Why was Del Mar superintendent Bishop fired?  He sounds exactly like Lowell Billings of Chula Vista.
Bishop’s Exit and the Widening Schism
By Ian S. Port
Voice of San Diego
March 2, 2008

...When parents who were thrilled to see Bishop depart took the mic, the trickle of
applause from a back corner left no doubt about who was in the minority.

"There aren’t a lot of parents here speaking in support of Mr. Bishop because he
frankly didn’t listen to parents," said Ginny Merrifield, a district parent and frequent
critic of the superintendent, who managed the election campaigns of the board
members who pushed him to resign.

"He misrepresented the facts, he lied and he collaborated with others to
undermine the board. I think it’s fair to call the question of whether or not he’s
willing to work with the board," she said, over a swell of booing.

The roughly 90 minutes of verbal combat yielded a spate of interesting charges:

First, that board member Katherine White should resign, be recalled or be
censured for a quote she made in my last column about other unsavory goings on
in the Del Mar district. (Goings-on that were not only never denied by any of the
speakers, but which were in fact fleshed out by one of them, who added details
that White did not offer.)

Second, that your Merge-land correspondent is in fact a "crony" of White,
Annette Easton and Steven McDowell
, the board majority who ousted Bishop.
(I try hard to be fair and honest.)

Third, that it was the goal of the new board majority to oust Bishop from
the start,
a claim bolstered by a quote White gave to the Union-Tribune in 2006,
where she mentioned the option of buying out Bishop’s contract if he didn’t deal
well with a newly powerful board. ("What I mean was not supposed to be a
comment on Tom in particular, it was just a comment in general," White told me. "It
was supposed to be a statement of fact.")

Two questions, both of them still unanswered, overshadowed the meeting and will
likely overshadow the Del Mar district for some time.

The first, and most obvious, was
why exactly Bishop was booted right there
and then. All Board President Annette Easton said, with an apology, was
that she couldn’t say.

"I would only consider a decision like this if I really felt that it was in the best
interest of helping us as a community move forward," Easton told the room, still
brimming two hours in. "You see different sides of the entire picture ... Not all of us
have access to the same information."

(Bishop is unpopular among some in the district for having an uncompromising
management style, being less-than-upfront on his personal agenda and not
tolerating dissenting views, all of which critics say have hindered many district
endeavors: Its effort to sell a piece of land to the city of Del Mar, its setting of
boundaries for attendance at its eight schools, the process of setting up a
Spanish-language program and the management of a nonprofit that supports the
Del Mar curriculum, among other things.)...

[Maura Larkins comment:  Top-down management causes lots of
problems.  I'd like to see more willingness among board members and
administrators to conduct open discussions, and to change their plans
when a better plan is suggested.  I hope the new superintendent will
have a different style.  Of course, this would mean that he will not have
an allegiance to any faction of board members, and will not be the pawn
of district lawyers.  Fat chance, eh?]
Del Mar Union School District
Ouster of superintendent, missing money
Del Mar’s
Missing Money,
By Ian S. Port
Voice of San Diego
Feb. 19, 2008

Sometime in the middle
of January, an envelope
containing about $8,000
in cash and personal
checks disappeared
from a drawer at Del Mar
Heights Elementary

The money was
proceeds from a book
fair the school held in
December to raise
money for new library
books � and no one
knows what happened to
it. The locked drawer
where it was kept
showed no signs of
forced entry. The money
didn’t turn up in a
massive search of the
school office.

Days after the envelope
was discovered missing,
the police were called.
They have no leads.

The incident is obviously
embarrassing for the
staff of the school,
members of which admit
that they broke with
district policy by not
keeping the money in
the school safe when it
wasn’t being counted.

"Mistakes were made,"
said Heights Principal
Wendy Wardlow. "There
should have been better

The errors were magnified
by a news story about the
missing money appeared in
The San Diego Union-
Tribune. In a short Feb. 8
piece, Wardlow was quoted
as being regretful and
Superintendent Tom
Bishop as disappointed --
with him also noting the
amount of the loss as

United States v. Richard

Everyone acknowledges
that losing track of over
$8,000 is a pretty big

But the appearance of a
story about the missing
funds in the Union-
Tribune has raised the
suspicions of many in
the Del Mar Heights
community, who wonder
if the story was pushed
to the Union-Tribune by
someone in the district
who might not mind
seeing the school
embarrassed in the
region’s biggest paper.

