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Education Matters: Del Mar settles with former employee, and other money matters

Marsha Sutton

The Del Mar Union School District and permanent certificated employee, known as #199-415, have agreed to settle their differences.

This is according to an “Employment Separation, Settlement Agreement and Release of All Claims” document which was approved by the DMUSD Board of Trustees on May 11 at a special closed session board meeting.

The employee, identified only as a female teacher, went on paid administrative leave at an unspecified date before May 11. The district has paid her full regular salary and benefits, less taxes and other regular withholdings, through June 30, 2015.

The district also agreed to pay the teacher, who is no longer employed by the district, the amount of $57,994.46 which is equivalent to “her compensation and fringe benefits otherwise afforded were her employment to continue through January 2016.”

This amount will be subject to regular payroll deductions and other legal withholdings and will be paid out on or before July 30, 2015.

In the agreement, the district “contends that causes exist to discipline #199-415” but agreed to “cease its investigation(s) related to allegations of any misconduct” and not recommend dismissal, suspension or any other type of disciplinary action against the employee.

Employee #199-415 “denies the district’s allegations” and “does not admit that she committed acts or omissions constituting misconduct.”

The agreement states that she voluntarily chose to resign her permanent certificated employment and to waive her tenure rights and the right to future employment with the district.

Should an inquiry about the employee be received from a potential employer in the future, the district “shall promptly respond to the inquiry by disclosing/confirming only: #199-415’s years of employment with the district, that she was last assigned as teacher at [school redacted], her salary (if requested), and the fact that she resigned her employment voluntarily.”

Parties have agreed to respond if asked: “The matter has been satisfactorily resolved. #199-415 has voluntarily resigned her employment.”

Both parties release the other from all claims, grievances and actions, “whether actual or potential, known or unknown” – and agreed that nothing in the agreement “shall be construed for any purpose as an admission of fault, error, wrongdoing or liability.”

The parties also agreed that the settlement represents “the full and complete resolution of doubtful and disputed issues.”

Del Mar’s trustees met several times in closed session prior to May 11 to discuss this matter, which was referenced in board meeting agendas as “Public Employee Evaluation/Dismissal/Discipline/Release.”

Both parties agreed to keep the settlement confidential and not disclose or publish the terms of the agreement “to any third party except as may be required by court order, lawful subpoena or law (i.e., Brown Act, California Public Records Act or Freedom of Information Act).”

A copy of the settlement agreement was legally obtained through a California Public Records Act request but was redacted in many parts.

Further, each party “shall be solely responsible for any and all attorneys’ fees and costs paid or incurred by that party related to any matter referred to in this agreement …”

DMUSD superintendent Holly McClurg said the district’s legal fees related to this item came to $13,400.

Representing the district was attorney Daniel Shinoff of Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz. Representing the employee was Jon Vanderpool of the firm Smith, Steiner, Vanderpool, & Wax. Both are San Diego firms.

Shinoff focuses on the defense of school districts, including grievances, tort claims, negligence, discrimination, wrongful termination, sexual harassment and civil rights issues.

Vanderpool’s practice areas, according to the firm’s website, are employment, labor (education law) and personal injury. The firm focuses on the rights of workers, “representing them individually in wrongful termination and employment discrimination cases … and representing their unions in the fight for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”

McClurg would not confirm the identity of the employee, nor would she say the cause of the dispute. Surely many in the district know, but for now no one is talking.

Who it is doesn’t really matter. What matters is that taxpayers know that significant general fund money has been spent on this settlement. And since the public is not privy to details, we can only hope the district’s elected officials are making wise decisions and are being good stewards of public funds.

More money for teachers

In other Del Mar Union School District news, an agreement was signed between the district and the Del Mar California Teachers Association that increases the salary structure 1.71 percent, effective June 1, 2015.

This increase is apart from the annual raises teachers automatically receive each year through the step-and-column process. Steps and columns refer to the numbers of years worked and education credentials.

In addition, employees will each receive a one-time bonus of $500 if hired prior to December 31, 2014, and $250 if hired after that date. Both certificated and classified staff, including administration, will receive the bonuses which are being paid from the general fund.

“The cost including labor for certificated is $159,000 and classified is $89,000, for a total of $248,000,” McClurg said of the bonuses.

One assumes a healthy outlook for the district, given the raises and bonuses, and indeed the budget provided at the June 24 meeting indicates a positive forecast for the coming year.

According to the agenda item, state revenues for the DMUSD are expected to increase from $180 to $601 per pupil, which McClurg said will not be used for increased salaries since it’s one-time money.

Instead, the money will go toward renovations, upgrades, equipment and technology infrastructure.

“The district plans to utilize the funds for facility improvements, technology (K-2), refreshing student Chromebooks (3-6), and refreshing technology in our computer labs,” McClurg said.

The district projects revenue and expenditures of $10,981 per pupil, for a budget of about $48.4 million (calculated using an estimated enrollment of 4,407 for 2015-2016).

GO bond

Given the decidedly rosier financial outlook for the DMUSD, property owners should be skeptical of a possible General Obligation bond the district seems inclined to propose.

A facilities master plan has identified about $40 million worth of renovations, modernization and other building improvements that district officials would like to see happen at each of their eight schools.

“There are projects on the list that are very essential, and we need to face the brutal fact that we do not have the funding …,” McClurg said in a news story last month in this newspaper.

Board president Doug Rafner, as reported in the story, said the district might need to consider solutions like a General Obligation bond.

Given the recent settlement agreement, related legal fees, raises and bonuses for teachers, and a healthy infusion of new local and state funding, many of us are unconvinced that a GO bond is necessary.

Nevertheless, evidence suggests that voters can anticipate the DMUSD to move forward with a bond initiative next year, so the community should pay careful attention to this issue as details emerge.

Local property owners are already paying for San Dieguito Union High School District’s $449 million GO bond that narrowly passed in 2012. A DMUSD bond would be an additional tax.

Obsolete stuff

Occasionally, an item asking for board approval to dispose of obsolete equipment appears on all school board agendas. Del Mar is no exception.

Mildly curious to know how much money is taken in by the district when this stuff is auctioned off, I asked McClurg for details. It’s not much.

In fiscal year 2011-2012, the district earned $5,310. In 2012-2013 it took in $10,000, and in FY 2013-2014 the amount received was $9,147.

McClurg said this is equipment no longer of use to the district but has maintained some value, “such as vehicles, lawnmowers, telephones, hot carts, etc.”

“Any items that are in working order, that are still relevant in their use, are sold on the district’s Public Surplus Auction website,” she said, adding that technology equipment that is non-operational is properly disposed of via a certified e-waste company.

“Other items that are still in working order but that are no longer sellable due to their age, style or function, such as cassette players, overhead projectors, furniture, is donated to nonprofit organizations as allowable per Education Code 17545-17555,” she said.

Marsha Sutton can be reached at suttonmarsha@gmail.com.


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