The Rancho Santa Fe Post

The "Jig Is Up": Rowe Must Elect Next Board Member

In an interview with the Rancho Santa Fe Review this week, RSF resident and R Roger Rowe parent Heather Slosar, explains the importance of the County's approval of a recall petition, which she and RSF resident, Annie Golden, filed with more than 100 community member signatures to stop Rowe School Board’s move to appoint a new Board member.

The School Board appointment process became an heated issue of debate, where certain Board members argued against a special election to fill the seat as a waste of the District's time and money due to what they considered to be a short-term position. Parents who supported this view are frustrated as they argue that Rowe struggles to collect donations but then must now spend precious school funds on this process. 

The Board must now allow an all-mail ballot election to take place. The candidate filing period for the Special Election Rancho Santa Fe School District will be January 2 thru January 26, 2018.

Mrs. Slosar and her supporters feel vindicated, as she argues:

“It is clear that our Community will no longer allow appointments to our RSF School Board. Our School Board Members hold publicly elected offices with the key word being ‘elected.’

School Board Members can fulfill their terms or resign within a reasonable window, either of which would allow their vacated positions to appear on a general election ballot. However, if a member resigns within a narrow window, the governing documents ALLOW for an appointment by the School Board - not require, but allow. Appointments are intended to be emergency actions, not the norm. Our School Board now knows that the Community will require an election when members resign within this narrow window or not.

Had previous Board Member Ritto resigned just days earlier, the governing documents would have called for a mandated election, rather than allowing an appointment be made by the School Board. The timing of resignations from the School Board over the past decade tend to follow this same pattern of falling inside this narrow 'appointment window,' thus subverting the voice of the Community. The jig is up.” 

RSF Review Senior News Writer Karen Billing asked a series of questions, which Mrs. Slosar answered as follows:

Why was it important to you to take on this effort?

The Community clearly opposes the continued appointment of School Board Members. It’s important Community voices be heard.

In an appointment, only four (4) people get to voice their opinion - the remaining Board Members. With the most recent ill-timed resignation, four (4) School Board Members voted to appoint Mr. Yonemitsu instead of allowing the nearly 5,000 voters in our school district to hear the issues, meet the candidates and elect a representative. In a matter of days after the appointment, over 100 Community members did indeed voice their opinion via a recall petition.

This is NOT the first time an appointment has been done - three (3) of the five (5) recent Board originally came via appointment. A majority of our School Board had initially been appointed by a small handful of their fellow Board Members, not by the nearly 5,000 voters in our school district. The most recent appointment is just one data point in a very clear pattern.

In 2016 a Board Member resigned with a few months left in his term. At the time, concerned parents requested that the School Board bring the vacancy to vote but instead they fast-tracked an appointment in just four days. In September 2017, prior to candidate applications being taken, Community members again urged the Board to put the Ritto vacancy to a Community vote. Again, they chose to appoint. The Community now sees this pattern of School Board Members resigning within the narrow “appointment window.” Convenient resignations can no longer be a strategy used in our district to subvert the voice of the Community. 

The Board can further its agenda by cherry-picking a like-minded Board Member. Case in point, the gym bond. All originally appointed Board Members support moving forward with a ~$24 Million bond to build a new gym and related additions despite recent surveys indicating significant voter distaste for such a bond. The only Board Member voting against pursuing the bond is the only one elected in a contested race: Ms. Sarah Neal (http://www.ranchosantafereview.com/news/local-news/sd-cm-rsf-schoolbond-20171010-story.html). Not surprisingly, the voters understand that recently-appointed Mr. Yonemitsu supported the gym bond like the other appointees.

Incumbency is a HUGE advantage. Once appointed or elected unopposed, these public officials run on future ballots as “INCUMBENT”, which in our community, ensures subsequent “reelections” - plural, as our District is without term limits.

A contested election offers many benefits - all lost when an appointment steals our vote. Running in a contested election, a public official would receive an education in the thousands of voters’ desires, the school’s needs and the democratic process - not merely an education in existing Board Member pet projects. Through the election process, candidates would learn that voters in our district do not want more ivory towers or ivory gyms built at our school, another bond or an ever-expanding real estate empire. However, voters do want the best education possible for our students. Any potential Board Members need to hear that Community voice.

Are you or anyone else you worked with on the effort interested in running for the board?

Personally, I’ve already had four Community members reach out letting me know they are interested in running for the School Board. There certainly are others.

But as discussed with Superintendent Jaffe several months ago, our goal is to have any interested candidate vetted by and selected by our engaged, intelligent community and not just School Board members. Candidates will need to publicly state their platform and share their views on issues that affect the families with children currently enrolled in the school and the community at large. Important current issues include academic excellence and the issuance of another bond. All property owners pay for bonds. Rancho Santa Fe holds the distinct privilege of being the highest bond payers in San Diego County. Do we really have to pay more for facilities with declining enrollment?

At the last board meeting, VP Tyler Seltzer said that the special election was “a waste of time and money” for such a short time position. What would be your response?

VP Seltzer personally understands the benefits of an appointee as he was appointed in 2011 to a short term and then went on to win as an incumbent in two subsequent elections, without ever needing to campaign. This appointment buys the new board member an “INCUMBENT” stamp next to his or her name on the ballot for the upcoming election. An appointed Board member is nearly ensured a “win” with such a title. In reality this “short-term” position is for an eight month plus four year term (or more because we have no term limits).

More importantly, other expenses that one might view as “wasteful” could include the PR firm hired by the School Board to explain why a $24 million gym bond is such a good deal for the Community, architects to draft plans for a gym the Community already told the Board they don’t want, or our hundreds of thousands spent on legal each year. Just one month without calls to lawyers could pay for this special election.

Lastly, the School Board finally (last week) allowed the Community to vote via mail, which will certainly be less expensive than the figure recently quoted by the District.

Also, I don’t remember now, are you still a Rowe parent?

I am a mother to five children who have all attended or currently attend Roger Rowe. My three oldest are at The Bishop’s School. My two youngest are in 5th and 2nd grade at Roger Rowe. I care about our community, our school, and our children.