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School rankings reveal that Board’s prioritization of salaries over needs of schools and students has taken its toll.

May 10, 2018

The annual "Best Schools" list recently released by U.S. News & World Report reveals that each of San Dieguito High School district's high schools have fallen in the ranks. A review of the rankings also suggests that the San Dieguito Union High School District has ignored some of its high schools, especially La Costa Canyon High School, which is no longer ranked on either the national or state list.

Source: U.S. News & World Report
 

In terms of the 2018 national rankings, only two of the district’s schools were ranked in the top 500 national high school list. Torrey Pines, once ranked at 167 only five years ago (2013), is now #300. Canyon Crest Academy, ranked #73 in 2016, is now ranked at #132. San Dieguito, once ranked as #303 (2013), is no longer ranked in the top 500. Neither La Costa Canyon nor Sunset High made it to the top 500 list. La Costa Canyon High School has not made the top 500 list for nearly a decade. This means that the majority of this district's high schools are no longer listed on the top 500 high schools list. 

 

The 2018 list of California’s "best" high schools, which ranks nearly 700 schools, also reflected lower rankings. Canyon Crest Academy, formerly #5 in the state (2016), is now #14. Torrey Pines, formerly #25 (2013), is now #48. San Dieguito Academy, once #52 (2013), is now #110. La Costa Canyon High School, once #99 is no longer ranked per the list. Sunset is similarly not ranked.

 

Parents have appeared before the board on many occasions asking why more funding is not being allocated to the schools. Parents from La Costa Canyon High School (LCC) have appeared pleading for more funding to help rebuild its music program. Other parents have pleaded for more funding to get curriculum for students with intellectual disabilities, to provide shade in common areas for its most impacted students, and materials for the empty garden that sits outside the Functional Living Skills classroom, while other families have had to resort to protests outside the Board office because of the lack of space for the district's 4 year adult transition program for students with disabilities. Other parents have urged more site funding to repair or replace various items on the school sites. Only last summer lampposts were literally falling down on La Costa Canyon’s campus during summer school and parents have complained that students often bring home dilapidated books, sometimes with covers falling off. New books for the schools have not been purchased in most instances for over a decade. 

 

Trustee Maureen “Mo” Muir has attempted to get answers from Superintendent Dill and has urged fellow trustees at board meetings to demand more funding and attention for LCC in an effort to try to bring the sparkle back, but so far she has been a lone voice. A shame because not only is Muir the only board member with a child in the district, but her child attends LCC. Although Trustees Beth Hergesheimer and Muir both reside in the Encinitas area, Muir has been the only one fighting for improvements at LCC.

 

The public unfortunately has no idea of many of these problems because a majority of the board keeps rejecting efforts to make the board discussions and actions more transparent. Several members of the public have raised issues too with the lack of  transparency in the minutes because the public's comments are often not accurately reflected in the Board's comments keeping the public unaware of the issues raised through public comments.

 

Recently the board was asked to vote on approving a measure to make the board meetings more transparent.  Trustees Herman, Muir and Salazar approved the use of videotaping to make the meetings more transparent. Dalessandro rejected the idea of spending $4,000 to make post video recordings online (even though other local districts provide this), yet she approved more raises for administrators and other staff, even though they were already under binding contracts. She was also part of the board majority who approved the record making 12.5% (now 13%) staff raises, shortly before her re-election in 2016. 

 

Other questionable actions have included the prioritization of the building of offsite $11 million La Costa Valley sports fields over the $10 million rebuilding of Sunset High. The district also spent nearly $1 million on a site for its 4-year program for students with disabilities with double wide portables even though the portables could not fit all the students and staff, and all while millions in Prop AA funding were being spent trying to move other students out of portables. And how about the district's failure to request the teacher's union to reimburse it for the six figure salary it paid for years to the then president of the union who didn't teach while he was on leave to conduct union activities as required by the Education Code? Another nearly $1 million....

 

The growing public discontent with certain board members and areas of the district continues so far is only known to the few who regularly attend the monthly Thursday night meetings. But it's not just the families voicing concerns. The district's own data shows problems as well.

 

Per the District's "Healthy Kids" survey, 26% of the students felt so badly they had troubles functioning (look too at the drug use data for the district's students). Per the state testing data, many school site's scores fell. And per the district's own survey, the majority of San Dieguito's parents are unhappy with special education. The district's "School Accountability Report Cards"(“SARCs”), show dismal proficiency and college readiness rates for most of the district’s high schools.  

 

Why does Watchdog point out these items? Because the Board Majority, led by long time trustee Dalessandro, seems to only want to talk about the good, which means the problems raised by students and families get ignored year after year, and that means troubles for many of our students.   

 

What is good for the Adults is not necessarily what is good for the Students. We need a Board Majority that understands the difference and that means making the students #1 for a change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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