With the election in the rear view, the Del Mar Union School District has its eyes on the road ahead with the passing of its $186 million general obligation bond Measure MM. While the San Diego County Registrar of Voters still has ballots to count and the results won’t be officially certified until Dec. 6, the measure has received 60.95 percent of the vote, above the 55 percent required to pass.
“We’re really, really excited about the passage of Prop MM,” said DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg at the board’s Nov. 14 meeting, thanking the community for its support as well as the staff and all the volunteers who helped make it happen.
The bond will help the district fund its significant facilities needs which include modernization and improvements at all district schools, the construction of a new school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, and a complete reconstruction of Del Mar Heights School which was built in 1959.
“Thank you to the voters who came out strong for Prop MM,” said Clerk Erica Halpern. “We got 60 percent of the vote which means there’s a lot we can do to make sure our school district stays as good as it is and gets even better, and that we have facilities that meet what we deliver in our educational program.”
McClurg said the next steps for the MM will be discussed at the board’s Dec. 14 meeting, including the process the district will undergo with the public to set priorities and recommend timing for the district’s facilities goals.The format for gathering input has evolved from one 36-member facilities task force to nine school site teams, allowing for more opportunities for involvement as they work to identify needs and put together a timeline for district projects based on priorities and the funding that is available.
The school site teams will meet in December and January and a districtwide meeting will be held in January or February, resulting in a draft capital improvement plan. In March/April the board will hold a workshop and more school site meetings would be held as needed with the aim of approving the plan in June.
The district put out a survey to gather additional input after the new format proposed in October. The survey, taken by 69 parents, included feedback that parents wanted teams to focus on traffic and bike safety, as well as a request for ample notice of meeting dates.
“Throughout this entire process it has become so apparent that we have an outstanding community. A community that supports the district, that makes us who we are and that views our schools as the heart of our community,” McClurg said. “I know that together we will provide every student with an extraordinary school experience and environments that inspire the learning of all. We have great things ahead of us that’s for sure.”
At the Nov. 14 DMUSD board meeting, the board also celebrated the re-election of Scott Wooden and Doug Rafner, and welcomed new board member Katherine Fitzpatrick, who will be sworn in on Dec. 14. (At press time, with about 100,000 provisional votes to be counted, Rafner was holding a lead of 176 votes over challenger Libby Hellmann).
“I, too, want to thank everyone in the community for their support during the campaign not only for my re-election but also Proposition MM,” said Wooden, who was elected to his third term on the board.
Wooden said he is looking forward to the next four years as the district is performing strong academically, has a balanced budget and proper governance: “I think we have one of the best governed districts in the state and that’s what makes us so wonderful here.”
Wooden said he hopes to help the district be as good of stewards as possible of taxpayer’s money and build school #9 “as soon as we can.”
Rafner said he was also looking forward to the task ahead implementing Prop MM funds.
“The work that has to happen is daunting to some extent but I’m excited about doing it,” Rafner said. “And I hope the community is looking forward to being a part of it, after all, it is with you, for you and through you that we’re going to be using these funds and building these schools and upgrading schools. We look forward to working with the community.”
Like Rafner, the newest board member Katherine Fitzpatrick said she is looking forward to the work that has to be done with MM funds—her goal is that the work is done with full transparency and community input.
Fitzpatrick, a teacher (and Del Mar Heights School graduate) was honored that voters selected her to serve on the board out of the six candidates in the running.
“Each candidate had a lot to offer and it was a privilege to run with such qualified and committed people,” Fitzpatrick said. “I am so excited to start a new term with four experienced trustees who have created a collaborative board based first and foremost on the needs of our students along with a mutual respect for each other’s opinions.
Superintendent McClurg and all of the board members took time to acknowledge President Kristin Gibson. It was Gibson’s last meeting after serving eight years on the board—“I will miss you but I will not be far away,” said Gibson, who was elected to the San Dieguito Union High School District board.
“It’s going to be really weird not having you up here,” remarked Halpern. “You’ve been such a great leader of this board.”
Board member Stephen Cochrane agreed that Gibson has been a “bedrock,” thanking her for her hard work, commitment and expertise that she brought to the board for the last eight years.
McClurg said the impact Gibson had on the district was “overwhelming”—she said instruction at the district is far better and different, particularly in math which is Gibson’s specialty as a teacher. McClurg said they now have “fearless mathematicians” in their schools due to Gibson’s leadership and vision.“
When I think about leadership, I think about your integrity, your vision and your willingness to do the right thing,” McClurg said to Gibson. “Sometimes it’s not the easiest thing but you always do the right thing for children and you truly love children and really, really love our community.”
Reflecting on her last eight years, Gibson said she has learned so much about people and relationships, what board members do and the vital roles played by district staff, the foundation and parents—everyone coming together around the same goals.She said as an educator she has always had a vision of what an ideal school or school system might be and she has seen a lot of those visions play out on a district-wide level in Del Mar.
“To have been a small part of that has been really important to me,” Gibson said. “This has been one of the best experiences of my life.”