The Coast News Group

School board bombarded by recall effort, deficit spending and lack of transparency

ENCINITAS — Joyce Dalessandro has been a San Dieguito Union High School District board member since 1996. No, that is not a typo. Her sixth-consecutive term is expected to carry her to 2020 for 24 years of uninterrupted tenure.

But not if Wendy Gumb, parent of a Torrey Pines High School student, has her say. Gumb voted for Dalessandro in 2016, but now wants the incumbent recalled.

Gumb laughed at the unusual situation of being a supporter turned adversary. “Like a lot of people, I figured someone who’d been on the board for many years had the experience the district needed,” she said. But as Gumb started attending school board meetings over the past two years, she did not like what she saw.

“As my questions went unanswered, and I watched Dalessandro’s demeanor and the way she interacted with common people like me who are taxpayers, the more I lost confidence in her ability to lead.”

Numerous people attended the May 10 school board meeting to publicly express their support for Dalessandro, including students, parents and staff. Tim Staycer, a teacher, football coach and union president for the district, praised Dalessandro’s “tireless dedication” and said she had “earned the teachers’ and community’s support.” His comments were met with loud applause.

Gumb believes the district is in a “downward slide, and the board members are taking their eye off the ball.” She wants new, “forward-thinking” leadership and doesn’t believe Dalessandro can “make the hard decisions” needed to set things straight because of her “personal feelings for the community.”

One specific area of concern for Gumb and other parents who spoke at the May 10 school board meeting is SDUHSD’s spending.

According to its own internally generated report, the district is running in the red, with an anticipated shortfall this school year of more than $8 million.

The district, which consists of five middle and five high schools, serves about 13,000 students from Carmel Valley to south Carlsbad. Responsible for almost $135 million in revenues, the SDUHSD board oversees an enormous budget.

The financial outlook for the following two school years does not look rosy either, with deficits and diminishing reserves projected. The district report showed anticipated reserves of about 6.5 percent for the 2020–2021 school year. By contrast, it once held reserves of about 20 percent during the 2015–2016 school year.

The board gives the impression that it’s flush with cash, voting 4-1 on May 10 to spend $25,200 to have electric-vehicle charging stations installed at La Costa Canyon High School and Canyon Crest Academy. The money will come out of the Capital Facilities Fund, not the General Fund.

The lone dissenter, board member John Salazar asked before the motion, “How is this a benefit for education?”

The board meeting became rather rowdy at times, with board member Beth Hergesheimer threatening to remove parents who heckled and talked beyond their allotted three minutes. There were calls for board members to resign, accusations of collusion and lying, and laughter when Superintendent Eric Dill said that the board members were good about recusing themselves when a conflict of interest arises.

In a draft handbook under review, Salazar brought attention to the recommendation that the board members ask their agenda questions in advance of meeting because, “We believe in the concept of ‘no surprises.’” Salazar disagreed, saying they’d be “handcuffing future board members” who might want to ask questions at the meetings and could feel pressured not to.

Board member Maureen “Mo” Muir said to Hergesheimer, “Beth, you once said to me after a board meeting that by my asking of a question, I made the meeting go on longer.” Clearly surprised by the accusation, Hergesheimer denied that she would have ever said that but indicated that her words might have been misconstrued.

Dalessandro said that when the board “asks questions of staff out of the blue, it really puts them on the spot.” She recommended that her fellow board members read the agenda and then ask questions via email “like we’ve always done.”

Another item in the handbook that brought about heated exchanges was the recommendation that when board members receive emails from the public or staff, they thank the individual and indicate that they are forwarding the email to the superintendent.

In the policy’s defense, Dalessandro said that none of them had the authority as individuals to directly solve people’s concerns. To that Salazar retorted, “Neither does Congress, but that doesn’t prevent an individual Congressman from expressing his opinion to constituents.” The board decided to table the discussion and have a workshop at a later date.

Responding to a push for increased transparency, an agenda item for videotaping the board meetings was brought to a vote on May 10. Currently, only audio recordings are available, which some parents said are not posted in a timely manner. The cost of the camera was $4,000. Staff, only if available, would be paid to operate it.

A parent in the audience suggested that the board hold meetings for free at one of the high school’s state-of-the-art theaters. A student could film the meetings and gain experience. As the board discussed that suggestion and the cost of the service, Dalessandro noted her preference to continue meeting at the district office because “it’s centrally located.” She also asked, “How many people will tune in anyway?”

To that, Salazar responded, “How many people use a ramp to get into a building? It doesn’t matter.”

Dalessandro then called Salazar a “grandstander” and said the “public would be horrified by the behavior of the audience” were they to watch the meetings.

The item passed, with Dalessandro and Hergesheimer voting against it.

After the meeting, parent Lea Wolf said she’s tired of the board and administrators boasting of the district’s high academic distinctions. Wolf said, “It’s not their credit to take.” She explained that affluent parents make up for SDUHSD’s shortfalls by paying for tutors and counselors and getting the job done themselves.

