Education Matters: The deafening sound of crickets


The San Dieguito Union High School District offices in Encinitas. (Google Street View photo)

Marsha Sutton

It’s not easy for the public to understand what’s really going on when the major players won’t talk about it.

All we have to go on are a few facts, as minimal as they may be, and educated speculation.

It’s about the redistricting map for the San Dieguito Union High School District that was needed after the 2020 census revealed an imbalance in population numbers for the district’s five sub-districts due to growth in sub-area 5 (southern Carmel Valley).

Why this matters, still, is that a resolution accepting the San Diego County Office of Education’s “Map C” as the legal map for the district failed to pass at San Dieguito’s June 23 school board meeting on a tie vote of 2-2. Trustees Michael Allman and Maureen Muir voted in favor while trustees Julie Bronstein and Katrina Young opposed.

This map business just will not go away.

The San Diego County Office of Education saw fit to take over the map process after objections were raised in the San Dieguito community over the map that the district’s Board of Trustees first approved.

Education Matters by Marsha SuttonThe district’s originally approved map was challenged by some as not meeting legal requirements, prompting a lawsuit by San Dieguito constituents Carol Chang and Lisa Montes, who hired San Diego attorney Cory Briggs to represent them.

As it turns out, the district’s approval of the map resolution was not required for Map C to become the official map, according to the Office of Education.

Map C was accepted by those who challenged the original school district map and was adopted by the Registrar of Voters as the official map.

That much we know.

So is the Briggs lawsuit now moot because Map C addresses the lawsuit’s concerns?

Apparently not.


At a legal conference held July 28, sources say that Briggs argued that his clients are still owed attorneys’ fees (said to be $50,000) because the map resolution did not pass. That seems to be a key point.

The district’s attorney, Randy Winet, argued that the district does not owe attorneys’ fees because the plaintiffs got what they wanted with the new map, the same sources say.

Two questions come to mind.

Did the Briggs lawsuit prompt the county to get involved, or did the Office of Education decide to intervene on its own?

Did Bronstein and Young oppose the resolution, for some nefarious reason, to force the district to pay Briggs’ clients $50,000 from school district funds? Or did they vote no because of objections to the contents of the resolution?

One wonders what they were thinking.

Here’s where the crickets come in.

Bronstein and Young voted no on the map resolution without any explanation and continue to refuse to provide one.

The resolution was filled with many “whereas” clauses that would seem to absolve the school district of any wrongdoing. Responding after this column was published, district trustee Michael Allman maintained that every “whereas” clause in the map resolution was vetted by attorneys who deemed it to be 100% factual.

But if they objected to any of those clauses, why not say so? Or why not work out any misgivings in closed session before the resolution was brought into open session for approval?

It’s possible that, should Briggs prevail, the attorneys’ fees would not come from the district’s coffers but from the district’s insurance through the county Office of Education’s JPA.

Either way, it’s taxpayer money. And there is still a principle and precedent involved.

Many times, school districts pay attorneys’ fees as a settlement but in doing so are not admitting any wrongdoing. They simply settle because it’s less costly than going to court. So that could still happen.

I sent emails to Bronstein and Young asking why they voted against the map resolution without explanation and whether they knew that a no vote might lend support for the claim that the plaintiffs should not be personally responsible for attorneys’ fees.

No reply.

No response was received to emails to Briggs, Winet and Kendall Swanson (San Dieguito’s overall attorney), either.

Next hearing

I did receive information back from the county Office of Education’s general counsel, who was able to answer my questions:

Q: Do all the county’s districts need to submit their board-approved maps to SDCOE for SDCOE’s approval?

A: No. The county office has to be notified, but approval isn’t required.

Q: How often does the county reject a district map?

A: SDCOE doesn’t have the authority to reject a map, so never. This is the first time I’m aware of that the county board of education has exercised its independent authority under Education Code to draw a map.

Q: What triggered SDCOE to get involved in San Dieguito’s map selection?

A: Our position has been from the beginning that we do not support the creation of trustee areas that serve to disenfranchise voters, are contrary to the basic provisions and purpose of the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA), or undermine the authority of the County Committee to establish boundaries. When SDCOE leadership was informed by community members that SDUHSD was potentially considering plans and maps that are not compliant with, and potentially violative of, the CVRA, County Superintendent Dr. (Paul) Gothold notified the district of his concerns and possible next steps. In the end, the County Committee took action to fulfill its statutorily imposed obligations and approve a CVRA-compliant trustee area map.

County Office of Education board President Rick Shea, who gave me a quote several months ago when the decision was made by the county to take over the map process, also references a possible legal violation, although neither he nor the county office’s counsel specifically mention existing litigation.

Shea’s quote: “We are aware that the public hearing standards were not met prior to the deadline for submission of a qualified map. Consideration of action is appropriate given issues calling into question the timeliness and legality of the district’s action to adopt a redistricting map, thus triggering the County Committee’s mandatory duty under Education Code section 5019.5(b).”

It may come down to what precipitated the Office of Education to get involved. Or not. Without concrete answers, the public can only speculate.

Sept. 22 is the date set for the court to hear motions to dismiss.

Marsha Sutton is a local education journalist and opinion columnist and can be reached at suttonmarsha[at]

Columns represent the views of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the North Coast Current’s ownership or management.

The North Coast Current welcomes letters to the editor and longer commentaries.

(Story updated 08/13/2022 at 11:10 a.m.)

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