Four candidates are vying for two open seats on the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees in the Nov. 6 election: Joyce Dalessandro (incumbent), Beth Gergesheimer (incumbent), Graham Ledger and Steve McDowell. Below are candidate photos, bios and answers to two questions given to them by this newspaper.
Name: Steve McDowell
Years living in the School District:
Financial consultant, primarily working with locally started companies including: General Atomic, General Dynamics, QUALCOMM, and REMEC. Areas of focus; compliance reporting, due diligence, cost accounting, and budgeting.
Bachelor of Science in finance from San Diego State University, Master’s in business administration from the University of San Diego
Assistant Scout Master and Treasurer for Troop 713 Boy Scouts of America, Citizenship in the Community and Personal Management Boy Scouts of America Merit Badge Counselor, currently safety officer and for four years player agent for Del Mar Little League, chair of the City of Del Mar Traffic and Parking Committee, in the past auditor and treasurer for the Del Mar Heights PTA and auditor for the Earl Warren PTSA, former board member Del Mar Union School District.
1.) What do you think are the biggest issues facing the school district?
In many districts bringing test scores up to levels considered acceptable is the biggest issue. San Dieguito Union School District scores are already outstanding. Our district’s biggest challenge is to ensure student achievement continues to improve so that our students attain competencies and skill levels to compete in the 21st century economy.
Another significant challenge facing us is declining educational funding and the State borrowing from school districts which requires we establish spending priorities and further tighten our belts. Unfunded State and Federal mandates have also been growing, requiring the district to spend valuable resources. Deciding how best to use every resource the district will require an engaged board willing to ask questions, listen actively to public input, and conduct their own research to make sure all options have been explored. The board must be prepared to make cuts and vote no to keep expenditures within funding limits.
2.) Do you have any suggestions as to how the biggest issue in your answer for #1 should be addressed by the board?
Unfortunately, squeeze more.
Many of the consultants and vendors used by the district have been in place for multiple years. As renewals come up the board must question whether internal resources can be used to avoid additional layoffs, whether other options are available to reduce the cost, and whether the cost is necessary. Also, the district must look for and cure inequitable situations. Significant cuts have already been made to maintenance and technology support. As a parent in the district, I have seen my kid’s class sizes grow.
To avoid operating at a deficit more cuts will probably be necessary and they will need to come from areas that have not already been hit.
Don’t do long-term bonds for short-term problems.
While there are current long-term capital needs, a bond that will still need to be paid by our children’s children is not the answer. Realistic, right-sized bond initiatives will need to be developed in order to get taxpayer support.
Keep local money local.
District staff has indicated the annual impact due to the Fair Share agreement is approaching six million. This arrangement impacting all Basic Aid districts in the state was started without it going to a vote by the local boards. Board members are the voice of the taxpayers and the community. Before we give up our “fair share” we have to require we get reimbursed for our “fair share” of the cost of mandates passed down by the State and Federal government.