Education Matters: Consequences of another San Dieguito superintendent transition

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After the resignation of Tina Douglas from her interim superintendent position at the San Dieguito Union High School District on November 18, one day after the district’s Nov. 17 board meeting, all heads turned to trustee Katrina Young for explanation –and some say for blame.

Marsha Sutton
(Copyright of Marsha Sutton)

The absence at the Nov. 17 board meeting of outgoing trustee Julie Bronstein, who said she was absent due to a long-standing commitment to attend an event in Los Angeles honoring her father, meant that the meeting only had three board members present. (The fifth seat has remained open after the resignation of former trustee Melisse Mossy earlier this year).

So all three board members present needed to vote unanimously for an action item to pass.

The item in question asked trustees to appoint John Addleman, currently executive director of planning services, to be interim associate superintendent of business services, with appropriately increased compensation.

Before being appointed interim superintendent in April, Douglas served as interim associate superintendent of business services.

In her comments about the agenda item, Douglas said Addleman has stepped up to perform much of her former duties but without the title and appropriate salary.

“He’s been doing it for so long and been gracious about it,” Douglas said. “It wouldn’t be fair to have John continue to do the work if he’s not going to be compensated for it.”

When asked what would happen if the agenda item didn’t pass, Douglas said, “I would have to figure out how to manage both positions because I couldn’t put that on him any longer.”

The motion failed, by a vote of 2-1, with Young dissenting.

The next day, the board received Douglas’s notice of resignation from her position as interim superintendent, to return to her former position of associate superintendent of business services. (The date when she initially said she’d leave moved from mid-December to Jan.31, 2023, at a special board meeting Nov. 29.)

With the departure of Deputy Superintendent Mark Miller last month, San Dieguito now has serious gaps in top-level personnel.

Not been supported

In the exchange at the Nov. 17 board meeting, Young tried to explain her concerns.

“There are also others that are shouldering extra burdens,” she said. “I’d like to look at how we can shore up all of the departments and not just one.

“I don’t want to do this and leave other people out. I worry about doing one and not doing the others.”

Making the case that the three newly elected SDUHSD board members should be part of this decision when they are seated mid-December, she added, “It will have a sizable impact on the new board and they should be part of that decision-making process.”

Douglas said all staff is “feeling overwhelmed” but added, “I can’t do both jobs. In essence, that’s the reason the request is here. Without this, I honestly don’t know what I would do.”

It’s hard to criticize Douglas’s decision. She’s worked two full-time jobs and had to rely on staff to take up the extra load without appropriate compensation.

The only mild criticism one might level at Douglas is that she might have made it clear before that vote that passage of that agenda item was critical to her decision to continue as interim superintendent.

Would that have affected Young’s vote? It’s unclear what her objective was to vote no, given that later that same night she voted to approve a $3,000 stipend to district employees who worked hard during the 2021-2022 school year.

So why would she support the stipend to district employees because, as she claimed, she wanted to reward the work they did last year, but not support the work that Addleman and Douglas also did?

In an email to the board Nov. 18, the day after that Nov. 17 board meeting, Douglas attached her resignation notice as interim superintendent and wrote, “I have done my best to support the district during these difficult times. It breaks my heart to do this to the staff and students of this district, knowing how hard it will be on staff to have yet their 7th Superintendent in the 5-1/2 years since I’ve been with the district.

“However, I know my worth and I have not been supported in the way that was promised me when I took this position in April.”

I asked Douglas if she resigned as interim superintendent because the board did not approve the Nov. 17 agenda item that would have given John Addleman the interim title of associate superintendent of business services.

She replied as follows in an email: “I accepted the position of Interim Superintendent to provide a familiar face in a time of transition; however, my passion and my expertise are in business operations.

“With three newly-elected board members being seated at the December 13 regular board meeting, I determined that it was in the best interests of the district for me to return to Business Services and provide the new board an opportunity to fill the position.

“My preference is to focus on finding a new Interim Superintendent for the district rather than my resignation.”

Impact on the new board

Young declined to comment after the news was released Nov. 18 whether her vote was the reason Douglas resigned, instead deferring to what she said were Douglas’s wishes to keep her decision private until she could officially announce it.

She said it would be “disrespectful” to comment before Douglas had a chance to formally announce her decision.

The resignation letter did not specifically state that Douglas wished her news to be private, but Young interpreted it that way.

But the release of the news to the public on Nov. 18 made Douglas’s decision very public. And it’s debatable whether her announcement actually was confidential.

Even after I repeatedly asked her to respond to the public news that Douglas had resigned, Young did not wish to comment, except to say this, in an email on Nov. 21:

“I have deep respect for the amount of heart that Tina Douglas has put into the position of Interim Superintendent. At this time, it is not in her or the district’s best interest to speculate on the reasons she made the difficult decision to resign. I will respect her wishes of privacy until the board has had a chance to meet with her to discuss next steps.”

On Young’s Facebook page the following week, she wrote, “This was the one item of the [Nov. 17] agenda that I spent the most time researching and discussing during my board prep meeting.

“Regardless, this is a decision that will have a sizable impact on the new board and I believe they should be a part of the decision making process.”

Young stated that she acknowledged that support staff, including Addleman, had helped take up the slack for Douglas in her former position as associate superintendent of business services while Douglas served as interim superintendent.

She said the burden shouldered by all employees in the business services department “definitely needs to be alleviated. At the same time, the priority of the board should always focus on the protections of all employees.”

Young has been very gracious in her emails to me. I don’t always get that from those who see me as a foe.

However, it’s a struggle to understand the inconsistency of her approval to give $3,000 to 2021-2022 employees to reward their work last year, some of whom no long work in the district, but not give a pittance to Addleman to preserve Douglas in her interim superintendent position.

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

Marsha Sutton is a columnist and presents her opinion. If you disagree or agree with her opinion, we’d like to hear from you. Email your comment to editor@rsfreview.com.

Column: Combines reporting, storytelling and commentary to make a point. Unlike reporters, columnists are allowed to include their opinions. Columnists in the Union-Tribune Community Press are identified clearly to set them apart from news reporters.


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