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Stories by Susan Luzzaro

Santa and Grinch visit Sweetwater District meeting

Teacher negotiations at impasse, trustees may resign Friday

The continued presence of three JDS security guards at Sweetwater Union High School District board meetings is a monthly reminder of the deteriorated relations between the district, the public, and teachers. Even with the presence ...

Former South Bay schools officials have day in court

Sweetwater and Southwestern administrators make pleas in corruption cases

On December 6, readiness conferences began in the South Bay courthouse at 1:30 p.m. and lasted until 4:00. All of the Sweetwater Union High School District and Southwestern College defendants appeared in court with the ...

Sweetwater district spent big for Arne Duncan visit

$17,000 stage, $3000 worth of flags, $5000 in banners

When Arne Duncan visited Sweetwater’s Castle Park Middle School in September, it created quite a stir — not because he is the U.S. secretary of education but because there were concerns that the school, and ...

Sweetwater teachers may strike over district policies

Health-care plans, class sizes, trust at issue

Sweetwater teachers held demonstrations at the October and November school-board meetings. For over a month, many teachers have been “working-to-rule” (performing no unpaid jobs) and picketing before and after school. Outside the November 18 board ...

Future Chula Vista sewer bills discussed at breakfast

Percentage increases may be hard to stomach for some

Chula Vista sewer bills were a surprisingly popular topic at city-council member Pat Aguilar’s Third Thursday breakfast. Over 25 people attended the November 21 gathering to listen to city engineering staff discuss two unpopular proposals: ...

Chula Vista school admin moves forward with Common Core Standards

Resistant parents say they are ignored and harassed

The Chula Vista Elementary School District had their first public hearing November 13 on how to deploy 4.6 million state dollars to implement “Common Core State Standards” and the “Smarter Balanced Assessments.” The rollout of ...

Sweetwater Athletics Hall of Fame scrutinized

How much spent? Who chose Ed Brand’s name for award?

Most people were expelled from the October 23 Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting. So, public comment allowed prior to specific agenda items was not so public. To several trustees and apparently superintendent Ed ...

South Bay schools defendants get day in court

Felonies dropped against former Southwestern superintendent Chopra

Readiness hearings for Southwestern College, Sweetwater Union High School District, and San Ysidro School District defendants were held October 29 in the South Bay courthouse. Defendants indicted in pay-to-play corruption cases had been ordered to ...

Taco Shop Poets take it to the campus and the corner

Poets to perform at Southwestern College

The Taco Shop Poets, legends in the San Diego area, will be giving a rare reading at Southwestern College on October 24. The group’s name telegraphs the nature of their work: words written not as ...

Cops kick out public from Sweetwater board meeting

Trustees retreat to back room upon realizing massive turnout

Only one month after Donna Frye, on behalf of Californians Aware, addressed the Sweetwater Union High School District board on potential Brown Act violations, the superintendent and trustees swept the meeting room clean of anyone ...

Donna Frye asks Sweetwater school board to make information available to the public

While she’s at the meeting, trustees allow an earlier public comment

Donna Frye attended the September 23 Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting to offer superintendent Ed Brand and the trustees some legal advice. Frye volunteers for an open-government, nonprofit organization called Californians Aware (CalAware). ...

Teachers for Sweetwater district face insurance cost hike

Ongoing negotiations to determine class sizes as well

The Sweetwater Union High School District has been plagued with problems but has managed to stave off labor unrest — until now. In an October 14 interview, Roberto Rodriguez, president of the Sweetwater Education Association, ...

Sweetwater school district's real estate deals gain momentum

But will sales of surplus property help the financial situation?

The Sweetwater Union High School District's financial picture looked grim at the September 23 board meeting. During the budget report, it was established that the district continues to spend and holds the minimum that the ...

Unreasonable search of Olympian High School students?

Alleged stolen wallet and “misidentified” suspects raise suspicions

Two young women were chatting as they walked around the track during P.E. at Olympian High School on Friday, September 13. It was third period and no doubt both 14-year-olds, were looking forward to the ...

SOS — Save Our Sealife — in Chula Vista

Discovery Center faces closure this month

The Living Coast Discovery Center, formerly known as the Chula Vista Nature Center, announced on October 1 that it will close its doors on October 28. A South Bay landmark, the center includes exhibits of ...

Sweetwater school board questions funds for investigators

Superintendent Brand’s request scrutinized. “Why is he so paranoid?”

Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Ed Brand’s request for funds to employ a private investigation agency, to be used at his discretion, was withdrawn by staff at the September 24 board meeting. Brand argued ...

