February 2010 home page


SCHOOLS: The Buck Stops Here
Piper Underwood | Rimini Road


Torrey Hills Elementary School.  Photo Art Olson

As you may recall, the Del Mar Union School District board approved the formation of a 7/11 district advisory committee to examine potential surplus property with the primary goal of finding space for their district administrative offices which currently reside at the Shores property. The 7/11 committee met 21 times between May 2009 and January 2010 including three public hearings.

What have come out of these proceedings are some very loud and clear messages from parents around the district. What we heard was: We don’t want our school closed. We don’t want the district offices placed on our school site. We can’t adequately house all the additional students who will be transferred to our school. And the list goes on and on and on.

The other thing that has become abundantly clear through these meetings, is that we have some incredibly bright, creative parents who recognize there is a district deficit, but who want to come up with some creative alternatives to closing a school.
One parent, when told that the monies from the sale of the Shores property could only be used to fund capital projects (i.e. Buildings, aka district offices), came up with the solution of placing solar panels on top of school buildings to offset electricity bills. This parent suggested that we might even make money off it by selling excess electricity back to SDGE. Of course, this was just one idea, and the specifics of our district’s heliotropic tendencies would need further study, but it is creative.
Perhaps somewhere in this process Superintendent McClain had an epiphany. Perhaps she ought to employ the intellectual property of the community to solve the problem?

At a recent board meeting, this is exactly what happened. The board approved the formation of a “Strategic Plan Financial Task Force”. The task force will be examining the district budget, prioritizing spending, and ultimately looking for ways to reduce district expenses.

There is just one big caveat: Per the memo from Dr. McClain on Jan. 13, 2010, both options included a group comprised of a majority of district employees.

In a letter to the board, Susan Miller writes, “Having employees as members of the task force (especially wielding the power of a majority vote) presents an enormous conflict of interest. The same dollars these employees would be tasked with prioritizing also pay their own salaries.” Fortunately, the DMUSD Board listened, and they are in the process of restructuring the task force to include a majority of community members.

The next chapter in the district budget battle awaits. What’s at stake? Small class sizes, programs, and possibly your child’s school.



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