REGION — As the school year gets further underway and the election draws nearer, San Dieguito Union High School District faces turmoil over the direction of its leadership.
School board candidate Lea Wolf, who is running for Trustee Area 5, filed a police report alleging theft of her campaign signs, cyberattacks on her websites and harassing emails.
Wolf told The Coast News that more than 150 of her campaign signs “have been stolen, removed, and trashed” and that her four websites were hacked and infected daily with viruses over a two-week period. She also shared that she has received anonymous emails “bullying me with threats and stating that my signs are an ‘eyesore’ to the community.”
One email addressed to Wolf, that was included in the police report, stated, “You talk like one of those witches from Frisco or New York” and asked, “Are you from the Middle East?” Wolf lived in Israel from age 6 to 18. Another email questioned Wolf, “How dare you have the nerve to trash up our community (Pac Highlands Ranch) with your obnoxious signs?”
Video footage Wolf shared shows a busy street corner in Carmel Valley, with campaign signs for other political candidates in the ground and visible — but her signs tossed on top of bushes out of view.
A screenshot from the page shows a person alleging that some of Wolf’s signs were illegally placed and offering to remove them. Amy Flicker, a candidate running for Trustee Area 1 against incumbent Maureen Muir, wrote in response, “Love our teachers!”
Flicker told The Coast News that her comment wasn’t intended as a response to the offer to remove Wolf’s signs, “but looking at it, I can see how that can be read that way.” She said she was commenting generally to the complimentary posts above it and that her “complete novice utilization of social media is showing!”
According to county campaign records, as of Oct. 3 the San Dieguito Faculty Association (teachers’ union) PAC had contributed $3,500 each, or $10,500 total, to the campaigns of Flicker, Kristin Gibson and Rhea Stewart and had spent an additional $4,228 on campaign expenses, like signs and postage.
Flicker told The Coast News that she did not cash the union’s checks totaling $3,500 and will not accept any future checks from them. She explained in a written statement, “As a candidate I’m proud to have the endorsement of our teachers. I made the decision not to cash their checks. In doing so, their endorsement remains, and they stand behind the candidates that they chose to support.”
In 2016, the union contributed $37,219 total to the campaigns of Beth Hergesheimer and Joyce Dalessandro, who currently serve on the board but are not up for re-election this year.
During public comment at the San Dieguito board meeting on Oct. 11, the union PAC Assistant Treasurer Duncan Brown singled out board member John Salazar for voting against the 12.5-percent pay raise for teachers in 2016 and accused Salazar of spreading misinformation about teacher compensation. San Dieguito teachers are the highest paid in the county, with an average salary exceeding $100,000.
Salazar, who is not running for re-election, wrote in a statement to The Coast News, “I’m most proud of voting against the 12.5% (retroactive) pay raise, which also required the district to have the highest paid teachers regardless of performance. No wonder our district has deep deficits, overcrowded classes, and more and more unhappy families.
“I strongly oppose tenure, and even having public employees unions. The union bullies and buys off board members. Hopefully someday the taxpayers will wake up and take back the school system.”
At the Oct. 11 meeting, the board voted unanimously to hire Dr. Robert Haley as the new permanent superintendent. Last month the district announced its intention to hire Haley pending contract negotiations.
Haley’s contract is for two years and eight months, starting on Nov. 1. He will receive an annual salary of $259,000, which is about 10 percent higher than former superintendent Eric Dill’s salary, and will be given — among other perks — $15,000 to relocate.
When asked about the compensation package in light of the district’s deficit, Hergesheimer wrote, “As we conducted our search it became apparent that, in order to attract the caliber of leadership that we sought and that our community expects, we would need to be willing to pay more for an experienced superintendent.”
Haley’s contract states that he must notify the board immediately if he’s selected to interview for a position with a different employer, but it does not state what penalties would be incurred should Haley fail to do so.
Salazar strongly recommended that the district incorporate a financial penalty into the contract as an attempt to protect itself against the lack of notice that has been suspected of Dill, who informed the district of his plans to vacate the post on May 25.
Hergesheimer, when questioned why the district did not include such penalty language in Haley’s contract, wrote, “We do not anticipate Dr. Haley leaving any time in the near future, and we have every expectation that he will honor the contract as written.”
Haley will be the fourth permanent superintendent in eight years to lead San Dieguito. According to Salazar, none of the previous three fulfilled the full lengths of their contracts.