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Opinion/Letters to the Editor November 2020

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Nov. 5 issue:

Misinformation about the SDFA

There’s a discussion in the community driven by misinformation and misunderstanding about the San Dieguito Faculty Association (SDFA). We write to define what the SDFA actually is and how it fits into our current circumstance. Some vocal and demonstrative community members have been claiming the SDFA is preventing teachers from returning to on-site classrooms and characterizing the SDFA as an external, bully-type force that somehow solely controls the decisions of the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD).

The SDFA is not just teachers, it includes our counselors and it does not just represent the people teaching and counseling our children, it is those same people—their president is a middle school counselor and their membership is voluntary, consisting of a vast majority of our children’s teachers and counselors. To suggest that these people—our neighbors and friends—are being manipulated or are engaged in some plot to keep students off their campuses does one thing, and one thing only. It allows those who don’t believe that teachers should have the same employment rights guaranteed to other public employees to dehumanize and vilify our teachers and counselors for personal political gain. This vilification began a few years ago and has reached a fever pitch during this sensitive time. We should be especially wary of anyone in our community blaming the teachers’ association for problems caused by those in the district administration and elected leadership who sow division among us rather than try to bring us together.

Those who cast aspersions toward the SDFA might consider that teachers are not the only public employees to form associations as a way to organize themselves and speak with one voice. Our local police officers have the San Diego Police Officers Association and our local firefighters have the San Diego City Firefighters Association. Blaming or even giving sole credit to the SDFA for decisions made by the San Dieguito Union High School District would be like blaming or giving sole credit to the police and firefighters associations for decisions made by the Mayor of San Diego. It just doesn’t work that way.

Employees’ associations are just some of the many voices that leaders consider when making decisions for the public good. During this pandemic, state, county, university and public health voices are also paramount. When associations are excoriated for certain decisions, this might be a clear sign that communication and transparency have broken down at all levels. We urge all stakeholders in SDUHSD to come together to collaborate and compromise to ensure best practices in decision making—and that the education and safety of our children be the top priority, always.

Kimberly Harkin,

Carmel Valley

Kristi Griffith,

Carmel Valley

Gavin Hirst,

Carmel Valley

Keeping the kids at home is not a solution

To the San Dieguito Union High School District board and Superintendent Haley:

I can’t properly put into words how utterly gutted I am in your lack of putting the welfare of the children foremost in your return to school planning. To capture the failure of your leadership, let’s look at the things I can now do with my 7th grader at Earl Warren under the approval of the county:

Dine inside a restaurant

Take him to church, movies, museums

Go inside barbershops, grocery stores, airports, gyms

As of 10/30 the CDC even allowed cruise ships to resume operations

Enroll him in the private schools that are all teaching in person

Move to a district that has the right priority in placing the student’s needs first. Grossmont, Vista, Escondido are teaching their kids on site

If he was 6 years older, he could even go get a tattoo of his most familiar teacher, a tossup now between Mrs. Dell or Mr. MacBook

On the other hand, here are things I can’t take him to:

Bars & breweries (unless they serve food in which case bottoms up)

Sauna or steam rooms

His middle school

You are continuing to keep the kids hostage in their homes in a situation all know fails to enable development to their potential. This going on 8 months of lack of adequate instruction and socialization leads to depression, isolation, and achievement gaps. Experts well versed in the pandemic response, including Dr. Fauci in remarks recently, said “the default should be getting children back in school as opposed to making the default, when you have infections, keep them out of school.”

I can appreciate that this is a difficult and unprecedented situation. However, the reality is that our kids are not as impacted by the virus as those who are older or have underlying conditions. We need to protect those at risk and learn to live with it for all others. Keeping the kids at home is not a solution and one that will guarantee unintended consequences far severe than the challenges that reopening our schools present.

In the SDUHSD you have so many parents and teachers willing to find a way to make in person learning happen. You as leaders have to outline the way for this to become reality. You have the power of the majority willing to support you in any way needed. We can do this.

Let’s go forward and use this time to reset, and figure out a way to get our kids back in the classroom, with their talented teachers doing what they do best. Teaching our kids in person.

Mike Tanghe

Disappointed father of a EWMS 7th grader

Yard signs in RSF.
(Courtesy)

Welcome to beautiful Rancho Santa Fe

Each year, I look forward to our community elections with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, it’s our opportunity to select our community leaders. These are clearly important decisions, worthy of our thoughtful consideration of each candidate’s qualifications.

On the other hand, I dread the onslaught of the ubiquitous and unsightly yard signs that mindlessly splay names and issues across the landscape while providing little or no rationale for voting for (or against) the particular candidate or proposition.

Let’s admit it: These clusters of political graffiti are not likely to sway any voters. Their only goal is name recognition and, when the copycats arrive, any initial advantage disappears into a an ugly forest of shouting signs, which is hardly a good look for our community.

