Parents continue criticism of SDUHSD board; recall floated

Parents continue criticism of SDUHSD board; recall floated
SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill spoke at last month’s ribbon-cutting at Earl Warren Middle School in Solana Beach. Photo by Aaron Burgin

SOLANA BEACH — A group of parents has increased its drumbeat of criticism about the current San Dieguito Union High School District board majority and superintendent, which has raised speculation within the community about a potential recall campaign.

The group of parents has been critical about a number of decisions made by the district over the past year, including the decision to give teachers and staff members 12.5-percent pay raises and the timing of the board’s 3-2 decision to promote Eric Dill to superintendent.

But the criticism recently reached its height over the school district’s decision to house its adult transition special education program in two modular units adjacent to the multi-million dollar renovated Earl Warren Middle School Campus.

Despite the district’s recent decision to relocate the program to La Costa Canyon High School, the group of parents has continued to raise concerns about the board majority and superintendent’s actions. They have regularly attended board meetings and asked questions of the school board and superintendent about the various issues, only to have district officials not answer the questions due to board meeting policy.

Most recently, parents questioned the makeup of a proposed special education task force formed in the wake of the issues with the adult transition program.

In recent months, a website was launched called “SDUHSD Watchdog,” which purports to shed a light on the school district, focusing on several of the issues recently raised, including the adult transition program and the issue of the relationship between the school district and its fundraising foundations.

Most of the group’s ire is focused on the board majority of Amy Herman, Joyce Dalessandro and Beth Hergesheimer, who parents within the group described as tone deaf and out of touch with the needs of students and their families.

“None of this would happen if they were respectful to parents and answered their questions,” said Wendy Gumb, a parent who alleged pay-to-play in the Torrey Pines High School baseball program. The state Department of Education recently concluded there was no evidence to support the allegations. “I think the school board has forgotten that they are in the customer service business, and that the students and the parents … are those customers.”

The Coast News recently received a phone call from a person who declined to give their name who said that a group was working on a recall of one or more of the board majority. The Coast News could find no documents filed with the school district or the county registrar of voters, which would have campaign finance documents filed by any group supporting or opposing such an effort.

Parents critical of the district said they were not aware or were not involved in any recall attempt — though several said they would support such an action.

“I don’t know about any recall, but that would be amazing,” said Mary Turk, one of the district’s loudest critics in the issues with the adult transition program.

Turk said she feels the district not only stumbled when it came to the student’s proposed placement at Earl Warren, but also in its long-term planning for the district’s $449 million bond campaign, Proposition AA., which made no mention of the program.

Turk specifically criticized Herman, who acknowledged during the monthslong issues with the program that she did not know about the program before the complaints.

“She didn’t even know what ATP was,” Turk said. “I am all for her being recalled.”

Lucile Lynch, who ran unsuccessfully for school board in 2016, has been championing efforts to improve special education in the district for several years. When asked about a recall attempt, Lynch said she was unaware of one, but said she had also heard the speculation.

“I have heard rumors too,” Lynch said in a brief email. “I am not personally involved if that rumor is true.”

The Coast News reached out to Herman, who is up for re-election in 2018 after finishing third in a race for three spots in 2014. Herman declined to comment on the record for the story.

The Coast News also reached out to Dill for comment, but he did not return the call before the time of publication.

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