It would be easy to bandy on about the ugly words batted around recently, at the expense of SDUHSD Superintendent Cheryl James-Ward. During a live and broadcasted Board of Trustees meeting on April 11 — on all things, equity and inclusion — comparisons (and divides) by race bubbled up continually — and lent to generalization. So goes the earnest work of diversity and inclusiveness.
The touchpoint of controversy involved a remark by Superintendent Ward to explain the successes of Asians in academics — Chinese immigrants in particular. The thrust of her comments though, left some viewers considering what biases Superintendent Ward may hold.
“I can tell you part of that reason. So, here in San Dieguito, we have an influx of Asians from China — and the people who are able to make that journey are wealthy,” Superintendent Ward proclaimed during the meeting. “You cannot come to America and buy a house for $2 million unless you have money. You cannot send kids and send them with a guardian unless you have money. So you’re getting kids who are most affluent and have four capitals — which I call the emotional capital, the financial capital, the educational capital and the social capital — who come in here to the United States, and coming specifically to our area.”
In a hasty pivot, utilizing district resources, Superintendent Ward hosted a “Hear Your Stories” town-hall-style meeting on April 14 at Canyon Crest Academy, billed as celebrating community vitality and diversity. “We welcome everyone to join us and share your stories,” the virtual flyer stated. “We recognize every family, newcomers or those who have been here for generations, as part of the same community.”
Even still, a rewind of her comments won't age for the better. Worse, her pivot highlighted what the school district continues to prioritize most: self-preservation of faculty and district administration.
Going a bit into the weeds, Superintendent Ward’s dialogue appeared to discount (or not count at all) the origins and circumstances of Asian immigrants… who may have left communism… who may well view education as the only path up. Poverty and caste systems tend to have that effect. So go the household environments emphasizing education — what should be championed as triumph. But in the paradigm of “equity and inclusion,” such successful navigation through strife only bespeaks advantage, and thusly is removed from the collective inclusiveness equation.
Further, as pointed out by Board of Trustees President Maureen “Mo” Muir, the immigrants Superintendent Ward speaks of embrace multigenerational households, where the focus of attention to the children — frequently with parents AND grandparents — can often be doubly present.
Immigrants from Asia — differing in race and language and custom, as much as any immigrant culture — statistically thrive academically, with no advantage to speak of, but for fortitude and the presence of family. This, in statistic and anecdote, stands inconveniently as a truth that erodes at the thesis driving “equity and inclusion” on the basis of immigration circumstance, racial bias, and even learning English as a second language.
But when Superintendent Ward’s words rang wrong on just such a subject, the district triaged with pivots celebrating vitality and diversity. The gesture may have otherwise been laudable — if it didn’t ride on the heels of objectionable comments. And if it didn’t occur (in full self-awareness) in place of other urgencies that stand to effect the district community.
For one — the devastation in war-torn Ukraine — and with it, the prospect of intaking refugees here from there. Ukrainians may not neatly fit school district equity and inclusion parameters, but they do exemplify the sudden uproot of families, with arduous journeys to follow — the hurried exodus from bomb blasts, with little resources and even less to take with them — to arrive here knowing neither customs nor language nor geography.
Or — the school district should (and still could) convene to discuss the travails and horrors of human trafficking. Just last month (in March), a high schooler in the school district had been flagged as missing — and only recently escaped and was rescued outside San Diego County — with the full circumstance and details of criminality yet to emerge publicly. Where is the town hall on this?
Or — identify and opine and bring voice to the psychological effects and damage to the school district’s students from COVID isolation and two years of mask wearing. Damages occurred quietly (and still do) during such pivotal times in adolescence and identity development for the school district’s teens. Where is the town hall on this?
Where are the towns halls on these? Any of these — War refugees. Child trafficking. Pandemic after-effects in teens, revealed as anxiety and depression. Any is more dire. More so than a self-preservation diversion after an administrator tries to reel back her own words. And it’s with that notion that it becomes clear the school district still has far to go in serving its given purpose. For too long now — and still counting — attending to the needs of the students remains second-tier, or is altogether left off the table.