[Maura Larkins
comment: When
$20,000 disappeared
from the Castle Park
Elementary PTA in
Chula Vista, not a
word was printed in
the paper until the
PTA president was
actually arrested.  And
even then, only two
small mentions ever
occurred.  I think the
district where the
truth is told is the
district.  One board
member during the
Castle Park
investigation was
Cheryl Cox, who later
became mayor of
Chula Vista.  I wonder
if she was able to
quash the story.]

True or not, such
paranoia is
commonplace in the
district these days.
While schools in Del Mar
manage to produce
some of the highest test
scores in San Diego
County -- and absolute
adoration from many
parents -- the politics of
education in this affluent
and successful
community are
frequently vicious,
vindictive and
sometimes nearly violent.

The U-T story raised
eyebrows partly
because the paper
writes barely at all about
mid-coastal elementary
schools. Besides fluffy
features, the only hard
news that makes it to
print is truly major: bond
measures, board
elections and major
curricular crisis.

Moreover, the story was
published before many
in the district -- even
many of those on staff at
Del Mar Heights School
-- had heard about the
missing money, leaving
a very limited pool of
potential leakers.

After Superintendent
Tom Bishop was
informed of the missing
funds on Jan. 24, he
issued a gag order for
everyone who knew of
the incident, including
staff and the school

Two weeks later, the
story appeared.

Burglaries, thefts,
narcotics violations,
vandalism and other
crimes are regularly
reported at schools in
the area, so it’s hard to
see why this report
would stand out.
According to the crime-
mapping website Arjis.
org, at least five similar
crimes were reported at
DMUSD schools
between November and
January. Does the U-T
check them all out, or
did something else draw
the paper’s attention to
that January incident at
Del Mar Heights?

School board member
Katherine White said the
circumstances -- the leak
of an embarrassing story
when only a few knew
about it -- "are something."

"I didn’t read about it in
the paper when there
was a principal drunk in
a school event," White
said. "And I didn’t read
in the paper when a
school employee was
using drugs on campus.
And I don’t read about
the principal that
screams at his
employees. And I don’t
read about the other
thefts that have
happened in the schools
this year ... I don’t
understand what makes
this such a reportable
event when those other
things I’ve never even
been officially told

The view of the Heights
School as a target of the
district administration --
Superintendent Tom
Bishop -- is widely
(though not universally)
held among the school’s
parents and staff.

None that I contacted
would speak for
attribution on the
subject, but the story
they tell is the same.
Critics from all over the
district have long said
that Bishop does not
tolerate disagreement
from employees. And
Wardlow, the Heights
principal, has earned a
reputation as a straight-

"He hates Wendy and
he hates the Heights
and he’s been trying to
get rid of her for years,"
one parent said. "And
why is that? Because
Wendy speaks what she
thinks. She’s not

Bishop told me he was
"disappointed" about the
missing money. He did
not return calls Friday
seeking further comment.

The spat between
Bishop at the Heights
has old origins,
according to those who
describe it, but the
conflict has heightened
recently. In 2006, a
brand new, three-person
school board majority
was elected on a
message of reform,
implicitly criticizing the
superintendent and a
school board that they
said had long given him
everything he wanted.
Their election came
amid a mass
evaporation of faith in
various divisions of the
district, especially in the
nonprofit foundation that
supports Del Mar
classes with private
money. Many of the
most vocal supporters of
the "slate of three"
reformers were Heights
parents. Two of the new
school board members
sent their kids to the

Since the election, the
professional life has been
significantly less
predictable. Board
meetings are no longer
smile-a-thons held to ratify
Bishop’s desires. When
oddities occur -- and there
have been too many to list
here -- Bishop is brought
into line by his board.

Last year, parents from
another DMUSD school
nearly erupted into a
fistfight over the district’s
plan to start a pilot
Spanish immersion
program, partly because
the district didn’t bother
to tell parents of its
plans until after the
decision to go ahead
was made. The principal
of the school herself
learned of the immersion
program minutes before
the school board voted
to approve it. But after
parents revolted --
complaining that no one
told them what was
going on -- the plan had
to be canceled.

Two months later,
Heights Principal
Wardlow appeared in
front of the school board
asking to start a
different Spanish
language program at the
school. Her proposal for
a smaller program was
developed entirely by
the school staff and had
its support.

