North County Report: After Three Months, Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood Is Still Out
Behind John Collins’ fall from grace, County Grand Jury recommends local school districts should train officials how to run a public agency and more in our weekly roundup of news from North County.
After Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood suffered his latest stroke in May, he was expected to be back to his duties for the Aug. 9 City Council meeting. But that meeting came and went without the mayor, who remains absent without any indication when he might return.
The end of his excused absence, which was granted by the City Council, triggers a state law that requires Wood to attend a Xouncil meeting within 60 days, or have the office of the mayor declared vacant.
His Council aide, Debbie Mikulay, said Wood and his family still expect him to return to his duties.
“That’s what he’s working on right now,” Mikulay said Tuesday. “It depends a lot on his therapy.”
The Union-Tribune reports that Wood was released from the hospital on June 24, and Mikulay said he was still working on his speech and movement.
His absence has left four members on the Council who often split the vote, at a time when Oceanside is facing several large issues, like implementing a complete street design on Coast Highway and allowing medical marijuana operations in the city.
Wood largely missed the city’s recent transition to by-district elections.
Mikulay said Wood wants to have a chance to return, since he was just re-elected to serve a term that expires in 2020.
“There’s a lot of important issues, and that’s why we’re looking forward to returning,” Mikulay said. “We certainly have the concerns of Oceanside at heart.”
If Wood doesn’t return to the dais, the City Council would have 60 days to appoint his replacement, or the position would remain vacant until the next regularly scheduled election, the June 2018 primary election, said City Clerk Zack Beck.
John Collins’ Downfall
Once a superintendent who enjoyed broad support from the school board and community, John Collins’ reputation unraveled last year following his firing, a civil lawsuit, the stripping of his teaching credentials and a handful of felony charges.
As Ashly McGlone writes, Collin’s undoing didn’t happen overnight – it was years in the making, and has left those in the district arguing whether it was a batch of aggressive new school board members who forced him out, or whether Collins acted illegally in an environment that lacked oversight.
Collins was once highly praised for high test scores and bringing new technology into the district.
“He was a visionary. … He saw the value in technology and how it could enhance education. He always put students first,” said Linda Vanderveen, a former Poway school board member.
That success was overshadowed just a year into his stint as superintendent, when a financing deal Collins helped arrange, and that VOSD helped reveal, made national headlines.
The 2011 capital appreciation bond deal resulted in the district getting $105 million in cash in exchange for $1 billion in debt, with the responsibility on a future superintendent and board to service it.
His legacy further eroded when it came to light that his reputation for working well with the teachers’ union rested on a “me too” clause, granting Collins the same raises that teachers got. That same year, Voice of San Diego reported that Collins made undisclosed edits to a scathing report prepared for the district.
When Collins wanted out at the end of 2015, he asked the board to dismiss him in a way that would secure pay and benefits for the remaining 18 months of his contract.
Instead, the district found new attorneys, placed Collins on leave while they investigated him and fired Collins for cause.
The district has since filed a lawsuit to recover $320,000 they said he improperly took, and Collins is now awaiting the next court hearings in his criminal case.
Two North County School Districts Will Provide Training to Improve Administration
In May, the San Diego County Grand Jury issued a report that recommended four school districts provide training to superintendents and school board members in various aspects of running a public agency.
Three of the four districts contacted were in North County: Poway, Carlsbad and San Dieguito, covering Encinitas to Del Mar (Santee rounded out the list). Specifically the grand jury found the districts should implement training in governance, finance, bylaws, the Brown Act and other areas.
Poway responded saying it would require new board members to go through an orientation and attend trainings in their first term. Carlsbad also accepted the recommendations, and will require the board president and vice president attend courses offered through the California School Board Association.
San Dieguito, meanwhile, said that the recommendations have already been a part of the training for its superintendents. Its response also said the Grand Jury lacked any evidence of specific shortcomings in the boards’ training, so the board assumed its voluntary programs were good enough.
Also in the News
• Encinitas has resumed its task force meetings to develop a new plan for affordable housing. A consultant now says the housing goals can be accomplished with smaller buildings and fewer units. (Encinitas Advocate)
• The housing element and switch to by-district elections top of the agenda for Encinitas’ leaders. (The Coast News)
• Southern California Edison and a group representing ratepayers failed to reach an agreement in the fight over who should pay for closing San Onofre. The original decision to stick customers with 70 percent of the costs – about $3.3 billion – now goes back to state regulators. (Union-Tribune)
• Neighbors are suing Carlsbad over its approval of a 90-unit affordable housing complex in the Barrio. (Union-Tribune)
• Assemblyman Rocky Chávez’s bill to allow some military families to pay in-state tuition was signed into law. (Union-Tribune)
• A plan to protect a low-lying section of Highway 101 in Encinitas by building sand dunes now heads to the Coastal Commission. (The Coast News)