Community Community Encinitas

Yoga critics run for EUSD board

ENCINITAS — A pair of vocal critics of the Encinitas Union School District’s previous proposal to spend $800,000 to continue its yoga program are running for election to the school board.

Anne-Katherine Pingree and Leslie Schneider held a joint campaign kickoff on Aug. 24, shortly after they both qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot, where two seats on the board are up for election.

They are facing off against incumbent board member Patricia Sinay, who was appointed in 2015 to replace Maureen Muir, who won election to the San Dieguito Union High School District board, and Rimga Viskanta, who was one of the 11 people who applied for Muir’s position.

Longtime school board member Carol Skiljian is not seeking re-election to the board after a career spanning more than two decades. She was first elected in 1992.

Pingree and Schneider have spearheaded criticism of the current board and superintendent Tim Baird over the district’s yoga program, which was previously funded by The Sonima Foundation before the organization pulled its funding, which prompted the district’s initial proposal to spend $800,000 to keep it going this year.

The district ultimately approved a less costly plan.

Pingree has also criticized Baird for his failure to document a number of gifts and gratuities from several organizations on his state disclosure of economic interest forms. The Coast News first reported on Baird’s reporting lapse.

Pingree and her husband have four children who are or have attended EUSD schools and serves on the Parent Teachers Association and School Site Council at El Camino Creek Elementary School.

Leslie Schneider is a North County native with two children enrolled in Encinitas Union School District schools.

Sinay was unanimously appointed in January 2015 to complete Muir’s term. The nonprofit consultant and PTA member at Paul Ecke Central Elementary was born in Mexico to an Argentine father and a Peruvian mother, and has spent her adult life linking nonprofit organizations that service those minorities and low-income populations with government agencies, school districts and corporations through the firm she founded, Community Investment Strategies.

Viskanta served on the Proposition P citizens advisory committee and the EUSD Wellness Committee. She currently is the PTA president at Ocean Knoll Elementary. She said on her campaign website that she is committed to addressing the diverse needs of all students, including high achiever, special-needs and English as a second language learners.

Viskanta also serves on the SDUHSD Prop. AA citizens oversight committee.


Karin Hensley August 28, 2016 at 10:11 am

As you stated, your own newspaper has previously reported problems with Dr. Baird’s conflict of interest and waste of taxpayer dollars on non-academic items. I am shocked that you don’t point out that Leslie Schneider and Anne-Katherine Pingree are the candidates running that have pointed this out and will stop this waste in the future. Of the other candidates, one didn’t vote against the waste and the other is silent on the matter. I hope our community understands the waste that is occurring under our noses and thankfully we have parents who are willing to address it!

Anne-Katherine Pingree August 28, 2016 at 11:02 am

It is disturbing to see a completely erroneous tagline used when describing two parents (Leslie Schneider and myself) who are running for the Encinitas Union School Board. Journalistic integrity demands that our reporters accurately report the facts. Please let me share with you why I am running for the school board.

For many months I have been concerned about decisions being made by our Encinitas Union School Board, decisions that are not in the best interests of our children. There are many great enrichment programs we can offer our children, but funding of academics MUST come first. It is the district’s responsibility to fully fund our science, reading, PE, and music teachers at our schools before relying on parents to pay for these core academics areas. After we have fully funded our core curriculum we can look at funding extra enrichment programs. District funding should also go towards the reduction of class size. We have outstanding and committed teachers in our district. Let’s help them do their job by giving them fewer students to work with so they can better focus on the unique needs of each child. This is about responsible use of education funds. This is about FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY.

Our current school board has turned a deaf ear to parents and community members who want input as to how our taxpayer dollars are spent in the education of our children. We need school board members who engage with community members when setting goals and creating plans and programs to achieve those goals. We need a school board with ACCOUNTABILITY to the people they serve.

School boards are legally required to operate under certain laws that were designed to help citizens be informed as to how their taxes are being spent. Abiding by the Brown Act ensures that school boards stay honest and open and allows for citizen participation. Our current school board has been in violation of the Brown Act. This has undermined the public’s trust in these elected leaders. As a strong supporter of TRANSPARENCY, I will uphold the Brown Act, in both the spirit and letter of the law and will hold all school board members to the same standard.

I am running for the Encinitas Union School Board because I want to restore FISCAL INTEGRITY, ACCOUNTABILITY and TRANSPARENCY to our district. Please visit my website for more information:

Darcy Brandon August 28, 2016 at 2:21 pm

Wow. Who thought up this headline? And who approved it? Both Aaron Burgin (author) and Tony Cagala (editor) should be ashamed of themselves for this inaccurate, misleading headline and article, very similar to one that was printed in the U-T on August 11, 2016. Did you just cut and paste? How about some real journalism and actually speaking to the candidates to get their perspective?

Pingree and Schneider are running for EUSD school board because of the many improprieties discovered with the current board and Superintendent Baird. Many of which have been reported in The Coast News. As recently as July 29, 2016, The Coast News ran an article about Baird’s travel expenses and his failure to report them. What about Baird’s board position with the Sonima Foundation, while receiving grant money for the district? Conflict of interest? What about the La Quinta get-away Baird hosted for the board and staff back in 2014? As reported in The Coast News on September 11, 2014, this was a major violation of The Brown Act.

