ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District board on June 16 had a simple question to answer about whether it should agree to a resolution calling for mail-only voting for a special election in Trustee Area 5.
Like many other questions in front of the board over the past year, it quickly became anything but simple.
The school board called for Wednesday’s special meeting as the County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold had notified them that the deadline for a decision on the matter was at midnight on June 16.
The district says that an all-mail election would save the district $150,000 in costs for the special election for the seat previously held by Ty Humes in a provisional appointment that was made void following a petition calling for a special election.
The board ended up agreeing in a 3-1 vote to call for an all-mail election but a problem arose with the resolution’s language.
On April 22, the board heard from a number of candidates who had applied for the trustee vacancy following the sudden departure of Kristin Gibson from the school board.
After each applicant was given their opportunity to speak and answer questions from board members, Board President Mo Muir made the suggestion that each board member gives their top three choices for the position to see if a consensus could be reached more expeditiously.
Of all of the board members’ top three lists, a total of five names were said. The one name said by all members was Humes, although no member gave a specific order of preference.
Trustee Michael Allman then quickly made the motion to appoint Humes to the seat which all four members agreed in a unanimous vote. In the minutes of the meeting, it was reflected that Humes was appointed to the seat via a unanimous vote of the board.
Now, however, with the appointment declared void and Humes already beginning his campaign for the seat in Area 5, the matter has become a political one in a district where the politics have become increasingly hostile.
Because of this, Trustee Katrina Young made the suggestion to remove verbiage that the board had unanimously appointed Humes from the resolution.
“We all moved to appoint Ty Humes together but he was one of five candidates that we all had deemed as our first, second or third choice so we don’t know where he fell,” Young said. “So to me the unanimous hints that he was all of our first choice and we don’t know if that is factual or not.”
Young moved to approve the resolution after striking the mention of a unanimous vote.
“We talk a lot about lowering the temperature and if we kind of just make sure our rhetoric is as neutral as possible I think that would go a long way to building bridges,” Young said. “I just worry that adding that word ‘unanimous’ would be used for political means.”
The suggestion prompted much frustration from Trustees Allman and Muir. Allman called the entire discussion “ridiculous” and Muir let out an audible sigh during Young’s explanation for her request.
Allman, participating in the meeting remotely and sounding more audibly frustrated, at one point of the discussion said that Humes was the board’s only choice.
“I voted to appoint him but he was one of three of my choices,” Young responded to Allman. “I’m just saying we live in a very divided time right now and it’s our job as leaders to lower that temperature.”
Young recognized the irony that her attempt to try and bring more unity into a district that has lacked it during the COVID-19 pandemic had seemingly brought even more division amongst the board.
“I am not trying to cause more trouble and I’m sorry that I’ve caused so much distress already,” Young said. “I’m truly, ironically, trying to unify and not disturb. And I feel bad that it’s doing the opposite in this room today.”
With just four trustees currently sitting on the board, a tie vote on the resolution would mean it would fail and the district would lose an opportunity to save a great sum of money on the special election.
Trustee Melisse Mossy, who showed some support for Young’s suggestion, voted yes on the resolution without the change in verbiage while making it clear it was in the interest of saving the district money.
“I’m voting yes to save our district potentially $150,000. But out of respect to my fellow colleague, I would like to reflect that I understand her concern and would support that if I could,” Mossy said.
Young voted no.
The resolution could also become meaningless if the special election is consolidated with the likely gubernatorial recall election as doing so would mean the special election in the district would no longer be an all-mail election and would instead follow the rules of that statewide recall.