San Dieguito schools Trustee-elect Michael Allman, shown on his Facebook page, is a tech entrepreneur who ran for Congress in 2018 and founded Voterfied, a citizen engagement platform for candidates and elected officials.

Republican Michael Allman won a school board squeaker last month, edging Jane Lea Smith by 326 votes in Trustee Area 4 of the San Dieguito Union High School District.

In Trustee Area 2, Katrina Young won by 1,928 votes — almost 9 1/2 percentage points.

But Tuesday night, Allman of Rancho Santa Fe will be the one making waves when he and Young are installed on the affluent 10-school district’s governing board.

Or maybe it’s a tsunami.

Allman, a former executive with Southern California Gas Co. and Sempra Energy, has three major proposals on a packed agenda, including a resolution to make himself a virtual COVID-19 czar of the 13,000-student district.

That resolution backs part-time in-person learning starting Jan. 4 for all students who opt to return to class. But amid a winter surge locally, he wants full-time classroom instruction beginning Jan. 27 for “all students who desire to participate.”

Under his plan, the school board “designates Trustee Allman as the board delegate and representative to directly participate in facilitating the planning and implementation of the directives stated in this resolution” and named Allman the “board’s spokesperson for matters addressed by or arising from this resolution.”

Allman also wants the district to hire the San Diego law firm Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch to handle all district legal issues — at $350 an hour paid to Procopio partner John Lemmo. (In 2019-2020, the district paid eight lawyers or law firms — none on retainer — a total of $321,000, and all mostly less than Lemmo’s rate.)

And Allman wants to scrap Robert’s Rules of Order for a less popular parliamentary playbook called Rosenberg’s Rules of Order.

“Under Rosenberg,” says one critique, “the chair has discretion in several matters which Robert leaves to the body as a whole, which is more democratic.”

Allman didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment. But he has vocal backers, including parents who say they are forming a nonprofit group to support San Dieguito and other North County districts planning wider reopenings.

A parent who asked not to be named shared a response from the newly formed North County Parent Association, “which has been created to advocate and protect the interest of students first.”

The group said in a statement to Times of San Diego:

The SDUHSD Board has not run a proper meeting in recent history. The meetings chaired by the former board president were chaotic and unprofessional by any standard. The resolution to adopt and actually follow professional meeting protocols is the goal. If the board prefers to use Robert’s Rules or proper Parliamentary Procedure, that’s fine with us, but this new board will raise the standards of professionalism and transparency so we can be a shining example of how school boards should be run for the benefit of students.

We don’t have to agree on all matters, but we have to be professional. Adding legal counsel ensures that agreements are not only properly constructed but also not ignored when put in place. If the district has legal representation, they have been noticeably absent from any meetings, discussions or negotiations in the past eight months. We understand the law firm recommended are experts in parliamentary procedure for school boards — which is exactly what we need.

We also applaud anyone who wants to take on improving the district communication. Communication in the past has been spotty, disjointed and confusing. We’d like to see that improved by any means possible. The means by which the improvement is accomplished can be debated. A firm hand in guiding a cohesive communication strategy, especially during times of stress and upheaval, is critical.

The parent said the group comprises parents from the San Dieguito, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos and Oceanside school districts with leadership from all district areas.

“The mission will be to educate parents about how school districts run and issues that affect the students in these districts,” the parent said via email. “The impetus to organize” was as a reaction to a Dec. 9 letter from the California Teachers Association to the county Office of Education.

Another letter — also from CTA attorney York Chang — was addressed to San Dieguito schools Superintendent Robert Haley.

On Dec. 9, writing on behalf of the San Dieguito Faculty Association, Chang asked Haley to “immediately cease and desist” plans to return to in-person hybrid instruction Jan. 4.

“It is not only the wrong step at the wrong time in this dangerous phase in the pandemic, but also prohibited by governing state law,” Chang said.

(The school district’s response, posted Sunday, says: “The controlling authority regarding whether schools can open or expand openings in San Diego County is the public health officer, Dr. [Wilma] Wooten. She issues orders, which we are required to follow. … The Chief Resilience Officer for San Diego County is responsible for compliance and he has assured us that unless a written clarification comes from CDPH that changes San Diego County’s interpretation of existing guidance, we can continue to expand our reopening. If we do receive updated guidance from San Diego County that indicates we must pause or change our expanded reopening plans, we will comply.”)

