Opinion/Letters to the Editor June 2021
June 3 issue:
Response to SDFA teachers union petition to recall
On May 20, after an 11-hour San Dieguito Union High School District board meeting, I stepped out into a dark parking lot and was ambushed by Duncan Brown, the head of SDFA (the teachers union), who shoved a recall notice into my hand.
Addressing the needs of our schools — and our students — during these times of distress and challenge, turned into a view “behind the curtain” that revealed what became, over years, the norm. Our district lost touch with its purpose — the best interests of the students. Re-opening efforts balanced with safety, and the quality of in-person experiences are but a handful of elements I’ve prioritized with my platform of students and families first.
Absent from Brown or the union, is a clear call to prioritize the students who’ve struggled for so long alone, in what has become a year of isolation, at the precise time in their lives when interpersonal growth is so entwined with peer interaction. This has been shamefully absent from the union’s actions and narratives.
A significant part of my campaign as a trustee was built on the platform to return to the district’s purpose while safeguarding and accommodating our talented faculty. The voters spoke with my election last fall to the board of trustees and I moved with purpose to restore the school district to the children and families. Despite union pushback through the fall and winter, we were finally able to reopen schools for the final quarter of the school year.
I am now concerned that students may be forced to the backseat once again, as the teachers union, in conjunction with the California Teachers Association out of Sacramento, attempts to recall both me and Ty Humes, who was unanimously appointed to the school board to fill a vacant seat. These efforts serve only SDFA, who seems intent on wresting control while saddling the district with the costs of the elections, estimated to be as much as $1.3 million out of the general funds. Our district has been running a deficit for the last five years. This is taxpayer money, and should be used for school, not for the political benefit of the unions.
As our district celebrates in-person graduations at our high schools and middle schools (a development I fought for), I remain resolved. I was elected to ask the tough questions and to advocate for parents, students, and taxpayers. I will continue to be tough. Students and families first — that is my platform and I live it every day.
Board trustee, SDUHSD
It’s time to put our students over politics
It’s been a difficult year for all of us, but especially for our teenagers who were locked out of public schools for over a year. Our middle and high schools remained closed the majority of this school year, despite overwhelming evidence that schools could be safely reopened. The cost of these school closures to our teenagers in both learning loss and their mental health is vast, and probably won’t be fully understood for years or even decades. The public messaging from our teachers’ union right now should be one of compassion and commitment to their students this fall, but sadly this is not the case.
Instead, the San Dieguito Faculty Association (SDFA) has recently instigated two separate efforts to remove two current members of our SDUHSD school board. Mr. Ty Humes was recently, unanimously appointed to fill a vacancy. This is common practice when an elected board member resigns, and the overwhelming precedent in similar circumstances within our county. Nevertheless, the SDFA quickly mobilized to overturn this unanimous appointment, insisting on a special election that will cost over $500,000 to us, local taxpayers.
They claimed it’s because he wasn’t elected. Now, the same SDFA is seeking to recall trustee Michael Allman, a non union-backed trustee and fierce advocate for school reopening, just six months after his public election in November 2020. So the SDFA is overturning the appointment of Mr. Humes on “principle” because he was appointed and not elected, while simultaneously seeking to recall the duly elected Mr. Allman because they don’t like him and didn’t support him in his initial run for office.
These two actions by the SDFA are obviously in direct contradiction to one another. It’s nearly impossible to see these dual-actions as anything other than an attempt by the SDFA to wrestle control of the school board. Furthermore, these actions only serve to divide our community rather than keep us all focused on the most important thing: the educational recovery of our students.
Neighbors, please don’t sign any petition regarding our SDUHSD school board without thinking carefully about who should represent our community on that body. I believe we all benefit from independent thinkers like Mr. Humes and Mr. Allman who were duly appointed and elected respectively. The SDFA has strong financial and political backing from the CTA and are therefore a formidable force in getting their way. They have already forced a costly special election upon us for Mr. Humes’ seat. Let’s not allow them to also force a costly and divisive recall of Mr. Allman.
