Members of the San Diego County Board of Education on the Sweetwater dais
  • Members of the San Diego County Board of Education on the Sweetwater dais
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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.

Currently, trustees are elected at-large in the district. The petition before the county seeks to “establish trustee areas in the Sweetwater Union High School District and for the election of one member of the governing board residing in each trustee area by the registered voters in that trustee area.”

The meeting drew about 100 people. The only Sweetwater trustee in attendance was Bertha Lopez; neither her colleagues nor superintendent Ed Brand showed.

The district did, however, issue a statement that read in part: “The Sweetwater Union High School District supports the will of the community with regards to establishing trustee areas with its geographic boundaries.”

Gene Chavira, the chief petitioner for area representation, a Sweetwater teacher, and member of Citizens for a Better Sweetwater, addressed the county board about the need for change.

Chavira said, “In the last few years, Sweetwater has been marred by scandals that include trustees and a former superintendent charged with corruption, accusation of misuse of Proposition O funds, questionable real estate deals, and the use of district resources to establish a chain of private charter schools….

“There is a perception that there is difference between the east side and the west side of the school district. Freeway 805 is the division between the new neighborhoods on the east side and the old neighborhoods on the west side. Currently three out of four trustees live in the Bonita/Eastlake area — until recently with the resignation of Arlie Ricasa it was four out of five. The Citizens for a Better Sweetwater believe that this has left areas like Imperial Beach, South San Diego, San Ysidro, and western Chula Vista without adequate representation.”

Chavira said Citizens for a Better Sweetwater collected over 750 signatures going door-to-door and found “resounding” support for area representation.

Speakers lined up to support the idea and many referred to the democratic atmosphere in the board room. Speakers mentioned that there were no guards, no manipulation of speaking time, and no demonstrations outside.

Each speaker presented various problems from the district that he or she felt would be rectified by having a trustee from a specific area. Two common themes were the east side/west side divide and the concern about how the geographic areas would be drawn up.

Colleen Cook-Salas, a west-side resident and a teacher at Mar Vista Academy, articulated both concerns, “Mar Vista has felt like the district’s step-child for so many years…vandals stole the copper tubing from [Mar Vista’s] classroom air-conditioning over Fourth of July weekend. These units were not repaired until the winter break. Do you remember the heat we endured since our site opened in July? Our area does not feel represented.”

On the subject of boundaries, Cook-Salas said: “I am also extremely concerned with how the geographic areas would be designed. When this topic was considered two years ago, some of the proposed divisions demonstrated appalling gerrymandering. Yes, the board of trustees is in favor of seats by areas, but by what design?”

Another teacher from Mar Vista High in Imperial Beach, Siri Sims, said one piece of evidence about the need for representation is that recently the board voted to purchase a new district office.

“They state $8 million was the cost but when we look at the figures, it’s more like $30 million and it is in the furthest eastern reaches of our district. It’s a convenient commute for the board members who live in eastern Chula Vista. But, so you understand for my parents in my school [Mar Vista] if they were traveling by their current means of transportation, which is the bus or the trolley, that would require a two-and-a-half-hour commute, four buses, and a half-mile walk; clearly no one in National City, San Ysidro, or Imperial Beach was considered…it’s really stunning and shocking.”

County board of education members were receptive and eager to hear the public’s opinion. Whenever someone new entered the board room, president Susan Hartley invited them to fill out a speaker’s card.

County trustee Greg Robinson commented, “I really appreciate the bravery of you folks showing up today, and I know how difficult that is — and it shouldn’t be that difficult.”

Normally, after the petition is accepted by the county it goes to an election. However, the board indicated it is also possible to ask the state board of education to waive the election. One motivation for the waiver is to save the district the cost of an election.

Laura Duzyk said if the county board decided to go for a waiver, there would be another public hearing. She also said there would be public hearings throughout the process for drawing up the areas.

