Meet the SDUHSD candidates

Last year the San Dieguito Union High School District officially changed from an at-large election system to a by-area election, splitting the district into five areas. Three seats are up for election this November in Areas 5, 3 and 1.

Meet the candidates (in alphabetical order) in their own words:

Area 5 (representing Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch

Kristin Gibson Courtesy

Kristin Gibson

Kristin Gibson holds a BA from Wake Forest University, a California teaching credential, and an MA in educational technology from San Diego State University.

She began her career as a teacher in the La Mesa-Spring Valley School District and is now a faculty member in SDSU’s School of Teacher Education, as well as a contributor to projects at the Center for Research in Mathematics and Science Education.

She has served two terms as a trustee in the Del Mar Union School District, currently as board president, and she holds a masters in governance from the California School Board Association.

Her child has attended public schools in Carmel Valley since kindergarten and Gibson has also contributed to local schools over the past decade as a member of the Pacific Trails Planning Committee, the Pacific Trails and Ashley Falls School Site Councils, and the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

The immediate issue that needs to be addressed is the restoration of proper governance. San Dieguito is a wonderful district but, by all accounts, they struggle with a dysfunctional board of trustees. Without a high-functioning school board, even a wonderful district is limited in what it can achieve.

The negative and unproductive environment that results from a fractured governance team distracts from the important work of providing an exceptional educational experience for all children. It also makes it challenging for the district to attract talented leadership.

Board members need to come together as a unified team to make decisions in the best interest of students. Differences of opinions are valuable and can be leveraged in positive ways to benefit the district, but they must be shared respectfully and with the goal of achieving consensus whenever possible. Board members must be crystal clear on what their job does and does not entail, they must agree to a set of behavioral norms, and they must invest time and energy in building trusting, healthy relationships with the community.

I am proud that my colleagues and I established such a governance team during my time on the board of the Del Mar Union School District. Until this happens in San Dieguito, it will be difficult to successfully address other critical issues such as school safety and deficit spending.

Cheryl James-Ward Courtesy

Cheryl James-Ward

Cheryl James-Ward has more than 25 years dedicated to public education as a teacher, professor and an educational leader.

James-Ward is the new principal at a public high school, e3 Civic High, recognized as one of the most innovative schools in the nation by CNNMoney. This 21st century high school is focused on design thinking, project-based learning, and internships for all students.

James-Ward is a former NASA engineer and tenured professor at San Diego State University, Department of Educational Leadership where she taught school leaders and aspiring administrators. She was a principal in Pasadena, Long Beach and Encinitas.

James-Ward earned her B.S. in mathematical sciences from UC Santa Barbara and doctorate of education from USC. James-Ward also earned the USC Meritorious Award for Dissertation of the Year.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

The biggest issue facing public education is the need to catch up to the 21st century. We need a paradigm shift that embraces technology and recognizes that half the jobs that exist today will be gone within 25 years.

According to a recent report called the Class of 2030, “The ways people interact, socialize and work are shifting rapidly. By the time kindergarteners of today become the graduates of 2030, the world will be vastly different from anything previous generations have experienced.”

Anything that can be automated, will be automated. This means that we must teach our students how to become life-long learners, to be critical thinkers, creative, persistent, flexible, empathetic and culturally competent.

Schools must create opportunities for students to solve real problems both locally and globally; to have internships in engineering, the medical professions and tourism, as well as opportunities to interact with cultures across the world. Technology must be leveraged to personalize learning.

Teachers who embrace technology and are strong in content area, data analysis, and social emotional learning are and will be increasingly in high demand. Finding more teachers who meet these criteria is key to bringing education and our students into the 21st century. These learning facilitators (because they will facilitate the learning experience) are able to personalize learning so that each student can move at his/her own pace and receive the personalized support necessary to meet the demands of the job market and the society of 2050.

I say 2050 because high schoolers today will be a part of the workforce into the year 2050. Educators must engage in preparing students to thrive in a globally society not yet imagined.

Lea Wolf

Lea Wolf Courtesy

Lea Wolf is a long-time Carmel Valley resident and a former New Yorker. Like many in the community, she is an immigrant and believes her diverse cultural background as a Russian-Israeli enables her to see things through a global lens.

Wolf is a successful entrepreneur with diverse business expertise and professional acumen. The organizations she has co-founded center on addressing social issues through innovative technology. She is an educator and an ATD-certified coach who developed a proprietary communications methodology e-LEADERSHIFT.

Her education also includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business and entrepreneurship.

Wolf has a daughter who attends Canyon Crest Academy and together they developed the community program, Deeds-by-Kids, aimed at character development and life skills for kids. Wolf is also an outspoken voice for the rights of children and has worked to raise awareness about the normalized practices in schools and institutions that cover-up and perpetuate child abuse.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

There are several issues plaguing our school district including no trust in leadership and no real commitment to students’ well-being.

