Del Mar Union School District board appoints new trustee
On April 11, the Del Mar Union School District board selected and swore-in their new trustee, Alan Kholos.
This is Kholos’ second time on the board—he previously served on the board from 2012 to 2015, when he resigned due to being relocated overseas. He was also a candidate in 2019 following the resignation of Stephen Cochrane.
Kholos’ provisional appointment fills the vacancy left by Scott Wooden, who resigned in February after being arrested for soliciting a sex worker in a sting in Florida. Kholos will serve until the next regularly scheduled general election in 2024; at that time, he could choose to run for a shortened two-year term through 2026.
Kholos has been around the community for over 20 years, his two children attended DMUSD schools and his wife worked for the district as a registered nurse for eight years. A corporate attorney and business leader in wireless, software and life sciences companies in San Diego, he currently serves as chief administrative officer and general counsel at CareFusion in Carmel Valley.
During his interview, he discussed his priorities of delivering high quality education to the students (the district’s most important customers), parent outreach and ensuring teachers have the best tools available to meet the district’s vision to ignite genius in every child. As a board member, he talked about fiscal responsibility, working together as a team even when you don’t always agree, setting a positive tone and being a servant leader.
“I’ve always been so proud of this district, it has been a leader among school districts. It pursues excellence and it must,” Kholos said. “I offer my continuing commitment to that level of excellence.”
In his support of Kholos, DMUSD President Gee Wah Mok said he has a thorough understanding of what the role takes and he admired his temperament, leadership qualities and the time he commits to being a board member: “He goes above and beyond.” Trustee Erica Halpern, who overlapped with Kholos’ time on the board, said he is always very thoughtful and balanced in his approach and his decision making and understands the needs of kids and families. She said perhaps most important to her was his fiscal responsibility.
The district received nine applications for the vacancy and one withdrew prior to the meeting. As three candidates were unable to be present, the board interviewed five in open session. Mok acknowledged the “awkward process” of the open interviews and deliberations—he himself went through the appointment process in 2019 (before being elected in 2020). He said the board had many well qualified candidates and the audience just had to “Watch us squirm” as they tried to figure out the best person to fill the vacancy.
There was a good deal of squirming as the board attempted to reach consensus for over an hour.
DMUSD Trustee Katherine Fitzpatrick would only support candidate Danielle Roybal, taking herself out of the vote for any other candidate. Roybal had been a candidate in the 2022 election and was the fourth-vote getter behind the three elected incumbents.
“She has a fire and a passion for serving on this board and I think we would be remiss not considering all the support that she has,” said Fitzpatrick, noting the board had received hundred of emails from the community backing Roybal. “For me it’s Danielle so I’ll let you figure it all out.”
Early on in the deliberations, Halpern made the first motion for Kholos, seconded by Mok. Doug Rafner and Fitzpatrick voted no and the nomination failed to carry.
Rafner later made a motion to support candidate Darren Gretler but received no second; Fitzpatrick also made a motion for Roybal which was not seconded.
Rafner supported Gretler due to his professional qualifications (currently chief of staff for Supervisor Jim Desmond) and characteristics such as being an independent thinker with kids in the district —he also believed Gretler had a geographical advantage representing the area of the district near Ocean Air School. Gretler also has experience serving on the board, having been appointed in 2015 to fill the seat left by Kholos. He ran for re-election in 2016, narrowly losing by less than 200 votes.
The board reached a stalemate as no one would budge on their preferences, despite Gretler having been Halpern’s running mate in 2016. About an hour later, Rafner conceded to support Kholos, having exhausted “all of his Jedi mind tricks” to gain consensus for Gretler and in the interest of avoiding the cost of a special election.
At the meeting, Rafner addressed public comments made that night alluding that if the board didn’t choose a certain way, the community would force a recall, which happened in the neighboring San Dieguito Union High School District in 2021.
“I can’t think of anything worse for the kids than to put the district through the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars simply because their candidate didn’t win,” Rafner said.
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