The county trustees vote on the petition Wednesday, February 12, 6:00. After that, they will take up the subject of the waiver. Should they go forward with the waiver, and should the state board approve it, voters could select trustees based on areas as soon as November 14.

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anniej Feb. 9, 2014 @ 11:44 a.m.

While I share a different view than the majority, and live on the west side, I sooooooo welcome the discussion and will respect the vote of the majority.

As Ms. Rodriguez stated - new faces with intentions of serving vs. using their Board Seats - WHAT A NOVEL IDEA!!!!!


VigilantinCV Feb. 9, 2014 @ 2 p.m.

About 10 years ago, the Chula Vista Police wanted to build a new headquarters. The Police Chief at that time, who was very much a "political" Chief, had it built right next to City Hall -- on the far west side of Chula Vista. And it was built big enough to serve until complete build-out of Chula Vista.
As one would have expected, now they are having trouble servicing the east side of Chula Vista effectively. It is a long ride for a policeman just to get to his assigned area. It was a very short-sided decision -- and it seems so, too, for SUHSD to do the same at the far eastern side of their much larger district. It would seem that a much more rational location would be the Third Avenue site that they bought years ago for just that purpose. In terms of the entire District (including National City, San Ysidro, and Imperial Beach, it would be a much more central location, and is serviced by north-south and well as east-west bus routes. Unfortunately, part of the problem is that the Chula Vista City Council has been swayed by the development fees they will get if this site is developed into condos -- and in fact, they have approved such already. Alas, more poor judgement and lack of vision.


eastlaker Feb. 9, 2014 @ 10:11 p.m.

And yes, that new headquarters was on the grand side...have we started paying principal yet on that loan, or are we still merely paying interest?

Because that was one really bad deal all-around. No one paid attention to the terms. Chula Vista and Sweetwater need to learn from past mistakes.


oskidoll Feb. 9, 2014 @ 4:36 p.m.

Finally, an acknowledgment from the County Board of Education that SUHSD needs their attention! Although it took a petition to get them to actually focus, it is one small step forward. I am also heartened to read that the members of the CBOE actually treated the members of the SUHSD PUBLIC who came to provide public testimony with respect instead of the derision they have come to expect from Ed and the current SUHSD board members.

If the election by district moves forward or doesn't, this acknowledgment goes a long way towards reclaiming the District by those it is supposed to serve.

One caveat however....keep an eye on Laura D...she and Ed are reported to go way back and she holds her fingers on the fiscal/audit resources at the COE.


Ensenadamaria Feb. 9, 2014 @ 4:52 p.m.

Oskidoll comments on the relationship of Brand and Laura D. There is another friendship that is as big of a concern Russo and Laura D.


eastlaker Feb. 9, 2014 @ 10:15 p.m.

With all these friendships, shouldn't someone recuse themselves(s)?

Can we really rely on the County Board of Education? While it is nice to see them show up, aren't they more than a day late and several million dollars short?

And we still need to see all the books opened up. No more secrets, no more surprises, no more "private" deals with public money.

Those condos...didn't the city of Chula Vista say that they didn't think this was a good idea? Not in line with the city plan?


theyknowmeascoach Feb. 10, 2014 @ 11:07 a.m.

Ed had a meeting at CPM this morning Bleisch is on leave. Charter on hold. Ed has lost the ear of all.


angrybirds Feb. 10, 2014 @ 11:13 a.m.

explain please, what happened? Finally he listened to the folks that live here?


shirleyberan Feb. 10, 2014 @ 11:18 a.m.

I doubt he had a change of heart, probably scared his misdeeds will be noticed.


erupting Feb. 10, 2014 @ 12:10 p.m.

theyknowmeascoach,what a great day for CPM if it stands!


PencilPokinVelma Feb. 10, 2014 @ 12:39 p.m.

You teachers should not be commenting right now. You're supposed to be teaching. Turn your phones off. It matters not if it is your lunch break. Expect to be written up. You have been warned.


oskidoll Feb. 10, 2014 @ 12:47 p.m.

