By Karen Billing
A new committee on San Dieguito Union High School District’s school selection process will be formed this fall, in response to frustrations expressed by parents this summer when students didn’t get into their school of choice.
The district made the decision this year to admit all freshmen on the wait lists for Canyon Crest Academy and San Dieguito High School Academy, and both schools are at capacity. But there is still much work to be done for future years, according to Michael Grove, associate superintendent.
“We want to begin work as early as we can in the fall and have a recommendation to the board by winter break,” he said.
Grove said they plan to start soliciting parent and student members soon for the committee to get to work on long-term issues. He said the committee would look at demographics and enrollment projections and discuss options for high school enrollment such as the creation of boundaries.
Grove said the committee would then be tasked to educate the community about viable options before seeking input about what options the community likes through surveys and face-to-face dialogues. The group will then make a recommendation to the board.
“We’d like to use a neutral third-party facilitator to run the group and have staff participate as members,” Grove said.
Parent Rita MacDonald spoke at the Aug. 21 meeting, asking the district to improve its communication efforts about high school selection with middle school students who are not in the district.
MacDonald, whose son attended Notre Dame Academy in Carmel Valley, said she was unaware of the procedures and requested her son be placed on the wait list for CCA on March 10, past the March 3 filing deadline. The district could not legally fulfill her request.
“Had my son been added to the wait list, he would’ve been admitted to CCA” with all the other wait-list freshmen, MacDonald said. “I ask that the board correct this oversight … My family was treated unfairly even though we’re taxpayers living in the district.”
She said her family was discriminated against because her child did not attend a district school and didn’t receive the same notifications as district parents.
Board trustee John Salazar asked Superintendent Rick Schmitt whether something could be done to admit MacDonald’s son, since all other wait list freshmen were accepted.
“All freshmen were admitted off the wait list this year, but there are 167 students in the upper grades on the wait list who followed all the laws and have priority,” said Schmitt. “We can’t bring in someone who did not participate.”
He said that staff cannot add a student to the wait list after the deadline — it has been the district’s policy for more than 18 years that if families don’t participate in the high school selection by the deadline date, they are ineligible. Schmitt noted that six other Notre Dame students participated in the process and were accepted into their school of choice.
Grove said that parents are notified of the process on the district website, through traditional and social media, as well as an internal email system for district parents.
“There are many ways to become familiar with the system and legally apply,” Schmitt said.