Opinion/Letters to the Editor September 2021


Sept. 2 issue:

Guest commentary:

CCA student’s Zoom call with school in Kabul, Afghanistan: ‘We fear for our lives’

By Jack Shi

It was surreal to sit in class during the first week of school, listening to the terrifying events in Afghanistan. My history teacher, Mr. Timothy Stiven, had spent the last few weeks working day and night to get exit visas to coed students of a Kabul school. The students and teachers wanted someone to talk to, and my history class was at the exact time they could connect: 9:35 a.m. PST, or 9:05 p.m. GST in Kabul, the middle of their night to avoid internet traffic.

The classroom was still. We collectively turned our ears to the feeble voice floating from the phone propped up on the desk, connected to dial-in audio. The sullen faces of the Afghanistan girls painted a picture of sorrow on each of our computers. A teacher’s voice broke over. He was NY, (we are not using full names in this publication for their safety), the head professor of the Kabul school. His students are members of the oppressed Hazara ethnic group, a minority discriminated against even before the Taliban take-over. Their school was bombed in 2018, with more than 60 student casualties. As professor Y. explained in a matter-of-factly tone about the danger they were in, he said one thing that stuck in my mind: “We are stuck. We can only think of survival.”

Just from the first few days of history class, I had already learned enough to understand what he truly meant. History shows us that education is what keeps human society evolving, technologically and socially. I learned about the Agricultural Revolution, a turning point that mitigated the worry about food, shelter, and basic survival, therefore becoming the first driving motion for advances in human thinking. I concluded that sexism and class inequality are rooted in agriculture as well. As humans saved time not worrying about staying alive, those that had the most time to establish leadership rose to the top of their societies first. Those first were the men, who biologically had a slight advantage. Today, that advantage is irrelevant, but the mindset still endures in modern culture, especially in Afghanistan.

When Professor Y. said that survival was their only concern, it sent indescribable fear into my heart. The Taliban rule was halting education, the only opponent against sexism, racism, and all other inequities. The girls of the Kabul school explained fearfully how almost all Taliban fighters were uneducated, making them exponentially more dangerous. Only education had the power to prove that these injustices were pointless.

Only two weeks before, the older students had taken the Kankor, their equivalent of the SAT. They found out just days ago they would not be getting their results. The students were in emotional turmoil, many spending the night before crying. In addition, college students took involuntary leave, and teachers could not perform their jobs. Chemistry teacher M H J expressed his grief, “It feels empty to have so much to say, and have no one to listen”. They said they would see us in another two weeks, but the reality is that they do not know what will happen by then. When Professor Y. said in his calm, composed voice that they feared for their lives, that was exactly what he meant.

Despite these grim outlooks on the future of Afghanistan, there was still hope in their new generation of heroes. S. J. is a high school student whose Kankor results were lost, but that does not change that he worked on solar panel technology for his community for months. He is already fulfilling his dreams of becoming an engineer. Z. M. is another student who studied computer engineering at Kabul college. She is a sophomore in her fourth semester and loves math. F. M. is a student with a passion for history and literature and studied at the University of Afghanistan. She expresses her talent through her poems. “These students need someone to talk through their feelings and opinions”, teacher M. J. said. “We are extremely thankful and happy you can talk to us. We will never forget it”.

Just before the video ended, one of my classmates asked the Afghanistan school what they would like the students of America to know. They told us: to appreciate the opportunities we are privileged to have in a democratic country and use the fullest extent of our knowledge to help others. The Taliban might have the power to oppress these students for now, but they can never take away the knowledge they have worked for.

— Jack Shi is a sophomore student at Canyon Crest Academy


Wonder what they’re smoking?

Gratified to hear that the thorny issues of affordable housing and homelessness will be alleviated if not totally solved by allowing lot splits and accessory dwelling units in the Ranch. Wonder what they’re smoking in Sacramento?

Keith Behner

Former RSF Association Planning Director

Sept. 23 issue:

A community-engaged plan to replenish our golf course trees

We grew up in Rancho Santa Fe in the 1950s and 1960s, walking and riding the golf course trail bordered by skyline trees. Trees have played a prominent role in the history, beauty, and reputation of RSF and its Golf Club. Professional golf reviews describe the towering eucalyptus as our course’s signature landscape feature.

Sadly, our golf course has suffered substantial tree loss. While the current renovation has brought beautiful new turf, construction has resulted in removal of significantly more trees than the 6 approved by the Association. Approximately 40 trees were cut down on the front 9 alone, with still more trees scheduled for removal.

