RSF board opts against hiring former superintendent as consultant

The Rancho Santa Fe School District board had been considering bringing back former superintendent Lindy Delaney to serve as a mentor and consultant to Interim Superintendent Kim Pinkerton, providing support to navigate the challenges of being a first-time superintendent.

The board decided not to move forward in approving an agreement with Delaney, who led the district for 12 years, after hearing feedback from the community as well as from teachers who stood up in opposition at the Sept. 13 meeting.

“I personally don’t see the need for a consultant right now,” said board member Tom Barton. “Kim has been doing a fantastic job. What we were hoping to get from her was stability and she has delivered.

”“I don’t feel like we have a crisis on our hands, we don’t need to spend any more money we don’t have on more consultants.”

The consultant agreement had been pulled from the board’s August agenda and returned to the agenda in September. The board was considering the approval of an agreement with Delaney through June 30, 2019 or until the board appoints a permanent superintendent. The compensation in the agreement was an hourly rate of $100, a total not to exceed $7,500.

Clerk Sarah Neal said had been surprised to see the item on the agenda and heard from many community members who were surprised as well.

“I have total confidence in the team that we have,” said Neal of the team that includes Chief Business Officer Brad Johnson. “I think if we apply the laws of collaboration and setting priorities that we can get through this together. I’m very concerned about adding another opinion and paid consultant to the mix. I think that this is our job, I want us to take responsibility for this as a board.”

Delaney spent a total of 30 years in the district as a teacher, coach and administrator—she was first hired as a teacher in 1986 by Dr. R. Roger Rowe. After she retired in 2016, the board appointed Delaney as a special advisor to former Superintendent David Jaffe for the first five months of his term—Jaffe issued his voluntary resignation in July and Pinkerton was appointed interim superintendent in July.

During public comment, teacher Beth Richardson spoke in opposition of hiring a consultant, with a group of 27 Rowe teachers standing behind her.“

As we often encourage our students to have open, honest and collaborative conversations, we hope that you will do the same before racing to make another decision,” Richardson said.

Richardson questioned why Pinkerton needed further mentorship when she was mentored by Delaney for 10 years. She also questioned the financial implications of spending $15,000 on consultants for the superintendent search as well as a consultant for the interim superintendent.

“Where does the mentoring stop and the active decision-making for the school begin?” Richardson asked. “Will ties to tradition and the status quo impede the growth we hope to achieve moving forward?”

Parent Stacy Harris spoke on behalf of a group of parents advocating against the hiring of a consultant given the current deficit.

The district had a deficit of $634,130 for the 2017-18 school year and is projecting a deficit of $429,000 for 2018-19.

“We do not believe it is vital and would be a waste of funds that would contribute to the deficit unnecessarily,” Harris said. “Mrs. Pinkerton has 15 years of experience in this district and we have confidence in her ability to lead as interim superintendent.”

At the meeting, the board approved an employment agreement for Pinkerton at a daily rate of $805 a day during her temporary term, in addition to her salary as elementary school principal. The board also appointed fifth grade teacher Megan Loh to serve in the temporary interim assistant principal position at a rate of $499 a day.

Parent Kali Kim, a candidate for the school board, said the decision to hire a consultant was confusing, as many board decisions have been over the past few months beginning with Jaffe’s sudden departure.

“Without explaining intention, it appears decisions are being made in haste, all of which deepen our deficit spending,” Kim said. “Isn’t bringing in more administration in an already top-heavy school just making our deficit worse? Is it proper oversight to hire consultants and promote interim staff with no clear vision?”

RSF School Board Vice President Scott Kahn said he did not support hiring Delaney at this time while acknowledging that while they board grapples with the budget, Delaney could be a unique resource in that she had a balanced budget for all of the years she was at the helm.

Kahn reiterated that Pinkerton has his “absolute, unqualified support” in her role as interim superintendent.

Board President Tyler Seltzer said he was the biggest proponent of bringing Delaney in, stating that it was not a reflection on Pinkerton’s abilities.

“Our role as board members is to provide the best possible tools for our staff and to this board when necessary,” Seltzer said. “I remain unwavering in my belief that with Lindy we get a unique, exceptional tool for the people at this table that are going to be responsible for getting this budget right.”

He said Delaney’s “stellar financial management,” understanding of the budget and how it effects what is happening in the classroom could be a great benefit and he was surprised at some of the comments made, particularly as budget and spending are topics that are repeatedly brought up by parents.

Neal said the board’s decision not to move ahead with hiring a consultant was a good example of the district making use of the resources that they already have.“As much as we want every possible tool off the shelf, at some point you have to work with the tools you have,” Neal said.

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