Mikayla McFadden, a teacher at Paul Ecke Central, speaks at the Encinitas Union School District Board meeting on Wednesday. Photo by Aaron Burgin
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EUSD Board continues school enrichment programs

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union School District this week voted to continue its funding arrangement for the district’s enrichment program, a plan the board approved last year as a compromise over whether the district should spend thousands to continue its yoga program.

Yoga is part of the enrichment program — students at the district’s nine campuses practice it one day a week — but during the second day of the enrichment program, each school has its own unique program with activities ranging from additional physical education, science teaching, performing and visual arts and other health and wellness programs.

The school board voted 3-1 at its March 14 meeting to continue the program, which splits the cost between the district and the individual campuses. Leslie Schneider, who before the election was one of the more vocal critics of the district’s previous funding proposal, voted against the current funding arrangement.

Board president Gregg Sonken was absent.

The program calls for the district to fund about $458,000, and the sites to combine for the $435,464 for the second enrichment day.

The board’s vote came after parents, principals, teachers and students spoke at the board meeting in favor of maintaining the programs, which they said are win wins for all of them. No one spoke against the proposal at the meeting.

“To me, the fact that we have all of our stakeholders … our students, our parents, our teachers and especially the fact that we had every principal sign a letter asking that this program remain, that speaks volumes,” Marla Strich said.

This was a contrast from 2016, when the school district found itself in a controversy when it proposed spending $800,000 to continue the district’s two-day-a-week yoga program after it lost the grant funding used to start and maintain it. A group of parents spearheaded a campaign to force the board to reverse the proposal.

The board chose the current compromise, which has yielded a special day of instruction on the campuses, which eight campuses call “The Wheel” and a ninth campus, Paul Ecke Central, calls “specials.” On that day, enrichment teachers immerse students in the various enrichment programs, which allows for the classroom teachers to have a needed day of collaboration.

One by one, a dozen speakers took to the podium in front of the audience of about 40 people at the board meeting. Each spoke in favor of the program, calling it a “game changer” for the district.

“I love school and I love my teacher, but my favorite day is ‘specials,’” said Rowan McFadden, a third grade girl at Paul Ecke Central, where her mother Mikayla is a teacher. “I would rather go to specials once a week than to the farm lab once a year.”

Board members said that they also had received a number of emails on the topic, acknowledging that some of the emails were critical of the program.

But board member Rimga Viskanta said that the overwhelming majority of the communications were in favor of the enrichment program as-is, and that she didn’t feel that the district’s test score and student achievement data backed up critics’ concerns that the district was not adequately addressing its core education functions.

Schneider, who cast the lone “no” vote, said she didn’t question the value of the program for the individual campuses, but felt the district should pay the money to the schools and allow them to fund the programs they choose, as opposed to the current structure of a mandatory yoga day.

“If the district has money to share with sites for instruction time, then make those dollars unrestricted and allow sites to access more,” Schneider said in a statement after the meeting. “Don’t carve out $400,000 for yoga teachers and make parents pay for academics and PE teachers. I want our district to support site level autonomy and priorities.”

Schneider also questioned if the district had followed through on a pledge to look for non-district funds to pay for the yoga program. In 2016, Baird said that the funding would be bridged to allow the district to search for other grants to pay for yoga, after the Sonima Foundation stopped funding the program.

“This was supposed to be a bridge year,” Schneider said. “Where are the other funders? I want our district to honor its promises.”

Baird said after the meeting that the district has had preliminary talks with at least three potential benefactors, and would be following up in the coming months.

“We are fully committed to searching for other funding sources, but we also believe that if the district believes in the program, we should be paying for it,” Baird said.

The board’s decision also means that the district will not have to issue layoff notices to the district’s enrichment teachers, another benefit, board members said.

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Concerned Parent March 18, 2017 at 12:55 pm

EUSD does a first rate job of educating its students! I am a parent in CarlsbadUSD (which also does a great job) with a niece and friends’ kids in EUSD schools and have seen great things happening in those schools for years! Keep it up! Unfortunate Schneider is on the board….

Liz March 19, 2017 at 2:16 pm

The Concerned Parent shouldn’t be concerned if her kids go to school in CUSD. I have serveral friends who recently moved to Carlsbad just to get out or EUSD.

What a good board does is ask the hard questions. Sonken not showing up is evidence of how hard it is in EUSD district to go against Baird and board. Sonken’s daughter teaches for the district- continuing the bias. It’s tough to push back when you truly like the people who benefit.

Marla Strich is the one people should be concerned about. How many years has she been in the board? Term limits need to be set.

As for the vote…. When children are given a homework assignment to write the board “about what they like about the wheel.” Education is at jeopardy. This is not creating independent thinkers that have critical thinking skills. Shame on educators.

Kids First March 18, 2017 at 8:09 pm

EUSD could be great if the board had its priorities straight. Big thanks to Leslie Schneider for actually standing up for the kids. Next election 2018– time to clean house.

David Owens March 19, 2017 at 11:42 am

Most Parents don’t support “Health and Wellness” (Yoga). I’m sure you remember the vote last year, the petition and protests, where 1000 people spoke out against EUSD control of donated funds. This alleged support for “Health and Wellness” was not organic or informed. The meeting was orchestrated and highly organized by Superintendent Baird. The vast majority of Parents didn’t even know what was being voted on at the meeting because the agendas are not clear and the details of this proposal weren’t even provided to board members until after 3PM. Kids were compelled to write letters to the Board as a class assignment to “Save the Wheel” and all principals signed a single pre-drafted letter. Of the 3 board members who voted last year, Greg Sonken previously voted “No” but was noticeably abscent this time, and both Emily Andrade and Maria Strich never vote against a single proposal. We’ve searched the records, its a rubber stamp every vote. Teachers obviously support the benefit and don’t necessarily care who pays for it.

“Enrichment” programs are simply a way for the EUSD to avoid paying teachers for substantial time spent out of the classroom and away from students, in addition to ½ day Fridays. Parents are simply saying, that if we are made to pay for this teacher benefit, let us use the money to support programs that we actually care about like, music, math and science. We don’t want to hire yoga teachers with our donations. Simple.

Superintendent Baird could have saved the drama of pink slips by allowing the schools to dedicate funds for valued teachers in advance but, that would mean actually allowing Parents to control the funding. By framing the issue as “Save the Wheel” and pink slipping teachers, Baird is able to protect his program in the chaos and confusion. Parents were promised that the EUSD would find alternative funding for yoga but that will never happen. Parents would never voluntarily donate money to support this program either, which is why the EUSD tells Parents during fundraising, that the money is necessary to supports core curriculum like math and science.

Remember, Superintendent Baird has a personal interest is continuing this yoga program. The narrative that parents support yoga helps to mask his documented wrongdoing. Its time to start live streaming and recording these board meetings so the truth isn’t so easily white washed by this type of reporting. Too bad, you’re a fine investigative journalist.



Karen March 19, 2017 at 6:02 pm

Mikayla McFadden, a teacher at Paul Ecke Central, speaks at the Encinitas Union School District Board meeting on Wednesday. She details the nepotism that exists at PEC. “Everyone in my family works for the district…..” and ..”specials are special…”

Karen March 19, 2017 at 8:54 pm

Wow, here we go again. Does anyone else think that $400,000 to yoga is the most ridiculous thing you have heard of? Other school districts around the county are laughing at us! Wake up Encinitas! Thank you Schneider for trying to make a stand!

David Owens March 21, 2017 at 11:26 am

If you think $400,000 for yoga is a waste (It’s actually much more expensive than that), then PLEASE pay attention to what the Farm costs because your jaw will drop!

Comments are closed.