ONE VIEW: A parable in three acts

By Gordon Clanton

North Coastal columnist

A young basketball coach took his first job at a small college. Moving into his office, he found on his desk three sealed envelopes and a note from his predecessor that read: "If things go badly, open one envelope at the end of each season."

The first season was a disaster, so the young coach opened the first envelope and found a note that read: "Blame me."

So the coach blamed his predecessor: "How could anyone be expected to win with the team I inherited?" His critics were sympathetic, and he was not fired.

The second season was not much better, so the coach opened the second envelope and found a note that read: "Blame the alumni."

So the coach blamed the alumni: "How could anyone be expected to win with so little support?" His critics were persuaded, and he was not fired.

The third season also ended badly. Seeking solace, the coach opened the third envelope and found a note that read: "Prepare three envelopes."

After three bad years, it's time for the Del Mar Union School District board majority to prepare three envelopes.

Like a moth to a flame, I am again drawn to comment on the dysfunctional board. As with a gory roadside accident, I cannot look away. Like Lot's wife, I must look back.

In 2006, dissident board member Annette Easton teamed with Katherine White and Steven McDowell to win control of the board. In 2008, the new majority fired the superintendent, Tom Bishop, at a buyout cost of about $285,000. In March 2010, the board fired the superintendent they hired, Sharon McClain — settlement pending. It's hard to put a price on the damage done to the reputation of the district.

Critics say the district is in chaos. The board micromanages district affairs, drives away some of its best people and dithers on key strategic decisions. Public board meetings are tedious and interminable. After campaigning on a promise of "transparency," the board majority has done much of its business in secret.

Knowing Del Mar and Carmel Valley as I do, I am confident that able candidates will step up to recapture the board for the community. The filing period for the November election runs from July 12 to Aug. 6, plus five more days if none of the incumbents seeks re-election.

Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at


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