Special to the Village News
As trustees of the Fallbrook Union Elementary District begin plans to select a successor to the former superintendent, there seems to be a movement to challenge the settlement of nearly $400,000 for Dr. Candace Singh.
That amount was approved by the board on Nov. 7. Board President Suzanne Lundin explained that the settlement ended what would have been a protracted and expensive legal battle. The board voted to approve the settlement agreement by a 4-1 vote.
Lundin said the threatened lawsuit that the board prevented centered around Singh’s allegations of harassment, intimidation, bullying and retaliation, and allegations of a hostile work environment, which stemmed from the comments and behavior of a board member, Caron Lieber.
However, there are three new board members, elected Nov. 8 as a conservative slate, and vocal community members have questioned the previous board’s decision.
New board president Dr. Stacey McRae explained at the board’s Feb. 6 meeting, “I understand that this has been a challenging situation for the district and the community. Please know that your governance team has worked in this matter thoroughly and explored all reasonable options.”
She also announced that after hearing comments from the public, she asked staff to contact the district’s insurance provider to check if the $387,000 settlement was covered. Cindy Martin, acting superintendent, reported that insurance would not cover the settlement.
“The JPA (insurance) does not provide coverage or reimbursement for this type of situation because the payments to Dr. Singh are the result of a settlement agreement reached between the district and Dr. Singh,” Martin said. “In lieu of a lawsuit being filed, the JPA would possibly provide coverage if this was a judgment ordered, was a result of a lawsuit.”
Martin said she explained this information directly with members of the public who addressed the board about the settlement, adding it was also important to share this with the public.
A school district spokesman did not respond by the newspaper’s deadline if Singh had received money from the settlement yet, or from what account the money would be drawn from. McRae also did not reply.
Also at the Feb. 6 meeting, Dr. Yolanda Rogers of the San Diego County Office of Education made a presentation about options for selecting a new superintendent.
“One thing I want to really emphasize here is that the superintendent search is the single most important decision that a school board makes,” she said. “When choosing the right individual to serve as superintendent, the search should be handled with transparency and objectivity.”
Rogers outlined three methods for the board to consider in the process of making the selection:
• Recruitment handled by the district’s internal human resources team.
• Letting a national or regional search team handle the process.
• Using the services of the San Diego County Office of Education.
She noted that typically, districts are not adequately able to assign the responsibility to their HR department because of the amount of research and vetting.
The board directed staff to select 2-3 private search teams to make presentations to the board, preferably at the next board meeting on Feb. 27.
During the public comments portion of the Feb. 6 meeting, Leticia Maldonado/Stamos commented, “I would just like to once again urge those of you that are in the position of making decisions about how we're going to move forward to select a new Superintendent. Please take the time to think about how this person is going to be affecting this entire community – and the fact that over half of the students involved in this district are from Spanish speaking families, low income, and the person that you hire should be someone that the whole community can relate to.”
Maldonado suggested a community advisory group to interview and help to vet candidates.
“I know the high school did that a few years ago and it was a very successful process,” she added. “Everybody felt like they were invested. I just urge you again to please take that into consideration and give credit to the community, because we know this community.”