McClain: ‘I truly feel that I have done the best job I can do’

For the second time in approximately two years, the Del Mar Union School District is on a quest to replace a sacked superintendent after the board of trustees voted 3-1 to fire Superintendent Sharon McClain on March 31 at a special meeting.

Board president Comischell Rodriguez was the sole “no” vote and Steven McDowell abstained.

The multi-use room at Del Mar Hills Academy, where the meeting was held, was packed and more than 25 people spoke out, all in opposition to firing McClain.

Rodriguez said the vote terminated McClain due to a material breach of contract and “serious performance violations.”

The ramifications of the board’s decision took place immediately, ending McClain’s salary pay and benefits. Less than 20 minutes after the meeting ended, Ocean Air parent Eileen Hoppen resigned from her spot as the co-chair of the financial task force.

“I believe that the recent actions of the DMUSD Board of Trustees make it apparent that the interests of the board are not in the best interest of the children of DMUSD,” Hoppen wrote in her resignation letter. “I firmly believe that despite the hard work of the financial task force the board will ignore, table or forge ahead with whatever the board’s agenda is.”

“There will be no further discussion on this personnel matter due to pending litigation,” said Rodriguez after a closed session debate that lasted an hour and 40 minutes.

An interim superintendent is to be named at a 5 p.m. meeting today.

After the vote, Rodriguez shared a tearful hug with McClain, who packed up her office on Tuesday afternoon and said she was not surprised by Wednesday’s vote.

“I truly feel that I have done the best job I can do,” McClain said. “I feel that I wanted to stay, I would’ve stayed because I love this district.”

McClain said she was given no reason why the board voted to remove her. She said she does not feel that she did anything wrong and she will be speaking to her lawyer.

“I don’t agree with their decision at all,” said McClain, noting the only reason she could think of for her dismissal was the personality clash between her and the board. “I feel badly that we couldn’t get along.”

McClain said a superintendent’s job is to run the district and she was never really allowed to do that. She had brought several plans before the board to chip away at what could be a $2.5 million budget deficit facing the district. Her last budget-saving recommendations were taken off the March 10 agenda and at the March 24 meeting the board did not set a date to hear them again.

McClain said the board seemed unwilling to acknowledge the budget elephant in the room.

“There is a budget crisis that needs to be addressed,” McClain said.

The meeting began at 12:45 p.m., the week before spring break — a time parents accused the board of picking in order to prevent people from attending. Before public comment McClain read a prepared statement, her voice cracking when she talked about how wonderful the district is.

When the audience stood up to give her a standing ovation, tears filled McClain’s eyes as she mouthed “thank yous” to the parents and staff who have supported her.

Speakers said they were appalled, outraged, confounded, disgusted, baffled and blind-sided. Several parents told trustees who voted to fire McClain that they would not be re-elected in the fall.

“This is an unspeakable time to terminate this superintendent with the amount of issues facing this board,” said Sage Canyon parent Lesley Ballard.

Ballard said McClain has become a scapegoat for all the problems within this “broken board.”

Carmel Del Mar parent Kate Takahashi likened the board’s reasoning to a personal vendetta and a “hissy fit.”

Parent Simon Bruce said the board simply fell prey to “petty power politics” and failed to manage the talent and appreciate the high level of performance they were getting from McClain, who was recently elected to serve as the Western States’ representative at the Urban Superintendents Association of America.

Both McClain and trustee Doug Perkins said this decision was the result of seven months worth of discussion, a period that has been very taxing on McClain’s family, according to McClain.

Her husband, Joe Condon, a former superintendent, spoke out during public comment, saying that he had warned his wife not to take the job of superintendent for the Del Mar Union School District. He said the district’s governing board has one of the worst reputations in the state.

Condon was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, representing the Hawaii vacation he was about to take his wife on.

“The best thing about it (McClain’s dismissal) is I get my life back,” Condon said.

Related stories

Julian chief selected as interim superintendent for Del Mar school district

Del Mar school board votes to release Superintendent McClain

Video courtesy of YouTube