Lucile Lynch named San Dieguito’s interim superintendent

SDUHSD Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch
(Courtesy Wesley Lynch)

In a 4-1 vote, the San Dieguito Union High School District board has appointed Lucile Lynch as the interim superintendent following the resignation of Robert Haley two days prior. On April 29, the board met in closed session for about four hours before making the announcement about Lynch’s appointment. The sole vote against the appointment was trustee Katrina Young.

The board had accepted Haley’s voluntary resignation on April 27 and put out a call for applicants for the interim superintendent position. The board reviewed 14 applications and interviewed eight candidates for the position before appointing Lynch. According to SDUHSD President Mo Muir, one internal candidate was offered the interim position but turned it down due to family commitments.

Lynch’s employment agreement will be ratified at the board’s meeting on May 20. According to a news release, the board plans to immediately begin a nationwide search for the permanent superintendent position, which will be the district’s fifth superintendent in 10 years.

Lynch said she was a little in shock at her appointment, which she acknowledged will only be a short-term post: “I have no intention of going beyond this temporary stage.” In her short time as interim superintendent, she said she hopes she can develop a collaborative relationship with all stakeholders and work productively with the board to support their vision.

Lynch is a former SDUHSD parent—her two sons are graduates of Oak Crest Middle School and La Costa Canyon High School. A former assistant district attorney and businesswoman, Lynch created an educational products corporation and founded Beacons, Inc., a nonprofit that provides vocational training to bridge gaps to employment for adults with developmental disabilities.

Lynch has been an education advocate throughout her children’s education. She was involved with the PTA at El Camino Creek Elementary and served on the community advisory committee for the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education. In the San Dieguito district, she has advocated for special education reform and for a district aquatics facility as part of the pool committee.

“My real priority is to help bridge the communications gap,” Lynch said. “There’s a lot of divisiveness right now.”

As she comes on board at the district this week, Lynch is hoping to set up time to speak with the executive cabinet, principals, the union, staff as well as parents to understand their needs and priorities.

“I would love to build some trust, even it’s only for two months,” Lynch said. “Community buy-in will make everyone’s job so much more positive.”

While she does not know how much she will be able to achieve in her short time, she would like to see movement toward a more informative website and school site town halls once a month to discuss areas of concern. She also hopes to be able to assist in board meetings running more efficiently and providing some transparency on the public comment speaker selection process.

Lynch is also focused on upcoming high school graduations, how to make graduations the most meaningful for families and how schools can bring people together again to “celebrate in a joyful manner.”

When the district last went through a superintendent selection process in 2018, retired superintendent Larry Perondi was hired to file the interim role after the departure of Eric Dill. He served for about three months while the board conducted a national search which resulted in the hiring of Haley.

In a message to the community on April 28, Haley wrote about the challenges of the past year and acknowledged the hard work of his leadership team, the teachers, and staff who were dedicated to ensuring all students received an education regardless of their circumstances of learning at home or at school.

“For many families and students, I know this past year has been hard on them and, for many, learning at home was, and is, not ideal and has caused stress and harm,” Haley wrote. “I worked as hard as I could to ensure those families were supported and their students could return to campus. It is my fervent hope that the district and the state continue on this path. At the same time, we must remember the students at home and ensure they are supported as well.”

Haley said he enjoyed spending as much time as possible on school campuses interacting with students, teachers and staff to understand how district decisions impacted their daily lives: “I will miss that time tremendously,” he said.

“Although it was my desire to finish my career at San Dieguito Union High School District, that is not to be,” Haley wrote. “The district is a great one and can be a lighthouse for the state and nation. I hope the board of trustees is successful with any positive initiatives it has in the future.”

During public comment before the board’s April 29 closed session, parents expressed some concerns about the rushed timeline and a lack of communication—parents said applications were due at 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. meeting and there was no email announcements about Haley’s resignation or how to apply for the interim job. The announcement was posted on the district’s website as well as the district’s Facebook page.

Among qualifications for an incoming superintendent, some parents and teachers requested an experienced school administrator who knows the district well or has prior experience as a superintendent, one who puts students first, knows and loves public schools and one who values diversity, equity and inclusion. Another parent suggested a superintendent who is outside of the educational field that could offer a fresh perspective on finances and personnel.

A common theme among public comment was a request for stability and restored confidence in the district.

“Polarizing online groups, uncivilized discourse and personal attacks do not benefit our students. A community deliberately divided silencing and intimidating anyone not in lockstep doesn’t help our students. Painting teachers as adversaries is not what is best for our students,” said parent Kimberly McSherry. “My fear is while there will always be disagreement on policy, the current polarized community, the hostile climate for teachers and the damage already done to community trust will lead our very best, most innovative and experienced teachers and staff to leave. This will have a very real, immediate and terrible impact on our students and academic performance.”

Teacher Ann Cerny worried about the district’s trend of “bleeding talent” over the last several years as they have not promoted from within: Superintendents Rick Schmidt and Dill left for other leadership positions outside of the district as did associate superintendents Jason Viloria and Michael Grove and three school principals. Additionally, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Cindy Frazee is retiring at the end of the school year.

Moving forward, parent Julie Bronstein requested that the board take its time in hiring a new superintendent.

“The process should be transparent and conducted fairly,” Bronstein said. “Parents in the district are counting on you to conduct a fair and thorough vetting process that will allow you to arrive at hiring the superintendent best suited to ensure the continued excellence of our district.”