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Stories by Susan Luzzaro

McCann's plan a sham?

Chula Vista council candidate proposes hiatus on tolls for SR-125

South Bay campaigning has been getting down and dirty recently, but John McCann, a Sweetwater Union High School trustee who is running for Chula Vista City Council, has chosen another route to the seat, chumming ...

Sweetwater board candidate stumps on civility

If he wins, Jim Cartmill will take the dais as a probationer

Campaigns usually don’t get ugly until election day nears, but disgraced Sweetwater former trustee Jim Cartmill, has already come out mud-slinging — against community advocates. Cartmill is running for seat 3 in the Sweetwater Union ...

These are the monsters, Mayor Cox

Fire safety, traffic hazards, lack of parking, overcrowded schools in Chula Vista

High-density housing developments and master-plan changes often provoke a fuss from residents — but opposition usually evaporates once a city makes a decision. Opponents to the Lake Pointe development in eastern Chula Vista, however, don’t ...

Busy week at Sweetwater school district

Gandara released, consultant relationship dissolved…L Street property?

On September 5, the U-T reported that former Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Jesus Gandara was released from jail on August 26. Gandara was sentenced to seven months in the county jail on June ...

Sweetwater cash cow improperly milked

District trustees vote to divert funds earmarked for students

Several years ago, the Reader published an article on cell-phone towers, safety concerns, and the Sweetwater Union High School District. This old story has a new twist. When the story was published three years ago, ...

Pimp hand strong in Chula

Lincoln Club members, their candidates and cozy South Bay relationships

The San Diego Lincoln Club, which defines itself as a pro-business political action group, has endorsed two Chula Vista candidates for the November general election: Jerry Rindone for mayor and John McCann for city council. ...

New blood for Sweetwater district?

Board candidates attend meeting, declare opposition to real estate deals

Sweetwater Union High School District called an unscheduled meeting August 13 to review its “asset utilization plan” for selling district-owned property and purchasing a new administrative building. The district has three properties that it is ...

Olympic committee to palm off training center?

Chula Vista residents leery of cost and potential uptick in traffic

Several years ago, Forbes magazine panned Chula Vista as one of the most boring cities in the country. The city has few attractions to lure tourists or entertain residents — and now faces the possibility ...

Sweetwater district’s mellow ruse

Schools deteriorate while the board arranges to pay for a new HQ

The district hopes to turn a profit on three pieces of property it owns by making them “shovel ready” for high-density residential developments. One property, located on Third Avenue, was put on the market; July ...

Democracy costs, even in Chula Vista

Mayor Cox and council's Bensoussan told to not second-guess the electorate

In 2012, voters in Chula Vista overwhelmingly passed Proposition B, a proposition that amended the city charter. At an August 5 council meeting, mayor Cheryl Cox, supported by councilmember Pamela Bensoussan, proposed putting a portion ...

33% of the profit? No problem — hey!

Sweetwater district’s real-estate deal with E2ManageTech? Juicy

New information obtained by the Reader confirms critics’ worst fears about the Sweetwater real estate deals. E2ManageTech, hired by the district to make several pieces of Chula Vista shovel-ready for high-density housing has reiterated to ...

Sweetwater land deals — the beef goes on

“Who decided to build town homes on this property and why?”

Remember Sweetwater Union High School District’s dalliance with the Christian University -- Grand Canyon, in January 2013? Remember when the district made a bid to take over part of the National City Adult Education Center ...

Cartmill for Sweetwater board — get real

Former trustee who pleaded guilty to run for same seat

On April 24, former Sweetwater trustee Jim Cartmill pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. Cartmill had accepted gifts over the limits set by the Fair Political Practice Commission from contractors doing business with the district. As ...

We don’t want the stinkin’ charter expansion

Castle Park Middle School parents and teachers resist trustees’ push

Diane Ince, a Castle Park Middle teacher, spent her summer trying to raise the awareness of interim Sweetwater trustees regarding the expansion Stephen Hawking charter school. Ince attended the May 28 board meeting, a meeting ...

Who’s minding the jewels?

Meanwhile, behind the scenes of the Sweetwater property sell-off

Sweetwater Union High School District is selling off the family jewels — the district property — but where is the transparency? And is former superintendent Ed Brand still the prime mover on property deals? Sweetwater ...

Ed Brand’s time at Sweetwater is over

“We want what’s best for kids and the community and staff and…”

The Sweetwater Union High School District came out of closed session on June 30 with two stunning reports. First: Superintendent Ed Brand has been place on administrative leave as of the end of the day ...

Education, a dead-end business

Sweetwater district busies itself with real-estate deals

Plans are in motion to replace the Sweetwater Union High School District office and corporate yard in western Chula Vista with 135 townhouse units called the Cove. The district has three pieces of property they ...