Letter from CTA counsel York Chang to Superintendent Robert Haley of San Dieguito schools. (PDF)

Allman’s reopening push has drawn other critics, including Duncan Brown, president of the bargaining unit for 600 teachers in the San Dieguito district including south Carlsbad, Encinitas, Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar, Fairbanks Ranch, Solana Beach and Carmel Valley.

“It is troubling that without any real knowledge of our schools or of basic school management, he feels that he can lead the district’s reopening,” Brown said Sunday. “Isn’t that the superintendent’s job?”

Brown says Allman seems determined to “force his political agenda” to open schools “without any insight on how to do it or any acknowledgment of the practical logistics and limitations. To have him overseeing the reopening of our schools during this pandemic and as our county remains in the purple tier would be catastrophic.”

Brown and others also worry about Allman’s treatment of teachers.

In a widely seen Facebook post, a teacher shared an email exchange with Allman after writing the entire board.

Teacher: “Distance learning is working.”

Allman: “Dude, I have no idea where you get this from, and the fact that you think this is true makes me question if we want you teaching our children.”

Teacher: “Please realize that you make decisions for people that you do not interact with, that you do not fully know, that you don’t share their role or are on the front line in the classroom with. Your choices could be the cause of death of me, staff and students.”

Allman: “Jesus, [name of teacher], did you just say that? Wow. Now there is no doubt, you should NOT be teaching our kids. Period.”

Teachers union president Brown was among the offended.

“Michael Allman’s reaction to this teacher is frankly alarming and repugnant,” he said. “The teacher appropriately and respectfully expressed his concerns and perspective about a premature return in-person instruction.

“As a result, without knowing this educator, Allman belittled him and questioned whether he should be teaching. Moreover, when this employee shared his own deeply personal circumstances, Mr. Allman displayed a shocking lack of empathy not only as a school board member but as a human being.”

Brown added: “School board members have historically valued teacher input even if their views differed from their own. Mr. Allman campaigned on demonizing the teacher association and has been publicly critical of our teachers.”

Another encounter with Allman was shared by Lisa Delano-Wood, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UC San Diego.

Delano-Wood said Allman blocked her and other critics on his campaign group Facebook page.

“A few months ago, I had unknowingly tried to join a Facebook group that he moderates,” she said. “I had no idea who the guy was, but I got a long response that stated that he didn’t think the group was ‘for (me).’ I was merely trying to connect with other educators and see different viewpoints as I had recently co-founded a 2,000-person strong San Diegans for Science-Based School Reopenings.”

She was surprised to be barred.

“I’ve never been censored from any Facebook group, and I’m a member of countless ones across the country and even the world (with respect to the pandemic). Ultimately, … I mentioned being aghast that he was censoring at all in this day and age, especially at the level of a Facebook forum,” Delano-Wood said.

She added: “He has more recently blocked teachers in the San Dieguito district. Many are simply asking questions about the safety profile of their reopening plan; when they get blocked, they express the same kind of confusion I felt a few months back.”

At the San Diego County Office of Education, board members must hew to certain standards of behavior.

Board Bylaw 9005 holds that “each member should govern in a dignified and professional manner and exhibit care and concern for every individual in the community, from the least to the most influential.”

The bylaw also states that “to be effective, an individual board member” should act “with dignity” and understand “the implications of demeanor and behavior.”

And Board Bylaw 9010 says “county board members should be a role model of professional behavior, and be mindful to be civil, reasonable, patient and courteous, and work to avoid sarcasm, raised voices and condescending tones when discussing conflicting opinions.”

San Dieguito’s bylaws make similar requests of board members.

One says: “Act with dignity, and understand the implications of demeanor and behavior.”

Another: “Govern in a dignified and professional manner, treating everyone with civility and respect.”

Tuesday’s 5 p.m. board meeting — to be live-streamed via the district website — includes election of officers.

“Administrative items to be completed at the annual organizational meeting at Tuesday’s board meeting include the election of a board president, vice president and clerk,” said district spokesman Miquel Jacobs. “A board member may vote for themself.”

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