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Education Matters: Stop the madness

After all the tumult at the San Dieguito Union High School District – with the appointment of new board member Ty Humes, the resignation of Superintendent Robert Haley, and the appointment of interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch – my hope was that the community would give the district some breathing room to regain its footing and engage in a fresh start.

Marsha Sutton
(File photo)

Hopes dashed.

On April 29, the San Dieguito Faculty Association, SDUHSD’s teachers union, issued a press release announcing the launch of a petition drive to remove Humes from the board and force the district (and taxpayers) to pay for a special election – an election estimated to cost $500,000 to $650,000.

This is money not from the union but from the district’s general fund. This pointless effort would never happen if the union had to pay.

Only 400 valid petition signatures are needed from residents of SDUHSD’s Area 5, which is east of I-5 and north of I-805 in the southern-most portion of the San Dieguito district. Area 5 includes Canyon Crest Academy, Carmel Valley Middle School and Pacific Trails Middle School.

An article in the May 2 San Diego Union-Tribune included San Dieguito as one county school district that has been using money from its general reserves or other special accounts to balance its budget and temporarily reduce its deficit.

According to the county office of education in the article, SDUHSD “won’t be able to make ends meet without making budget cuts or relying on reserves.”

Why does the teachers union get to demand that the school district allocate half a million dollars to hold an unnecessary special election? This is money that should be spent on students.

The teachers union in San Dieguito is accustomed to controlling the district’s finances and calling the shots, as the SDFA has traditionally been successful in ensuring that the district’s trustees favor union positions.

But with a new board makeup, the SDFA is apparently upset over losing that control and is striking out any way it can to stir up more discord.

The union’s position is that voters in Area 5 were disenfranchised when the school board majority voted to appoint someone to fill the Area 5 seat after former trustee Kristin Gibson resigned, rather than hold a costly special election.

The term ends in November 2022, so this appointment is only for 18 months.

A short-term vacancy is commonly filled by special appointment – and has been done many times by school boards and city councils, without objection.

“The appointment process was fair and has been used by every other school district and recently by the City of Encinitas,” said school board president Mo Muir. “I’m unaware of any other school board that decided to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on a special election to replace a board trustee instead of using the current legislative appointment process.”

That the teachers union is organizing this and not residents of Area 5 says something about ulterior motives.

“The members of the SDFA who are going door to door to collect signatures are teachers and union representatives who mostly do not live in Area 5,” reads a press release from the Parent Association of North County. “Their effort to disrupt the district’s leadership is an effort to maintain control of the district for purposes of advancing the union’s agenda.”

“We currently have about 20 educators that reside in Area 5,” said Duncan Brown, president of the SDFA. “There are also many extended families of members that live in Area 5.”

Brown said the SDFA, which has about 620 total members, does not have an opinion on any of the candidates who applied for the position.

Unconscious bias

After interviewing seven highly qualified candidates last month, the board unanimously appointed Ty Humes to fill Gibson’s seat.

Humes brings to the board a wealth of experience in business, volunteerism and school district interests. He has children in the school district and has been heavily involved in youth activities.

“I’m very disappointed that they’re calling for a special election,” Humes said. “I’ve been a part of the community. I’m not an outsider. I have received a number of communications from parents of all ethnic backgrounds – Black, White, Asian, Latino – who are very upset.

“Do the teachers just want to say who’s involved in the school district, who has seats [on the board], and the rest of us should capitulate to their desires?”

It’s not possible to investigate the matter without noting that Humes is Black and brings much-needed diversity to a historically White school board.

Humes said the district has been a big proponent of the Black Lives Matter movement. He said he generally doesn’t discuss race, but in this case it’s a concern for him.

“If you’re truly interested in Black Lives Matter, the fact that you would remove a Black person who’s involved in the process … do you really actually care about Black Lives Matter?” Humes said.

He said he didn’t see this as intentionally racist, “but I think we talk about unconscious bias [and] I do see it in that realm.”

If the petition for a special election is granted, Humes said he will absolutely run for the seat.

“People have reached out to me to make sure I do run,” he said.

Should the SDFA force a special election, it will be interesting to see if the union will endorse Humes or find another candidate more to their liking.

If they don’t endorse Humes, how do they evade the racism charge? If they do endorse Humes, then what is the point of demanding a special election?

To waste taxpayer dollars is not just irresponsible squandering of money but also an insult to everyone who recognizes what’s really going on here.

It’s also politically divisive and undermines respect for a labor organization that seems to want to challenge the school board at every opportunity.

It would be good to see the other six applicants for the Area 5 seat unite and voice their support for Humes and oppose a special election.

Muir said she was disappointed “that the teachers union has decided to collect signatures for overturning the unanimous appointment of our new District 5 trustee. Mr. Humes’ diversity and experience bring the skill sets necessary for exceptional leadership and critical thinking at a time when school districts face many challenges and must make difficult decisions to meet our high educational standards.”

She said the board unanimously agreed to appoint “an outstanding trustee while saving the district approximately half a million dollars. This money should be used for needed facility improvements and other needed resources for our students.”

The politically motivated SDFA cannot accept that its time of being in control of this school district has come to an end … for now.

Unions cannot be allowed to run our school districts. This absurd waste of money and clear political motivation should snap everyone’s heads back.

After all the upheaval the San Dieguito community has experienced this past year, the school board needs space to start anew without all the dissension and discord that the union and community disrupters have created.

These distractions take away from real educational objectives. Let’s give the board a chance to focus on what matters.

Opinion columnist and education writer Marsha Sutton can be reached at suttonmarsha@gmail.com.


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