San Dieguito board ‘cures and corrects’ officer election

The San Dieguito board met on Jan. 10.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union High School District board had a do-over of its officer election on Jan. 10, to “cure and correct” any alleged Brown Act violation related to holding the organizational meeting before public comments.

In December, the board had selected newly elected trustees Rimga Viskanta as president, Jane Lea Smith as vice president and Phan Anderson as clerk. Last week’s vote remained largely the same, except Anderson declined the nomination for clerk and nominated Trustee Katrina Young instead. While Young’s preference was for Anderson to hold the post to have “fresh new voices” in board leadership, she accepted the nomination and was elected.

The board’s action was in response to a complaint that moving the organizational meeting before public comments was an attempt to mute opposing views and violated the Brown Act, board bylaws and the rights of the members of the public who wished to make comment prior to the election of officers.

The decision to move up the organizational meeting was based on past practices and how other districts handle officer elections currently. According to Viskanta, the decision to redo the selection of officers was a voluntary one to establish best practices moving forward and was not a legal requirement due to any Brown Act provisions.

“I really think as a district we need to get past the adults squabbling and focus on students,” Viskanta said. “We did not have to do this action again, we chose to do this action again because it’s the right thing to do. And we do want to facilitate greater participation.”

The Jan. 10 re-election took place after comments from 11 members of the public. Some spoke in favor of the elected slate and others in support of Trustee Michael Allman as president and Anderson as vice president.

Parent Marcel Chambers said Viskanta’s actions lacked respect and that pushing off public comments sent a message that decisions have already been made and parent concerns are of no interest to the board: “Let’s do better,” Chambers said. “Respect the public. We have the right to be heard.”

Parent Sandy Gereaux said she understood that it was necessary for the board to cure and correct any alleged violation but she did not feel like moving public comments was a deliberate effort to mute the public.

“I have high expectations that this board will help to bring positive changes and take proactive steps to help our community to move forward from an extremely divisive year,” said Gereaux.

During the board’s discussion of the officer election, Anderson said the board “clearly violated” the Brown Act when they failed to allow public comments: “I want to acknowledge that a mistake was made. So let’s learn from it so that it doesn’t happen again.”

During the officer election the board split similarly to last month’s vote between Viskanta and Allman for president and between Anderson and Smith for vice president, with Anderson and Allman in the minority of the 3-2 decision.