REGION — The San Dieguito Union High School District has a new superintendent, but the board vote was far from unanimous.
The board voted 3-2 to remove the interim tag from Eric Dill’s title. Dill, the associate superintendent of business services, had been serving as acting superintendent since July 1, 2016, when former superintendent Rick Schmitt left to take the top job at the San Ramon Valley Unified School District in Northern California.
John Salazar and Maureen “Mo” Muir voted against his hiring, criticizing the decision in a joint letter sent to The Coast News and other media outlets.
“We vote no because we believe approval of him is premature,” Salazar and Muir wrote. “We were given the choice of one candidate for the most important job in our district. The other three trustee’s refused to consider anyone else.”
Board president Amy Herman, who voted in favor of Dill’s contract, said that Salazar and Muir’s assertion was not true.
The school board conducted an initial search for a permanent replacement last fall, but put the search on hold after an unsuccessful first round of interviews. According to a previous news release, Dill did not apply for the permanent position during the first round, but district officials met with him in closed session shortly before winter break and ultimately decided to offer him the job.
Herman said that the board had unanimously voted in closed session to proceed with hiring Dill, and it wasn’t until the day of the vote that Muir and Salazar expressed any reservations about the picks.
The minority board members said that search firms told them that better candidates would emerge at the beginning of the calendar year.
“We believe we have a responsibility to our students, parents, faculty, and taxpayers to at least explore, during this optimal time, what other candidates may be available,” their letter read. “While Mr. Dill may be the best candidate, we don’t know that he is the best one for this district because he is the only person that was considered.”
Salazar and Muir were also critical of Dill’s advocacy for lease-leaseback arrangements — several of which were recently rescinded at the same board meeting where Dill’s contract was approved — as well as for the 12.5 percent raise given to district employees last year, which they said raised the district’s budget obligations by $15 million and is contributing to a reported $10 million budget deficit.
Dill has been with the school district — which serves students at five middle schools and four high schools in Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe — since 2001. He was promoted to his current role in 2010 after serving as the executive director of business services and the director of risk management.