The lobby of the San Dieguito Union High School District office. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz
The lobby of the San Dieguito Union High School District office. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Dieguito Union High School District in North County has been a haven for chaos over the last two years. From redistricting to reopeningletter grades, the text messages of one board member, comments about transgender students and others about Asian students, the district has been spinning out of control.

Enter a slate of union-backed candidates, pledging a return to civility, who will now hold a majority on the school board, following last Tuesday’s election.

Rimga Viskanta and Jane Lea Smith have gained unsurpassable leads over their Republican-endorsed opponents, according to the latest vote totals.

Phan Anderson, a third Republican-endorsed candidate, appears to have won her race. Regardless of the outcome in Anderson’s race, Viksanta and Smith’s wins will be enough to give more progressive-leaning politicians control of the five-person board.

San Dieguito is one of the wealthiest school districts in San Diego County. It is also more conservative-leaning than other areas.

A major lightning rod at the center of the district’s turmoil has been board member Michael Allman, who was not up for re-election. Allman has been called a MAGA-politician by those on the left. Others have defended Allman, saying he has been “targeted… for his independent views.”

Some issues in the district – like critical race theory and reopening – have split neatly along party lines. Others have not. Earlier this year, the district’s superintendent Cheryl James-Ward, a Black woman, made comments about Asian students that offended many people. She attributed high test scores among Asian students to an influx of wealthy Chinese residents in North County.

James-Ward had already found herself on the wrong side of right-leaning board members like Allman. But eventually even the board’s Democratic-leaning members voted to dismiss her.

Robyne Ruterbusch, who campaigned to help elect the new slate of candidates, said she believes the new majority will try to thread the delicate needle between left and right in San Dieguito.

The union-endorsed candidates “do hear the message from the other side. Because these are friends of theirs, that they know through sports teams. They know they have felt unheard in the past and have wanted change. They wanna try to be sympathetic to that.”

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego. He can be reached by email or phone at or 619-693-6249.

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  1. You do realize they only person you quoted is not a parent in the District and has been a one-sided attack dog on reform minded Trustees? She has a huge personal agenda. She also has a penchant for sending thousands of pages of email to the District on every issue and spewing hateful posts and comments on social media. Locally she’s got a reputation for being unhinged. Good journalism worthy of the Voice of San Diego would suggest a more balanced approach from appropriate sources on both sides of the issue.

  2. “V. Montoya” clever… You did notice the hyperlinks right? Maybe you also realized that: Failed Congress candidate and SDUHSD board trustee Mike Allman has done excessive PRA requests on: members of the public and anyone who ever mentioned his name in emails, has allowed all kinds of “hateful posts and comments on the social media platform his wife was an administrator, has said elected student board representatives input into discussions were “very near zero,” and has demonstrated being “unhinged” various times in board meetings and online.

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