San Dieguito board hopes to start fresh in 2023, elects Viskanta board president

New SDUHSD trustees Rimga Viskanta, Phan Anderson and Jane Lea Smith take the oath of office.
(Miquel Jacobs)

At the San Dieguito Union High School District’s last meeting of 2022, there was much talk of the coming year being a fresh start, an opportunity to hit the reset button— and as one community member hoped: “be more productive and less tumultuous.”

Over the past year the superintendent was fired, a board member resigned and a controversial redistricting effort was taken out of the board’s hands by the San Diego County Board of Education. Board meetings included difficult conversations about antisemitism, transphobia and prejudice against the Asian community.

In a nod to new beginnings, that night on Dec. 13, the district welcomed the three new voices voted onto the board in November and all three were elected into leadership positions with Rimga Viskanta as president, Jane Lea Smith as vice president and Phan Anderson as clerk.

Trustee Katrina Young nominated Viskanta for the president position.

“More important than just experience, temperament and connections to our schools …I feel its in the best interest of this district to examine what we truly need on this specific period of time,” Young said. “What I want and what our entire community needs is an era of new governance, one that’s completely separate from the noise, media and division that’s plagued this district for the past two years.”

Young said Viskanta, currently the senior management analyst for the City of Solana Beach, offers more experience than any member on the board having served four years on the Encinitas Union School District board, including as president during the pandemic. She described Viskanta as empathetic and a good listener, someone who “brings neutrality and the promise of unity in a district “desperately in need of both.”

“I think she would be an excellent leader for our board to give us that step into a different future,” Smith said, with her vote of support.

For the position of vice president, Viskanta nominated Young, who declined to be considered in the interest of a fresh start. Young nominated Smith and Anderson nominated herself. Anderson said she was a good fit for the role as she represents the Asian community, the STEM community and socio-economic disadvantaged community and immigrants, herself an immigrant from Vietnam: “I believe I’m a fair voice.” Trustee Michael Allman supported Anderson, saying he could vouch for her integrity, committment to to the district and her ability to be level and analytic.

The vice president vote was 3-2 in favor of Smith and Anderson was then unanimously named clerk.

As a new trustee and vice president, Smith brings her experience as a special education teacher and school administrator, a foundation member and parent of a student who just graduated from Canyon Crest Academy. In her board member comments, Smith said she felt privileged to have a seat at the table and was hopeful for the future of the board and district.

“I think it’s our responsibility to our families and our community to figure out how to be productive and work together,” Smith said.

Anderson expressed hope too, stating her desire for the district to get back to basics, delivering “high quality, individually-optimized educational experiences” for students.

Nearly six hours into the meeting, the board had a discussion about board priorities and goals ahead of a Jan. 11 governance workshop. Some goals discussed included financial stability, improved academic outcomes, and building a stable governance team. The board’s top task will be hiring a new superintendent in the coming months.

“Disagreement doesn’t have to be dysfunction…if we have differences in understanding, hopefully we can smooth those out,” Viskanta said. “My biggest hope is to realize we are all on the same side.”