Then there’s the issue of appropriate (or shall I say “inappropriate?”) spending in the budget. Money should first and foremost go to academic programs and necessary supplies for teachers. Money being spent on Baird’s pet projects should be the last priority in the school budget. Parents are asked year after year for additional money to fund science and music teachers. Back-to-school Nights are a more of a beg-fest for necessary classroom supplies than they are about your child’s curriculum and expectations. It’s despicable to put our hard-working teachers in a position to solicit donations from parents or have to pay for classroom supplies from their own salaries. School boards are to oversee the spending and priorities of a district, not just rubber stamp the Superintendent’s wishes. Oh, and then there’s the “Farm Lab” boondoggle. Six Million Dollars for some veggie beds? And yet, no money for math or science teachers?

Pingree & Schneider are running to refocus the priorities of EUSD. They are not running on a single issue platform based on yoga. They want a school board that will listen to parents, be fiscally responsible and transparent to the community. They want to represent you, the parents and taxpayers of the Encinitas Union School District.

Greg robin August 28, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Excited that there is a chance some new people will try and stop the full blown corruption destroying EUSD. Unfortunately Patria Sinay was appointed as a pawn of superintendent Baird to approve his expensive pet projects that have cost taxpayers millions. From lavish travel across the globe at taxpayer expense to free gifts from billionaires in exchange for implemeningt their expensive agendas in schools. There are two losers: taxpayers, and children in the district. Class sizes are exploding higher and taxpayers are constantly asked to foot the bill. Its been a long series of expensive cons, from ripping off the city of Encinitas on the school sale, to pricey Ipads every year, to paying Yoga instructors more than teachers and more. Stop the fraud and waste – lets bring in responsible governance. The existing board members including Sinay have failed to protect the interests of the students and taxpayers. Leslie Scheider and Anne Katherine Pingree have already had a positive impact by bringing the fraud the attention of stakeholders and pressuring the board to return over $400,000 in funds that were originally set to be misdirected to pet projects, back towards science and academics. They will represent us as taxpayers and help students learn without funds being misdirected to buddies of Tim Baird.

Anna Hysell August 28, 2016 at 6:27 pm

I look forward to seeing a lot more about these candidates in your paper. Particularly how Schneider and Pingree seem to be focused on transparency and accountability. What the current EUSD board is completely lacking. They rubber stamp the Superintendent and act as if they work for him rather than the other way around. Sit in on a board meeting and you will be nauseated. They do not deserve the title of “public servants.” Particularly Sinay; she was not elected but appointed and word is she signed a document to never speak against the Superintendent publicly to get the job.

Cindy Gray August 28, 2016 at 6:59 pm

I wish you would stop portraying these candidates as one-issue focused. I met with Leslie Schneider in 2015 regarding her plans to run for school board. I also met Anne-Katherine Pingree when I ran for school board and she was concerned about what was happening in our district and the lack of transparency and mis-directed priorities 6 years ago. To now claim they are motivated to run due to the most recent budget approval and administration priorities is very inaccurate and misleading. I hope you will take the time to do a proper evaluation of their candidacy and use their actual priorities and goals for their roles as trustees on the Encinitas Union School District Board in a follow-up article.

Aaron Burgin August 28, 2016 at 10:57 pm

OK, so now I have had a chance to sit in front of a computer, digest all of your complaints and formulate a response.

So, here goes.

1. There seems to be a disconnect as to our process as a paper in terms of how we will cover the election. It is clear to myself and my superiors that the EUSD election is of keen interest to readers, and we will be covering it accordingly. This is certainly not the only story you will see about this race, and there will be opportunities for us to go into greater depth about ALL of the candidates, including Mrs Pingree and Schneider.

2. There also is a disconnect when it comes to the term “inaccurate.” I think the word that describes what several of you have complained about is “incomplete.” The headline doesn’t give a COMPLETE portrayal of the two candidates. And this, perhaps, I can agree with. But to call the headline inaccurate is to essentially say that the two candidates did not criticize the district over the yoga program and the budget priorities of the current slate of officials and that isn’t true either.

3. Stories that we write shortly after the election nomination window closes are simply brief primers to give readers a list of who is running. These are not the in-depth stories that many of you expect to see, which we usually write in coming weeks. As I’ve stated before, we will definitely will be putting a lot of effort into the school district election coverage, but I ask that you allow us at the paper to define the timeline for those stories. I think my track record as a reporter will tell you that I will provide our community’s readers with complete and exhaustive coverage of the elections that matter most to our readers, and some they might not even consider noteworthy.

All the best to all of you, and if you ever need to contact me, feel free to hit me on my cell, 760-815-4967.

Be well,

Elaine Migdal August 29, 2016 at 4:06 pm

Aaron, as a very motivated voter, who supports Pingree and Schneider, I appreciate that you are willing to take a more nuanced look at the issues in future coverage. The primary issue for me and for these two candidates is the misuse of funds and a seemingly arrogant board / superintendent’s office that do not listen to parents. Our students deserve better. Funding math, technology, science and reading instruction, and getting to hire more educators and easing overcrowded classrooms, is so much more important than funding what is nothing more than a workout or a hobby. All I seem to hear is that America needs to educate for STEM careers and lighting that spark to love math and science starts at the very beginning. Thanks for hearing me out!

Cherie Heid August 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm


Have any readers written to you to say “I love the term yoga critic.” If not, perhaps you should listen to readers and use a different headline such as “Fiscally conscious parents run for EUSD board” or “Concerned citizens running for EUSD board.” Using a negative headline is insulting and is very incomplete. Good journalism should be complete!

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