Sweetwater's Maria Castilleja at a board meeting, filling in for superintendent Ed Brand on July 15, 2013
Sweetwater Union High School District has withdrawn its application with National City for Alliant International University to be housed on the Adult Education Center campus.
Martin Reeder, principal planner for National City, confirmed in a September 5 email that Alliant University/SUHSD had withdrawn their conditional use permit application and that “There will still be an item on the 16th [of September] due to the item being continued to a specific date. However, it is just to let the commission know that the item has been withdrawn.”
Although a campus location had not been secured for university use, superintendent Ed Brand organized a signing ceremony on July 18 with Alliant president Geoffrey Cox and installed an Alliant counselor on the National City Adult School Campus.
The tuition at Alliant, a private university, is $608 a unit, and attendance is often dependent on government-subsidized loans. Alliant president Cox receives $368,158 a year, including benefits, according to the college’s most recent 990 tax filing.
A public record request by the Reader reveals the district was engaged in extensive marketing plans — using public employees and public resources — to bring students into this private university — even before the memorandum of understanding was signed.
The public record dates from June 19 and is from Sweetwater's Maria Castilleja, the executive director of curriculum and instruction. The email calls the importance level: “High”
It’s addressed to 13 people; one additional name is redacted. The first person of the 13 people addressed is Robert Bleisch, a principal at Castle Park Middle, who has been working with the South Bay Community Services utilizing a Promise Neighborhood grant.
The email begins: “Yesterday we brainstormed ideas to advertise the Alliant International university at Sweetwater to our recently [sic] graduates…. We agreed on the following:
"3- Principals committed to contact a cohort of students (50) to encourage enrollment at Alliant in the next 3–4 weeks.
a. HH. [Hilltop High]. SuHi [Sweetwater High], CPH [Castle Park High] committed to contact their students asap.
"4- Manny [Rubio, district spokesperson] will be provided with the list of 2.5–2.9 gpa students and a list from a few schools that show seniors who indicated community college as their choice (BVH, [Bonita Vista High], ORH [Otay Ranch High], MOH [Montgomery High]). In addition, he will get the labels with names/addresses (DONE)
"5- Roman will forward to Manny and Maria the list of seniors/plans after 2013 for SUHI [Sweetwater Union High School]
"6- Robert Bleisch [principal of Castle Park Middle] will work with the advocates to do home visits or phone contacts.
"7- Lead principals will contact other principals to move forward the informational meetings ta [sic] the sites.
"8- Manny will organize the sign in [sic] MOU ceremony with media.
"9- Manny will contact the Latino media to share the information regarding our Alliant satellite at Sweetwater.
“Allaint [sic] would like to start classes at the end of August, therefore we need to move forward with our plans.”
Castillejas was unavailable for comment on September 6.
When asked what list he used to market students, Manny Rubio responded that it was “just a list of students.” He said he still has a hard copy of it in his office, but hasn’t used it.
When asked if the parents of the students on the list had given permission to have their children contacted, he responded, “No.” Although the item says “DONE,” Rubio said that his office decided “it wasn’t the best strategy” to access students’ names and addresses for the purpose of recruitment. When asked if any letters went out from the district about Alliant, he said he wasn’t sure about the rest of the district; he was only sure that his office didn’t do a mailing.
Rubio said that about 20 students are now attending Alliant on the Scripps Ranch campus. Rubio noted that with the exception of 2 or 3, these students are the first in their families to attend college.