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New associate superintendent has special education focus

The San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board was not unanimous in the hiring of its new associate superintendent of administrative services. On June 16, the board voted 3-2 to appoint Mark Miller to replace Jason Viloria, with board members John Salazar and Mo Muir voting against the motion.

SDUHSD Superintendent Rick Schmitt said they are lucky to bring such an accomplished administrator to the district, noting Miller is an “incredible find” who will help them work toward the continuing goal of improving special education.

Miller is currently the assistant superintendent of special education services with the Capistrano Unified School District in Orange County. Prior to that he worked as the director of special education, director of alternative education and high school assistant principal with the Irvine Unified School District.

Miller is actually returning to San Dieguito as he previously spent six years as a special education teacher at La Costa Canyon High School.

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“We have a group of parents who are very interested in seeing improvement in special education and I think he’s the person to lead that,” said SDUHSD Associate Superintendent of Business Services Eric Dill, who takes over as the district’s interim superintendent on July 1 when Schmitt leaves.

Salazar’s objection was not to Miller himself but to the timing of the hire, since Superintendent Schmitt will be leaving and a new superintendent might want to hire his own cabinet or might not even see the need for the position, which was added last June.

“Why are we doing this now when we’re on the fast-track to hire a superintendent?” Salazar asked.

Salazar also opposed giving Miller a four-year contract, rather than a one-year contract or interim status.

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Schmitt said, as he noted last year when SDUHSD established the associate superintendent of administrative services position, the position change was part of the reorganization of the educational services department and became necessary as the district’s work quadrupled because of the “unprecedented scope and scale” of new education standards. The position provides leadership in areas such as enrollment, special education, program shifts, bell schedules, athletics, summer programs, technology plans and the Local Control Accountability Plan and other state programs.

Muir and Salazar also voted against the establishment of the superintendent of administrative services position last year.

Schmitt said there were discussions about filling the position after Viloria’s departure and he wouldn’t have made the recommendation if they hadn’t found someone as “talented and accomplished” as Miller to step into the role.

“Any superintendent would’ve taken him, we were really lucky he had an interest in us. Mark is going to be a fit on anybody’s team…he’s incredible,” Schmitt said. “(His work) is important, the community expects it and we need the work done immediately, I didn’t want to wait.”

As far as the four-year contract, Schmitt said all of SDUHSD’s associate superintendents have those contract terms and they thought Miller deserve the same treatment as his colleagues.

In voting against the hire, Muir’s reasoning was a lack of parent input.

“Parents have said special education is not getting the attention it needs,” Muir said, noting that at recent meetings, such as the superintendent search forums, parents said they wanted to collaborate more with the district. “If this is so important the parents should have been involved.”

Schmitt said while it’s unlikely that parents would sit in on executive session interviews, they have been engaged with the district in multiple ways, including the district’s development of its Local Control Accountability Plan.

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“One of the things we liked about Mr. Miller is that is what he does; his specialty is engaging the special education community,” Schmitt said. “He will do that and hit the ground running.”


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