San Dieguito board member’s bid to end CIF sports defeated

San Dieguito Union School District (SDUHSD) board trustee John Salazar voted against the district high schools competing in CIF sports in the 2017-18 school year until the district fixes what he believes is “broken.” At the June 8 SDUHSD board meeting, Salazar said that the CIF has 16 operating principles of “Pursuing Victory with Honor” and he does not believe the district is following those principles — those that include promoting sportsmanship, good character and maintaining responsibility for the quality and integrity of CIF programs.

“I think there is a problem with our sports, probably at all of the high schools,” Salazar said, referencing his concerns with pay for play, coach nepotism and coach affiliations with club teams. “A tremendous amount of time should be taken to clean it up.”

When board members asked what it would mean if they did not approve the membership in the CIF San Diego Section, SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill replied simply that: “It would be the end of interscholastic sports.” Salazar responded: “Good” and many parents in the room applauded.

“I appreciate the energy in the room but I can’t, as a board member, do that, knowing the effect it would have on our student athletes,” SDUHSD President Amy Herman said, before the board approved the agreement in a 4-1 vote.

CIF requires that participating schools submit annual renewals to compete in athletic competition and the renewal was on the agenda for June 8. During public comment Torrey Pines High School parent Wendy Gumb, who has asked the district to investigate her concerns with the school’s baseball program, suggested that the board not renew with CIF.

“I believe the San Dieguito Union High School District has privatized sports within our district by the way they allow the foundations to run the sports programs,” said Gumb, who has given the district an extention until June 16 to complete their third party investigation on the baseball program. “I think we are in violation of some of the CIF principles and I think the board should look closely into that.”

She disagrees with sports teams requesting parent donations of up to $750 from parents with statements that teams are “solely funded by parents and our fundraising efforts.”

“That’s not a public school,” Gumb said. “I think we need to clearly look at what we’re doing in the district. I think high school sports are extremely important for our students and I believe you do too, but I think the way we’re going about funding the program is inaccurate.”

According to one of the CIF operating principles, “schools that offer athletic programs must safeguard the integrity of their programs.” The principle states that commercial relationships should be monitored to ensure against “inappropriate exploitation” of the school’s name or reputation and there should be no “undue influence” of commercial interest.

“The board regularly tells me that the foundation is a separate entity and that you have no control over it. That to me is a commercial interest,” Gumb said.

The principles also state that sports programs should avoid dependency on particular companies or sponsors and Gumb said as many coach donation requests suggest, many programs have dependency on the foundation and that the foundation “controls athletics at all four high schools.”

Gumb has also advocated for more transparency in foundation contributions.

Salazar said he agreed with Gumb and said there has been an atmosphere of “deny, deny, deny” anytime the district is approached about issues in the athletic program.

He said he has wanted to start a conversation about sports in the district, including his request at the May meeting for the district to allow students to play sports at other schools (such as allowing students from San Dieguito Academy to play football at La Costa Canyon) and for homeschooled students and the new SOUL charter school students to be allowed to play on district teams.

None of the board members agreed with Salazar that they shouldn’t join CIF.

“I think we have to set aside CIF because if we don’t approve CIF there are major implications for that,” Herman said. “I know we’ve had discussions about best practices from the district’s side. It’s important that our records are clear and the donations that are given to us are very clear. Foundations don’t give all of their money to the district so accounting for everything they do is not what we do, but we can account for every dollar that they give to us and we will make sure that’s happening.”

The broader discussion about the district’s relationships with the foundations is one the district is willing to have, Herman said.

Superintendent Dill said one of the first goals of the new associate superintendent of business services is to forge a better relationship with the foundations – Tina Douglas begins her new position on July 1.