Gandara to go on 60-day lobster fast

Former Sweetwater superintendent “earned the right to go to prison.”

The Sweetwater Union High School District corruption case crescendoed in the South Bay courthouse on June 27. Former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs. He was sentenced to 220 ...

Whoa, Vergara

Teacher-tenure court decision merits inspection of details

On June 10, judge Rolf Treu tentatively decided to do away with statutes that provide teachers with job security in the Vergara v. California court case. Treu’s ruling sided with nine student-plaintiffs who argued that ...

The piper must be paid

Corruption cleanup of South Bay schools continues

The corruption cases from three South Bay school districts — Sweetwater Union High School, Southwestern College, and San Ysidro Elementary — are wrapping up. On June 20, Greg Sandoval, former Sweetwater trustee and former Southwestern ...

Don’t trample the streetscape, Santa

Chula Vista plans the next Starlight Parade…probably around revamped Third Avenue

The Starlight Parade may be returning to western Chula Vista. For many years, thousands of families lined the sidewalks of Third Avenue waiting for Santa Claus to arrive; however, when economic times got tough, the ...

New Sweetwater boardmembers pitch in to money pit

Exit from L Street property quagmire not so simple

When the Sweetwater Union High School District held its May 28 meeting, three County Board of Education trustees were sworn in to fill seats vacated by indicted Sweetwater trustees. A fourth county trustee, Lyn Neylon, ...

South Bay politiscape on election day

Rindone’s rich, Bensoussan gets big-boy help, McCann cries foul

Chula Vista’s election primary has been low-key. Most candidates have compiled modest campaign contributions and campaign mailers have been, for the most part, innocuous. One factor in the minor-key campaigning is that a candidate can ...

Sweetwater chaos reaches Judge España’s court

District argues that Cartmill and Lopez should be suspended from board

Sweetwater Union High School District board meetings have often been chaotic and indecisive. But did anyone ever imagine this chaos would be replicated in a South Bay courthouse? On April 24, when Sweetwater trustees Jim ...

No teachers’ union, no political agendas…

Chula Vista Elementary School District launches charter school

A new high-school charter is opening under the umbrella of Chula Vista Elementary School District. The high school will be housed on the small, for-profit United States University campus on Bayfront Boulevard. Bayfront High School, ...

Corruption cut from Sweetwater schools?

Superintendent Ed Brand's contract up for automatic renewal

Will superintendent Ed Brand be the last cheese standing on the Sweetwater dais? Former trustee Arlie Ricasa resigned from the Sweetwater board in December 2013, shortly before pleading guilty to a misdemeanor in relation to ...

Guilty Trustees (is not, unfortunately, a band name)

Sweetwater district's Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez take misdemeanor raps

The San Diego district attorney’s investigation into South Bay corruption involving Southwestern College, Sweetwater Union High School, and San Ysidro school districts is essentially over. Sweetwater Union High School trustees Jim Cartmill and Bertha Lopez ...

Hey, Chula Vista Elementary School District, test this

Parent invokes Constitution to opt out student from Local Measures testing

Earlier this year, parents from several Chula Vista Elementary School District campuses submitted forms to opt their children out of all tests other than those devised by classroom teachers. Parents outlined their opposition to testing ...

Afternoon at the (final?) opera

Criticism of Campbells persists, "town hall" meeting planned

The confused yet honorable Don Quixote wandering the Civic Center stage vanquishing windmills and shaming robbers served as a perfect metaphor for the final performance of the San Diego Opera. Woven around and through the ...

Standardized tests shunned by South Bay parents

“My son had been experiencing headaches”

One night last year, Gretel Rodriguez was playing the word game Hangman with her son who attends HedenKamp Elementary in the Chula Vista Elementary School District. He chose an unusual word. When Rodriguez asked him ...

School officials Gandara and Sandoval plead guilty

But what about the sentences?

Two major players in the South Bay corruption case, former Sweetwater superintendent Jesus Gandara and former Sweetwater trustee Gregorio Sandoval, both plead guilty to a conspiracy felony and a misdemeanor in a Chula Vista courthouse ...

Ed talks out of school

Sweetwater High teachers complain of class size, move one step closer to strike

The imminent strike action of teachers, librarians, and nurses in the Sweetwater Union High School district has gone one step forward and two steps back. On March 27 Superintendent Ed Brand called a press conference ...

Quinones, Ricasa, Cartmill, Cabello weigh pleas vs. fighting

Annie Malcolm loans a crucial $5000

No one can estimate the cost to taxpayers for the South Bay scandal that involved pay-to-play charges and millions in Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School District bond money. But the costs continue to ...