The root of the issue is that majority board members promote SDFA union agenda and interest.

Due to the conflict of interest between the union and the district, many poor decisions are made harming students, teachers and taxpayers. The union contract has increased class size from 30 max to 38 average. This decision has been to the determinant of students and teachers. Teachers are overwhelmed and struggling to engage students and dedicate quality time to provide meaningful feedback.

Students feel lost, isolated and stressed. Anxiety and depression are increasing year over year. Vaping and drugs are being overlooked. Hazing, bullying and sexual harassment are being ignored or covered up. Lastly, students are being harshly punished for silly mistakes or infractions with limited due process. The board failed to address these issues causing much distress and distrust.

We must restore trust and confidence, so students have an amazing experience in school.

I strive to instill a culture that centered on the “whole” student counts. So, before any decision is made, any action is taken, we must ask: How does it serve our student[s]? What is the impact on student[s]? Are we empowering students to lead and succeed in life? Are we equipping them with practical tools, so they can apply them to be successful?

I am most passionate about enhancing the school experience so students are inspired, having fun and feel safe. We must promote creativity, global and diverse thinking; and to build a vibrant and collaborative community among all stakeholders.

I value most integrity, transparency, and being compassionate. We need a board member with fresh ideas, real commitment and courage to focus on empowering students and holding everyone accountable.

AREA 1 (representing Encinitas)

Amy Flicker Courtesy

Amy Flicker

The Flicker family, Amy, Douglas, Sam and Jack) are proud residents of Encinitas.

Amy Flicker has been an active parent in the Encinitas school districts. She started in the PTA, first as a grant writer, and eventually served as PTA president for both Paul Ecke Elementary and Diegueno Middle Schools. She has also been a room mom and a County of San Diego Read Ready program volunteer.

Flicker serves on the Proposition P Oversight Committee for Encinitas Union School District and the Proposition AA Oversight Committee for SDUHSD, ensuring that taxes are going to where they are supposed to.

Flicker also serves on the executive boards of the North County Regional PTA and the North Coastal Consortium for Special Education. Both oversee multiple school districts.

Additionally she serves on the SDUHSD Special Education Taskforce and the Social Emotional Wellness Committee.

Lastly, she serves as an environmental commissioner for the City of Encinitas.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

We have challenges facing this district. However, I do not believe that we have only “one” or that there is the “biggest” of issues that we can isolate and then blame for the rest.

I believe that several small decisions, over time, add up. Small decisions over time that were not well thought through or rushed, or properly debated, can then lead to making bigger decisions that can have material impact. Having an informed and engaged board, that collaborates, and analyzes various options is so critical.

I believe that I bring that collaborative style to the position I am running for. I have had the privilege over the years of working alongside students, teachers, parents and administrators.

The theme that runs throughout any work, or contribution that I make is one of collaboration. It is important to identify problem areas, but it’s even more important to work together to find solutions.

This board has lacked that quality of collaboration.I want to be a part of a board that sets a vision and works cohesively with administration. I also want to communicate and be transparent for our families. Most importantly, I want to always have focus on the most important part of the job, and that is to always do what is in the best interest of our children.

I bring commitment. I bring experience.I bring inclusion.I bring a way to move forward.

Mo Muir Courtesy

Mo Muir

Mo Muir is the vice president of the San Dieguito Union High School District Board of Trustees, and was appointed by her peers, as vice president of the San Dieguito Union High School Facilities Authority and the district Safety and Wellness Committee. Muir was elected to two terms to the award-winning Encinitas Union School Board.

Muir has a political science degree from the prestigious University of San Diego and a California School Boards Association Masters of Governance.

She was honored as "Educator of the Year" by the New Encinitas Business Network. Muir also received special recognition from Congressman Bilbray, on behalf of North County families. Muir was appointed to the UCSD Life Sharing Board, and by the County Board of Supervisors to First Five, dedicated to improving the early development of children.

Muir has served on the board of the Friends of the Encinitas County Library, the Kiwanis literacy program, and the Math 24 districtwide program.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

Our district is one of the best in the state, with some of the top schools in the country, with dedicated students, families and staff. Despite past deficits, the board has worked closely with our interim superintendent so that we now have a surplus of $5 million. We recently hired a new superintendent, Dr. Robert Haley, an expert in school finance and budgeting, to ensure the district’s fiscal health while maintaining high student achievement and outstanding academic success.

My priorities are to use our funding to lower class sizes, increase student access to trained counselors, support efforts to bring more AP classes, improve under-performing student groups, lower any projected deficits and raise the reserves.

School safety must be a top priority. I am one of two board members that was appointed to serve on the district Safety and Wellness Committee. My goal is to make sure our students and staff are protected without compromising the beauty and culture of each school. I voted to put the Raptor school safety system in all school to require visitors, including parents, volunteers and vendors, to provide a photo I.D. and pass a security clearance before accessing our schools.

