Group seeks San Dieguito trustee’s resignation, superintendent’s return

Rally planned at school district headquarters


The San Dieguito Union High School District offices in Encinitas. (Google Street View photo)

Samantha Cox

Constituents of the San Dieguito Union High School District are calling on board Trustee Michael Allman to resign immediately following allegations of intimidation, harassment and cyberbullying.

The group scheduled a rally at district headquarters in Encinitas on Thursday, May 19, at 4 p.m. to demand Allman’s resignation and the reinstatement of Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward, who was placed on leave by the Board of Trustees in April.

In a news release distributed during the past month to communities the district serves, the group shared examples of what it considers poor behavior by Allman. The call for Allman’s resignation also grew after a San Dieguito High School Academy student published an opinion piece in The Mustang student newspaper taking the elected trustee to task for his behavior. A version of the opinion piece was also published by the Times of San Diego.

“I received an email from several parents who said their kids read an article written by a student about the ‘campus bully’ and wanted to know how to remove this ‘bully’ from his position because their children were appalled to read about his behavior,” said Mali Woods-Drake, the president of Encinitas 4 Equality.

Landon Block, a student at San Dieguito Academy in Encinitas, wrote an opinion piece explaining his frustrations with Allman. The article gained a lot of traction from students, teachers and parents. Block’s article included reasons behind his frustration with Allman such as lack of transparency and awareness, and dismissal of students, teachers and administration.

The resignation demand comes a year after an attempted recall of Allman, who serves the Area 4 region of the San Dieguito Union High School District, which covers Del Mar, portions of Carmel Valley and Rancho Santa Fe. The mid-2021 recall effort did not gain enough signatures for a ballot.

‘I make myself accessible’

Michael Allman

Allman said that student representatives can speak at board meetings where they hold public comments. He said he is also available via phone, email or private meetings with students, parents and peers.

“Just today, I spoke with a student and her mother who had some concerns they wanted to address,” Allman said. “I make myself accessible to anyone who wants to speak with me.”

On Allman’s website,, he defines one of his accomplishments as having “created the largest Facebook community of concerned SDUHSD families: ‘SDUHSD Families for Students First.’”

The website goes on to state: “Michael turned over admin control to others once elected. The group continues to grow daily.”

“I created the Facebook group on Sept. 1, 2020, to provide a location for parents to discuss issues related to the school district,” Allman said. “Until this group was created, there was no convenient way for parents to share concerns and voice their opinions on school issues.”

Within the group, members discuss meeting notes, political issues, emails and other members of the board. Although the group states that it is nonpartisan and civil, some parents have said that they have been removed from the group when voicing opinions that are different from the rest of the group. Allman has promoted the group several times on his website.

Accusations and litigation

Cheryl James-Ward
Cheryl James-Ward

Parents and teachers say they have witnessed hostile, unethical and discriminatory behavior from Allman since he was elected in 2020, according to the news releases the group has distributed. They said he is known among students and staff for interrupting, yelling and putting down others during board meetings.

During a board meeting on Dec. 15, 2020, Allman said that the value of the opinions of ASB students is “very near zero.” The meeting clip, among other district video snippets included in the group’s news releases, was shared on YouTube by an account called SDUHSD Community Unites for Justice.

More recently, Allman has been accused of harassing Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward’s staff. In a board meeting on Feb. 17, James-Ward was vocal about her concerns with Allman harassing her staff.

“I’m just concerned about them being abused,” James-Ward said to Allman during the meeting. “As I have told you … the ‘F’ word was used with me. I have seen emails where people were intimidated. And so I just want to make sure that my staff is not disrespected by any member of the board.”

James-Ward explained that she would prefer to have two board members present while Allman meets with her staff to ensure they are being treated fairly.

Allman later requested that an evaluation of James-Ward be added to the next meeting’s agenda.

On April 20, the board voted 3-1 to place James-Ward on administrative leave over recorded comments she made related to representations of Asian-Americans and academic success. In recent media reports, James-Ward and her attorney have said that she would likely file a lawsuit against the district because she believes the actions against her are an act of intimidation due to a harassment claim against Allman on March 10.

Interim Superintendent Tina Douglas said that James-Ward is not being placed on leave due to her comments against Allman.

Soon after James-Ward was put on leave, constituents emailed Allman their concerns with district business. Many emails were reportedly directed to “trash” or copied and posted to Facebook on SDUHSD Families for Students First.

The group of constituents is calling for Allman’s resignation because of alleged bullying of staff, the dismissal of student voices, harassment of teachers and community members, verbal abuse of staff, and the sharing of district emails with community members as a form of intimidation and to incite harassment.

“I ask that all trustees speak publicly about the unethical behavior of Trustee Allman and call for his resignation,” Woods-Drake said.

In a May 18 news release ahead of its planned rally at district headquarters, the group called for the reinstatement of James-Ward, who is the district’s first Black superintendent.

“It is imperative that Superintendent James-Ward is returned to her position immediately,” the group stated in the news release. “Terminating a woman of color who has listened to our minoritized students and responded with the creation of a DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) committee, and proposed intentional DEI work will harm the district and perpetuates a system of oppressing voices of color.”

Samantha Cox is a North County freelance writer. North Coast Current editor Roman S. Koenig contributed updates to this report.

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