Countless walkers, golfers, runners, riders, and homeowners lament the loss of golf course trees that provide scenic views, shade, wildlife habitat, environmental benefits, and increased property values for all Covenant residents.

A recent tree survey found that about half of all trees on our course in 2014 are now gone. The 2018 RSF Forest Health Study also revealed a severe shortage of young course trees---now only 6% of the total compared to the recommended 40%.

Responding to community concerns, our Association board unanimously approved a tree-planting proposal in August. During the meeting, our Forest Health and Preservation Committee (FHPC) proposed planting 360 trees over 4 years, with approximately 120 trees planted in the first year. New trees would replace those removed during the renovation and lost in recent years, as well as increase our stock of young trees.

The FHPC also recommended appointing a Golf Course Tree-Planting Committee comprised of “stakeholders” in the golf course forest. This committee could include a Golf Club member, FHPC member, Trails Committee member, equestrian, golf course homeowner, arborist, landscape architect, Golf Club agronomist, and Association staff member. This committee would develop a course site plan identifying tree species, numbers, and locations for RSF Association board review and approval.

The FHPC volunteered to recruit and vet members for a tree-planting committee. FHPC members have extensive knowledge of our trees, having overseen creation of the RSF Forest Health Study and a 20-year review of our golf course trees. The Committee identified drought- and disease-resistant trees for RSF landscapes and co-created an arboretum to showcase these trees.

The RSF golf course property is owned by all Association members who enjoy the beauty of our golf course trees. Planting “the right trees in the right places” requires input from key community groups. We, and numerous Covenant families and Golf Club members, strongly recommend the FHPC lead efforts to create a knowledgeable, collaborative tree-planting committee. This community group can replenish our golf course forest and ensure the best possible outcomes for course playability, landscape design, and trail quality for present and future generations.

Sally Johnson Koblinsky

Holly Manion

Rancho Santa Fe

Guest commentary:

CCA by the numbers: How the CCA Foundation survived and thrived during the pandemic

— Submitted by Canyon Crest Academy Foundation

Each year, Canyon Crest Academy families receive a unique, printed calendar, created and produced by the CCA Foundation.

This “old school” calendar, mailed before the start of school, has become a necessity for CCA parents. Each month is packed with school activities, important dates, and highlights of the many benefits and opportunities that are provided by the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation.

The calendar was originally created in 2013 by Joanne Couvrette, CCAF executive director, to serve a dual purpose for the CCA community. In addition to a valuable tool for parents to use on a daily basis, the calendar is a brochure that highlights the many achievements and the significant progress made by Canyon Crest Academy and its nonprofit Foundation. The calendar won the 2019 NSAF (National School Association Foundation) Award as the best in its category.

This year’s calendar, CCA by the Numbers, highlights the staggering accomplishments of Canyon Crest Academy, despite being in the lowest funded high school district in California.

Although almost all of the in-person events of the 2020-21 school year had to be reimagined, CCA and the Foundation were still able to maintain their standing in the community:

 In 2020, Giving Tuesday donations to the Foundation funded a brand new state-of-the-art live stream TV studio for CCA.

 The live stream studio equipment was used to film and stream the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation’s 2021 Gala - it’s first hybrid event!

 The equipment was also used to stream the two 2021 graduation ceremonies (also funded by the Foundation).

 The number of “Dollar a Day” donors during the pandemic school year was 297 - 121% of the pre-pandemic year of 2019.

 In 2021, CCA retained its Niche rankings. Their rankings are based on rigorous analysis of academic and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education along with test scores, college data, and ratings collected from millions of Niche users.

 #1 Public High School in San Diego

 #1 Public High School in California

 #30 Best Public High School in America

 #25 College Prep High School in America

 CCA was recognized as a 2021 California Distinguished school.

This school year is already shaping up to be an active, IRL (In Real Life) experience for everyone. A week after school started, the Canyon Crest Academy Foundation hosted its annual Welcome Back Parent Coffee and Reception - in person. Parents dropped off their students and enjoyed food and beverages donated by local businesses: coffee from Starbucks at The Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch; yogurts, orange juice, and fresh organic strawberries from Jimbo’s Naturally at Del Mar Highlands; and freshly baked croissants from Rancho Santa Fe’s Champagne Bakery. Families had an opportunity to meet members of the CCA staff, fellow parents, as well as Principal Brett Killeen and Assistant Principals Garry Thornton and Patricia Storey.