I have also voted for Prop AA projects and want to continue the work on our schools especially the projects at:

• La Costa Canyon High School (landscaping, media center, gym, 200 building updates, HVAC and more);

• Oak Crest Middle School (modernization of tech infrastructure, landscaping and improvements along Balour, remodeling of the Learning Commons, improved field access, C-Smart and art classrooms);

• San Dieguito Academy: renovations and updates of classrooms especially culinary arts, math and science buildings, updating of tech infrastructure, field improvements and new stadium; and

• Sunset High School: campus renovation and expansion, addition of ATP facility.

Let’s keep the success going!

AREA 3 (Representing Solana Beach, Cardiff, Rancho Santa Fe and Encinitas)

Melisse Mossy Courtesy

Melisse Mossy

With a background in business and education, Mossy is “passionately committed to assuring all students receive an exceptional and world-class educational experience that will prepare them for the ever-changing global economy.

At Rawhide Ranch, she “worked tirelessly, with a very tight budget, to restructure the business for financial success.” As a teacher she designed “innovative reading programs and creative solutions to involve local businesses to support her classroom’s enrichment.” Mossy is an “enthusiastic, positive, and creative problem solver who will work tirelessly, with integrity, to support and advocate for our children.” For more information, visit

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

I wish there was one big issue to tackle, but I believe there are several. Our San Dieguito schools are great, but we can achieve even more. A recent study found that only half of U.S. students report feeling engaged in school. Globally researchers predict 85 percent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. In the U.S. almost 50 percent of teachers leave within their first five years of teaching. School violence and expulsions are at an all-time high.

We must do more to provide safe, engaging and innovative learning experiences for our children, so they look forward to school each day. We must give our teachers the support they need to innovatively engage the minds of our students. We have the lowest reserves for our district budget in years. These facts are daunting but together we can create solutions.

I hope to be to a voice for all students, our constituents, and staff to bring the board together to work as a team. I will carefully listen to and value all stakeholders, and work together to find common ground and creative solutions. For example…

*Establish and maintain a safe campus environment for all students and employees, where student well-being is nurtured and measured.

*Create a district app for better seamless communication.

*Start the first day of every semester with a high energy and motivating assembly to remind students of expectations and to highlight student and staff successes including those of special education students.

*Use data, surveys and assessment for students and alumni to indicate how well we met our goals serving them.

*Support innovative, and state-of-the-art learning spaces that facilitate meaningful learning and fund their ideas through community and corporate partnerships as well as grants.

Rhea Stewart

Rhea Stewart Mark Whitehouse

Rhea Stewart grew up in San Diego. At SDSU, she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, a multiple subjects teaching credential, and a master’s degree in education.

With husband Scott, Stewart moved to Cardiff in 1989 to send their children to “the best schools in the county.” Kendall, Kyle and Tara Stewart attended Cardiff School, Ada Harris School, Oak Crest Middle School, and graduated from San Dieguito High School Academy (SDA).

Stewart is a long-time advocate for education. She served on the Cardiff School District Board of Trustees from 2006 to 2010. In 2012, she was vice chair for SDUHSD’s $449 million Proposition AA, which funds school improvements. Since 2013, Stewart has served on the district’s Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC), and was president from 2013-2018.

Stewart campaigned for Cardiff School District’s $22 million Measure GG in 2016, served as committee treasurer, and she’s currently president of the district’s ICOC.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district and what do you hope to bring to the board?

While the district faces a variety of challenges, I believe one of the most vital issues is the upcoming leadership change. SDUHSD will welcome a new superintendent this fall. The board will be responsible for setting goals, providing direction during the transition, and supporting the superintendent’s review of the organization and how the district conducts its business.

As a board member, I’ll bring effective communication and the ability to collaborate with my colleagues, to help define a successful path for the new superintendent. I will also focus on establishing positive, respectful working relationships with my fellow board members, and the district’s teachers and staff. My experience as a Cardiff School District Trustee has prepared me well to serve as the SDUHSD Trustee for Area 3.

Serving on the District’s Proposition AA Independent Citizens Oversight Committee, it’s my responsibility to remain current on how the district manages projects funded by this measure. The committee also reviews audits detailing how the funds are actually spent. Based on this experience, I will have a strong foundation to work with the incoming board as we manage the current budget and shed light on how this year’s spending will contribute to the district’s financial decisions in 2019.

For the past six years, I have served on the district’s Parent Curriculum Advisory Committee. This committee meets regularly with the Associate Superintendent of Educational Services to gain key insights on current academic programs and testing within the district. My understanding of how our district’s teachers design curriculum, collaborate, plan, and teach will be an asset to the board. I also look forward to supporting the district’s science teachers as they study California’s new science standards to build courses, select teaching materials, provide training, and design learning that engages and prepares our students for a promising future.