Meet the candidates for San Dieguito’s Area 5

SDUHSD candidates Phan Anderson, Julie Bronstein and Georgia Ringler.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union School District school board’s Area 5 seat represents the communities of Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch. Candidates Phan Anderson, Julie Bronstein and Georgia Ringler aim to win the seat on the board in the November election.

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

Phan Anderson
(Copyright of Phan Anderson)

Phan Anderson
I am an SDUHSD parent, immigrant from Vietnam, graduate of SDSU, software engineer, and resident of Carmel Valley who favors high academic standards and wants to provide the best possible educational experience for our children.

I was born in Saigon during the Vietnam war. After the fall of Saigon, my family fled communism to find freedom and opportunity in the United States. We arrived in America with no money, and no knowledge of the English language – English is my third language. I attended public schools, earned a degree from SDSU, and worked as a private sector software engineer for 15 years.

My parents instilled in me the value of family, hard work, and education, and I believe in respectful dialogue, equal opportunity, and individual liberty for all.

I am a proud American.

I will be an independent voice for students, parents, and voters, not beholden to special interests.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
Our district has been embroiled in controversy; it’s time to get back to basics delivering high quality, individually-optimized academic experiences, and improving the efficiency of district operations.

Emerging from the pandemic, many students have fallen behind in their academic and personal growth. We need to make concerted efforts to help each student achieve their academic goals. Additionally, not all students learn or absorb information the same way. We must recognize those differences, identify any special needs, and take special measures to optimize each student’s individual experience, supporting them with the necessary resources.

District operations are burdened by fiscal constraints. Our district has suffered deteriorating financial conditions for several years, to the point where a takeover by the county school board is a reasonable fear. That would be bad for students, parents, and taxpayers. We need to get serious about balancing our budget and restoring fiscal health.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
The board has faced several contentious issues, often accompanied by fierce advocacy. While the board and community members have maintained civility, unfortunately, many representing special interests haven’t.

Living in a free society means that we will have differences, but our goal is the same – for our children to have the best possible academic experience, unlocking the most opportunity. This mission requires restoring mutual respect, tolerance, and common decency to our governing process.

Trustees should be strong, independent voices focusing on academics and policies that put the interests of students, parents, and community first. I will bring my critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills to the board along with my experience overcoming social and economic barriers. We can accomplish more, and restore civility, if we engage in respectful dialogue in pursuit of practical solutions.

As a Trustee, I will be an independent voice, not beholden to special interests.

Julie Bronstein
(Courtesy Julie Bronstein)

Julie Bronstein
I am a parent and nonprofit leader elected to the San Dieguito School Board last year. I listen to students and parents and work hard to solve problems and challenges facing our schools. I am regularly on campuses to see how board decisions affect students.

Professionally, I serve as Managing Executive Director of Development in Health Sciences at UC San Diego. I am also a volunteer advisor for the Autism Tree Project Foundation.
I previously served as VP of Development on the board of the Canyon Crest Academy (CCA) Foundation, as the parent representative for the CCA COVID Safety Process, and as a WASC Accreditation Process Community Focus Group member for CCA in the 2018 – 2019 academic year.

I grew up in San Diego and have lived in Carmel Valley for 18 years. I graduated from Scripps College and hold a master’s degree in Public Administration from USC.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
SDUHSD remains the #1 district in San Diego County with some of the top-rated schools in the state, and my leadership will continue to focus on ensuring that we maintain our #1 ranking.

My priorities moving forward include: addressing the mental health and counseling needs of our students, making sure all of our students feel welcome and safe on all of our campuses, hiring a Superintendent with the experience and vision that’s commensurate with our top ranked schools, managing the budget in a transparent and fiscally sound manner, and addressing aging infrastructure on our campuses. All of this is within our grasp if all members of the board function as one governing body with the primary mission of educating students.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
As school board Trustee, I am a collaborative problem solver focused on prioritizing the needs of students in our district. When making policy decisions and recommendations, I seek and value the input of all key stakeholders, including parents, students, administrators, and school site staff and faculty.

One way to address functional issues with the current board is to hold governance workshops to discuss shared approaches to best practices for working together in a cohesive manner. For a school board to operate effectively, it is critical that there are ground rules in place that all board members follow for setting priorities and decision-making guidelines. Governance standards for school boards require consensus for any decision or policy to be adopted. I’m confident that with the appropriate governance structures in place we can focus on our most important priority: providing an outstanding education to all of our students.

Georgia Ringler
(Monica Seif Photography)

Georgia Ringler
I am running for the governing board of the San Dieguito Union High School District as an independent candidate, who is not endorsed by any side, because I am concerned about the lack of unity, transparency and accountability within the District.

As a parent, whose children attended and who are currently attending schools in the District, as a Carmel Valley resident for 13 years and as the owner of a small local business, I am strongly committed to our San Dieguito community and to its success and wellbeing.

As a trustee, I will strongly advocate for all children and parents, and act to ensure that every student is provided with a safe, supportive, and inclusive school environment. And, as a trustee, responsible for hiring the next Superintendent, I will act to ensure that the Board hires an individual who has the abilities, traits and knowledge to lead the District effectively.

What do you think is the biggest issue facing the district?
In listening to District parents, and hearing their concerns, I believe the biggest issue facing the District is that the Board of Trustees is failing to govern responsibly.

As Board members are elected to provide leadership and citizen oversight of the District schools, they must act to keep the learning and achievement of all students as their primary focus and must listen to and address the concerns of all students, parents, teachers, other staff and other community members. Board members must act to ensure accountability to the community, including personnel, programmatic and fiscal accountability. However, Board members seem to be focusing on their own agendas, rather than acting in the best interest of every student in the District.

And, as Board members have not demonstrated the ability to effectively hire a superintendent to provide consistent leadership of the District, there is a great deal of instability within this District.

What do you think about how the board currently functions and what can you bring to this board?
Currently, the Board does not seem to be functioning cohesively, as Board members are not acting collectively to build unity within the District or acting collectively to create a positive organizational structure. Instead there appears to be two sides, with neither side showing evidence that their utmost commitment is to every student in the District, and not to their own personal agendas.

As a parent who has children currently attending a District school, and as an individual who genuinely cares about the students in the District, I will value, support and advocate for every student. As an independent candidate, with strong leadership skills, I will act to determine solutions that are in the best interests of all students and their families. And, as a woman who holds herself to the highest standard of ethical conduct, I will act to bring unity, accountability and transparency to the community.