Opinion/Letters to the Editor October 2022

(File photo)

Oct. 6 issue:

New SDUHSD contract: If one peels back the skin, the picture is always more complicated

I feel that Marsha Sutton’s article commenting on the new San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) contract begs for some context. Full disclosure, I recently retired after the 2021-22 school year after 31 years teaching History at Oak Crest. A school year, by the way, where we teachers worked without a contract. In all my years, typically, a new contract would have been negotiated and approved during this past spring semester. Depending on the month, salaries and bonuses would be paid retroactive to the previous January. But because of the intransigence of Mr. Allman and Mrs. Muir, the new contract wasn’t approved until this new school year (2022-23) had already begun. So to say that $3,000 is going to teachers who no longer work in the district is shamefully disingenuous. It’s true but not really accurate because the new contract covers the Spring Semester of 2022 during which I was an employee of the district.

Ms. Sutton also bemoans these payments while the district is running a deficit. While this may be true, let’s also look back over the tenure of Mr. Allman and Mrs. Muir. I have a couple of questions. Over the last three years, how many lawsuits have been brought against this dysfunctional school board or initiated by the school board and at what cost? Because of all the legal issues facing the board, they had 1-2 attorneys on hand for every board meeting. At $500 an hour it adds up. On top of that, before Allman and Muir arrived the board averaged around 20 board meetings a year. Under the leadership of those two, there were around 80 meetings in two years. Maybe Mrs. Sutton could write about the astronomical legal bills paid by the district because of the shameful conduct of Mr. Allman and the school board in general.

Finally, by my count, this district paid salaries to two former superintendents who, you guessed it, no longer worked in the district. And how much money was paid to a Texas firm to search for a new superintendent only to choose Dr. Ward who was living in North County San Diego? By the way, this school board fired her within a year

Again, the facts presented by Mrs. Sutton only address one side of the story. The false narrative of greedy teachers and unions are always easy low hanging fruit. But if one peels back the skin, the picture is always more complicated.

Geoff Westermeyer,


Oct. 27 issue:

School board elections

Having worked closely with Roger Rowe on the Rancho Santa Fe School board for 12 years, I picked up a few pointers from him on how to promote excellence in teaching and learning, how to keep parents satisfied and how to motivate students. It wasn’t always easy. We had no music, art or computer programs back in the late ’80s and ’90s when state funding was nonexistent. So we, also as PTO members, started the Cap and Gown Society, and raised $54,000 that first year, instead of a feeble $6,500 from PTO bake sales. Finally we were able to fund, through the PTO, the programs our students so sorely missed. Later we started the School Foundation and it took off from there. Bravo to the generations of parents who have added and enhanced the two fundraising arms of our public school.

In those days and through the years following, we often ranked in the top 1-5 in many subjects across the county and even the state, but like the current crop of parents, teachers and administrators, we had our problems. I remember a few years when we had our math challenges in 7th and 8th grade, but we fixed them, and the exodus by some to private schools seemed in the end, unwarranted.

Roger always believed that a healthy school district should be in balance, with board members from all walks of life, teachers who care, and an engaged PTO, but what he didn’t believe, and neither do I, is that a school district is a business and should be run as such. It is so much more than a business, just like our children are so much more than students.

During campaigning time, divisiveness and politics should stay out of the discussion among those running for the school board. Our children are watching. Those who understand the dynamics of a school board usually appreciate what the current team is trying to do even though they are campaigning for a seat on the team. Those who see the cup as half or three-quarters full, and campaign with ideas on how to fill it up, not what’s wrong with it, usually win.

Marie Addario,

Rancho Santa Fe

Santa Fe Irrigation District awards

If you have never been to a Santa Fe Irrigation District Board of Director’s meeting when awards are presented, please don’t feel left out, you haven’t missed anything. SFID employees who hit an employment anniversary milestone (in five-year increments) are recognized for their devoted years of public service. They are given a keepsake commemorative plaque and get their pictures taken with the members of the BOD and the SFID general manager. In all my adult life, I have never seen anything else that reminds me so much of the elementary school awards given to the children for some dopey, unimportant achievement. (I suppose an MBA candidate somewhere wrote a thesis where (s)he proposed award ceremonies to keep employee morale “up” at negligible cost to the organization, and this was adopted by the SFID.) Occasionally outsiders from some government agency or supplier show up to give the SFID an award for some accomplishment they should have made as a matter of course. It’s hard not to laugh at these “ceremonies.” Nobody congratulates themselves more than government people.

I think it’s more important to look at the Top Ten Awards the SFID will never win: The awards for: 1) Ensuring the ratepayers get as much water as they want. 2) Having a Board of Directors comprised entirely of non-government employees (or retirees) who represent the ratepayer exclusively, and not the bureaucracy. 3) Successfully demanding from Sacramento that we get cap-and-trade credits because along with our highest per-capita water use, we soak-up the most CO2 per-capita in the State through our greenery. 4) Having a return to the SFID 1961 water rates (template) where we paid a base rate for water and received two levels of discounted rates for quantity use. 5) Requiring that employees contribute to shortfalls in their PERS retirement plans out of their own pockets and not from the ratepayer’s. 6) Requiring that SFID employees take the same percentage pay cuts for themselves as the drought-mandated ratepayer percentage cuts on water use. 7) Refusing to take the words “…providing an economical manner...” out of their Mission Statement. 8) Never blaming the ratepayers for water shortages that are obviously due to the failures of the government monopoly to secure adequate supplies of water. 9) Preventing employees from retiring until at least 65 years of age. And, finally, 10) Ensuring that if given a choice, the ratepayer would buy their water from the SFID as opposed to another organization.

Let’s hear it for the SFID. Yippee.

Rory Kendall,

Covenant resident since 1963

Don’t allow any erosion for freedom of speech

I am deeply saddened by the “hate speech” resolution proposed by San Dieguito Union High School District by trustee Katrina Young and voted in favor of by her and Julie Bronstein.

While I condemn any hate speech, I am equally against government censorship in any way, shape, or form.

This resolution is a blatant violation of freedom of speech. Any speech, unless it leads to a crime, no matter how unpopular, offensive, and even hateful, is protected by our constitution. It is our fundamental civil right and a vital component of our democracy to have the freedom to voice our opinions in public forums such as school board meetings.

School board members do not and should not have the legal authority to label speech as “hate speech”. This resolution would give them absolute power as speech police, prosecutor and judge, without due process or opportunity for rebuttal.

This resolution is clearly intended to intimidate parents and students with dissenting views to discourage them from participating in board meetings in order to stifle the community’s voice in the conduct of our school district.

Speech regulation and speech code never fail to lead to totalitarian governing. Free and open discussion is the only way to combat bias and discriminatory thought.

Don’t allow any erosion to our freedom of speech. Don’t open our district to legal liability.

Sue Zhang

Carmel Valley