Parents leading recall effort for SDUHSD board member

Torrey Pines High School parent Wendy Gumb announced her intention to circulate a recall petition for San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board member Joyce Dalessandro at the April 19 board meeting.

“We’ve decided to take action because we think it’s important that we have transparent and good leadership in our district and we feel the only way to do that is to remove the failed leadership from our school board,” said Gumb, who said members of the recall group include parents of Torrey Pines and Canyon Crest Academy students and other registered voters in Dalessandro's trustee area, district four.

Dalessandro, who has been a board member for 22 years, was re-elected in 2016 and her current term expires in 2020. She said she was left speechless by the action.

“I have put in a long stretch of very dedicated and hard work and to see my reputation destroyed at this point in my career is horrifying to me,” Dalessandro said. “The things I have done for this district are too many to name. It just bowls me over…but she has the right.”

After Gumb made the announcement at the meeting, she handed Dalessandro an envelope containing a list alleging the ways in which she has failed as a board member, including neglect in making student safety and well-being the district's top priority; failure to advocate against illegal pupil fees; failure to advocate for the needs of special education students, including providing basic curriculum and adequate facilities; and failure to advocate for reduced class size.

Dalessandro disagreed with those allegations, believing that many of the items listed are ones she has fought for as a board member.

The notice of intention for the recall petition is expected to be filed “imminently” with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. When approved, the proponents of the recall will have 120 days to gather valid signatures from 20 percent of the registered voters in trustee area four which includes Del Mar and portions of Carmel Valley, Pacific Highlands Ranch, Fairbanks Ranch and Rancho Santa Fe. The area had 20,999 registered voters in the 2014 election--the SD County Registrar of Voters said they are still preparing the number of the voters in the new area and the number of signatures that would be required.

While the district was divided into five trustee districts in December 2017, Dalessandro was elected by the entire district in the November 2016 election. She was the second top vote-getter of five candidates, with 31.22 percent of the vote or 39,116 votes.

Late last year, a group of Rancho Santa Fe School District parents led a recall effort of appointed board member Jon Yonemitsu, the first successful petition of its kind in San Diego County since 1994. The April 24 RSF School District special election was forced after a petition of 110 signatures was submitted objecting to the school board’s appointment process.

In Rancho Santa Fe’s case, the district was required to bear the cost of the special election, expected to cost between $40,000 and $80,000.

If the recall petition receives the verified signatures required, the district has two weeks to set the date for the recall election. The election must be held no more than 125 days after issuing the order.

“Any time we have an election on the ballot, it results in a cost impact to the district,” said SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill. “Our costs are based on the number of ballot items and candidates. If the effort qualifies for the November ballot or a special election, it will be an additional cost we did not plan for in forecasting the November 2018 election budget.”

Trustees in areas one, three and five (seats held by Mo Muir, John Salazar and Amy Herman) are up for re-election in November 2018.

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