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Friday, March 2, 2007 | Vladimir Kogan‘s article about the Del Mar Schools debate over their Education Foundation was factually correct. However, I wonder if he might have had a different perspective if he knew that the practice of district superintendent and the executive director of the foundation included joint meetings at individual schools toward the end of the year for the purpose of threatening to “take away” teachers if parents at that school didn’t raise additional money in the tens of thousands of dollars within 6-8 weeks. This happened at several schools in the district last spring.
This is the practice that makes this particular district/foundation relationship so dysfunctional. When a district superintendent threatens donors, who have already raised money, with a reduction in teaching staff unless they pay more, any foundation will find themselves in this debacle. Furthermore, the practice is clearly not permissible under the state constitution that affirms the district’s obligation to provide free public education and case law that prohibits schools from charging for curricular programs.
The dysfunction in this district has far more to do with the way individual leaders at the district and the foundation have abused their authority and the trust of donors. It is a travesty to suggest that all foundations are or will face these kinds of problems. Foundations work well for 99 percent of the school districts they serve; we don’t need regulation to try to legislate good behavior. Democracy will work in time, like it is working here and now in Del Mar.
The new majority on the school board recognizes this as the source of the problem and is taking steps to address it for the long-term benefit of the district. The proposal that Easton and White have drafted is clearly aimed at solving this problem. These three board members are doing an outstanding job of identifying and addressing problems that have been created by a serious lack of accountability and oversight for years. With new board members, who are serious about the proper oversight responsibilities they are charged with as elected officials, I expect to see a lot more public debate about budgets and policy.