Signatures submitted, San Dieguito heading toward special election
In a separate action, trustee Allman served with recall petition
It appears the San Dieguito Union High School District will be holding a special election for its area 5 board seat as the required 399 signatures were submitted to the San Diego County Board of Education on May 19.
Carmel Valley’s Ty Humes, a district parent and former president of the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation, was appointed the new Area 5 trustee of the SDUHSD board on April 22. Humes was appointed to the seat left vacant when Trustee Kristin Gibson resigned from the San Dieguito Union High School District board in March citing personal reasons. The Area 5 seat represents the communities of Carmel Valley and Pacific Highlands Ranch.
According to San Dieguito Faculty Association President Duncan Brown, over 700 signatures were collected in a joint effort between the union and district parents in favor of constituent voices being heard in the selection of a new school board member.
The county superintendent has 30 days to verify the signatures and once they are verified, Humes’ provisional appointment as a trustee would be terminated and a special election scheduled. The county would then have 130 days to schedule an election, which has been estimated to cost the district between $450,000 to $650,000.
As this special election process moves forward, last week SDUHSD Trustee Michael Allman was served with a recall petition signed by a group of 10 community members, including students, to remove him from office. SDFA President Duncan Brown served him with the papers as Allman left the May 20 board meeting around 11 p.m.
There are 25,036 registered voters in Allman’s Area 4, which includes Del Mar and portions of Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch. As soon as the county approves the recall petition, proponents will have 120 days to gather 5,008 valid signatures, representing 20% of the area’s registered voters.
Both efforts are occurring as the district is looking to hire a new superintendent, considered one of the most important jobs that a school board has.
In the last year, recall efforts have been initiated to remove two other San Dieguito board members: former trustee Beth Hergesheimer was served last May by a group of La Costa Canyon High School parents and Carmel Valley resident Lea Wolf led a recall effort of Kristin Gibson in March. Both efforts never reached the signature-gathering phase.
Area 5 special election
Brown has stated that SDFA’s intent with the special election petition was for constituent voices to be heard in the selection of a new school board member— it takes no stance on Humes or any of the candidates who expressed interest in filling the board seat.
Brown said that the appointment process was too short to be able to understand and fully vet the candidates as their applications were posted with only five days for public review before the seven candidates were interviewed. On the night Humes was chosen, he was sworn in. Brown said a special election petition was the only thing they could do to allow Area 5 residents to have a say in their representation.
“There’s been a divisive effort to characterize the community petition effort in Area 5 as a response to who was appointed: Not true,” said parent Jen Charat. “We advocated for an election but by law, no signatures could be collected prior to the appointee being sworn in.”
Prior to any board appointment, several members of the public and the SDFA expressed their intentions to force a special election.
At the May 20 board meeting, SDUHSD President Mo Muir complimented Humes for jumping right in as a provisional trustee and for exceeding her expectations, embracing the community and going to the schools: “Your positivity has been so wonderful,” Muir told him.
Some public comments also showed support for Humes: “Ty Humes is still the best candidate for the Area 5 seat,” parent Marianne Grosner said.
Humes said the outpouring of support he’s heard from the community, from Encinitas to Carmel Valley, has been “unbelievable” and encouraging.
“I’m definitely going to run,” said Humes, who made the decision after discussions with his family. “I feel that I can make a difference.”
Humes also said he had a positive conversation with SDFA president Brown: “We found out we had more in common than not. When I run, I would work toward getting the support of the faculty association.”
“I would value that as well,” Brown said. “If he is chosen, I would look forward to a good collaborative relationship.”
Being faced with the special election was upsetting, Humes said, and it was hard not to take it personally, no matter the stated intent. Humes said the most upsetting thing is that there are goals he wanted to accomplish as a board member and he believed that he could help bring the board together.
Humes, who is Black, said since the special election process began a month ago he has had heard and seen some racially offensive comments, people calling him a “token” minority or that he is “someone’s man” —he said that those comments were completely misrepresentative and cut him very deeply.
“I’m here to work with everyone, I don’t belong to anyone,” Humes said. “I’m here to represent the students and their families and work in concert with very important stakeholders which are the educators, administrators and community at large.”
