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Stories by Susan Luzzaro

Next up: Sweetwater's sodbuster supe

School district selects someone with no past ties to the district

On March 12, the Sweetwater Union High School District met in closed session to interview three candidates. They selected Phil Stover to serve as interim superintendent until the search for a new superintendent is completed. ...

Something is not right at Sweetwater

New head of SD chapter of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People speaks

Dr. André José Branch became president of the San Diego chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in January. The professor at San Diego State University’s College of Education has a ...

There won't be a test and there will be a party

South Bay parents get together to opt their children out of standardized testing

Over 50 parents and teachers from throughout the county packed a Chula Vista home on a recent Saturday (February 21) for an “opt-out party.” Kristin Phatak and Heather Poland, educators and parents who believe that ...

Fix the cracks, leave the potholes

Road repair dilemma in Chula Vista

Screaming the loudest for road repair is a waste of time.

Transparent as mud in Chula Vista

Parents say (again!) they weren't included in charter high school decision

Silver Wing Elementary parents showed up at a special board meeting on February 26 in hopes of convincing Chula Vista Elementary School District trustees not to construct a charter high school on their elementary campus. ...

Only a fence between them

High-schoolers and elementary students share same Chula Vista campus

At Silver Wing Elementary School on February 18, parents crowded into an auditorium to hear about Chula Vista Elementary School District’s plans to build a two-story high school charter on the elementary campus. Many Silver ...

The garbage man challenged

Chula Vista councilman's ties to waste services company prompts scrutiny

On January 13, the Chula Vista City Council — in the wake of an acrimonious standoff — selected Steve Miesen to fill the council seat vacated by Mary Casillas Salas when she became mayor. Although ...

Land sakes, Sweetwater, get it together

School district’s real estate dealings in disarray and doubt

On January 26, Sweetwater Union High School District’s facilities director Tom Calhoun sent an email to Marc Litchman that surprised many. Litchman holds the title to some Sweetwater property through the nonprofit corporation known as ...

Catching up with John

New councilman served summons challenging his right to the seat

The makeup of Chula Vista’s city council continues to be shaky. In November, councilmember John McCann won a seat by receiving two votes more than his contestant, former mayor Steve Padilla. But, the match is ...

Don't mess with Texas' labor pool

Sweetwater district launches search for permanent superintendent

On January 26, newly elected trustees of the Sweetwater Union High School District played to a packed house and a packed agenda, but the biggest upset did not come until after 10:00 p.m., when interim ...

Okay…we'll take Steve

New Chula Vista councilmember's past hints at future

After two rough-and-tumble meetings, on January 13 the Chula Vista City Council settled on Steve Miesen to fill the seat vacated by Mary Salas. Salas’s council seat became available when she was elected mayor in ...

Condition: bleak

"Eye-opening" real estate report for Sweetwater Union High School District

Sweetwater Union High School District’s new trustees are picking their way slowly through real estate land mines bequeathed to them by the previous administration. On January 12, the district held a workshop on several items, ...

Horton's at the door

Former Chula Vista mayor doesn't get broad support to fill council seat

An edgy Chula Vista council meeting on January 8 ended with the council’s failure to appoint anyone to the seat vacated by Mary Casillas Salas when she was elected mayor in November. At the same ...

The vote swinger

County registrar of voters Michael Vu's past and present

No fewer than five media outlets reported on January 2 that attorney John Moot filed a lawsuit challenging the San Diego Registrar of Voters to count 15 provisional ballots from the November election. In the ...

Everyone need not apply

Over 40 residents vie for Chula Vista council seat

In June, Chula Vista voters approved Proposition B, which allows the city council to appoint an applicant to a seat that “will sit vacant for more than 13 months but fewer than 25 months.” When ...

Lost the election, won the plum

Airport authority appoints former I.B. mayor Jim Janney

On December 1, four South Bay mayors met in National City to appoint a new member to the board of directors of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. The four mayors were: Ron Morrison ...

It would have been prudent...

Sweetwater board advances plan for townhomes on district property

At the regular November 20 Sweetwater Union High School district meeting, lame-duck trustees authorized the district to proceed with entitling 1130 Fifth Avenue in Chula Vista for 135 townhomes. The project, which is called the ...

Ed's gone, but this Sweetwater shenanigan isn't

District's real estate deal “a bad marriage from which neither can escape.”

“I’m not leaving the Sweetwater folks $34 million in the hole,” said Marc Litchman, a controversial figure who holds the title to Sweetwater Union High School District land. While Litchman’s statement might appear friendly to ...

Dollars and nonsense in Chula Vista

Planning commissioner objects to adding 1562 more residences

Chula Vista is changing the general plan (again) to increase housing density (again) in eastern Chula Vista. On November 4, the city council passed a resolution amending the general plan to increase the density for ...

iPads are great for porn and video games

Not so much for learning.

Some Sweetwater librarians, teachers, and parents continue to question whether the district’s iPad initiative is a boon or a costly boondoggle. Similar to Los Angeles Unified School District, which recently canceled a contract to buy ...

It takes a Village card room…

Raided gambling house’s owner used to employ Chula Vista’s Mayor Cox

The Village Club Card Room, located in Chula Vista, was one of two establishments raided by the FBI on October 29. In addition to the card rooms, 10News reported that a federal search warrant was ...

Good ol' boys' and girls' club

Who's running the Chula Vista elementary district board? Who's next?

The Chula Vista Elementary School District board has long been viewed as a closed system. Trustees have often been appointed first, elected later; other seats appear to be an inheritance. On October 23, San Diego ...

Enough nepotism and cronyism

Vocal Sweetwater board endorsements from the Coxes don't sit too well

As the Sweetwater Union High School District elections loom closer, Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox and county supervisor Greg Cox are flexing their political muscle in the campaign. On October 14, many residents who live ...

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 ...

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