The Monday, May 13, meeting of the Sweetwater Union High School District was raucous…again. The potential agreement with Alliant University was one source of contention.
Trustee Bertha Lopez said while she supported choices for students, she was concerned about numerous details in the memorandum of intent that had been disclosed to board members. Though the memorandum was on the agenda, it was not made available to the public.
Trustee Pearl Quiñones said she supported creating educational opportunities, but she couldn’t vote for a university when the fate of Sweetwater's regional occupational program was still uncertain.
Numerous public speakers raised concerns about the process of approving the university — district leadership created an advertisement and posted it to YouTube on May 3, ten days before Monday's vote.
Board president Jim Cartmill counseled the audience and his associates to not be so upset. Here is a partial transcript of his words: “There’s a term used in the private sector or the business world called ‘NDA’ or ‘non-disclosure agreement,’ and usually that’s typically done when they are just starting the dance….
“This is a memorandum of intent. It is not a contract. It is a memorandum of intent. Intention is a lot different than commitment. Ask anyone that’s been dating that wants to get married. Intention is a lot different than commitment. Tonight we are beginning the dance. This is not the finish; this is the beginning of the conversation…. At some point in the future I would imagine that we do have a full-fledged agreement or commitment if we can get to that point and then by that time we will have much more community input and that’s why I would speak in favor of this….”
Trustees Arlie Ricasa and John McCann voted with Cartmill to pass the motion and sign the memorandum of intent.
On May 15, the district released this statement: “The Sweetwater Union High School District Board of Trustees approved on Monday a new partnership with Alliant International University, an accredited, not-for-profit university based in Scripps Ranch. The collaboration, called Alliant International at Sweetwater, will establish an Alliant satellite campus within the Sweetwater District to provide enhanced access to college degrees and professional development for the South Bay community.”