Del Mar school board considers taking action against superintendent

Superintendent Sharon McClain’s job is safe, for now. The Del Mar Union School District held a special meeting on Wednesday night to consider disciplining or dismissing McClain.

The board was investigating a parent’s complaint about how McClain and principal Emily Disney handled the suspension of her child. The suspension was later overturned by the board, against the recommendation of McClain and Disney.

No action was taken on Wednesday and trustees President Comischell Rodriguez said the investigation into the incident has concluded.

During the meeting, McClain defended herself only by saying, “I fully believe the principal and I acted appropriately in this matter.”

With the threat of the board firing their second superintendent in 22 months, parents and staff members overwhelmingly supported McClain in the emotionally charged meeting.

Parents blamed trustees Katherine White, Steven McDowell and Annette Easton. Carmel Del Mar parent Allison Healy Poe likened accepting a job as superintendent of the Del Mar district to marrying Henry VIII, who famously had six wives, two of which were beheaded.

“I am simply aghast at the sheer arrogance and stupidity to terminate Sharon McClain,” said Del Mar Hills parent Kerry Traylor. “One complaint about your child can get a superintendent of an entire school district fired?”

Del Mar Hills parent Marybeth Norgren said the timing was bad, given the 7/11 committee’s deliberations over relocating administrative offices and possibly closing a school, and district budget concerns.

“Are you telling us your judgement was so profoundly bad 15 months ago when your hired her?” Norgren asked.

The parent of the suspended student, Genevieve Thunder, spoke in support of the board.

“This is an open hearing not a lynching of the board,” Thunder said.

She said it was unfair of people to judge the trustees so harshly and implored them to think of how they would feel if their child was denied their constitutional rights and told they could not attend school.

In addition to parental backing, McClain garnered the support of district teachers. Carmel Del Mar teacher David Skinner said he had signatures from more than 200 staff members opposed to ousting McClain. He described McClain as a superintendent who was tough but fair, honest and direct.

“Given half the chance, Dr. McClain is the perfect superintendent for our district at this time,” Skinner said.

For more on this story, see the Dec. 25 print edition of the Del Mar Times.