Not sure Ed's Cavalry is in full retreat at this point, but if the Charter school is 'on hold' it may go to back-burner status, much as Alliant. This is what happens when he gets push back publicity. It is likely that Susan Luzzaro's article that outted Bleisch's email complicity in the rash of unpleasant email postings has raised some hackles and Ed's need to close ranks and regroup. It also may be that with the appearance of the CBOE he finds it necessary to tone down the extravagant plans. Am guessing he will still pursue the big, fancy and expensive new District facility in Eastlake. Good work Susan and all CAVE people!


anniej Feb. 10, 2014 @ 1:10 p.m.

This is very interesting news. And so begins the demise of Mr. Bleisch? Hate to say I told you so, but............

Now let us see what Brand will do - perhaps time for a big grandstand? Maybe he like Schultz will claim 'I KNOW NOTHING' !!!!!!!!!

One thing for sure this is the best example yet of the lack of credibility of Brand. This was number one of his fav 5 - you don't go out on leave for excelling that is for sure.

What a tangled web we weave when we practice to deceive.

There is a silver lining to this outcome - perhaps, just perhaps the District will get back to spending our public tax dollars on the Public Education that SUHSD has been charged with doing BY LAW at Castle Park Middle.

If Brand wants to set up a Charter, freakin quit your taxpayer funded position and go out and do it on your own..........

BUT, don't forget to pay the tax payers back for all of our borrowed monies, WITH INTEREST IF YOU SO PLEASE!!!!!!!!

All eyes are on Jim Cartmill and the other Board members - all are aware that Brand supported, if not instigated Bleisch. What more is it going to take?

Allow us to ponder - where will Bleisch end up - no doubt Brand will want to squelch Bleisch - favors owed.


eastlaker Feb. 10, 2014 @ 3:22 p.m.

The question is, where will Bleisch end up?

Fast Eddy's fast friends tend to turn up over and over again...of course, maybe he will be handed off to Trujillo and the Educational Consulting Biz.

Or perhaps they will move another desk into the Sweetwater Athletic Hall of Fame, and Bleisch can be the Assistant Director?


erupting Feb. 10, 2014 @ 3:58 p.m.

Eastlaker, I bet your correct. We will now have another district office position,with the same pay. Brand will have to protect him because Bobby could implicate him. Remember Ochoa was let go by Brand. It will be interesting to see what he does with Bleish.


PencilPokinVelma Feb. 11, 2014 @ 12:39 p.m.

Bobby has been a no-nonsense powerhouse, putting smart aleck teachers right in their place. Believe me, he will be getting promoted. Me too! You teachers don't like us, but who needs friends when you have a good lawyer? You should be entering data in Jupiter Grades right now, teachers. You need to get off the internet before you get written up. So unprofessional!


Visduh Feb. 11, 2014 @ 8:01 a.m.

So, the county board finally takes some notice, huh? But not to address the real needs of the district, or to deal with its scandals. Could this be a first, "baby step" in the right direction? Maybe, but I'm not counting on it. In fact, it could end up being another distraction from the mismanagement and bad governance of the district.

This new voting, being rapidly adopted by districts around the state, due to a law that pushes it along, isn't the sure-fire cure-all that its proponents claim. Once the district has these voting districts-within-the district, a resident can only run for one school trustee seat, the one assigned to the area where that person resides. Think of an election where three seats are up for grabs, and five candidates file. Prior to "district" voting, the three top vote getters would be elected. Further imagine that among that slate of five candidates, three are excellent choices, and two are dismal choices. Well, in my hypothetical situation, the three strong candidates all live in the same voting area, and must run for a single seat, while the two flops reside in two other areas and run unopposed. Result: The top vote getter of the three good choices is elected, along with two losers. Yeah, that's what this new sort of voting can get you, all in the name of minority representation.

I predict that in SUHSD, such voting will likely make things worse, not better, and prevent a real clean-out of the board which should start this November.


oskidoll Feb. 11, 2014 @ 1:17 p.m.