Southwestern College Foundation's Nathan Fletcher connection

Lorena Gonzalez, Humberto Peraza, and Machiavelli?

The Southwestern College Foundation held its annual gala on September 21. The cost for a seat ran from $200 to $15,000. The keynote speaker for the event was Nathan Fletcher, candidate for mayor of San ...

Chula Vista parents protest switch to Common Core State Standards

They don’t “believe the hype”

When U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan came to Chula Vista on September 13, the fanfare at Castle Park Middle School was spectacular. Oversized pictures of Duncan’s face were waved on sticks while students wearing ...

Anti-war protesters visit Juan Vargas’s Chula Vista office

Invited in for a sit-down

On this auspicious day, September 11, on the corner of Third and F Street in Chula Vista, six protesters chanted “No justice, no peace, U.S. out of the Middle East!” and “Money for jobs and ...

Sweetwater school district backs off on Alliant International University plan

Public records detail student recruitment strategy

Sweetwater Union High School District has withdrawn its application with National City for Alliant International University to be housed on the Adult Education Center campus. Martin Reeder, principal planner for National City, confirmed in a ...

Chula Vista school hurries to get ready for Arne Duncan

We’re painting the roses red

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is paying Sweetwater Union High School District a visit. Duncan is on a Southwest bus tour and will be at Castle Park Middle School September 13. Why Castle Park Middle? ...

Nobody hurt at Southwestern College

Accidental shooting by police

On August 23 a Southwestern College campus police officer’s weapon went off accidentally. An anonymous source reported that two people were almost hit. The Southwestern daily crime log for that day reported that at 10:02 ...

Sweetwater underwriters reel in the big one — a grand jury indictment

South Bay's bond bombshell blows big time

Sweetwater Unified underwriters indicted over a billion dollars in back-room construction bond deals. San Diego DA's office calls it the largest public corruption case they've ever prosecuted.

National City a long way from Scripps Ranch

Ed Brand and Alliant University want faster action from planning commission

Many people were surprised to see Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand appear at the August 19 National City Planning Commission. Brand left a regularly scheduled Sweetwater board meeting shortly after it convened to attend the meeting ...

National City Planning Commission prodded to decide on making space for Alliant Int'l University

“Why are they pushing this down our throats?”

Political pressure is building in National City to allow Alliant International University to take over some classrooms previously dedicated to National City Adult School. On August 5, the National City Planning Commission voted to table ...

Alliant University leaves Sweetwater school district property in National City…sets up at Southwestern College?

Trustee is not happy

Many are still perplexed by the vaunted opening of "Alliant International University at Sweetwater" in National City. A couple weeks ago (July 20), an Alliant sign was hung over an office door, and Alliant counselor ...

Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand’s Alliant project hits snag

National City planners don’t approve location

One of Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Ed Brand’s pet projects suffered a setback at the hands of National City planning commissioners on the night of August 5. Brand’s idea to establish Alliant International ...

Did Manuel Paul illegally burn San Ysidro School District papers?

Whistleblower placed on administrative leave

Curious reports continue regarding burned papers retrieved from a burn barrel in the maintenance yard of the San Ysidro School District. The incident, which was first reported on July 3 by NBC7, resulted in the ...

After car crash, Sweetwater trustee McCann out of ICU

Other victim soon back to work

As has been widely reported, Sweetwater Union High School District trustee John McCann was in a serious accident on July 24. The two- car collision occurred in Chula Vista on Telegraph Canyon Road. The police ...

Week in review: Sweetwater Union High School District

Movement on Alliant partnership includes pizza party; no public records

Does Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Ed Brand have something to hide regarding the memorandum of understanding between Alliant International University and the district? Why else would he have stonewalled public record requests to ...

Sweetwater runs afoul of state Public Records Act

Delay due to “graduations/promotions,” says superintendent Brand

Last week, Sacramento was besieged by emails and phone calls about the budget trailer bill that would have made the California Public Records Act “optional.” By June 20, the assembly, the house, and the governor ...

Sweetwater trustee reports stolen property to police

John McCann wanted his campaign sign back

The Sweetwater Union High School District’s June 18 meeting had unexpected guests: Kamaal Martin from state-assembly member Shirley Weber’s office, Vivian Moreno from San Diego city councilmember David Alvarez’s office, and Albert Velasquez, a field ...

Chula Vista police chief Bejarano to home in on crime spot

Shots fired, bottles broken, condoms left behind

On June 8, Justice/Overcoming Boundaries, a community-organizing group, hosted a neighborhood forum at St. Mark’s Church in Chula Vista. About 100 residents turned out to discuss neighborhood empowerment and participate in three breakout groups: transportation, ...

