September 2010 home page


Who Can Make It Work?  Commentary
Mary Farrell | Durango Drive


School Board Candidates
Kirsten Gibsen Douglas Rafner
Scott Wooden Steven McDowell


For all the years I have been observing Del Mar school boards, on and off since 1982, I have often remarked how fortunate we have been in the caliber of people who have filled the five positions. What then explains the turmoil of the last 4+ years? The answer: a perfect storm of incompetence. The current board majority simply is not good enough.

Members of the public may be aware that the Board has fired two superintendents in the last three years, but they may not realize the extent of the dysfunction. Three Board members elected in 2006 refused the fundamental training for new board members, then tried to rewrite the job description.

Generally speaking, only three things are required of a Board: to set policy, approve the budget and hire the superintendent. Qualified, professional staff does everything else. But this board has shown that they do not trust staff members, and has, through micromanagement, tried to do all the jobs themselves. “Run the Business Department? Design curriculum? Plan the allocation of funding and personnel? Plan new facilities? Write the minutes? Design the bulletin boards? We can do that.” Small wonder that ten senior staff have left in the last four years, at significant cost to the General Fund, and unfathomable cost to morale and reputation.

For a goldfish, they say, every trip around the bowl is new. Not for school boards. School business is cyclical and repetitive in nature. One scheduled monthly meeting is enough for most boards; but a cursory glance at this District’s website shows 63 meetings in 18 months. Five and six-hour meetings have not been uncommon.

With all this time in meetings, isn’t it to be expected that decisions would be pouring out? Think again. There has been no long-term planning. No goals set. No programs introduced. No vision delineated. In 2+ years of meetings, when the real estate market has been optimum for buyers with money to spend, this Board has been paralyzed by indecision about finding a new District Office. They sold the old location, the Shores property, to the City of Del Mar in 2008. They are now looking at spending $30,000 to extend the lease of the old property. Two years has not been long enough. Board members say, “We need more information.”

The voting public does not need more information. Our school district needs a new board.


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