Education Matters: Three maps proposed for San Dieguito; district challenges county involvement


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

Marsha Sutton

The San Diego County Office of Education has released three (originally two) proposed maps for the redistricting of areas within the San Dieguito Union High School District. See

The county took control over the map process after San Dieguito community members expressed concerns to the Office of Education about “trustee area boundary adjustments and the map (so-called Map 8) the board ultimately decided upon,” Music Watson, San Diego County Board of Education chief of staff, said in an email.

“As such, board members wanted to have an open discussion about the issue and about their authority under Education Code to adopt a map that is compliant with state and federal legal requirements to promote political representation of diverse communities,” she explained.

Education Matters by Marsha SuttonThe decision by the Office of Education to review the map process was announced to the public at 6 p.m. Saturday, April 2, of a meeting by county board members to be held Monday morning, April 4, at 8 a.m.

Neither San Dieguito Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward nor any district board members were notified in advance of this meeting by the county.

Watson explained the rushed timing, saying in an email, “Because Education Code requires the County Committee to adjust trustee area boundaries by April 30, time was of the essence.”

The San Diego County Board of Education is acting as the County Committee on School District Organization.

“In most instances, the district submits a timely and qualified map and that’s the end of the process; it never reaches the county board of education,” Watson said. “This situation (was) so atypical that we did not have protocol in place; should this happen again in the future, SDCOE will notify district leadership that their issue is on an upcoming agenda.”

Technically, all legal requirements were met, with the special meeting posted more than 24 hours in advance. Still, the time of the posted agenda and the notification omission certainly served to keep most people in the dark.

Letter from James-Ward

A just-released April 6 letter from James-Ward to county Superintendent of Schools Paul Gothold challenges the county’s authority to take over the map process.

“The County Committee was not straightforward or transparent with its meeting held on April 4, 2022,” James-Ward wrote. She objected to the lack of advance notice to her or district trustees, despite county board members “knowing that the county was going to be potentially taking action to override the actions of the district trustees.

“If the County Committee was being transparent and straightforward, these notifications would have been provided.”

She claims the letter she received from the county after the board’s April 4 meeting also contains a number of inaccuracies.

“The County Committee has taken the position that the board did not take timely action because it took ‘corrective action’ at a meeting on March 30, 2022,” her letter reads. “This conclusion is unsupported for two reasons.

“First, the board took action at a meeting held on February 28, 2022, and no Brown Act challenge has been raised with respect to that action.

“Second, even if the board took ‘corrective action’ in response to a Brown Act demand to cure and correct, that does not operate to void prior board action taken in February.”

James-Ward wrote to Gothold that the San Dieguito district board did not rescind its prior action to adopt Map 8 as its final trustee area map, and said the only way prior board action may be voided is through board action to rescind the prior action or through a judicial determination that the board violated the Brown Act.

Clearly, just because the county intervened does not mean this issue will be easily resolved.

The first hearing

At the first hearing on April 6, held at San Dieguito’s district office and run by the San Diego County Office of Education, 23 speakers addressed the county Board of Education.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the first of three, county board President Rick Shea summarized six primary factors he said he heard from community members.

Shea said any new proposed maps should:

 be compliant with California Education Code and with the California Voting Rights Act;
 preserve the five feeder districts;
 include one high school and one middle school in each sub-area;
 preserve communities of interest;
 keep election cycles the same;
 be only a slight adjustment to the existing “cranberry” map.

At the next public hearing on April 13, the county board will take more public comments and will discuss the maps that its demographer, ARCBridge Consulting, has proposed.

(See to view the proposed maps, receive updates, and learn how to participate or watch on livestream.)

Both maps appear to have met five of the six factors Shea outlined on April 6. The one condition missing on both maps is that Area 1 includes Oak Crest Middle School plus Sunset High School and San Dieguito High School Academy, while Area 3 contains only Earl Warren Middle School and no high school.

A slight adjustment could put San Dieguito Academy into Area 3, thus meeting that one condition.

In an email, Shea said, “I feel the ideal map should have all the aforementioned criteria, and I will certainly find why not and request the demographer amend the map to achieve that goal.”

Shea said the proposed maps “looked quite good” and he was also “pleased with the very small population differences.”

With both maps, each current San Dieguito trustee remains in one sub-area, and the deviation for both maps is low: Map A at 3.76% and Map B at only .98%.

Shea, who is also the county board member representing the San Dieguito district area, said in a news release, “We are committed to supporting the district in establishing maps that are consistent with the intent and purpose of the CVRA and community interests.”

The CVRA is designed to promote political representation of diverse communities and prohibits the use of any election that would impair the ability of a protected class to elect candidates of its choice.

Special webpage

At the first hearing held April 6, 22 of 23 speakers asked the county board to resolve the situation and thanked the members for intervening.

They did, however, go a bit overboard when many said they were grateful for the county board’s transparency.

Notifying the public at 6 p.m. on a Saturday of an 8 a.m. Monday morning board meeting to decide whether to take control of the map process was anything but transparent.

And not notifying any San Dieguito district board members — or even the district’s superintendent — contributed to the perception that this was intended to be a stealth meeting.

For future hearings, Watson said a Spanish version of the webpage will be available, hearings will be broadcast on iTV and online livestream, and the public is encouraged to participate in person, by phone or via written comments.

“We’ve established a special webpage ( where we have posted information about the process and upcoming public hearings,” she said.

At the next hearing on April 13, county board members will hear from the public, and the independent demographer will give a presentation, talk about the the maps and answer questions.

The San Diego County Board of Education, acting as the County Committee on School District Organization, will not take action on any proposed map at the April 13 public hearing.

A final map will be approved on a future date to be determined by the County Committee, but no later than April 30.

Update: After this column was published, the county added a third map option that addressed the aforementioned oversight by placing San Dieguito Academy into Area 3.

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.

(Story updated 4/12/2022 at 4:30 p.m.)

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