Sweetwater Union High School District slid deeper into the tar pit February 18.
After former trustee Arlie Ricasa was obliged to retire in December, the four-member board was unable to come to a consensus on a process or even a meeting time to replace her. (Trustee John McCann went on record supporting a $1.5 million election.)
The allotted 60 days for replacement has come and gone and now the seat, according to board president Jim Cartmill, will remain unfilled until November 2014. Without a swing vote, several important items were bottlenecked.
Also on hand was NBC/Channel 7’s Rory Devine, who did a February 18 story about Castle Park Middle School principal Robert Bleisch. Several speakers during public comment made allegations about Bleisch’s behavior and one teacher, Jennifer Cochrane-Schultz, distributed copies of homophobic illustrations that were allegedly part of a staff news bulletin when Bleisch was principal of Granger Middle School.
Channel 7’s February 18 story said that Bleisch was removed from his principal position while an investigation is being conducted into various allegations; one allegation, according to the story, is misuse of ASB funds.
Several sources have confirmed that Bleisch has resigned — effective June 2014.
Voting gridlock came into play when boardmembers were unable to agree on a location for this year’s high-school graduations. The district wanted to book Sleep Train Amphitheatre and San Diego Convention Center for a total of $94,000.
Trustee Bertha Lopez stated that the County Board of Education has faulted the district for deficit-spending and suggested the district look for alternative dates and locations.
Trustee Pearl Quiñones wanted to know why Southwestern College, which has already reserved their own amphitheater for their own graduation, could not share with Sweetwater.
Trustee McCann asked if the district had looked at Petco or Qualcomm. He also suggested the district look at military facilities; he specifically mentioned the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.
Superintendent Ed Brand said, “How do you continue to build support for a product that you’re producing? Last year we had over 200,000 people attend our graduation ceremonies…. On the one hand, we spent a lot of money to expose the district’s product to a lot of people who left feeling really good about their child or loved one’s success…. So, if you think of it in terms of marketing, if you think of it in terms of showing off your product, if you think in terms of celebrating, then I think that money is very well spent.”
Finally, it was clear there would not be three votes on any one proposal, so the item was pushed to next month.
Three-vote magic (McCann, Cartmill, and Quiñones) did come together for Brand’s proposal to hire a $20,000 consultant to push enrollment for Compact for Success, Alliant University, and Point Loma Nazarene and to ensure more student interest in college and university opportunities.
Debbie Gerlack, a counselor at Hilltop High, opposed the additional expenditure to no avail. Gerlack said counselors already do the work on a daily basis and expenditure on a consultant would be duplicating the efforts of counselors.
At one of the many chaotic points during the evening, when the board appeared not to know the rules for re-taking a vote, Cartmill confided to the audience that the board was not bound by Robert's Rules of Order.
At the end of the meeting, when Brand and the trustees abruptly left the dais, a member of the audience called out to them and said, “You have to make a motion to adjourn the meeting.” Brand called back from the hallway, “No, we don’t.”