Visduh - I think the CBOE will do only as much as it is legally required to do. Hence, they are holding the public meetings required when they receive a petition to have the district move to area representation. They did put on a nice show, and treated folks nicer than they have been treated by anyone on the dais for a long time.

The proof will be in the pudding when the financials may be required ( not for this process but if the unification movement takes root) and there I suspect there will be foot dragging and deflections and resistance from CBOE staff.

I have worked in educational agencies with, and without area seats. While I agree with some of your concerns, I do believe that the closer to the voters the representative is, the more likely the elected official is to be responsive. (Does Cartmill seem to care about conditions at Southwest High School or Montgomery Middle? ) They are held more accountable for the conditions in the area they represent and their stakeholders know who they are and how to communicate with them at the local level.

With regard to the quality of those who will choose to stand for election in the future, I'm not so sure the current crop of trustees who have been elected 'at large' are poster children for quality trustees. Perhaps it is time for the change we have all been waiting for.


bbq Feb. 11, 2014 @ 1:50 p.m.

Your statement "...(Does Cartmill seem to care about conditions at Southwest High School or Montgomery Middle? )..." I ask does Cartmill or anyone on the current board or upper staff care about any school in the district? Their actions indicate they don't!

As for area voting, I too have some concerns about it similar to Visduh. Looking into what it costs just to register as a candidate is approx. $1800 to $2000, hum under new rules at least three donors ($750 limit). Do you think that might limit some candidates?

I support Area reps or some combination of the above, but physical location of ones house (or voting address) does not determine their desire, ability or ethics, so this alone does little or nothing to counteract the current weak board and forceful Superintendent.

Only proper vetting of candidates and public awareness will move the district forward.

BBQ CAVE Citizens Active for Value in Education.


shirleyberan Feb. 11, 2014 @ 2:14 p.m.

I tried to google reqirements to run for school board and it's confusing. Just be 18 with pulse?


calbear March 21, 2014 @ 12:21 p.m.

shirleyberan, one other thing...they must be able to fog a mirror!


oskidoll Feb. 11, 2014 @ 2:26 p.m.

BBQ - I used Cartmill only as an example of a current trustee selected by the 'at large' method. I certainly agree that NONE of the current board or upper staff give a tinker's dame about any school in the district. Clearly, they are only in this gig for themselves.

One's residence, for good or bad, is the basis for all voter registration, and reflects the philosophy that where one lives is where one has roots. It is the basis for legal 'standing' for voting. While you may or may not agree with that premise, it is the foundation of our democratic way of electing representation. (exceptions being U.S. Senate and the election of the US President via the electoral college, which indirectly is based on individual election of the electors.)

I believe that the current trend to area representation is a reflection of the perception of disenfranchisement of neighborhoods with less affluent populations that are not able to stage a district -wide campaign. Presumably, candidates from the less-affluent districts will have a better chance at winning a less-costly election. When challenged about district-wide vs. area elections, the courts have held for the latter.

I also agree that elected officials have a responsibility to not only represent the area from which they are elected, but also to assume responsibility for the well being of the whole enterprise. That is where the 'horse trading' and negotiation comes into play as well.

I do not believe that where someone lives, or doesn't live, is an 'a priori' indication of their fitness for service. However, I do believe that a change to area voting might give us at least an opportunity to vet candidates for their 'ability and ethics' and commitment to the public good at least as much as is currently the case.

I also hope that it will make the elections for everyone less costly and the affinity for 'pay to play' and other forms of financial influence less likely. I would like to see a return to the elections of the not-to-distant past where candidates announced for office, had volunteers who walked precincts, held neighborhood coffees to meet the voters and had little, if any, reliance on expensive political consultants and slick mailers. Perhaps that is not entirely possible, but at least area elections would reduce the scope of the expense and make it more of a level playing field. We have experienced the worst that at-large elections have wrought - I say it's time to change it up.


bbq Feb. 11, 2014 @ 2:53 p.m.

oskidoll, I agree with you 100% I just want to obviate that election by area seats in itself will not cure any current issues with the district.