Though Gumb is confident that she’ll get enough signatures for the petition to hold a special recall election, she’s not concerned if it doesn’t happen. “Even if the recall effort is not successful, at least voters will have more information to consider in the next election.”




Chris July 9, 2018 at 11:14 am

I came upon the link to this story after reading an article in the UT this morning. Simply fascinating! I see so many accusations and nothing to back any of them up. It appears as though a few people are costing the district tens of thousands of dollars to research emails and what not. With all that spent, what have the the people requesting the information learned? Nothing? No evidence of misappropriating funds? Really sad to see a few loons waste the school districts time and money.

Don't Recall Joyce Now May 31, 2018 at 7:33 pm

I am being censored…

Jordan Ingram June 1, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Dear cvdissident,
The Coast News appreciates your active participation in our public forum. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts. I want you to know that while we support a lively and spirited debate, we reserve the right to remove unsubstantiated claims of criminal activity or defamatory remarks that could potentially damage the reputation of a private individual (public figures are a different story). Please keep this in mind when sharing your views.
The Coast News

Let’s Speak up May 24, 2018 at 9:17 pm

@dont recall Joyce,

If you had courage you would have put your name here. But instead you went under cover.

Let me just inform you miss Don’t Recall Joyce, I think you have you have a conflict on interest that’s why u did not put your name. We have seen cowards like you being exposed on nextdorr.

When you have the guts to put your name, I and everyone else will Value your comments as credible.

But you missy lack credibility.

As for Joyce, it’s time to go. Too old and complacent to advance the education system to 21 century. Bye bye Joyce.
As for Beth H. It’s time to go. Too old to understand technology and education. No leadership.
As for Eric Dill it’s time to go. You cannot be trusted.

You actually cover up for offenders with paid packages. Shame on you!

You all need to go when you harm students. You all need to quit when you cannot lead.

Concerned Parent 2 May 23, 2018 at 4:04 pm

You are absolutely correct about it all! This recall is very much aligned with the Salazar and Muir line of thinking. THEY need to be removed ASAP!

Don't Recall Joyce Now May 19, 2018 at 9:05 pm

The recall effort consists of a few, very loud, and active people who are less concerned with the actual policies SDUHSD board members support than they are with advancing their political agenda.

This recall effort operates under the guise of promoting student welfare and increasing transparency, when in reality, they want to see their own personal opinions be represented on the board (even when their opinions represent the minority). The majority of agenda items that are voted on pass 3-2, with Beth Hergesheimer, Amy Herman, and Joyce Dalessandro voting one way and John Salazar and Mo Muir voting another.

SEE THIS RECALL EFFORT FOR WHAT IT IS: trying to instate a board member who will vote with Salazar and Muir and flip the vote.

The people who are violently supporting the recall are Wendy and Nathan Gumb, Beth Westburg, Lea Wolf, Amy Caterina, and a few other disgruntled parents.

On the other hand, Dalessandro got 31.22% of the votes last election (2016) and has consistently voted on items that HELP students and BETTER the community-she has not suddenly flipped her position on important topics nor has she done ANY of the egregious claims the recall effort would like you to believe.

Dalessandro is a hardworking public servant who happens to be the center of this recall effort because Wendy Gumb, front runner of the recall effort, lives in Dalessandro’s district (District 4) and can muster up some support from her neighbors (which were pretty much the only people who signed her intent to circulate a recall petition).

If you see any of the information that is being purported by the recall effort, please take the time to actually research the facts and not give into defamatory and pervasive rhetoric.

Word of warning: The SDUHSD watchdog is the brainchild of Wendy Gumb, so expect the articles to have a biased slant and the petitions are consistently based on opinion, ill-researched claims, and narrow pieces of research that when loosely juxtaposed look potentially harmful.

If you honestly believe that there is a conspiracy in our local school board and that Joyce Dalessandro is single handedly destroying our community, please remember that we are one of the highest performing districts in California, and California already has an extremely high bar.

None of this is to say that board members can’t make mistakes or that you should turn a blind eye to what board members are doing-in fact I strongly suggest the opposite. Look carefully at the whole picture and the whole truth and be vigilant when you hear information come from both sides of the recall. If someone on the board was actually failing to put students welfare and needs as a priority, failing to properly respond to the needs of special needs students, or any of the claims made by the recall effort, they should, without a doubt, be recalled. However the facts just don’t favor the recall effort.

Further, from just observing both sides, objectively, the recall effort seems to be using fallacious reasoning to advance their claims and the opposition to the recall effort seems to use actual facts from the minutes and actual accounts of the tremendous amount of work Dalessandro has seemed to accomplish.

Recall Joyce Now May 18, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Dalessandro said that when the board “asks questions of staff out of the blue, it really puts them on the spot.” This statement is indicative of Joyce Dalessandro’s attitude: Don’t ask hard questions…Rubber Stamp what Staff wants…..Go Along to Get Along. This is why the SDUHSD has an $8 Million shortfall this year alone. I urge all voters to visit to get the facts about the ongoing Fiscal Mismanagement at the District. There is a solution…send a message and RECALL JOYCE.

Comments are closed.