TPHS Class of 1994 and SDUHSD parent of 3
June 10 issue:
RSF golf course: Important to not confuse aesthetics with the essence of great design
It must be put on record that the latest work being done to the RSF golf course is destroying the architectural integrity of Max Behr’s great design. Worse, this ill-conceived project is being performed by a well-known architect of several noteworthy original designs who, unfortunately, has inadequate knowledge of Max Behr’s architectural philosophy, and has never worked on a true restoration. His masterplan references “Line of Charm” several times, but his proposed work on holes 12 and 15 will adversely affect Behr’s brilliant use of this design feature. Furthermore, among many other miscues, the hogsback ridge in the driving area hole 4 has been bulldozed; this classic architectural feature is found at many of the greatest designs, almost always at CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor designs.
Upon completion of the work, the course should look great, since the construction team is top notch. However, it is important to not confuse aesthetics with the essence of great design, something RSF once possessed. Max Behr was the most influential author on the subject of golf course architecture during his tenure as the founding editor of Golf Illustrated. After moving to California, he put his philosophy to work on original designs, only building a few courses, and today, Lakeside, Victoria Club, and RSF still exist as his designs, and all three are missing an original green complex. RSF was his final design, and its absence of rough, wide fairways, and minimal use of bunkering was the blueprint for Augusta National and designs derived from the Augusta effect. This was no accident because Bobby Jones and Alister MacKenzie were friends. Bobby Jones filmed at Lakeside, and MacKenzie visited RSF just before designing Augusta National, and in the Spirit of Saint Andrews published posthumously, gave credit to Max Behr for changing his design approach. As the bulldozers move dirt, the beauty and naturalism that Behr built into his strategic designs will be further eroded into a design fiasco.
The origin of this fiasco lies in the failure to first seek the advice of notable Max Behr experts Tommy Naccarato at Hanse Golf Design or Geoff Shackelford, author of many golf course architecture books, including a completed book on Behr that awaits publication. Most damaging, there was a terribly conceived interview process that failed to interview these highly accomplished architects with superb restoration experience: Tom Doak, Keith Foster, Drew Rodgers, Kyle Franz, Jeff Mingay, Ian Andrew, Andrew Green, Lester George, Tripp Davis, Ron Forse and Jim Nagle, Ron Prichard, Clayton, DeVries & Pont, Coore & Crenshaw, and Gil Hanse. How can you spend millions of dollars on one of Rancho Santa Fe’s greatest assets without interviewing at least half of the above mentioned architects?
Robert Mercer Deruntz
Rancho Santa Fe
June 17 issue:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy: My letter to the Solana Beach School Board
Despite the consensus on the current draft by the Policy Subcommittee on which I served, I feel my concerns are important and should be addressed before adoption.
First, what data proves inequities exist within the Solana Beach School District necessitating adoption of this Policy 0415 (not SD County or State of CA data, but data specific to this district)?
Second, which specific inequities will this Policy address that are not covered by the existing CA Education Codes that provide all students equitable access to education programs (51007) and guarantee all students an education free from discrimination and harassment (201 and 220)?
Third, this Policy echoes the tenets of the controversial teachings in Critical Race Theory (CRT) espousing that inequities exist because everyone is either an oppressor (racist) or an oppressed (victim of racism.) CRT judges people according to the color of their skin, not the content of their character.
CRT’s roots are in neo-Marxist “Critical Theory” and teaches that Western society is racist by nature and must be deconstructed and dismantled to remedy it.
CRT will be used to justify the distribution of resources in an effort to achieve equity. According to the San Diego County Office of Education’s 2019 Focus on Equity Progress Report, “equity must be addressed through a critical race perspective” (p. 12).
How will these ideas not promote hatred, division and a victim-mentality to students? CRT and its revisionist pseudo-history are currently being rejected by twenty Attorneys General across the country.
Lastly, this Policy will be used to guarantee “equal outcomes” instead of “equal access to opportunity” regardless of effort or merit. To achieve equity, equal outcomes will be used as justification to rethink, update, and modernize math, resulting in the elimination of advanced math courses (CSBA Math Policy 6152).
How will this prepare students in the Solana Beach School District for future careers in STEM fields, such as engineering, where there is already a shortage of qualified workers from the United States?
Individual freedom, liberty, justice and personal autonomy are cherished American values that should not be undermined by this Policy. America is home of the Free and the Brave. But, we cannot be free if we are not brave enough to stand against that which divides and seeks to destroy us.
