Are you outraged yet?

By Kate Takahashi

Resident, Carmel Valley

How would you feel if your child forfeited his birthday presents to make a school donation only to find that three grown adults snatched it from her and threw it in the Pacific Ocean? If the three-person majority of Del Mar Union School Board succeeds in firing Superintendent Sharon McClain, they would do just that, but on a much larger scale. Please read on.

During these tough economic times, we DMUSD parents are scrambling to save the cherished ESC programs that our district can’t afford. Honestly, it’s exhausting, but we do it for our children. And the children themselves are working hard to keep their teachers.

The economic crisis is not just affecting ESC. DMUSD’s reserves are millions of dollars below the recommended level for a basic aid district. If our reserves dip below 3 percent of expenditures, the state could be required to balance our budget in any way it sees fit — larger classroom sizes, teacher layoffs — without community input.

And what is our school board doing about the budget? They are calling their attorneys — daily at times — at the rate of $160 an hour. From July through December of 2009, they racked up $21,339 in legal fees. What could be so important?

If the board fires McClain for cause, she could sue for the length of her contract, plus benefits, plus attorneys’ fees. That could amount to as much as half a million dollars. If they buy out her contract for one year, that could approximate a quarter million dollars. Either way, that money comes from the district coffers to educate your child.

Incidentally, this board, in pursuing this wasteful litigation, is choosing to triple-pay a superintendent’s salary. Remember Tom Bishop? He’s Superintendent 1, and we are still paying his buyout. If they fire McClain without cause, Superintendent 2, then the district would pay her while paying an interim superintendent, or Superintendent 3 (if they could find anyone willing to work here).

Now I’m asking: Are you outraged yet?

Did I mention McClain doesn’t deserve this?

McClain is at the top of her professional game, having won Pepperdine University’s Superintendent of the Year Award and having taught school governance at seven different universities.

She has worked with and for children her whole life, having been an elementary teacher, university instructor, principal, assistant superintendent, superintendent (three times), mother and foster mother.

At this stage of her life, she has chosen her most challenging job yet as superintendent of DMUSD.

And she’s still here. Let’s be there for her.

What we can do

1) Tell people what you have learned about this board. If you are unsure about any facts or figures in this editorial, ask DMUSD about what public records you have a right to see, including their attorney bills. Research past articles from local papers.

2) Log onto daily to know if a board meeting is taking place.

If it is, go to “view agenda.” Be on the lookout for “Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release.” If that is there, there could be a closed meeting to terminate Dr. McClain. The board must hear public input before they go into closed session. Fill out a speaker slip, wait for your name to be called and you will have three minutes to tell the board how you feel. If you are uncomfortable speaking, write a letter to the board and have a friend read it and/or send a letter to the board.

3) Cast your ballot this November. Tell your friends to vote, as well.