan B in case the rebuild hit a snag? It seems the Board and Bond Manager failed to exercise due diligence and, as such, have failed us as a community. Clearly, the status quo is not working. Cardiff by the Sea deserves better. With over 25 years of experience executing contracts exceeding hundreds of millions of dollars, I will infuse new energy and direction into the School Board and into the Cardiff Elementary Rebuild.

    Courtney Lapin
    Courtney Lapin
    (Courtesy)

    Name: Courtney Lapin

    Occupation: Stay-at-home mom to two young boys, former product manager

    Education: Degrees in psychology and exercise and sports science from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Community Service: Current Parks & Recreation Commission, fundraising committee at Bethlehem Community Preschool

    1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District?

    The changes to our educational system on account of Covid-19, an over-budget and delayed construction project on the Cardiff Elementary campus, the fact that kindergarten and 1st graders go to school in an active construction site, and a subsequent lack of funding for student programming

    2. How would you propose to address those issues?

    (1) We need more parental input in regards to our virtual/hybrid learning model; allowing us to address issues in regards to equity in learning, connectivity issues at home, and where children may be falling behind due to this new format for learning.

    (2) We need to review all possible resolution outcomes for this lawsuit. We need to know what our options are, the associated costs, and the time it would take to execute each one.

    (3) Once a path to resolving the lawsuit/construction project is decided, we need to move as quickly as possible to complete the work and begin restructuring our finances. We are over-budget on this project and haven’t even begun to incur maintenance or upkeep fees associated with the development.

    (4) We need to begin fundraising to rebuild our funds for programming and teacher salaries to ensure our school and district remain competitive

    3. Do you agree with the way the Cardiff School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?

    Currently, I do not agree with the way the district is operating. It feels to me that as a school district we seem to be so busy fighting with our neighbors that we have lost focus of what we are meant to be providing for our kids.

    From my own experience as a first-time district parent, we desperately need more oversight and curriculum guidance for teachers. We need an easy, open, and transparent way to connect with both the school administrators and the board. We need to be in regular contact with families regarding hybrid scheduling, virtual learning, the “at home” learning requirements to meet state criteria, and connectivity.

    Nancy Orr
    (Courtesy)

    Nancy Orr
    Occupation: Member, past president and clerk, Cardiff School Board. Past: UCSD instructor/ program representative/ credentials advisor; Schoolteacher, 25 years, preschool through high school; Vice president/business manager of local family-owned printing business; Development director, San Diego Arthritis Foundation.
    Education: University of California, Davis, B. S. in human development; San Francisco State University, M. A. in education of exceptional children; San Francisco State University, multiple subject teaching credential; San Diego State University, certificate, director/teacher preschool.
    Community service: San Dieguito Alliance for drug-free youth; Elected parent representative, Cardiff and Ada Harris school site councils; Board member, Cardiff Youth Soccer Club; Manager, San Dieguito Bobby Sox All-Star softball team; Past president and member, California State Association of Low Wealth Schools; Vice president, Cardiff-by-the-Sea Town Council; Founding member, San Dieguito Heritage Museum; and member of the California School Board Association, Cardiff SEA, Friends of the Cardiff Library and Cardiff-by-the-Sea Chamber of Commerce.

    1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District?
    Cardiff School district is at a critical point. Each issue requires fiscally prudent and studied decisions. I am a passionate supporter of children. The focus of all priorities must be the health, safety and quality education for each child. With the understanding that each priority is intertwined with the other, the following are my priorities for the Cardiff School District:
    -A safe return to in-person learning at both campuses.
    - Complete all modernization and rebuild projects at Ada Harris and Cardiff Elementary schools.
    - Efficiently use resources to provide Cardiff students with strong academic, innovative and relevant instruction in an inspiring environment.

    2. How would you propose to address those issues?
    With ongoing parent, administration and staff input, the district is tirelessly and creatively researching and implementing best practices and safety guidelines. A small class size hybrid model is in place. A careful cleaning plan is established. Distancing, hygiene and mask rules are clear and upheld. PPE is in stock and plexiglass dividers in place.

    I am thankful to all those people for the long hours, brainstorming, donating and negotiating as they create a path to our goal; a safe return to campus.

    I am grateful for the many people who are participating in this vital and exciting project. New classrooms and modernized buildings throughout the entire district is close to reality. Parent involvement has been a continuous bonus throughout this endeavor. They have participated in years of regular and special board meetings, planning sessions and taken valuable family time to share their ideas. Cardiff kids will soon be in safe modern state-of-the-art classrooms!

    Do you agree with the way the Cardiff School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.

    I am happy with the way Cardiff School District operates.

    I am impressed with the increased efforts to communicate with our Cardiff families during these frustrating and scary Covid times. The latest example: The parent webinar held last night for families with children in grades K-2.

    I am also pleased the focus continues on safety for all individuals on campus. And it extends beyond Covid to all areas of life impacting our children.

    Rhea Stewart
    (Courtesy)

    Rhea Stewart
    Occupation: STEM Editorial Manager
    Education: B.A., Mathematics, San Diego State University. Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential with Supplemental Authorization in Mathematics, San Diego State University. M.A., Education with a Concentration in Educational Technology, San Diego State University. Certificate, Geographical Information Systems, Mesa College
    Community Service:
    President, Cardiff Elementary School District Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, 2017-Present; President, San Dieguito Union High School District Independent (SDUHSD) Citizens Oversight Committee, 2013-2019; Board member, fundraising chair, San Dieguito Academy Foundation, 2012-2018; Campaign Committee Treasurer, Measure GG General Obligation Bond Committee - Cardiff Elementary School District 2016; Campaign Committee Vice Chair, Proposition AA General Obligation Bond Committee - SDUHSD 2012; Board Member, Cardiff School District, 2006-2010; President, 2010.

    1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District?
    Focus on the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff, so that in-person learning can be carefully expanded. Complete the construction of Cardiff School.

    2. How would you propose to address those issues?
    Continue to follow local and state guidelines for school opening. Continued awareness of best practices for safely having students, teachers, and staff in our schools.
    Work with the superintendent and board to resolve outstanding legal issues.

    3. Do you agree with the way the Cardiff School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.
    With one board member deciding not to run for his seat again, it’s an ideal time for a new board member to bring fresh ideas and strategies, and to collaborate on how to build and expand our district’s outstanding educational programs.

    Billy Swinnea
    (Courtesy)

    Billy Swinnea
    Occupation: Consultant
    Education: Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.
    Community Service: N/A

    1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the Cardiff School District?
    I think one of the biggest issues has been the construction of the new school.

    2. How would you propose to address those issues?
    I believe the City of Encinitas did not do a thorough or insightful job with the design of the new school.

    3. Do you agree with the way the Cardiff School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made.
    I believe the Cardiff School Board has been doing a good job and I am supporting the board as I know it.


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