Sweetwater board candidate has his sign damaged

Witnesses implicate a cohort of superintendent Brand

The preseason campaign games are upon the Sweetwater Union High School District. As early as June 4, “John McCann for School Board” signs dotted the roads that led to graduation ceremonies. Not to be outdone, ...

Sweetwater scandal spotlight: trustee Jim Cartmill

Contractors paid $1400 to his nutritional supplement company

Two brothers, Hector and Loreto Romero, were local contractors for Sweetwater Union High School District. Their company was named HAR Construction. They had landed an $8.5 million contract with Southwest High School and a $6.5 ...

Sweetwater scandal: Ed Brand’s claims contradicted

Did he or didn’t he ask for $40,000?

On May 30, the U-T published the testimony of Sweetwater Union High School superintendent Ed Brand, given to the San Diego County Grand Jury late last year. In November–December 2012, the grand jury conducted secret ...

It was always about animals

From helping your hound die happy to equine acupuncture, veterinarian Cynthia Redfield makes house calls for ailing animals.

Safety of Sweetwater school district’s buses below par

Bus driver testifies before board of trustees

Lawrence Gilly, who has been driving school buses for the Sweetwater Union High School District for 21 years, felt compelled to stand before the board of trustees on May 13 and advise them of the ...

Sweetwater teachers await funding news

Career-opportunity training in peril

On Friday, May 17, teachers from Sweetwater’s Regional Occupation/Career Technical Education program attended a hearing in district offices in hopes of averting their fate — they are scheduled to lose their jobs in June. Last ...

Sweetwater school district board approves Alliant partnership

Trustee Jim Cartmill: "Tonight we are beginning the dance."

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, ...

Chula Vista exhibit documents WWII Japanese internment

Prewar, they established “Celery Capital of the World”

A cot, a hand-hewn chest of drawers, and tight quarters for six men — this is the display that dominates the visual and conceptual space of the current exhibit in the Chula Vista Heritage Museum. ...

Sweetwater school district to team with Alliant University?

According to YouTube, they already have

Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Ed Brand will be bringing another university plan to the board of trustees on May 13. In January of this year, the district made a controversial agreement with the ...

Sweetwater cheer coaches seek pay from district

Broken promises and runaround, they say

Revanna Gonzalez and Vanessa Gamez love what they do: on top of work, family, and attending college, they coach cheerleaders for the Sweetwater Union High School District…or, they used to. Revanna and Vanessa were former ...

Montgomery Adult School’s last Viva Vida conference?

Budget cuts will likely end career-oriented workshops

For the 11th year in a row, Montgomery Adult School, part of the Sweetwater Union High School District, held their annual Viva Vida conference on April 25. The conference is designed to give students exposure ...

Former San Ysidro schools chief Manuel Paul won’t speak

Pleads Fifth, avoids self-incrimination

In an April 17, 2013, deposition, former San Ysidro School District superintendent Manuel Paul pleaded the Fifth 43 times in less than an hour in a breach-of-contract lawsuit filed against the district by EcoBusiness Alliance/Manzana ...

Chula Vistans discuss SANDAG’s rapid-transit plans

Cost, practicality, and bridge discussed

Chula Vista residents continue to seek alternatives to SANDAG’s plan to run a 21-mile rapid-transit bus line from the Otay border crossing down east Palomar Street and into downtown San Diego. At councilmember Pat Aguilar’s ...

Another Sweetwater board meeting mired in disagreement

Failure to elect oversight committee member

Sweetwater Union High School District board meetings often last five hours and are characterized by conflict. The April 9 meeting ended in a meltdown over the selection process used by the district to choose members ...

Sweetwater board votes to cut occupational programs

Students vow to continue protest

On April 9, the majority of the Sweetwater Union High School District board (John McCann, Arlie Ricasa, and Jim Cartmill) voted to cut the district’s Regional Occupation Program/Career Technical Education and adult-school programs. Funding for ...

Latest plans for ill-fated L Street land deal

Who can say no to soccer?

During public comment at the March Sweetwater Union High School board meeting, Jacqueline King, a resident of Chula Vista who has worked in real estate development for 36 years, addressed the trustees regarding the district’s ...

Before the DA's investigation of Sweetwater school district...

Lawyers paid for with school funds

In November 2012, the San Diego Grand Jury began investigating corruption allegations that encompassed three South Bay school districts: Southwestern College, the San Ysidro School District, and the Sweetwater Union High School District. The investigation ...

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