San Dieguito selects solo superintendent finalist

Dr. Cheryl James Ward has been named the finalist for the SDUHSD superintendent position.
Dr. Cheryl James-Ward has been named the finalist for the SDUHSD superintendent position.

On Oct. 10, the San Dieguito Union High School District announced that one candidate has risen to the top as the finalist for the district’s next superintendent: Dr. Cheryl James-Ward.

James-Ward, a Carmel Valley resident, is the CEO and chief engagement and innovation officer of e3 Civic High, a charter in downtown San Diego. Prior to joining e3 Civic High, James-Ward was a tenured professor at San Diego State University for 14 years.

The SDUHSD board will officially vote on the position at its Oct. 14 meeting. Pending approval, James-Ward will begin her role as superintendent on Nov. 1.

In a news release, SDUHSD President Maureen “Mo” Muir said she believes James-Ward is a “great fit” to serve the district.

“Dr. Ward is well known in our community and brings an unparalleled level of relevant experience,” Muir said. “She has a doctorate of education from USC and has substantial knowledge of curricula and student assessment. I am confident she is the right leader for us.”

A superintendent search began last month with Texas-based firm JG Consulting, which led a series of public input sessions Sept. 20-28. The district received 18 completed applications for the superintendent position and interviews were held over the weekend with James-Ward selected as the finalist.

In the news release, James-Ward said she looks forward to working with the board, parents, staff, students, and the SDUHSD community on “a shared vision of providing the very best educational experiences for all students.”

“With the onset of COVID-19 and game-changers like ubiquitous technology, artificial intelligence and global economies, public high schools are challenged to provide a new level of education,” said James-Ward. “In order for the United States and other countries to compete on a global scale, school leaders need to reevaluate and redesign educational programs to provide students the exposure and experience needed to become globally competent competitors.”

James-Ward has lived in Carmel Valley for 16 years with husband Dr. Randy Ward, the retired San Diego County Superintendent of Schools, and their two children Jernie and James.

James-Ward’s educational background also includes serving as the director of academic initiatives for the Long Beach Unified School District, principal and vice principal for the Long Beach Unified School District, principal at Capri Elementary in Encinitas, and dean of student discipline and a math teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

While at SDSU, she served as the founding director of the online Master of Arts Program in Educational Leadership, led the SDSU Chinese and American Educational Leadership Symposiums, and taught both master’s and doctoral level courses. She is also a researcher in both leadership and future learning schools. James-Ward has published numerous articles in leadership and technology journals and is the lead author for the book, Using Data to Focus Instructional Improvement, according to the news release.

“Dr. Ward brings a commitment to serve the needs of students from all backgrounds,” said SDUHSD trustee Melisse Mossy in the news release. “She will work hard to provide the best possible education for all of the diverse members of our community.”

In 2018, she was a candidate for SDUHSD’s Area 5 seat as well as the San Diego County Board of Education.

“We are so fortunate that Dr. Ward will be leading our district”, said Board Trustee Michael Allman in the news release. “She has substantial public school experience, is a credentialed educator, and is a proven and experienced leader.”

Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch will continue to serve the district through October.