Protesters returned to the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) on Sept. 1 prior to the school board meeting, with over 20 teachers holding signs in opposition to board members John Salazar and Mo Muir. The opposition spilled into the board room as Bob Croft, president of the San Dieguito Faculty Association, spoke out against the board members.
Croft said as the school year begins with Canyon Crest Academy at capacity, teachers remain concerned about Muir's and Salazar's votes against "desperately needed classrooms at CCA and other important Prop AA projects."
"Certainly we have seen with dismay Salazar's efforts before to thwart taxpayer-approved Prop AA and the incredible infrastructure improvements it continues to bring to the students of our district," Croft said.
Croft noted Salazar's continued opposition to Prop AA, where he said in an April interview: "Building new structures doesn't provide better education."
"I wonder if Canyon Crest Academy parents would agree as it is their students who would be sitting in the school's parking lot if the other board members would not have outvoted Salazar and Muir's misguided opposition to these new classrooms," Croft said of the new classroom building currently under construction.
Croft said Salazar's statement was "ignorant" and "laughable" and demonstrates "incredible, uninformed and disconnected" judgment on his part.
Croft also said Muir's vote against the new classroom building was "misguided" due to her concerns about the lease-leaseback model, which she explained was due to a recommendation she heard at a California School Boards Association conference. Muir said on Sept. 1 that she has since had a lengthy discussion with Interim Superintendent Eric Dill to clarify that the builder-financed method of construction is legal and a valuable tool for school districts.
"We simply need board members that won't deny these classrooms to our students and offer up lame excuses at the expense of our students' futures," Croft said. "'I don't like structures,' 'I don't like lease-leaseback'— they dither while our students' futures suffer."
Ann Cerny, a La Costa Canyon parent and teacher, spoke previously during public comment at the Aug. 18 board meeting citing "disturbing evidence" that Muir's and Salazar's performance as trustees has "undermined the integrity of our excellent district," even calling for Salazar to step down — to which he responded "That's not going to happen."
At the Sept. 1 meeting, Cerny questioned why her comments were at first reflected briefly and adequately in the minutes of the August meeting but had since been revised to be shorter and less specific.
"I wonder why a revision was done in the first place. Why such attention to one sentence in a multi-page document?" Cerny asked. "Might this have been an attempt to sanitize minutes of a public school board meeting to minimize public criticism of school board members? Was this done to keep the public in the dark about Muir and Salazar's misguided and dangerous leadership in order to help elect their allies in November?"
She said the minutes failed to demonstrate why SDUHSD teachers "overwhelmingly believe Muir and Salazar are unfit board members."
The minutes were changed as a community member and a board member had expressed that the inclusion of public comment that specifically calls out a board member in the minutes has not been the board's practice. In the past, minutes have briefly reflected the speaker's name and the topic they are speaking on and they were amended in an effort to remain consistent, SDUHSD President Beth Hergesheimer said.
Neither Salazar nor Muir is up for re-election this fall and Salazar said the teachers' "organized bullying" is a reaction to the two board members' votes against the 12.5 percent salary increase for district staff. He noted that both he and Muir were the top vote-getters in the district when they were elected in 2014.
"Teachers continue to complain regularly on behalf of the union, even though the contract giving rise to their complaints was approved. These ongoing complaints about things that have already been resolved favorably in their behalf, continues to take up valuable board time with personal attacks on board members who felt that the district's reserves should have been used differently until the district weathered the impact of the law passed by Governor Brown forcing districts to literally dump their savings," Salazar said. "We thought the money should have been used on student programming instead of teacher salaries and that further examination of the contract and budget was warranted. But, because the incumbents approved these items, no further review could occur and the adoption was final."
Salazar said he and Muir believe fiscal balancing is critical to maintaining district solvency, not the adoption of reoccurring expenditures like the salary increase that cause a $6.7 million deficit.
"The primary mission of a school board is to support our students and their academic progress to the maximum possible and we intend to be watchdogs over this mission so that union demands never become more important than our students' success," Salazar said.
Salazar said few people attend the board meetings so he believes there is a lot of misinformation circulating among the teachers through Croft, who he said receives a full teacher's salary as well as a district paid salary for his position as a union president, even though he does not actively teach.
"The teachers have never had board members say 'no' to them. However, it's my fiduciary duty to make good policy decisions that protect our kids and the sustainability of our district," Muir said. "I don't back down to bullies in the classroom and I won't back down to bullies in the board room. I hope we can have fact-based discussion and not your typical special interest political season rhetoric."
Croft noted that in San Dieguito, the teachers are the union as they have nearly 100 percent volunteer membership. He also said that the same union never picketed when they went seven years without raises.
"This is not about salaries, that's old news. It's about their continued actions in opposition to crucial Prop AA projects like new classrooms at CCA," Croft said. "They got elected in 2014 because there was a lack of awareness in the community. If you only listened to them you'd think this was a horrible district but, in reality, it's one of the best districts in the nation."