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The SDUHSD School Board Election: Everything You Need to Know | Ellyse Givens

With the presidential election exploding within our televisions, complete with a daily dosage of flies and rose garden parties and “will you just shut up, man?’s, it can be easy to forget the political transitions uncoiling concurrently within our own communities. With two long time board members leaving our own San Dieguito Union High School District School Board, two seats will be filled this year on November 3. And this comes during arguably one of the most tumultuous times for us, as students, teachers, parents, and families: logging on to our classes via computers during a global pandemic, utterly unsure of what the future will hold.

In 2017, SDUHSD transitioned to a “trustee” model of electing members to the board, in which candidates are elected by “trustee areas.” Only voters within the given trustee area can vote for candidates who reside within that same area, as opposed to the previously implemented “at-large” system, where all registered voters in the district’s boundaries could vote for all candidates. According to SDUHSD, this trustee model ensures that there are “greater opportunities for board representation for candidates who might not otherwise be elected under an at-large system.”

Each member of the board serves four year terms, with no term limits nor campaign limits. This year, Beth Hergesheimer, who represents Area 2 (which encompasses Encinitas and Carlsbad) and has served on the board for 16 years, will be relinquishing her board seat this year, as will Joyce Dalessandro, who represents Area 4 (Del Mar, portions of Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, and Fairbanks Ranch) and has served 24 years on the board. Let’s meet their potential replacements.

Candidates Leslie Schneider and Katrina Young will by vying for the Area 2 seat. Leslie Schenider has lived in Encinitas since 1998, and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a minor in Communications and French from the University of Arizona. She has an occupational background in Biotech, yet has served on the Encinitas Union Elementary School District for the past 4 years as well. She has also been active within the local YMCA supporting military spouses/families, as well as with the R12 Mother/Daughter Christian Service organization. As a board member, Schneider will prioritize safely reopening campuses for in person learning, telling the Encinitas Advocate that she sees “ the downward spiral of [her] kids and others in terms of poor motivation for school, lack of access to sports and few socialization opportunities because campuses are closed. SDUHSD has not produced a plan to return to campus learning and there is no indication that is even their goal…This is not a workable solution.” Schneider also values transparency in decision making, fiscal accountability, and academic excellence for all students.

Katrina Young will be running against Ms. Schneider for the Area 2 seat. Young received a Bachelor’s Degree in English from UCLA, before working in a literary agency and eventually serving as a stay-at-home mom for three children in Encinitas. She has served as the PTA President of El Camino Creek Elementary, on LCC’s Board of Directors, and the SDUHSD Boundary Task Force. She has also spent many years of her career as an advocate for children’s health, holding meetings with members of Congress regarding the importance of medical research, as well as attending the Precision Medicine Initiative Summit and serving as the President of the San Diego Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. As a potential board member, she also values the safe reopening of campuses in a manner that prioritizes students’ mental health, telling Encinitas Advocate that “our community can, and must, do more to provide our children with the emotional support they need to thrive. While I applaud recent steps our community has taken towards talking about mental health, much more work needs to be done… I would advocate for creating a Task Force to gather relevant information and then share it with other districts, locally and across the nation.” Young is also an advocate for transparent communication, district wide collaboration, and social justice.

Michael Allman, Amy Caterina, and Jane Lea Smith are contenders for the Area 4 Seat. Allman received his Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at Michigan State and later his MBA at the University of Chicago before moving to San Diego to work at Sempra Energy and eventually becoming the company’s Chief Financial Officer. He has also been involved with the Southern California Leadership Council, Los Angeles World Affairs Council, Old Globe Theater, and San Diego Opera. As a board member, Allman will prioritize academic excellence, community collaboration, and budget accountability. He is also a fervent advocate for the re-opening of our schools: he established a now 1400 member Facebook group for parents with the same desires, and told the Del Mar Times that “Students are suffering from social/emotional distress from the isolation and lack of hope … They have no answers as [they] watch friends in private school return and prepare fully for the next chapter of their lives…the board needs a reopening plan on which they can vote. They must ask Superintendent Haley to present a plan with options for opening the schools for full days of in-person learning.”

Amy Caterina is also vying for the Area 4 seat. Caterina earned a B.A. in International Business from Simmons College, and has owned and operated a corporate consulting firm serving biotech companies since 1977. She is a current member of the CCA Site Council and has priorly served on the CCA Foundation, Del Mar Schools Education Foundation and Del Mar Hills PTA. As a board member, Caterina says she will seek to increase connection and communication between students, parents, and district officials, and bridge the gaps between each party’s varying interests. She tells the Del Mar Times that this augmented cohesiveness will be essential to the eventual, successful reopening of our schools, saying that “The district must develop a safe reopening plan in collaboration with all stakeholders: teachers, staff, students and parents, and needs to listen to scientists and our elected leaders for health and safety directions. There needs to be thoughtful analysis of all of options and all stakeholders should be prepared, flexible and ready to pivot.”

Jane Lea Smith is the last candidate competing for the Area 4 board position. Lea Smith earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UC San Diego and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from National University. She spent years as a special education teacher and administrator before working as a research consultant in the private sector, focusing on safety in medical devices. She has additionally served as the parent liaison for the CCA Girls Waterpolo Team and has volunteered with the San Diego River Valley Conservancy. As a board member, she values success for all students and life paths, respectful collaboration between school leaders, parents, and students, as well as responsible, student focused decisions. She tells the Del Mar Times that “The district must embrace community engagement as a core value. Communications must be two-way. Public input is critical for our district’s leadership to set policy that best serves our community. The district must adopt a strategy that articulates a commitment to community outreach, sets reasonable timelines for community review and input, and ensures regular, timely updates on board actions.”

This year’s school board election is ultimately the one that will directly affect our lives the most, as students and families. So, CCA, stay aware, remain informed, and tell your parents to vote on November 3!

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