Despite that adding
foreign language
education has been a
longtime stated goal of
the district -- and that
the Heights curriculum
was an obvious chance
to atone for the
blundering of the earlier
immersion program --
Bishop and an ally on
the board rode Wardlow
through a two-hour
hearing on the proposal,
bringing to bear their full
arsenal of nitpicking on
the principal.

The message was clear:
the district can do what it
wants, and it might mess
things up horribly. But
even an obviously
competent and heavily
supported proposal from
the Heights is going to
get the toughest scrutiny
from the district.

One wound between the
Heights and the district
goes to the very
existence of the school
itself. Rumors have
persisted for years --
heard by teachers and
school board members
-- that Bishop has plans
to close the Heights, sell
the extremely valuable
land it sits on, and use
the money to build a
new district office.

The superintendent
always denies this. Of
course, Heights parents
and staff still find such
talk incredibly disturbing.
And in other matters, not
a lot of love rains down
from the district to
dissuade parents and
staff of the notion that
their school is looked
upon less than favorably
by it.

The very thing that
allegedly pits Wardlow
against Bishop -- her
forthrightness -- is what
many parents say they
like most about her.

"Wendy Wardlow has all
of my tremendous
support, as well as
everybody in the
community that I’ve ever
talked to," said parent
Ralph DeMarco, who
sent five kids through
various Del Mar schools,
and says he likes
Wardlow the best of any
principal. When
DeMarco heard about
the missing $8,107.18 in
book fair funds, "I went
over there and I said I
want to write you a
check right now."

With a tone of suspicion
that has become all-too-
common around Del Mar
schools lately, he
admitted finding the U-T
piece a bit weird.

"Is that somebody’s PR
plan there? Why this
article like that? Is
somebody feeding that
for the purpose of their
overall agenda?" he

It could be nothing. But
in Del Mar these days,
you just never know.

Ian S. Port is assistant
editor of the Rancho
Santa Fe Review,
Carmel Valley News and
Del Mar Village Voice.
How come stories like this are covered-up if they happen in Chula Vista?
SD Education Rprt Blog
Del Mar Times
April 20, 2010

i find it more likely that a
board who has been
called on the carpet for
violating the brown act
several times; who
chose to sell the Shores
to the city of DM for
$15m less than its value
because (in part)
McDowell's neighbor
was (then) the mayor of
DM and they both loved
their dog park; who
chose to get rid of
Bishop because he was
furious they would sell
the DMUSD short in that
way and was pushing
hard to invalidate the
Shores deal (he was,
after all, let go about 3
days before their deal
with city would have
fallen through); with a
slate of 3 that bought
their seats with $50k
when no prior board
member had ever paid
more than $700 for a
campaign... this board
is much more likely to
be the culprit in this
debacle. they are not to
be trusted.
Marsh Sutton email
Blog posts Del Mar
Union School District
Interview of DMUSD
attorney Dan Shinoff
Del Mar Union School
Sharon McClain
lawsuit 2010
Lawsuits DMUSD
Specific language needed for bond repayment strategy

Editor’s Note: The following letter was submitted to the superintendents and boards of the San
Dieguito Union High School District and the Del Mar Union School District. The letter was also
submitted to this newspaper for publication.

Dear Superintendent Noah, Superintendent McClurg, SDUHSD Board of Trustees and DMUSD
Board of Trustees :

I read with great interest the following article on the
Voice of San Diego web site, which reports that
Poway residents will end up paying almost 10 times the face amount (or close to a billion dollars!)
of a bond residents approved a few years ago, apparently due to a financing method called a
Capital Appreciation Bond (CAB):  
Voice of San Diego web site

I also recently learned that the same Orange County financial
consultant used by the Poway school district, Benjamin Dolinka, who
apparently recommended this outrageously costly repayment
strategy, is being used by SDUHSD and DMUSD.

This raises a huge red flag — are SDUHSD and DMUSD residents potentially at risk of repaying 10
times the face amount of the bond we’re currently being asked to approve in November?  If not,
what assurances do we have that the repayment amount and/or strategy won’t change after our

If the exact bond language has not yet been submitted for the November ballot, I encourage you to
include specific language ensuring residents that the total debt service amount and repayment
strategy for the bond are guaranteed for the future and if changes need to be made, another vote
would be required.

I would like this to be entered in to the record for the next SDUHSD and DMUSD Board of Trustees
meetings.  Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Susan Miller
Del Mar
Trial transcript
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report