San Dieguito trustees depart after decades of service

Beth Hergesheimer (third from left in red) and Joyce Dalessandro (right, holding the scissor)
Beth Hergesheimer and Joyce Dalessandro celebrated the opening of the new Torrey Pines High School performing arts center in 2019.
(Karen Billing)

San Dieguito Union High School District trustees Joyce Dalessandro and Beth Hergesheimer have stepped down after many years of service to the district—24 and 16 years, respectively.

At their last board meeting on Nov. 19, Dalessandro and Hergesheimer were the recipients of kind words of thanks from parents, teachers and staff members as well as gifts of flowers and many virtual hugs. Francine Busby from Congressman Mike Levin’s office shared a proclamation recognizing the decades of time and dedication to the community and they were remembered for campus celebrations, their support for teachers, hearts for teenagers and for “leaving the district better than they found it.”

“Your grace and fortitude as San Dieguito board members will be your legacy,” said Diegueno Middle School Principal Cara Dolnick on behalf of all the district’s principals. “We believe that your compassion and understanding and commitment to our school community make you excellent role models for all who follow in your footsteps.”

During their terms, both served time as board president—Hergesheimer most recently had the gavel in her last year.

Since joining the board Dalessandro oversaw the growth of the district with the opening of Carmel Valley Middle School in 1999 and Canyon Crest Academy in 2004, where students started out attending school in trailers in the parking lot until the campus was completed.

After Prop AA passed in 2012, both Dalessandro and Hergesheimer saw improvements completed districtwide including new classroom buildings, media centers and athletic facilities. The new Pacific Trails Middle School opened in 2016 and the following year the new Earl Warren Middle School opened, replacing a 61-year-old campus.

Dalessandro, a former Torrey Pines High School parent who long advocated for a new performing arts center for the school, was able to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the new facility in 2019.

herg daless
SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley, Beth Hergesheimer, Joyce Dalessandro and Joanne Schultz, executive assistant to the superintendent.

Both board members saw curriculum enhancements such as the International Baccalaureate program at La Costa Canyon and both were responsible for selecting four new superintendents. Dalessandro has worked with five superintendents over the years as she was on the board in 2001 when Bill Berrier retired after 29 years leading the district.

“My first superintendent, who through his vast knowledge coupled with his kind and gentle manner, taught me more about good boardsmanship, involvement and dedication than ever I learned from any other source,” Dalessandro said of Berrier.

There have been turbulent times of split board votes and heated public comments during standing-room only meetings over issues such as budget deficits, salary increases, the school selection process, student discipline, board governance, foundation fundraising and special education. Dalessandro weathered an unsuccessful recall attempt in 2018 and a group of parents threatened to recall Hergesheimer this spring over the credit/no-credit grading process.

As Superintendent Robert Haley noted in his gratitude for them bringing him to this district, 2020 is likely not how they imagined their last year to go as they have dealt with the challenges of a global pandemic.

“It has been an exciting, challenging, rewarding, absorbing, aggravating and frustrating time right up until today,” Dalessandro said.

In her last year, Dalessandro was recognized as “School Board Member of the Year” by the Association of California School Administrators and San Diego County School Boards Association. She was honored in a virtual ceremony in October with her grandchildren in tow for having a “positive impact on future leaders and on public education in California.”

Hergesheimer, a mother to three sons who graduated from La Costa Canyon High, was described by Clerk Melisse Mossy as someone who is kind, diligent and resilient: “not easily shaken by anything that comes her way.”

Hergesheimer said she has no regrets for any decision or any vote she made as she believes they were based on the knowledge she had at the time and what she felt was right. She encouraged the board to be willing to consider new information in these ever-changing times, to find common goals and work together so they can accomplish the greatest possible good for the district.

“It’s been a great opportunity and it’s been mostly good. There are those frustrating times and moments,” Hergesheimer said. “It was a good match when I stepped into it and it’s a good time for me to be moving on. I’m thankful that we have some good, strong folks coming in behind us.”

The new board members, Michael Allman and Katrina Young, will be sworn in on Dec. 15.

“Joyce and I both have grandkids who live in this district so we will haunt you a bit,” teased Hergesheimer as she moved the board forward to the next agenda item.