Meet the candidates: San Dieguito Union High School District board Area 4

Candidates for SDUHSD Area 4 include Michael Allman, Amy Caterina and Jane Lea Smith.
(Courtesy)

There are three candidates for the open board seat for San Dieguito Union High School District’s Area 4. The seat represents Del Mar and portions of Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch. In alphabetical order, see their bio information and responses to three questions below.

Michael Allman
(Courtesy)

Name: Michael Allman

Occupation: CEO/Board Member
Education: BS Chemical Engineering Michigan State University, MBA with a Finance Specialization, The University of Chicago – Booth School of Business
Community Service: Southern California Leadership Council board member, California Chamber of Commerce board member, San Diego Zoo Audit Committee, Old Globe board member, Los Angeles Metropolitan YMCA board member, Los Angeles World Affairs Council board member

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the San Dieguito Union High School District?
SDUHSD needs a plan to open our schools. I started a Facebook group for parents who want our district to reopen schools safely, but as soon as possible. After one week, we have over 1,400 members with 500 asking to join. Our middle and high school students are forced to spend a minimum of four to eight hours every day staring at a screen. Every family should do what is best for their own personal situation, but parents need choices and the district needs a plan to offer them the choice to attend school in person. Students are suffering from social/emotional distress from the isolation and lack of hope while parents report higher incidents of depression and anxiety. They have no answers as their children watch friends in private school return and prepare fully for the next chapter of their lives. Every day that passes is another day lost.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?
First, the board needs a reopening plan on which they can vote. They must ask Superintendent Haley to present a plan with options for opening the schools for full days of in-person learning while following all state and county safety and health guidelines. These plans already exist for schools of similar size and circumstances and can be adjusted for our district. Finally, parents have been ignored and silenced by the board and publicly shamed for wanting their child in school. The administration needs to work with all stakeholders: teachers, the board, and especially parents to get our children back in school.

3. Do you agree with the way the San Dieguito Union High School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?
We have a high-performing district with involved parents who care and teachers who love their work, but we need to do better. I will not make decisions based on how special interest groups pressure the board. Parents, students, and taxpayers need an independent voice to look out for their interests. Transparency, clear communication, and independence are the hallmarks of a well-managed school system and school board. The first step in making this vital change is to elect me, an experienced, professional member of many boards, as Trustee. Then we’ll get our students back in school.

Amy Caterina
(Courtesy)

Name: Amy Caterina

Occupation: Biotech Corporate Communications Consultant
Education: BA International Business, Simmons College, Boston, Mass.
Community Service: Current member: Canyon Crest Academy Site Council. Board member: Canyon Crest Academy Foundation, Del Mar Schools Education Foundation and Del Mar Hills PTA. Volunteer: San Diego Imperial Council Boy Scout Merit Badge Counselor, San Diego River Park Foundation and Torrey Pines Association.

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the San Dieguito Union High School District?
The most important issue that our school district is facing is how to ensure that our teachers can safely educate our children in this pandemic. This issue is so important and so complex that it overshadows almost every other issue, including misuse of public funds, misappropriation of public funds and overwhelming union influence on the district and board. There are health and safety concerns, financial constraints and extreme challenges ahead. Our district needs to listen to scientists and our elected leaders for health and safety directions. There needs to be thoughtful analysis of all of options and all stakeholders should be prepared, flexible and ready to pivot.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?
The district must develop a safe re-opening plan in collaboration with all stakeholders: teachers, staff, students and parents.

The district’s job is to educate children by meeting the needs of these stakeholders and the board’s job is to set policy, direct and oversee board policies and procedures.

District staff and teachers are unionized and their unions, the San Dieguito Faculty Association and California School Employee Association, have been very successful in getting the board to address the needs of the teachers. Students attend one of the most successful school districts in the state. This success is due in part to their natural intellect and socio-economic status and access to great teachers. Parents are also an important stakeholder.

I serve on the CCA Site Council and our four stakeholders work together at the site level. I believe the district should collaborate with its site councils to develop a safe re-opening plan.

3, Do you agree with the way the San Dieguito Union High School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?

No.

School boards should set policy, provide oversight and direction for the district. Our board majority is beholden to the teachers union.

The San Dieguito Faculty Association’s investment in the board has paid off handsomely. Since 2012, the majority controlled, SDFA-endorsed board has voted to approve excessive raises for district employees in the amount of $72 million (or $12 million per year).

So, don’t get me wrong, I support the teachers union. Teachers and staff need representation, but the board should be independent of the union. The board should ensure that the district is fiscally responsible, acting within the guidelines of State Education Code and within the policies and procedures that the board establishes.

Solution: Elect independent board members.

Jane Lea Smith
(Courtesy)

Name: Jane Lea Smith

Occupation: Medical Device Research Consultant
Education: BA in Psychology from UC San Diego; MS in Special Education from National University
Community Service:
· Parent Liaison for the CCA Girls Water Polo team
· Entertainment Chair for the CCA Grad Nite Committee
· Administrator of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy’s Exploring our Sense of Place (ESP) program

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the San Dieguito Union High School District?
Many of the concerns in our district stem from an underlying issue around communication and outreach. We must improve the district’s communications strategy to listen to our community’s concerns and clearly explain our decisions. Public frustration surrounding the district’s COVID-19 outreach highlights our community’s need to be involved and informed.

Our community’s calls for transparency are justified. Inadequate outreach has fostered division and distrust on a range of issues, such as expenditures, relationships with school-connected organizations, and racial equity.

The district can be proud of offering one of the finest public educations in the state. To maintain that excellence, we must prioritize public outreach and communications.

2. How would you propose to address those issues?
The district must embrace community engagement as a core value. Communications must be two-way. Public input is critical for our district’s leadership to set policy that best serves our community.

The district must adopt a strategy that articulates a commitment to community outreach, sets reasonable timelines for community review and input, and ensures regular, timely updates on board actions.

On the topic of expenditures, district fiscal policy and contributions of school-connected organizations must be transparent. The budget review process must allow for a thorough vetting of proposed expenditures and how they would impact student programs. The district must make an extra effort to provide opportunities for public participation.

I am proud of our student activists who are calling for a conversation on racial equity in our district. I support the creation of an Equity Team to foster and protect diversity.

3. Do you agree with the way the San Dieguito Union High School District operates? If not, what changes do you think need to be made?
I value the range of perspectives on the district’s Board of Trustees. But I am concerned by certain split votes that reflect a lack of cohesion behind a unified vision.

To govern effectively, our new board must work together to revisit our strategic vision and unite behind common priorities. Working from an agreed-upon vision that places students first, Trustees can provide clear direction and benchmarks for our superintendent.

A solid, collaborative spirit is critical to maintaining productive relationships between the board and administration and to setting good policy.

On fiscal policy, a review of our priorities must consider the long-term sustainability of the budget. We must build our reserves to support our cash flow and provide a safety net for potential economic uncertainties.


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