Superintendent Rick Schmitt will be leading the San Dieguito Union High School District for three more years, as the board approved an extension to his contract through 2018.
“I think we have really won the lottery having Rick Schmitt as superintendent,” trustee Joyce Dalessandro said at the Sept. 3 meeting.
The vote was not unanimous, with trustee John Salazar voting against the extension.
“We haven’t agreed on everything,” Salazar said of his relationship with Schmitt. “But even if we had, I don’t think (the extension) is necessary.”
Salazar has stated several times that he doesn’t think there should be a contract, that administrators should be “at-will employees.” He said he also believes that there is still time on the contract, and the board should wait until the end of the contract to renew it.
As a result of the board’s non-unanimous 3-2 votes last month in support of extending the contracts of Associate Superintendents Eric Dill, Torrie Norton and Michael Grove, several teachers were present to support Schmitt.
Jacquelyn Karney, an English teacher at Diegueno Middle School, said she appreciates the efforts Schmitt makes on behalf of all students, frequently visiting campuses and classrooms.
“It’s obvious he enjoys talking to the students,” Karney said. “He always has a big smile on his face and you can tell he genuinely loves what he’s doing.”
Karney said more than his friendly interactions with district staff, students and parents, she believes Schmitt is a valuable piece of a strong administrative team that works collaboratively to create an environment of academic success in the district.
While trustee Mo Muir voted against extending the associate superintendent’s contracts last month, she did vote in favor of Schmitt although she had some criticisms of his performance.
“He has not addressed the frightening drug issue in our schools, he has not taken strong administrative action when needed and he has not put the time and effort that needs to make classes effective for both the north and south regions of the district,” Muir said. “Both regions should be equally successful.”
Muir did compliment Schmitt for his successful hiring of principals, associate principals and personnel that value the success of the district and the children. She noted he has also addressed the issue of parity between the schools with bell schedules and is exploring further options.
“Based on my internal assessment I don’t want to give up on the superintendent,” Muir said.
Dalessandro said she was still bothered by the split vote for the rest of the administrative team members.
“We have an amazing, amazing group of administrators and I think it’s critical we give them the vote of confidence that they deserve,” Dalessandro said. “Why would we risk not giving them a vote of confidence?”
Trustee Amy Herman said the contracts Salazar is opposed to are very common in education, and it is recommended by the California School Boards Association to have three- to four-year contracts.
“I really have not seen someone of Schmitt’s caliber before,” Herman said. “He is visible in all of the schools, he really is everywhere. The positive attitude he carries with him everywhere he goes is remarkable.”
Herman said a vote against the contract is a vote of no confidence, and she believes that’s a risk they should not take with high-level employees who could be offered another job anywhere.
“A ‘no’ vote, Mr. Salazar, is risking destabilization of the district,” Dalessandro said. “I really believe the support of the board is something a superintendent needs more than anything to continue the stability of the district. It is egregious to vote ‘no’ because he is very, very valuable to us.”
Salazar had no further comment before voting against the contract extension.