I hope that, during the next election cycle, candidates will find better ways to communicate with us, giving us reasons to vote for them. Yard signs just don’t do it.

And they look terrible.

Bill Weber

Rancho Santa Fe resident

Nov. 19 issue:

Eucalyptus trees in the Covenant: Better to ‘Thin the herd’

In response to the recent article on tree removal on the RSF golf course, I would like to make the following comments: 1) By way of reminder, though eucalyptus trees are beloved and historic, they are not native to Rancho Santa Fe; 2) Eucalyptus trees are essentially the world’s largest weed, producing an almost endless number of volunteer saplings. So while the original grove was planted by the Santa Fe Railroad, much if not most of our current forest is likely unintentional; 3) As everyone knows, the trees are subject to disease, and their lerp-psyllid drenched leaves are an unsightly mess and compound the fire hazard created by the sick and dying trees; 4) The trees are also notoriously thin-rooted and unstable. A number of trees have fallen over on the course over the years, usually during a storm with a lot of wind. Just last Saturday, however, I saw from the 8th tee a large branch break off of a tree behind the second green. No wind or anything else was responsible; it just fell off; 5) If one looks at the old pictures of the golf course hanging in the Players’ Clubhouse, one notices the absence of trees. In other words, they were not a consideration in the original golf course design.

My own attitude towards eucalyptus trees in the Covenant is that less is more. Better to “thin the herd,” so to speak, and be left with fewer, healthier, better-looking trees that also reduce the fire risk to the community. In that regard, the work the Golf Club has done recently in removing sick and dying trees has been admirable. If you haven’t had the chance, check out the area behind the 11th green from the nearby trail. With a single tree remaining, the vista of the Ranch from that location is panoramic and spectacular, and the hole is much more visually interesting and challenging and therefore more enjoyable to play.

I understand the community’s interest in weighing in on tree removal decisions, but shouldn’t playability be the primary factor in determining which trees stay and which ones go (or are added), and shouldn’t the golf course’s board of governors, elected by its membership (who pay for the course’s maintenance, by the way) be primarily responsible for making those decisions? It is a golf course, after all. I also think that further tree and shrub removal will alleviate much of the unkempt look that exists on certain parts of the course, and when combined with the proposed course and clubhouse redesign, will create a much more attractive amenity that will be increasingly appealing both to current and future Covenant residents.

Mark Holmlund

Rancho Santa Fe

Nov. 26 issue:

Give teachers the choice to teach remotely and improve safety measures

At the Nov. 19 San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board meeting, district administration said that requiring all teachers to physically return to classrooms on Jan. 4 will result in significant teacher loss. The district reported that 10% of all teachers are choosing an unpaid leave without benefits over returning physically. It’s estimated that 60-120 teachers will not return, creating a need for long-term substitutes. The forced physical return is unnecessary; the district remains in a distance learning model and teachers can continue teaching the same curriculum remotely. Forced return undercuts the San Diego County Public Health Officer’s directive that all employers, including essential employers like schools, encourage employees to telework.

The district reported that, even before the board’s chosen policy creates the anticipated teacher loss, SDUHSD needs to increase substitute pay because it faces a severe statewide shortage of substitutes. The shortage is so bad that the board discussed recruiting substitutes by hanging banners to attract random passersby, noting that there are lots of parents and unemployed people who could teach our kids; all they need is a college degree and they don’t need to take the CBEST if they can demonstrate an SAT score that doesn’t even need to be that high. The board is creating conditions it knows will lead to an irreparable 10-20% teacher loss, resulting in experienced, professional teachers being replaced by unemployed college graduates whose main qualifications are a willingness to be in a classroom.

Teachers are not commodities. SDUHSD’s outstanding teachers are subject-matter credentialed, prepare students for Advanced Placement examinations, encourage AVID learners to reach for college, and lead programs like IB, Envision, and teams and clubs that form students’ campus experiences. Academic integrity, quality of instruction, and campus culture will be severely degraded because teachers are not easily replaced by unemployed college graduates.

In a tight employment market, employers strive to retain employees. They don’t create plans causing mass resignation, increasing the need for employees. They improve working conditions. Teachers don’t feel safe under the current SDUHSD plan. The difficulty attracting qualified substitutes is worsened by the district’s plan which is woefully insufficient in filtration, testing, and more compared to San Diego Unified, a district competing for the same substitutes.

The county COVID situation is growing worse. The average number of cases reported per day over the prior week more than tripled from 307 to 1,004. Hospitalizations have more than doubled, from 181 to 439, and the worst is yet to come since hospitalizations lag cases by 2-3 weeks, according to State Secretary Ghaly.

SDUHSD board: Please give teachers the choice to teach remotely and improve safety measures at least to the standards of San Diego Unified and UCSD recommendations.

Adam Fischer,

Carmel Valley

Jen Charat,

Carmel Valley

Glenn Collins,

Carmel Valley

Michele Macosky,

Carmel Valley


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