Dozens of San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) parents and community members cheered as the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) approved a new district map on April 25, 2022. SDCOE took control of the boundary drawing process after SDUHSD submitted a blatantly gerrymandered map that drew outrage from many and resulted in a lawsuit filed by members of the Latino and Asian American communities.
SDCOE’s map remedies the partisan boundaries outlined by the SDUHSD’s Board of Trustees, balances population changes reflected in the 2020 census, maintains important communities of interest and puts a high school in each area—all important considerations in drafting a well-drawn school district map that is consistent with the California Voting Rights Act.
What the final map does not alleviate, however, is the ongoing feud within the SDUHSD Board of Trustees and the palpable hostility between the Board, parent groups, teachers and community members as opposing interests and priorities collide. The resignation of Trustee Melisse Mossy amid the rancor leaves the Board split evenly 2:2, putting Michael Allman and Maureen Muir at odds with Trustees Katrina Young and Julie Bronstein. The stakes are high with Allman and Muir pushing a position granting the Board more authority to screen and censor materials on campus, reject COVID safeguards, restrict programs that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, weaken teachers’ voices, and reduce student/parent input.
Adding to the chaos, the Board voted on April 20, 2022 to place Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward on administrative leave following her controversial comments linking the academic success of Asian American students to family wealth. The fate of Dr. James-Ward is uncertain, partly because of the divided Board of Trustees; but more so because Allman cast his vote to suspend James-Ward only weeks after she filed a formal complaint accusing him of harassment and intimidation. Whether or not Allman intends to address ethical concerns by recusing himself from future votes regarding James-Ward’s employment, as he inarguably should, remains unclear. Should he do so, the Board faces yet another dilemma on James-Ward’s status as three votes are required to carry any action. How long, then, before a permanent superintendent is installed, and how will this instability affect our students?
A similar impasse occurred when it came to filling Mossy’s vacated position. The Board deadlocked 2:2 on whether to appoint a trustee or hold a special election to fill her seat through the end of 2022. As the school year wraps up and the Board, minus a superintendent and an Area 3 trustee, moves forward with preparations for fall semester, one dreads the ensuing paralysis over budget allocations, facility improvements, new vaccination guidelines and programming.