Rankled by Sweetwater district meeting cancellation

Teachers, public, and a trustee espouse importance of dialogue before strike

A Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting was scheduled for March 17. The trustees were to consider several contentious issues: the annual evaluation of superintendent Ed Brand (which is months overdue); negotiations with the ...

Sweetwater trustees to vote on property sale

But the land is already listed for sale?

On March 17, Sweetwater trustees will vote on whether or not to sell district property deemed "surplus." The property, located at 435 Third Avenue in Chula Vista, was originally purchased for new district headquarters; proceeds ...

Sweetwater district teachers vote on strike

Healthcare cost, salary, class size, classroom safety at issue

Sweetwater Union High School District teachers will be taking a strike vote March 13–14. The vote, according to Roberto Rodriguez, president of Sweetwater Education Association, is to authorize the association’s board of directors to go ...

Chula Vista candidates declare intent to run June 3

“Here’s hoping someone of substance steps up [for mayoral seat.]”

Chula Vista candidates were slow to step up for the June 3 municipal election. Many waited until the last day, March 7, to turn in their nomination papers. Cheryl Cox will be termed out as ...

Sweetwater district meeting marked by chaos

Four-member board leads to bottlenecking on votes

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 ...

Plans for Chula Vista’s Orange Avenue park discussed

Concerns expressed for homeless habitués and leash-free dog area

The City of Chula Vista held a meeting in the Orange Avenue library February 12. Three representatives from the city, including landscape designers, explained to a roomful of residents the timeline for the construction of ...

County board of education occupies Sweetwater

Superintendent Ed Brand and nearly all board members not in attendance

On February 6, the San Diego County Board of Education held a meeting in the Sweetwater Union High School District boardroom to receive community input on the issue of area representation within the Sweetwater district. ...

Castle Park Middle School principal punches back!!

“Who is this Susan luzzaro bitch?!”

Throughout 2013, the Reader reported on Castle Park Middle School’s extracurricular priorities: recruiting Sweetwater students to Alliant, a costly private university; extending the Steven Hawking charter school into the Castle Park Middle site; questionable spending ...

Judge España goes easy on Southwestern College VP

Nicholas Alioto's felony reduced to misdemeanor

South Bay residents expressed disenchantment with decisions being handed out in judge Ana España’s South Bay courtroom on January 30; then, España reduced former Southwestern College vice-president of business affairs Nicholas Alioto’s felony to a ...

Sweetwater Union and Chula Vista Elementary districts to merge?

“It is a very complex process, and there are more questions than answers right now."

School-district unification raised its controversial head again at a January 28 Chula Vista City Council meeting. Councilwoman Mary Salas, who is a candidate for Chula Vista mayor in November 2014, moved to agendize a council ...

Classroom shenanigans in Sweetwater school district?

Teachers and public question need for charter school at Castle Park Middle

Administrators at Castle Park Middle School created controversy in August 2013 when they spent thousands to improve the school’s appearance for secretary of state Arne Duncan’s visit. Another controversial Castle Park makeover is now under ...

Sweetwater district corruption trial postponed

Defense attorney Pfingst requests delay

In a Chula Vista courthouse on January 24, Paul Pfingst, defense attorney for Jesus Gandara — the former Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent indicted on corruption charges — asked for a postponement of the ...

Final competition of Chula Vista robotics league

A game slightly reminiscent of basketball

The Vex Robotics League of Chula Vista held its final competition for the year at Sweetwater High School on January 18. While many praise robotics programs for their connection to the new educational buzz word ...

Picket at Sweetwater trustee Cartmill's home

Superintendent Brand on Hawaiian holiday…skipping his evaluation?

Sweetwater teachers who are on the verge of a strike over health benefits, class sizes, and campus safety issues picketed board president Jim Cartmill’s house early January 18. There are only 30 days left for ...

No process yet to replace Sweetwater trustee Ricasa

Only three board members show up at special meeting

No one was surprised to see that the Sweetwater Union High School District board failed to agree on a process to replace former trustee Arlie Ricasa at a January 14 special meeting. (Ricasa pleaded guilty ...

No tough justice for former Southwestern College official

John Wilson’s 16 counts reduced to a single misdemeanor

South Bay judge Ana España and district attorney Bonnie Dumanis do not appear to be on the same page. In a widely viewed January 2012 news report, Dumanis declared that “the widespread corruption uncovered in ...

Homeless in Chula Vista

Increase of over 16 percent from ’12 to ’13

In November, shortly before Thanksgiving, the City of Chula Vista sent heavy equipment and personnel to clean out homeless encampments in the Lower Sweetwater Valley. Tractors and trucks worked all day and then returned about ...

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