The key is as you say trying to reduce the cost of running for public office and ensuring representation again nothing wrong with those goals.

I am not sure that the overall change will be better without the Public ie Citizens taking back control of the Public School District, being fully aware of the role & responsibilities of a Board Member, and the recent history of the District.

Again I am not against the area election process but with everything there are risks and rewards, with smaller "Wards" or areas it could be easier to effect the election with inputs of money. I fall back to Chicago under Daley... so where do you go?

The answer is not just area seats it's full election reform to include pre-election conflict of interest reviews, term limits, overall campaign funding limits, removal or at least reducing compensation for being on the board, change responsibilities of board members to require one open office night per month prior to board meetings to gage public opinion on agenda items.

I am sure you can think of additional items, but area seats is just a part of reform of the Board and the district.

BBQ CAVE Citizens Active for Value in Education


oskidoll Feb. 11, 2014 @ 3:11 p.m.

Totally agree with you BBQ. I appreciate your emphasis on pre-election review, term limits, etc. and setting higher standards and responsibilities for those elected to these most important public posts. Yes, there are many areas of criteria for board membership needing reform. Thanks!


shirleyberan Feb. 11, 2014 @ 2:58 p.m.

Velma - what are you doing on the Internet while you are at work? Most of us are at home when we comment, I'm pretty sure.


Susan Luzzaro Feb. 11, 2014 @ 5:17 p.m.

Thanks for the great discussion Visduh, oskidoll and BBQ. The article only covers the meeting, and some discussion points that pertained to area representation. All who spoke were in favor. I wanted to broaden the discussion but finally needed to file the story.

As this goes through the process, the County board has promised there will be more public discussion. Hopefully, they will be in South County as well.


eastlaker Feb. 12, 2014 @ 1:49 p.m.

Who is running the clock? The final countdown must have begun by million down the drain for Sweetwater? But, of course, what is one more million, when OFFICIALLY Sweetwater is $10 million in the hole, but unofficially, who can say--it could easily be $100 million plus in the hole.

No wonder Ed Brand and the Sweetwater Board of Trustees are so confident!

The County Board of Education must be their bestie, because they have never overexerted themselves when it came to handling the Beast of Sweetwater. The adage "Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves" does not appear to work in this instance, County Board of Education! Sweetwater just thinks you approve of all their activities.

So what is it? No backbone or intelligence at the County Board of Education? Hands are tied? No room for taking action? No one sent the engraved invitation? All out of calling cards? Driver unavailable? Formal dress at the cleaners? What? What's the excuse?


WTFEd Feb. 16, 2014 @ 10 p.m.

I am back from a hiatus and thank god I do not have to work tomorrow. I am beginning to count the days or is it months until I go public. I have to wait for the right moment. The corruption continues in this District it is just more subtle and under the radar. Though I do recall that those execs from Enron got nailed by willfull deceit in financial disclosures. Sound familiar Superintendent Brand?

Ed I was hoping you might be bitten by a Shark in Hawaii but when you were in the water they mistook it for a fat pig feeding at the public trough. Sharks do not like Pork I hear.

As far as the Board of Education I have two questions: 1) what does the Board of Education really do? 2) who built the pyramids? If you can answer both you REALLY are a genius.

John McCann nice bio in the Star News. That should go well in your quest to be on the Chula Vista City Council. I would not vote for you if you were running for the Mosquito Abatement Board!!


oskidoll Feb. 17, 2014 @ 6:10 p.m.

Please don't give McCann any ideas about running for any public office that might provide him with an opportunity to help himself to our money. Besides, we need the mosquito abatement board to do their job, otherwise we end up with malaria and west nile stuff. I am certain the nice salary that cv councilmembers receive is what is of interest to McCann. He needs to get a real job somewhere in order to properly support Mrs. MC and the four little McCs.


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