For more information and to donate online, go to

Sept. 30 issue:

SDUHSD needs to delay its superintendent search

Texas-based search firm JGConsulting held a series of town halls recently to solicit community input on San Dieguito Union High School District’s search for a superintendent. After attending four meetings I was heartened by the united voice of attendees. Our community’s desires are clear: a superintendent who supports teachers and students; understands California public education; has meaningful classroom experience; implements policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion; and unites our district’s stakeholders.

At the final meeting, CEO James Guerra reflected on the consistency he heard across 70 meetings. However, when asked if that meant that we would be sure to get a superintendent who meets these criteria, he hedged. The ultimate choice lies with board trustees. Guerra admitted he has little influence on whether they choose a candidate who matches the community’s priorities. The public will likely not know whether or not the board chooses from his list of recommended candidates.

Furthermore, Guerra touted the use of videos in the selection process which are subject to the risks of implicit bias. Our board has a track record of hiring white men, and this history must be interrogated. A decision based on race, white or otherwise, does not guarantee a candidate will successfully implement policies of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Only a proven record of experience and evidence-based knowledge of equitable education practices can serve as qualification.

These facts deepen my grave concerns about this search. The rushed timeline of five weeks is unusual and suspect. It ensures that the choice of our district’s executive leader will be made without the full input of three key areas: area 5 residents whose board seat is currently vacant; area 4 which is recalling their current representative; and area 1 whose trustee will likely soon have a change of residency.

Community outreach has also been limited. Only in response to community pressure was the survey translated into Spanish and a last-minute forum in Spanish announced (after JGConsulting’s departure). Teachers were invited to meet during school hours at the district office and therefore unable to attend. Students were notified of the survey half-way through the week. Only a handful of student leaders were invited to meet with the firm, and student affinity groups whose voices are already so often excluded were not consulted.

This district, one of the finest in the country, is already paying a year’s salary for a failed superintendent replaced last spring. The choice of our next superintendent is too vital to undertake without ample time, full transparency, and outreach to all stakeholders in the community. This search must be halted and replaced with one that includes all voices and allows the time necessary to do our district justice.

Kathy Stenger (she/her), co-lead


Equity in Education Group

The SDUHSD superintendent search must be thoughtful

More than 500 members of the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) community have already signed on to the petition of key points regarding SDUHSD’s new superintendent search –

Given the very short timeline to locate and vet candidates and to obtain meaningful community feedback, we the stakeholders of the SDUHSD community – parents, students, SDUHSD employees, and community members – want to provide clear community feedback to the SDUHSD Board of Trustees and its search firm:

1. Please ensure that SDUHSD only hires a new superintendent who has meaningful public education experience as an administrator, preferably from California, so that this person can hit the ground running with knowledge and experience about California guidance and legal compliance, public education, and superior school district governance.

2. SDUHSD must only hire a new superintendent who meets the requirements of CA Education Code section 35028 that says a district superintendent must have valid school administration certificate and a valid teacher’s certificate and not try to waive this minimum statutory requirement. Given the complexities of keeping our schools open during a pandemic, we cannot afford to hire someone without proper certification and training, and significant public education experience.

3. We need more time. SDUHSD has set a hasty timeline to hire a permanent superintendent and announce the new hire by October 14, 2021, meaning that in just four weeks SDUHSD intends to: obtain stakeholder feedback regarding candidate characteristics and qualifications, advertise the position, review resumes, obtain meaningful community input, interview, and conduct background checks of candidates, and negotiate an employment agreement with a new superintendent. Parents, students, administrators, district staff, classified and certificated representatives have valuable insight. Neighboring San Diego Unified has an 11-month timeline to hire their superintendent. Why the rush on this critical decision? Four weeks is far too short to competently screen and evaluate candidates and obtain any real feedback from the SDUHSD community. Don’t make a quick and reckless hire. The SDUHSD board needs to significantly increase the hiring timeline to follow best practices, including a responsible, considered selection process, allow time for valuable SDUHSD community input, and promote a thoughtful, successful hire.

4. The superintendent hiring decision is too critical to be made with only a partial board. SDUHSD must wait until after the new board member, elected on November 2, 2021, can participate so that the new superintendent has the backing of all SDUHSD trustees and all constituents are represented. There is no legitimate reason to make this decision two weeks before a full board is elected or to pick a candidate that then may not have full trustee support.

Thank you,

Evan R. Sorem, parent, SDUHSD

Jennifer Daniel-Duckering, parent, SDUHSD