High school district should be commended for its due diligence on bond

By Marsha Sutton

The Del Mar Union School District’s bid for voter approval of its $76.8 million General Obligation bond measure is reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s “secret plan” in 1968 to end the war in Vietnam. It went something like this: “Vote for me, and after I win I’ll tell you the plan.”

Although the DMUSD school board voted 4-1 last month to place the GO bond on the November ballot, no information has been released to date detailing how the money will be spent. To expect voters to support Del Mar’s bond with nothing but a pledge to be fiscally responsible is absurd.

Compare Del Mar’s information vacuum to San Dieguito Union High School District’s very public discussion of the details of its GO bond, also to appear on the November ballot.

Recognizing a long-range need, San Dieguito formed a facilities planning task force in 2008 with 28 members who met regularly and reviewed student demographics, economic trends, housing and other factors to determine the district’s facilities needs for the next 50 years.

Well before SDUHSD’s school board voted on its bond last month, the district made public the amount of funding needed by project for each school site. [For a list of these amounts, see this story on www.delmartimes.net.]

Additionally, this site — www.sandieguito2012schoolsbond.org — shows San Dieguito’s Master Plan for each school and complete information on the bond, with fact sheets and survey results. Nothing Del Mar has done to support its bond effort even comes close.

Besides Del Mar’s woeful lack of background material, its decision to place a GO bond before the voters zoomed in at the last minute like a sucker punch to San Dieguito.

By all accounts, SDUHSD folks, who have toiled on this effort for nearly four years, were stunned when former DMUSD superintendent Jim Peabody announced just last April that his district was suddenly considering a bond measure.

Del Mar’s unexpected interest in a GO bond came as a surprise, said SDUHSD superintendent Ken Noah. “I know this was not on anybody’s radar,” he said in May. “I worry if we are competing.”

Several SDUHSD staff members and trustees made phone calls to Del Mar board members, pleading with them to withdraw their bond push. To no avail.

The potential tragedy here is that Del Mar’s bond may pass and voters may reject San Dieguito’s, because Del Mar is asking for $8.44 per $100,000 in property value while San Dieguito is asking for about three times that amount.

Or they may both go down in defeat due to a crowded ballot, when San Dieguito’s might have won had it been on the ballot without Del Mar.

San Dieguito should be commended for its due diligence and exhaustive process, which stands in stark contrast to DMUSD’s lack of preparation.

The public may yet see some numbers from Del Mar, and they’d better be solid. Because right now its plan is last-minute, poorly studied, vague and ultimately indefensible. Secret plans and a “trust me with your money” attitude by elected officials and governmental bodies do not deserve support.

Visit www.delmartimes.net (Education Matters column) for the high school district’s estimated project costs per campus. List will be at the end of the column.

Marsha Sutton can be reached at: SuttComm@san.rr.com.

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