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San Dieguito superintendent on administrative leave, parents shocked by board's swift vote

Posted at 5:06 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 20:43:32-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Controversial comments made by local school Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward, have sparked public outrage since they were said last week in a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training session.

Thursday, the San Dieguito Union High School District put James-Ward on administrative leave, over the statements she made on April 11th, on race and academic success.

Some parents who were present at Wednesday's meeting, say they were surprised by the district's swift action, expecting the topic to be dragged on for weeks.

But there are still questions unanswered: How long will James-Ward's leave be? Will she come back and when? Is the district looking for a replacement?

While ABC10 News waits for a response from the district, which was requested Thursday, parents hope that her leave is a step in the right direction.

"Do we know why Asians do so well in school? Do we know why?"

That was the question Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward answered on April 11th, that started it all.

"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 dollars unless you have money," she said in part.

The comment sparked district-wide outrage.

One parent at Wednesday night's meeting shared, "I'm concerned now that the remarks don't reflect not simply a personal bias that needs remedy, but rather a growing trend that's in our society to center group identity sometimes inaccurately."

For three hours on Wednesday night, parents spoke and asked for Dr. James-Ward's resignation. Instead the board voted shortly after midnight, 3 to 1, to place her on administrative leave.

James-Ward has said previously that the comment was taken out of context during a conversation about failing grade data during a DEI training session.

But parents like Charlie Zhao, who have watched and re-watched her comment, still are not pleased, "We believe there is no context, there is nothing to take out of context. The question is clear and the answer is clear."

The father of three, with a senior high school student at Canyon Crest Academy, believes her comments were a generalization.

"Her comments just diminished all of our efforts and it's totally irrelevant to the question," he explains. "And it's an insult to all hard-working families."

Some parents from outside of the district like Frank Xu believes her comment was a mistake, "She probably doesn't really understand the community."

Xu, the President of the California's Equal Rights Foundartion, was at Wednesday night's meeting. As a first generation Chinese immigrant he felt the need to voice his concerns. He believes her mistake is one that anyone could make, but does sympathize with parents outrage, especailly when those comments are said from someone in the education sector.

Xu's main concern lies with the concepts and data evaluated by the district during their DEI training.

He hopes the district learns from this, and focuses their data on student needs and factors that might impact their performance in the classroom, rather than their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status.

"To tell you the truth I was surprised and more so excited by the board's decision, the board's vote," Xu shares. "I believe that opens the window to have an open discussion about the DI, the Diversity Equity and Inclusion."

However, others like Zhao, believe her comment speaks volumes, "She divides us and they, us is the community, and the they is the Chinese. It's a racial discrimination by any standards."

Wednesday night Dr. James-Ward apologized again, this time publicly before the meeting kicked off.

The meeting did end with the Board's Trustee President said that they hope to move forward in a positive manner.