By Marsha Sutton
Although board members for the San Dieguito Union High School District expressed pleasure at the high quality of applicants for a seat on the district’s bond Oversight Committee, there was a dearth of candidates for three of the five required positions.
Of 11 applicants, only one each qualified for the business, taxpayers and senior organization representative. The rest applied to be the parent, parent organization or at-large representative.
The board was required to select a minimum of seven people to serve, and nine were chosen at an open meeting on Feb. 12. Members are:
•Business rep: Michael Kenny
•Taxpayers rep: Lorraine Kent
•Seniors rep: Mary Farrell
•Parent organization rep: Clarke Caines
•Parent rep: Larry Lugo
•At large: Kim Bess, Scott Seidenverg, Rhea Stewart, Jeffery Thomas
The Oversight Committee is charged with monitoring SDUHSD’s Proposition AA $449 million bond measure, which passed in November by a slim margin.
Michael Kenny, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association choice, became the sole Business representative after another candidate was disqualified as a business rep. That left Lorraine Kent as the only Taxpayers organization rep. And Mary Farrell was the only person to apply as a representative of a senior citizens group.
Two weeks ago, Eric Dill, SDUHSD’s associate superintendent of business services, said the senior citizens’ organization could not be AARP.
“They have to belong to some organization that represents senior interests,” but not AARP, he said then. The example he gave was someone in a retirement community’s Homeowners Association located within the district.
Yet Farrell’s qualification for the senior citizens position was her membership in AARP.
At the board meeting Feb. 12, Dill said the language in the law is “open-ended” and had determined that membership in AARP is valid.
“The sections of the code are pretty vague,” he said, adding that he would prefer a local senior organization but it’s not necessary.
Janet Mueller, an attorney with Dannis Woliver Kelley of San Diego, said the law simply calls for one member to be “active in a senior citizens’ organization.”
“That’s really the only insight the law provides,” she said.
Unless the district has internal policies that make it more specific, school districts have discretion on how to interpret the language, she said, adding, “Most people would interpret it broadly.”
Because it was publicized that AARP membership was not adequate, what’s unknown is how many people might have applied to represent senior interests had it been clear that AARP was acceptable.
Farrell’s qualifications, however, are not in question. She has extensive knowledge and experience in local education, including serving on PTAs, site councils, strategic planning groups, committees and foundations.
She is influential in local politics and the education community, particularly Del Mar and San Dieguito, and, according to her application, has “served as campaign manager for many board candidates at both the elementary and high school level.”
Farrell said she was applying out of “an overly-developed sense of duty” and brings to the committee “years of understanding schools.”
Farrell is well-known by SDUHSD board members, having publicly endorsed incumbent trustees Joyce Dalessandro and Beth Hergesheimer in last November’s school board elections. Both incumbents won.