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Courtesy of Michael Allman

Board Trustee Michael Allman.

Is Michael Allman a true independent?

SDUHSD Trustee Michael Allman, despite his bragging, is anything but independent.

September 21, 2022

The San Dieguito Union High School District has been under scrutiny in recent months for various scandals. Many of these scandals involve Trustee Michael Allman, who was elected to the board in November 2020 with 42% of the vote. Allman has presented himself as an “independent” trustee who listens to community support above special interests and political groups. Unfortunately, his track record shows extreme reliance on specific groups for input at the expense of community consensus. 

In an interview I conducted with Allman in December 2021, he told me he regularly uses the Facebook Group “SDUHSD Families for Students First” to gather feedback and communicate with constituents. This is a private Facebook group that notoriously does not accept students at-large, nor does it accept community members who have previously criticized Allman. Furthermore, sharing screenshots of conversations is against the group rules and is likely to get a member removed. This combination of factors led to the group becoming a dangerous echo chamber where community members grew more and more extreme. 

Recently, screenshots have emerged showcasing members, including Allman, making light of transphobic remarks. One user by the name of Hugh Stewart allegedly compared transgender students to “rapists, murderers, [and] pedophiles” and said he “approve[s] of suicide as their answer.” Allman himself laughed at other comments by this user and repeatedly joked about the use of the singular “they” pronoun (despite it being endorsed by Merriam-Webster, MLA, APA, and more). Allman failed to publicly denounce these comments until they were brought up in the public comment section of a board meeting. (NOTE: the District sent a message to anyone who submitted a UCP complaint against these comments, stating an investigation was undertaken and Allman was not found to have made discriminatory comments. The investigation notably did not cite any information that was not already public.) Allman has promoted the group in November 2021 with the terms “our Facebook Group” and “we are the largest group” discussing the District, implying his extreme involvement with and underlying control of the group (despite claiming to resign control in November 2020). To this day, Allman is still promoting joining this group. His frequently updated campaign website links to the group three times on the home page and again on his “contact,” “about,” and  “news”  pages. His “issues” page promotes the group as an exclusive club, noting his board meeting summaries “are a must read for all engaged parents and community members. Click the button below and ask to join those ‘in the know.’” Yet, as we know, many engaged parents are barred from seeing this information. Allman even lists all members of the group as endorsers of him, thus negating any claims of balanced discussion about him. The group is mentioned a total of 10 times across his entire site. It is unethical, at best, for Allman to continue to rely on this group for community feedback. He is well aware of the exclusive nature of the group, and the extremism it has caused. Still, he relies on the group heavily to impact his decisions.

Want another way to influence a politician without the hassle of Facebook? For Allman, it’s easy. All you have to do is fork over a massive donation. Until late April 2022, Allman had a “donate” page on his website with incentives for various donations to combat a recall attempt against him that ended in November 2021. For $5000, any donor could join Allman’s “Inner Circle of Advisors.” Nobody can claim to be independent when they admit to granting special privileges to wealthy donors. There is also the issue of where this money went, as the recall petition never collected enough signatures to advance. According to an article published in the San Diego Union Tribune by Kristen Taketa, this page raised “$27,565… including a $5,000 loan from [Allman] himself.” The names of the members in this “Inner Circle” may never be known, and that should be terrifying to any of Allman’s constituents. 

If hateful commenters and wealthy donors weren’t enough to influence Allman, how does the San Diego Republican Party sound? Allman ran for Congress as a Republican in 2018 and lost by a significant margin in the primary. He told me “it is hard to win a seat in congress unless you have the endorsement of the party,” and he didn’t have that support in 2018. He still cares deeply about the San Diego GOP’s leadership, and many of his actions on the Board could be attributed to an attempt to gain that support for a future bid at higher office. An email released by the Coast News Group shows Allman’s desperate plea to San Diego GOP leaders to reconsider the lack of endorsement for Mo Muir’s reelection. It is clear that Allman, despite running as nonpartisan, is beholden to the wishes of the GOP. He paints himself and Muir as strong Republicans in the email despite the fact that he promoted himself as nonpartisan in his 2020 campaign. Furthermore, he asks to know the replacement candidate so, despite his own independent opinion, he can support them to please the party. Furthermore, he may be asking about what type of candidate they are seeking so that he can adjust his actions to gain an endorsement for a future campaign.

What does this all mean for the community members of SDUHSD? In simple terms, it means the will of the people is overruled by a minority. One recent example of this revolves around the selection of SDUHSD’s new area map to abide by the 2020 census. Jonathan Salt of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost LLP, the law group tasked with helping create the new map, told Coast News that this process was “going to be taking the current map and moving it a little bit to get it into balance.” Throughout the map selection process, Allman received 115 emails giving feedback on these maps (NOTE: Allman claimed in December 2021 that he regularly deletes emails he wouldn’t want “on the front page of the New York Times,” so this may not be a comprehensive list). Of those, 77 (67%) opposed Map 8, the eventual winner of Allman’s vote. In the primary round, zero emails were received in support of Map 8. Furthermore, Allman misled voters influenced by Salt’s comments saying, “I’ve heard this silly concept of ‘a gentle re-balancing’ … This is a made-up concept.” In another email, Allman told a community member against Map 8, “One thing is quite clear. This is a Board decision. It is not up to the people.” As a result of his decision, SDUHSD faced a gerrymandering lawsuit surrounding Map 8’s targeting of Asian voters and due process issues. The San Diego County Board of Education was eventually tapped to create an alternate map because of these complications. Countless taxpayer dollars could have been saved, but Allman willfully ignored overwhelming feedback from his constituents to please GOP leaders and an extreme minority. 

Michael Allman brands himself as an “independent trustee” who puts “students first.” Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Allman seeks feedback from sources that don’t represent the majority interest and directly hurt student experiences. If you aren’t in a closed off Facebook Group, a wealthy donor, or a San Diego GOP leader, do not expect Allman to ever value your feedback.

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  • S

    SuzanneSep 24, 2022 at 3:59 pm

    Landon, you are a gifted writer and journalist. Well done.

    Reply
  • R

    Ronette YoumansSep 24, 2022 at 2:57 pm

    Thank you for your well-researched reporting, Brandon. The SDUHSD community benefits from your voice.

    Reply
  • H

    HollySep 24, 2022 at 12:45 pm

    Great article. I was also removed from the Allman Facebook group. I have sent him emails recently and he has not replied. I am
    a resident who will be voting in Muir’s old area. I won’t be voting for anyone with a connection to Allman or Muir and that Facebook group.

    Reply
  • R

    RyanSep 24, 2022 at 10:28 am

    Spot on Landon. Allman claims that he is being attacked from political activist and unions, but he can’t ignore the outstanding work being done by the actual students. He claims to put students first, but will be quick to dismiss this well researched article. Allman only cares about his own political future and his role in the conservative culture war. He doesn’t even believe in public education. Thank you for you passion Landon.

    Reply
  • L

    LlSep 23, 2022 at 5:02 pm

    Great work! Please, SDUHSD, take down the Facebook group. Enough already! Unite your community. We have great kids, let’s celebrate them.

    Reply
  • H

    Heather DugdaleSep 23, 2022 at 9:34 am

    Thank you Landon for your continued advocacy and citing of facts to properly educate our community. I’ve come to consider it an honor to have been removed so early that I never became an endorser.

    Reply
  • R

    RebeccaSep 21, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Great article. I went to his homepage and saw they have my name as an endorser, which I am not. They blocked me from the Facebook group for all parents months ago.

    Reply