La Jolla Elementary principal is tapped to lead Rancho Santa Fe School District


The principal of La Jolla Elementary School has been selected as superintendent of the Rancho Santa Fe School District.

Principal Donna Tripi was selected from a nationwide pool of 23 candidates to lead the Rancho Santa Fe district, which enrolled 639 students last year and consists of one elementary school and one middle school.

A salary has not yet been announced for Tripi. The Rancho Santa Fe school board will finalize a contract for Tripi at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Rancho Santa Fe officials started a search for a new superintendent in July, the same month that their former Superintendent David Jaffe announced his resignation after two years in the job. The district did not announce a reason for his departure.

Jaffe was paid a $190,000 salary when he resigned, said Ernie Anastos, one of two search consultants the district hired for $15,000 to find a new superintendent. Tripi was paid $134,479 last year, according to the open-government website Transparent California.

In a Dec. 3 news release announcing Tripi’s selection, officials praised La Jolla Elementary’s high test scores and numerous awards. Last spring, 98 percent of La Jolla Elementary students met or exceeded state standards in English language arts, and 97 percent of them met or exceeded state standards in math.

“Under her leadership, student performance has soared and the school has been recognized with a number of prestigious honors,” officials wrote in the news release.

Tripi generated some controversy two months ago when she apologized for an email she had sent blasted to parents warning them about a black man who had allegedly stared at a student at a Starbucks.

The email was controversial largely because Tripi had mentioned the man’s race but not enough details to actually identify the man, which led some to believe that the email racially profiled black people as suspicious. Tripi apologized and held a community forum.

Both Rancho Santa Fe Elementary and La Jolla Elementary enroll mostly white and well-off students.

Of the 639 students that Rancho Santa Fe enrolled last fall, 71 percent were white and less than 1 percent were African-American, according to the California Department of Education. La Jolla Elementary is 67 percent white and less than 1 percent African-American.

Meanwhile, 5 percent of Rancho Santa Fe students were socioeconomically disadvantaged, whereas 10 percent of La Jolla Elementary students were.

Anastos, the search consultant, said the email incident was not considered in Tripi’s selection because it was an external factor. Anastos searched for a new superintendent based off a profile of characteristics that members of the Rancho Santa Fe community said they wanted to see in their new school leader.

“For the board, their interest was finding the perfect match for their school district and their community,” Anastos said.

Jaffe, the former superintendent, also came from the La Jolla area like Tripi does. Jaffe was principal of Torrey Pines High School before he was hired as superintendent.

Tripi has been principal at La Jolla Elementary since 1999. She has a bachelor of science degree and master’s degree in elementary school education from St. John’s University in New York, according to Rancho Santa Fe’s press release.

“My new position will be the title of superintendent, but in a very small district of only two schools, and in an area with similar demographics,” Tripi told parents in an email. “Though I've enjoyed the benefits of being in a large urban district, it will be nice to end my career where I began — in a small, suburban district. They have a lot of strengths to build on, but also areas where I can make an impact.”

--Kristen Taketa is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune