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James-Ward says leave is due to a filed complaint against colleague

San Dieguito Union High School District
Posted at 4:38 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-26 21:18:40-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - It has been weeks of contentious back and forth after the Superintendent of San Dieguito Union High School District was placed on administrative leave on Friday.

Two weeks ago, she was found saying offensive remarks during a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training session.

Now, her attorney says she was placed on leave not because of her comments, but because of a complaint she filed against another board member.

Dr. Cheryl James-Ward's attorney, Josh Gruenberg said to ABC10 News she "intends to pursue all legal avenues to recover the damages she’s incurred financially – emotionally and to her reputation."

While her attorney could not speak on camera on Monday, he did say that she is not going down without a fight.

Friday Dr. Cheryl James-Ward was placed on administrative leave. It came one week after her answer to this question posed by Michael Allman, "Do we know why Asians do so well in school? Do we know why?"

During the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training session discussing failing grade data Dr. James-Ward answered:

"So here in San Dieguito we have an influx of Asians from China, the people who are able to make that are wealthy, you cannot come to America and buy a house for $2 million unless you have money. We had a large influx of Chinese families moving in, sight unseen, into our homes, into the community, and that requires money"

While she's apologized since her attorney tells ABC 10 News, the reason she has been removed is that she is being retaliated against because of a complaint she filed against her colleague Michael Allman on March 10.

While James-Ward's attorney would not say what is in the complaint, some parents in the district believe James-Ward's complaint has to do with her comment on Feb. 17.

James-Ward was seen in the video commenting the following:

"The F word was used with me. I have seen emails where people were intimidated. So, I just want to make sure none of my staff are disrespected by any person on the board. If he wants to meet with them they actually should have two of us there to ensure that none of us are intimidated, not disrespected."

Michael Allman released this statement to ABC 10 News regarding the complaint:

"To be clear, on Feb. 18, I called for an independent investigation after Dr. Ward's remarks in a board meeting the night before. Dr. Ward filed a complaint on March 10. The Board later approved hiring an independent investigator who has been working expeditiously. I will have a lot more to say when the investigation is complete. Dr. Cheryl James-Ward was placed on administrative leave by a vote of our Board of Trustees."

Robyne Ruterbusch, a parent in the district, said she's been observing meetings for roughly a year, and felt that there was more to the story.

"I really became concerned, but I wasn't surprised because I saw this pattern of behavior," she said.

Ruterbusch said she's experienced it firsthand after filing a private complaint to the county. As seen in a video from Feb. 17, Allman made her name public.

"You shouldn't be saying private people's names in a public meeting," could be heard in the meeting.

"If the Superintendent knows it and I ask who it is she is required to tell me?" Allman asked after asking James-Ward to say the name of the person who sent the email complaint.

After no response, Allman notably frustrated asked, "Alright was it Robyne Ruterbusch?"

Ruterbusch said that she and others are calling for his resignation.

"I noticed a real style that he has with intimidation, pressuring fellow board members," she said. "It's very concerning."

But there are others who cannot forget about previous comments by James-Ward.

"Her remarks are flat wrong, false, biased, stereotyping, divisive and offensive," Tony Xu said.

Xu said that he and other parents in the district say she needs to stay gone.

"She's supposed to be a role model to all the principals, teachers and students. However, she failed," he said.

As of Friday, Tina Douglas has been appointed the new Interim Superintendent and James-Ward remains on administrative leave as investigations continue.

Some parents believe that if Douglas is good in the position, she should remain there. Others think that potentially the County should step in.