Superintendent Fired For Remarks About Asian Students

A San Dieguito superintendent was fired for her angry, racist remarks against Asian students within the district.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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San Dieguito superintendent

A high school superintendent was fired for making biased remarks against Asian students. The San Dieguito Union High School official was ousted by school board members on June 19th. The decision was unanimous after reviewing numerous comments made by the San Dieguito superintendent which implied that Asian students were excelling due to an influx of well-off Chinese immigrant families.

San Dieguito superintendent Cheryl James-Ward had 25 years of teaching experience. She became the principal of e3 Civic High in 2018 and had not been the superintendent for many years, but parents and students are asking how such an experienced educator could make such a damaging mistake. Students have struggled through unprecedented challenges during the past few years, and for the leader of a school district to cause them further grief only creates more tension.

Although the San Dieguito superintendent’s own website claims she wishes to offer students mental health support, she directly displayed harmful attitudes toward Asian students in April. During a training meeting on diversity, equity, and inclusion, board trustee Michael Allman brought up data that displayed how Asian students were less likely to receive low and failing grades. He asked the simple question, “Do we know why Asian students do so well?” His intent was to point out how their culture is generally more studious and that Asian parents are dedicated to the academic success of their children. 

This sentiment was apparently lost on the San Dieguito superintendent. Instead of offering remarks regarding Asian students’ work ethic, or their families’ encouragement, she responded, “We have an influx of Asians from China, and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy.” When shocked school board members debated that cultural issues are more telling, she went on, “In my community, Carmel Valley, I have, not so much today, but up until a couple of years ago, we had a large influx of Chinese families moving in sight unseen into our homes, into the community, and that requires money.”

Her focus on money over effort, and a blatant disregard for Asian students’ individual journey, led to the San Dieguito superintendent’s dismissal from her position. A group of Asian parents spoke out against James-Ward’s comments and expressed their frustration at her hurtful view of their children. Many asked for her resignation, some even demanded that she be fired. 

After allowing her to finish out the school year, the board finally fired the San Dieguito superintendent for her bigoted comments. She was the first Black superintendent to preside over the district and so that may have further complicated the decision. While many educators wish to support minority leaders in the public education system, they cannot overlook bias from officials in power. 

San Dieguito superintendent

Now that the San Dieguito superintendent has been removed, Asian students can enter the next school year without fearing they will be judged based on unfair generalizations. It is unknown who will step into the position now that it is open, but the school has a history of struggling to instill and retain a dutiful leader who works to improve the lives of the families they serve. For now, parents and students are hopeful that James-Ward’s replacement will better appreciate all students without personal prejudices.