At its May 25 board meeting, the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) board paid tribute to former board member Doug Perkins, who passed away on May 6.
“He was not only a fantastic board member but he was a dear friend to all of us,” DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg said. “He loved, loved our district and he loved the children here…He had courage and passion like none I’ve seen before.”
Perkins officially resigned from the DMUSD board on Jan. 5, 2015 to serve on the San Diego County Board of Education, which he was elected to in November 2014. He suffered a stroke in February 2015 and was never able to join the board.
“When he won, he was as shocked as I’d ever seen him,” DMUSD President Doug Rafner said. “It’s tragic that he wasn’t able to serve on the board because his focus was laser sharp on the students and what was best for them.”
Rafner shared an outpouring of sentiments from staff, memories that included his enthusiastic support of children expressing themselves in the arts, his thoughtful questions and ability to connect with people.
“Doug was a friend and a colleague, I miss him dearly,” board member Scott Wooden said. “It’s tough to put into words… He cared deeply about the kids in the district and we’ll miss him a lot.”
Kristin Gibson said when she was a new board member, Perkins was very generous with his time, helping her feel comfortable.
“He was extremely knowledgeable, particularly on issues related to finance and government, and he listened far more than he spoke,” Gibson said. “When he spoke it was usually a very thoughtful question. He handled difficult situations and different opinions gracefully, always with kindness and respect.”
Gibson said he was also fun to work with and had a “youthful curiosity” about teaching, learning and education in general.
When several board members visited Perkins a few months ago, he could only communicate by spelling out what he wanted to say letter by letter.
“In spite of this mighty effort to communicate he used the time to ask about individual district staff members and inquire as to the progress of our facilities improvements,” board member Erica Halpern said.
Halpern said she didn’t know Perkins well, but he was the first one to contact her and suggest she apply to fill his seat when he resigned and advised her on the process just days before his stroke.
“As I sit on this board, his voice is often in my head, advocating fiscal conservatism and reminding me to put the children first,” Halpern said. “Doug was a dedicated public servant, completely selfless and truly a role model for us all.”
A memorial for Doug Perkins will be held on Friday, June 10 at 2 p.m. at Solana Beach Presbyterian Church.
McClurg said the district is also grieving the loss of Rebecca Chambers, a “beloved, talented and caring” district autism behavior specialist who passed away on May 12 from cancer.
“She fought and fought and wanted to beat it,” McClurg said. “We know that she was taken from us far too soon. She was precious to us.”
McClurg said Chambers’ legacy has impacted the whole district as she taught teachers and staff how to interact with and support students with exceptional needs. McClurg said what she shared will help the district for years to come.