As the county undertakes the signature certification process over this next month, Humes intends to keep working. He said he plans to visit every school and continue meeting with teachers and talking to student groups, some of whom told him he is the only board member to ever reach out to them. Connecting with students is what he has enjoyed the most: “To lose that is the saddest part,” he said.
“Whatever happens I am honored to have had the pleasure to have a small window into (the board’s) journey and make a difference, even if it was brief,” he said.
The recall of Allman was initiated by 10 community members with the support of the San Dieguito Faculty Association.
“It really is a community effort,” Brown said. “There has been a community outcry for a recall for really quite some time.”
The recall notice states that since taking office in December 2020, Allman has “repeatedly disregarded the obligations he was sworn to uphold.”
The notice claims Allman does not support public education and has endorsed charter schools, has violated codes of conduct and board bylaws and created a hostile work environment by making disparaging comments about teachers, “going so far as to encourage firing them and taking individual action to discipline them.”
“It’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of resources and it’s a distraction when we have business to do,” Allman said of the recall effort. “It’s hypocritical when compared to the Ty Humes situation…they said the community has a right to vote but they didn’t respect my election.”
In the November 2020 election, Allman received 42.3% of the vote, winning by 326 votes. A candidate who dropped out but whose name remained on the ballot received 17% of the vote.
Since joining the board, Allman pushed for the reopening of schools and questioned several board and district practices. His resolution to reopen schools five days a week in January passed 3-2 but the reopening was delayed due to a lawsuit by the California Teachers Association and the SDFA as the county was still in the purple tier.
Allman said he is not sure where the charter school claim comes from—he said when he was interviewed by SDFA before the election he told them he had no preconceived notion about charter schools or the need for them in the district. As far as violating board bylaws, he said if there has been a violation, the remedy would be a board censure from President Muir: “No one has ever asked for it.”
After Allman lost his temper with Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Cindy Frazee at a recent meeting, Muir did ask Allman to apologize, which he did.
“Allman has made disparaging comments about students and student board members,” the recall notice continues, citing his “I think the value they provide in what we have to decide is very near zero” comment made during the Dec. 15 debate over expanded school reopening. Allman issued an apology for the comment at the following meeting on Dec. 17: “I’m not perfect and my words don’t always come out with the meaning that I intend but I value every single person in our district.”
“My entire campaign and the way I behave is to put students first,” Allman said.
Some of the cited incidents in the notice occurred online, on the private Facebook page, SDUHSD Families for Reopening, often brought up in board meetings as Allman’s “closed”, “illegal” and “secret” Facebook page.
Allman said he created the SDUHSD Families for Reopening page during his campaign last fall as it was in line with his platform of getting kids back to school. While he posts there, he said he is no longer an administrator on the page—his wife Lee Ann remains as one of the five administrators, along with Ginny Merrifield, the executive director of the Parents Association of North County and a founding trustee of the board of e3 Civic High, a charter school. The page meant for “like-minded people” who support reopening has 1,900 members and Allman estimates about 30 people have been removed because they have engaged in personal attacks or used bad language.
According to the notice, Allman has “allowed racial slurs and xenophobia to go unchecked on the page.” Allman said he can only think of one incident, which occurred in January, when a parent made a disparaging comment on the page about an Asian CTA attorney. The incident prompted Poway Unified School District Superintendent Marian Kim-Phelps to reach out to the entire school board to encourage them to follow their anti-discrimination and harassment policy. The comment in question was removed by the page’s administrators, which at the time did not include Allman.
Allman admits that in posts on the page he called out a few teachers for bad behavior but the reference in the recall notice referred to an email exchange with a science teacher about the pandemic.
With the timelines of the special election and recall, the board will likely not drop below four members. The Area 5 special election would be called in 120 days after the signatures are verified and the recall group has 120 days to collect signatures, followed by a month to verify the signatures and another 130 days for the scheduling of an election—if they are successful in the recall, Allman would be looking at an election possibly in early 2022.
In light of the recall notice, Allman said the level of support he has received from community members has been “heartwarming.” He said he believes he can have a positive impact in the district as he advocates for putting students first.
“It’s purely political,” Allman said of the recall. “It’s driven by the union and I’ll just have to deal with it.”
5:48 p.m. May 24, 2021: Story was updated to reflect a recall effort for Trustee Michael Allman.
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