Two incumbents run unopposed for Solana Beach School Board


Two Solana Beach School Board incumbents are running unopposed this November.

Board members Rich Leib and Julie Union are both seeking another term.

“We’ve always had great schools,” said Leib, whose three daughters — a college graduate, college student and high school student — attended schools in the district. “My No. 1 goal is to make sure that they remain great when we leave.”

A Solana Beach resident for 21 years, Leib was first elected to the board in 2008 and re-elected to the board in 2012.

Leib said he decided to run for a third term to support Superintendent Terry Decker, who the board selected as the district’s new superintendent last year. Decker, who previously served as the district’s assistant superintendent of instructional services, replaced former Superintendent Nancy Lynch, who left the district last June.

“He’s extremely accessible and makes good decisions,” Leib said. “I’m very positive about him, but he is new, so I think it’s important to give him that stability for the next four years.”

In addition, the school district has a bond on the ballot.

The $105 million bond measure would help cover the costs of school improvements across the district. If voters pass the bond, the district plans to start with the reconstruction of Skyline Elementary School.

“I want voters to realize that we do have great schools here,” Leib said. “You can have good public schools that really prepare people for junior high, high school and beyond. But we do need facilities for that, and we need to continue to upgrade those facilities.”

If the bond is passed, Leib said he wants to make sure the funds are well spent. He also wants to continue to have “the best teachers” and continue the district’s successful Discovery Labs, which focus on science, technology, research, engineering, arts and math, or STREAM, and supplemental physical education.

“It’s an important time for the school district, so I just think it’s very important that we are stable and continue to do the kinds of things that we’ve been doing,” he said.

In his next term, Leib said he also wants to give additional attention to Eden Gardens, a neighborhood within the city of Solana Beach. Over the next four years, he said he would like to develop a program that would give all economically-disadvantaged children who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch an opportunity to attend preschool at the district’s Child Development Center.

“We’ve started to get those slots this year. I’d like to expand it,” said Leib, noting that the district is now offering scholarships.

“I’ve had a real good chance of seeing what programs work and don’t work,” he added. “The key for our area, for those that are economically-disadvantaged, is to enter into the school district as close as possible to everyone else. We need to make it a level playing field, and to do that, you need free preschool.”

In addition to serving on the school board, Leib is the co-founder, executive vice president and general counsel of Liquid Environmental Solutions, a nationwide company that handles non-hazardous liquid waste.

He also serves as a trustee of North Coast Repertory theatre in Solana Beach and as a board member of Temple Solel in Cardiff. He previously served six years on the Board of Governors of the California Community College System, including two years as president. He was also one of the founding board members of Green Dot Public Schools, a nonprofit organization that operates charter schools in Greater Los Angeles.

Union, a Carmel Valley resident for nearly 20 years, was first elected to the board in 2012.

During her first term, Union invested time in learning about public school policy and practice. She earned a master’s in governance from the California School Board Association, which entailed 40 hours with education leaders. She also attended many conferences, served on the CSBA Delegate Assembly for San Diego County, and traveled to Sacramento to advocate for students locally and statewide.

“I have cherished the opportunity to positively impact the Solana Beach School District,” Union said. “As a district, we have accomplished a great deal in the last four years, and I am very excited to have the opportunity to continue for another term.”

Union said she is most proud that the district’s STREAM initiatives have “literally exploded,” with support from the Solana Beach Schools Foundation. The district now has a full-time certificated STREAM teacher at every school site.

“These teachers provide interactive lessons that are based on real world problem solving and are highly engaging,” she said. “This year, I have seen students more excited about learning than ever before.”

Union said she is also proud of the district’s improved Child Nutrition Program, outreach to parents, and support of students through partnerships with organizations such as Casa de Amistad, The Boys and Girls Club, and PIQE (Parent Institute for Quality Education).

“Lastly, I am proud of the emphasis on character and leadership education, currently promoted in our schools,” she said.

The board’s goals for the future will be determined by the passage or denial of the bond, Union said.

“For the first time in district history, a bond will be on the November ballot,” she said. “If the bond passes, the district has a detailed and complete facilities master plan covering all seven schools that will be implemented. If denied, hard decisions will need to be made on partial improvements.”

Other goals, she said, are tied closely to the district’s strategic plan and involve helping every student meet or exceed grade-level standards in order to be prepared for success after elementary school.

In her next term, Union said she is “passionate about building strong families by encouraging parent education opportunities, focusing on whole child wellness, and supporting school connection events.”

She also wants to support environmental stewardship in the district.

“The district already does a great job incorporating teaching in each of our school gardens,” she said. “I would like to explore more ways we can reduce, reuse, and recycle at our schools.”

In addition to serving on the school board, Union has two part-time jobs, as a substitute teacher and special education aide in other North County districts, and as a program manager for Access Destination Services, which creates and delivers large group experiences for companies that come to San Diego.

With three daughters, 10 years apart in age, Union has been a Girl Scout leader for the past 19 years. She has also been active in PTA leadership.

“I have been behind the scenes for four years and remain consistently impressed by the professionalism, passion and desire for excellence displayed by our whole school community,” Union said. “It is an honor to serve this extraordinary district.”