What is “Best for Kids” is helping them learn important lessons from the things done well and the things done poorly in our Nation’s history without compromising academics, confusing gender or teaching fear of authority or hate for one another and the United States of America.
Who runs our schools?
Parents, taxpayers and school boards should run our schools. Teachers unions should not control school districts. San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) is an excellent district with excellent teachers. However, I fear for the future of these schools and schools across the nation.
I am a grandfather of a child attending a SDUHSD school. There have been four generations of teachers in my family. My parents insisted on respect for teachers. There are limits on my respect for people and organizations that do not value my concerns. We must change things right now.
Let me go straight to the bottom line. It is not appropriate to silence parents, board members and friends of the school district. When you disagree with someone, the proper way to approach the disagreement is to discuss the issues. Creating myths and then spreading false information to strengthen the myths is dangerous to the democracy. The constant attacks by the San Dieguito Faculty Association on the school board makes it difficult for me to understand how this district can provide the education that all our children need.
There are five board members (trustees) at SDUHSD. It is possible that there may be less than five members soon. Over the last two years there have been four board members threatened with either recalls or a special election. It is almost certain that one member will be recalled and another subject to a special election. The cost to the school district for these elections will be as much as $1,300,000. We have an interim superintendent now. We need a new superintendent and a stable school board.
I will support all board members and faculty who work toward the improvement of the schools. I will not support anything that wastes large amounts of money. After-school activities should be encouraged and provided money for them to continue. I understand there is not enough money right now for some after-school activities.
Finally, the union and others are setting a bad example for students. I want our future adults to see how democracy and fair negotiations should be done.
June 24 issue:
Mental health action: The time is now
By Ethan Fitzgerald
A few months ago, student leaders from each of the high schools within the San Dieguito Union High School District came together around a common goal: addressing the mental health needs of all students. Meetings occurred weekly with feedback considered from counselors, parents, and other students. From this, we put together an array of ways to best utilize existing resources, and we have come up with a list of essential expansions in terms of additional resources.
One positive note from the previous year is that of increased focus on the subject of mental health. Talk is crucial as an important first step, but most consequential is action. We cannot allow this issue to drift into the wind; it’s far too important. If we fail to meet this moment, it would represent an unforgivable lack of care and support for those who need it most. We tend to treat mental health as a taboo, and even though it can be uncomfortable to discuss, it’s something we must.
Nearly everyone struggles with their mental health at some point, some more intensely. Either way, people can understand from their own experiences and others that it’s crucial to our well-being. Without sound mental health, everything about who we are can be at risk, exemplifying why it’s not a stand alone issue. Addressing and treating mental health means better performance in school, stronger relationships, and a better collective atmosphere.
Discussion and action should be able to unify us all. When such a significant issue is being further acknowledged, it is of utmost importance to respond. That is why we are asking for appropriate action from the SDUHSD school board. “Sleep-Friendly” start times for students have already been shut down for the time-being, but we must persist to do all we can to best use the time we have to act prior to the 2021-2022 school year.
Furthermore, we must not put a band-aid over this issue and simply act like that’s enough. We must focus on comprehensive and long-term solutions. One example is later school start times. We still believe this is essential to student performance throughout the day. Ask any student whether they want more or less sleep, you can presume the answer. Additionally, we need more counselors. According to the American School Counselor Association, schools should “maintain a ratio of 250 students per school counselor,” a figure we must strive for, but are presently nowhere near.
Other solutions include having a PALs program at each school, which means a student-counselor partnered support initiative to promote wellness and connectivity among all students. This is something that some schools in the district have while others do not, which is inherently inequitable. Obviously, each school site is different, but that does not mean one should lack a crucial resource, while another has it. Upon evaluating our district’s mental health resources, we have seen that issue arise time and time again.
For further information on our many other solutions, our presentation will be linked at the bottom of this commentary, which we would encourage everyone to look over and hopefully support. Overall, we are not naive to the fact that what we’re asking requires time and resources, but with something as important as mental health, the stakes are too high not to act in a meaningful manner. Thank you.
Link to Mental Health presentation: bit.ly/35VVUBD
— Ethan Fitzgerald is the Student Body President of San Dieguito Academy
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