Education Matters: County takes over San Dieguito school district map issue


San Dieguito High School Academy in Encinitas is pictured in an aerial view on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Thomas De Wever, iStock Getty Images)

Marsha Sutton

The San Diego County Board of Education voted at a special meeting Monday, April 4, to take control over the controversial redistricting map issue that has plagued the San Dieguito Union High School District in recent weeks.

The San Diego County Office of Education’s board agreed “to commence the process to establish and adopt a qualified map of the governing board of the San Dieguito Union High School District prior to April 30, 2022,” county board President Rick Shea said.

Three public hearings will be held, with the first on Wednesday, April 6, at 6 p.m. at a location in the San Dieguito district.

Education Matters by Marsha SuttonThe map issue has divided communities and been plagued by a lack of transparency. Now with alleged Brown Act violations and an active lawsuit against the district, this action by the county to take over the redistricting map is not surprising and fully justified given all the flaws associated with the district’s chosen Map 8.

On the other hand, the notice from the county Office of Education about the 8 a.m. Monday morning meeting was sent out at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 2. Who besides a lonely columnist with nothing better to do on a Saturday night reads business emails over a weekend?

Although technically a legal posting, this feels devious, like a stealth meeting aimed to keep most people in the dark.

No wonder so few people knew about the meeting. Even San Dieguito Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward said she didn’t know about it.

“I had no idea that such a meeting had been planned, and I did not attend the meeting and did not know that a meeting took place this morning until early this afternoon,” she said in an April 4 email.

The details

At the special board meeting April 4, the agenda item in question stated the following:

“The corrective votes and public hearing were not held until March 30, 2022, after the adoption of the map and after the February 28 deadline for board action to adjust the boundaries of its current trustee areas.

“If the deadline is missed, the County Committee on School District Organization has a mandatory duty to adjust the trustee area boundaries of a school district within its jurisdiction by April 30 of the year following the year in which the results of the decennial census are released; i.e., 2022.  Without regard to the deadline, the County Committee has plenary authority to rearrange the trustee area boundaries of school districts within its jurisdiction.

“The County Committee is proposing action to adopt a qualified and timely map to rearrange/adjust trustee areas for the San Dieguito Union High School District, and to hold public hearing(s) prior to the adoption of a trustee area plan and map prior to April 30, 2022, in accordance with Education Code sections 5019 and 5019.5.”

County board President Shea said in an email: “This morning the County Committee on School District Organization voted unanimously to commence a process to adopt a timely and qualified map for the San Dieguito District prior to April 30, 2022 and to hold a public hearing within the San Dieguito Union High School district boundaries Wed., April 6, 2022, pursuant to its plenary authority under Education Code section 5019 and 5019.5.

“We are aware that the public hearing standards were not met prior to the deadline for submission of a qualified map. Consideration of action is appropriate given issues calling into question the timeliness and legality of the District’s action to adopt a redistricting map, thus triggering the County Committee’s mandatory duty under Education Code section 5019.5(b) and with reference to section 5019.5(d).”

After hearing public comments from 13 speakers, the board retreated to a brief closed session after which two motions were presented, both of which carried unanimously.

The first motion stated the following:

 Develop timely and qualified map for the San Dieguito Union High School District  prior to April 30, 2022.

 Public hearing within San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) boundaries April 6 at 6 p.m. (Location TBD)

 Take all necessary action to carry out this purpose under Ed Code section 5019 and 5019.5.

The second motion focused on three proposed public hearings:

 April 6, 6 p.m. in [San Dieguito] district.

 April 13: Regular SDCOE board meeting; Start the regular meeting at 3 p.m.; Start San Diego County Committee on School District Organization meeting at 6 p.m.

 April 20: Presume would take action to continue the process of selecting an alternative map.

Shea, who also represents the area of the county that includes the San Dieguito district, added: “By notifying the district, the Registrar of Voters and holding these meetings, we believe the district did not submit a legally compliant map by the deadline.

“We have begun the process to solicit public input and develop a legally compliant map by the statuary timeline that will be in place for the November elections.”

At the conclusion of the board meeting, Shea said the committee would “continue with the process of selecting an alternative map” — but added — “Of course we could select a map that has already been selected, but we have options.”

It’s possible they could choose the same Map 8, but I wouldn’t take that bet.

Marsha Sutton is a local education journalist and opinion columnist and can be reached at suttonmarsha[at]

Columns represent the views of the individual writer and do not necessarily reflect those of the North Coast Current’s ownership or management.

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