San Dieguito School Board to Ban Teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’ and Hire Cheryl James-Ward as Superintendent

Veteran educator Cheryl James-Ward is expected to be hired Thursday as the superintendent of the San Dieguito Union school district. Image via the neighborhood

The San Dieguito Union High School District may be the first in the county to ban the teaching of critical race theory in its schools.

On the same agenda for the school board that is officially hiring a black woman as the new superintendent of schools, Thursday night’s virtual meeting will consider revising board policy 6144 on “controversial issues.”

California School Boards Association CRT FAQs (PDF)

“Education should not teach or include critical race theory as part of the curriculum, instruction or teaching materials,” says a proposed addition to a policy adopted in September 2019.

The change, which is part of agenda item 10f, adds that “Critical Race Theory is not required by the State Board of Education under any of its standards or content framework. “.

District staff, under the interim leadership of Superintendent Lucile Lynch, recommended that the four-member council adopt the new language.

A new flashpoint for conservative critics of public education, the once obscure academic realm has led to calls for a ban on such education, including in the school districts of San Diego Unified, Solana Beach Coronado and Poway.

According to a six-page FAQ prepared by the California School Boards Association, CRT, as abbreviated, is a “practice of questioning race and racism in society and how it affects people.”

The July 2021 discussion adds: “CRT emphasizes race as a social construct (a socially developed classification system that can change over time, rather than fixed biological categories) with social significance, and not a biological reality.

“It recognizes that racism is embedded in systems and institutions that reproduce racial inequalities – codified in law, embedded in structures and woven into public policy. “

Developed by a Harvard Law School professor in the mid-1970s and refined by other jurists, the CRT “has since spread to other areas, as it is closer to a method of analysis than to ‘a fixed academic subject, and thus evolves with society. he criticizes.

The existing policy of San Dieguito already specifies that “education must not prejudice people because of their race, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, disability. , their religion or any other basis prohibited by law ”.

Some opponents of the CRT allege that such studies advocate discriminating against whites in order to achieve fairness.

Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week wrote about how the conservative Heritage Foundation recently blamed many problems on the CRT, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, LGBTQ clubs in schools, diversity training in federal agencies and the California Model Ethnic Studies Program.

“When followed to its logical conclusion, the CRT is destructive and rejects the fundamental ideas on which our constitutional republic is based,” the organization said.

But on Wednesday afternoon, a leader from the Encinitas4Equality Equity in Education group wrote to school trustees and other officials, demanding that the CRT agenda item be removed.

Katherine Stenger, a white woman “enraged by the behavior of this council,” called the revision “absurd, divisive and antithetical to the spirit of academic research embraced by the SDUHSD.”

She said this contradicts the policies of the North County School District, which has 13,000 students, on equity and curriculum development.

“It is clear that this is just a hissing far right dog and a plan to foster division and chaos in our district,” she wrote.

“Rather than wasting time on ill-informed actions that ironically prove the highly structural racism advanced by critical race theory, board trustees should discuss actions that would ensure our current policies are adhered to and that our teachers and our students are prepared and supported to face racism as it continues to manifest in our curriculum and in the lives of Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian and other marginalized students.

Instead, she wrote, the school board should start planning to implement the ethnic studies requirement recently signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, “so that our schools can be the first to deliver. diversified and dynamic learning for our students “.

The school board will also consider a staff recommendation to approve a 44-month contact with Cheryl James-Ward, 58, a Carmel Valley resident, as Lynch’s successor as superintendent of schools.

His annual salary would be $ 288,000 with a car allowance of $ 10,000 and 24 days of paid vacation per year. But the deal offers no health benefits.

James-Ward – CEO and Director of Engagement and Innovation for the e3 Civic High School in downtown San Diego – was announced Sunday as the school board’s “lone finalist” for the top position of the district.

Its selection is the result of nationwide research conducted by Texas-based JG Consulting for no more than $ 25,000. It drew 17 candidates, the district said.

Prior to joining e3 Civic High, James-Ward was an engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and a full professor at San Diego State University. She was also a director at Long Beach
Unified school district after being principal of Capri Primary School in Encinitas.

In November 2018, James-Ward finished 2 percentage points behind Kristin Gibson for the Trustee Area 5 seat at the San Dieguito School Board. Gibson resigned in March, paving the way (after an interim appointment was quashed) for a new school board election in November.

Earlier that year, she also ran for the District 5 seat on the San Diego County Board of Education, losing to Rich Shea by 3.4 percentage points.

The mother-of-two is married to Randy Ward, who was replaced in 2016 as the county school principal after a taxpayer lawsuit alleged he and his CFO gave themselves illegal increases.

Two years later, the case was dismissed two days before a civil jury trial in Superior Court when the San Diego County Office of Education settled the case and agreed to pay California $ 62,500. Taxpayers Action Network.

“Dr. Ward has never done anything wrong and the fact that this case was settled for less than the nuisance value two years later confirms it,” Barrett Green, Ward’s personal counsel, said in a statement. statement to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The county office paid more than $ 70,000 to an outside law firm to perform a forensic check related to Ward’s tenure.

James-Ward told UT that the county education office’s decision not to release a law firm’s forensic audit of the allegations proves her husband’s innocence.

“If they had found something, you know they would have made it public. They would have gladly published it, ”said James-Ward. “They looked under every rock, every nook, every nook and they couldn’t find anything.”

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