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New majority sworn in for FUESD board

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Three new trustees were sworn in at the Dec. 12 meeting of the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District and one, Dr. Stacy McRae, was selected unanimously by the board as its president. McRae, along with Mary McBride and Diane Sebalj, were selected by voters on Nov. 8, ousting three incumbents.

The new board majority selected McBride as vice president by a 3-2 vote. Ricardo Favela was also nominated as vice president but votes by himself and Suzanne Lundin, outgoing board president, were not enough.

Sebalj was nominated as clerk but declined, as did Lundin. That left Favela, who nominated himself and the board approved by a 5-0 vote.

The three new trustees were sworn into office at the beginning of the meeting before the five board members went to closed session to discuss labor negotiations and public employment. The board then began its regular agenda with Lundin welcoming the three new members.

“I’m proud of what we accomplished in the past two years with a powerful, effective team,” she said. “Our students thrived.” Lundin, like Favela, was elected in 2020 to a four-year term on the board.

The board election followed, and the gavel was passed to McRae, who was coached by Lundin about procedures as the meeting continued. Each of the new members shared about their recent training with the California School Boards Association, admitting they have a lot to learn about the district’s operation.

This was also the first board meeting for Cindi Martin as interim superintendent. She has worked for the district for 18 years and will continue to serve as assistant superintendent, business services. She was appointed at a special board meeting on Nov. 18.

Martin shared her excitement for the future board: "It has been an absolute pleasure getting to know our three new trustees. In our initial meetings, all three have shown their dedication to the children of Fallbrook and their excitement to get to work. All of us here at FUESD look forward to working collaboratively with our new governing board to provide the highest quality education to the students of our community."

Later in the meeting, when Martin gave a report on the first interim report on the 2022-2023 budget, she explained the working budget process for the new board members to understand. She called the report a “snapshot” of the district’s finances and said the district earned a positive certification.

Finances look good for this year and the next two years as well, she said, though the district must be cautious with the state facing major financial shortfalls beginning next year. She noted the district has a 5.81% reserve fund that will allow for smaller class sizes to continue.

This is the first of two annual reports that cover the financial and budgetary status of the district for the period ending Oct. 31, 2022, as required by the education code. The district is submitting a positive certification for the first interim report which means that, based upon current projections, the district will be able to meet its financial obligations for the current fiscal year and subsequent two fiscal years – including smaller class sizes.

The report showed the revenue from federal, state and local sources as $68.6 million for the school year.

During the public comments part of the meeting, several in the audience spoke. Todd Maddison thanked the new board members for “stepping up” to serve. He later cautioned the board about state funding concerns for next year.

Julie Reeder, publisher of the Village News, noted that the district has made it through a dark period and said the newspaper’s goal was to assist in sharing the good features going forward.

Others pointed out the positive aspects of the district, suggested ways for the district to select a new superintendent or an experienced interim superintendent. Sandra Forrester suggested a special meeting by the board to review the negotiated settlement with former superintendent Dr. Candace Singh.

The governing board's next regular meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 17.


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