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Concerns raised over EUSD retreat

The Encinitas Union School District recently came under fire for a retreat. Superintendent Tim Baird called it a manufactured issue related to recent board elections. Courtesy photo

An Encinitas Union School District board member and some parents believe officials spent too much money on a recent three-day retreat for administrators.

The EUSD retreat, held last month at La Quinta Resort & Club in Coachella Valley, cost taxpayers $8,138, according to records. Most of the funds went toward rooms and meals, with materials and mileage reimbursements making up the rest.

Twenty-eight administrators and three board members took part in the retreat. A schedule distributed to them carved out time for management exercises, social events and relaxation.

A handful of residents contacted the Encinitas Advocate last week with concerns regarding the cost of the retreat.

EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird defended the trip.

“All organizations train their management teams,” Baird said. “I’m rounding here, but it came to more than $250 per person for training. You would spend more than that sending them to a conference or bringing in a guest facilitator.”

He later added: “I think this was a very efficient training of our management team.”

EUSD board member Maureen Muir, who did not attend, said the district funds could have been better spent.

“Every penny should go toward the kids, and not on a lavish resort,” Muir said. “There’s no reason to leave the city for a retreat.”

Records show prior district retreats weren’t as expensive, since they took place in Encinitas. A 2013 retreat for 35 EUSD officials came to $1,296. The cost of the 2012 retreat was $1,149.

In response, Baird said the district has a lot of new principals and employees in management positions.

“Sometimes when you have a new team, going away allows for a deeper level of focus,” he said. “You’re not getting called out of meetings like you are when in the district. You can really get to know the team and come together and focus.”

Learning theories and best practices for new technology were among the topics discussed, he stated.

Baird said it’s common for school districts to hold retreats outside of their communities and EUSD is being unfairly singled out by a small group of politically motivated parents.

“This is a manufactured issue related to board elections going on right now,” Baird said, adding the media is giving them a platform.

EUSD board candidate Jennifer Hamler and her supporters have criticized the retreat.

Hamler said she’s spoken with numerous parents over the last week who questioned the retreat in light of the district’s tight budget.

“It’s concerning the district is trying to deflect this by saying it’s only a small group,” Hamler said.

Echoing several parents, Muir said the retreat might have violated the Brown Act, because it wasn’t noticed in advance and the public couldn’t attend.

The Brown Act was created more than 60 years ago to ensure public issues aren’t talked about behind closed doors.

Baird said the trip was exempt from the Brown Act since board business wasn’t discussed. He added it’s similar to board members attending Parent-Teacher Association meetings, which he stated is OK under the Brown Act.

Two education lawyers did not respond to requests to comment on whether the district ran afoul of the Brown Act.

Baird said district money wasn’t spent on alcohol during the retreat. The $8,138 expenditure was drawn from EUSD’s general fund.


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