U.S. secretary of education Arne Duncan and principal Robert Bleisch at Castle Park Middle School
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 for secretary of education Arne Duncan’s visit; squabbling with SBCS/Promise Neighborhoods about money and data-sharing.
A series of emails, recently acquired by the Reader through a public-record request, demonstrate how far Castle Park principal Robert Bleisch will go in order to keep himself aligned with Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand’s agenda.
In an August 14 email to Sweetwater human resources director Sandra Huezo, Bleisch complains that a staff member “is contacting a certain board member with false and misleading accusations and this is causing a lot of distraction that is taking us away from moving the school forward….
“I have grown increasingly concerned that given the climate in the community re Alliant and other things these accusations by ——— have the potential to take on a life of their own and put at risk the following very positive district initiatives: Alliant, Promise Neighborhoods (Arne Duncan’s visit in September), Partnership with SBCS, Hawkin [sic] Charter and the potential move to charter by CPM.”
Bleisch goes on to ask Huezo “consider an alternative plan for dealing with” the staff member “that includes having her placed at another location even if on an interim basis (until after the Arne Duncan visit and the Alliant situation gets resolved).”
Duncan’s visit and the beginnings of Sweetwater’s “Arne-gate” began on September 4, when the Reader published a story about Castle Park Middle’s expenditures in preparation for the secretary of education’s visit.
After the article, it appears Bleisch spearheaded a counterattack.
At 6:00 on September 4, Bleisch wrote to Kevin Bieser about “Sec. Duncan Story in SD Reader.” Beiser is a teacher at Castle Park Middle and also a trustee on the San Diego Unified School District board.
Bleisch asks Beiser: “Please help set the record straight.”
At 6:04 he wrote to Richard Grove, a teacher at Castle Park Middle — again with “Subject: Fwd: Sec. Duncan Story in SD Reader.”
Bleisch tells Grove, “Enough is enough!! Time to punch back!! Please get as many people as possible set [sic] the Record straight.”
Whether or not these two responded to Bleisch’s appeal for help is unknown; however, there are a number of supportive comments under the story.
On September 5, Bleisch wrote from his district email to Granger teacher Maria Galleher. (Bleisch transferred to Castle Park from Granger.)
“FYI-could use a little support right now :)”
Galleher responds from her private email at 7:05. “Who is this Susan luzzaro bitch?!”
Bleisch texts back: “SD Reader, friend of the white elite negative extremists in CV.”
On the evening of September 5, a person with the initials “MEG” writes a comment. She opens with:
“I’m afraid the enduring values of journalism are shifting in the digital age. What happened to the norms of objectivity? The bias in this ‘article’ is blatant. Most reputable news directors would provide clear standards for their reporters, like NAME YOUR SOURCES.”
From September 4 on, the article attracted many new commenters favorable to Bleisch. One commenter wrote, “Only teachers and counselors who refuse to work hard complain about him.”
A recurring defense for the district regarding Castle Park Middle and Arne Duncan was that there was no additional spending or sprucing. Commenters on the September 4 article are insistent on the point as well. However, emails and invoices in a Reader story titled “Sweetwater spends big on Arne Duncan” illustrate facts to the contrary, with Bleisch’s own words.
Huezo did not fulfill Bleisch’s request to have the “distracting” staff member temporarily transferred. During the past several months I have been contacted by at least five teachers and/or staff members from Castle Park Middle alleging mistreatment under the current administration.