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San Dieguito students shocked, disappointed over superintendent's firing

Students are now sharing their surprise and disappointment over the termination of San Dieguito Union High School District’s Superintendent. Cheryl James-Ward was fired by the school board Sunday evening. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has more on the story from student leaders.

Students are now sharing their shock and disappointment over the termination of San Dieguito Union High School District’s superintendent.

Cheryl James-Ward was fired without cause by the school board Sunday evening. The board’s action comes after months of controversy over remarks she made during a district diversity training session in April. In those remarks, Ward categorized Asian students in a way that many community members called racist remarks.

She apologized several times and was placed on administrative leave. Following more public comment at their meeting Sunday, board members voted unanimously to fire her.

Joy Ruppert, 17, and Ayana Johnson, 17, are incoming high school seniors in the San Dieguito district and strong supporters of Ward. They are both student leaders, too.

Johnson is president of the Black Student Union at Torrey Pines High School. She worked with the superintendent directly and is disappointed with the school board.

“I really think there’s a disconnect with our district and our students and they’re just upholding the power at this point," she said. "They say they care about student voices, but it really does not feel that way right now.”

Ruppert is Associated Studen Body president at San Dieguito Academy. She also worked directly with Ward on diversity strategies. She said she and several of her classmates of Asian descent received a personal apology from Ward.

“We held hands in solidarity at that moment and accepted her apology and realized that comments like that are supposed to be had, discussed, and analyzed in a safe environment,” Ruppert said.

“It’s crazy and disheartening that students of color see how a black woman is in power and then just gets completely stripped and torn down,” she added.

Because this is a personnel matter, there will be no further comment from San Dieguito Union school board members, board vice president Michael Allman said.

Board members said they wished Ward the best in her future endeavors in a written statement released Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ward’s attorney said she will sue the district for wrongful termination.