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Voiceless children of San Ysidro

District-wide school strike prompts superintendent to hold fruitless meeting

Demonstrators across the street from district offices, October 9, 2014
Demonstrators across the street from district offices, October 9, 2014

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 9th, the interim superintendent of the San Ysidro School District, George Cameron, asked picketers of the teachers’ strike who stood outside the office to leave behind their signs and come inside the building to speak with him.

According to picketer Tasia Padilla, whose son is a fourth grader at La Mirada Elementary School, about 50 to 70 picketers, mostly parents and some of their children, gathered in a boardroom for what became a standing-room-only meeting with Cameron.

“They wanted the district to account for the money that they say they don’t have to pay the teachers and end this strike,” Padilla explained. “The superintendent kept basically going back to the 1.54 percent [raise increase] offer that was made.”

Parents asked Cameron whether it was true that substitute teachers were being bused in from school districts as far away as Los Angeles. Cameron refused to comment.

Then parents asked where the district had found the funds for security guards. About 30 security guards were hired from All State Security Services to keep the peace and make sure people could go in and out of the buildings without being harassed. Three of the security guards stood at the front of the district offices. The superintendent declined to answer that question also.

“He refused to answer a lot of questions. He kept going back to the chalkboard, the offer,” said Padilla. “The meeting had finally reached a point where the listening stopped on both sides. But I do believe that the parents, in all that they were asking, everyone managed to have a say. Whether they were calm about it, whether they were emotional about it, no one was ever threatening. They really stressed the point of wanting their children to have the best education and believing in their teachers that are working in this district. They want things itemized. They want transparency, of which our superintendent was unable to give clear answers to.”

At 11:25 a.m., the superintendent announced that there would be no more questions and the meeting was going to be adjourned.

“We weren’t kicked out,” Padilla said, “But he did stay and was able to speak with parents that had concerns.”

Judy Crespo, the communications officer from the San Ysidro Education Association, described the first day of the strike in an email: “At Smythe School, where I work, I witnessed with my own eyes a parent volunteer take a group of about 10 children out of Room 1 (near the front of school) after about 40 minutes of being alone with them. Large groups of children were being held in the cafeteria until they could figure out where to put them.”

On the second day, only 467 students out of approximately 1200 came to school at Willow Elementary.

A seventh-grade teacher at Willow Elementary, Eddie Garcia, said, “Usually I stay out of politics, but enough is enough. Our children do not have a voice.”

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Demonstrators across the street from district offices, October 9, 2014
Demonstrators across the street from district offices, October 9, 2014

At approximately 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, October 9th, the interim superintendent of the San Ysidro School District, George Cameron, asked picketers of the teachers’ strike who stood outside the office to leave behind their signs and come inside the building to speak with him.

According to picketer Tasia Padilla, whose son is a fourth grader at La Mirada Elementary School, about 50 to 70 picketers, mostly parents and some of their children, gathered in a boardroom for what became a standing-room-only meeting with Cameron.

“They wanted the district to account for the money that they say they don’t have to pay the teachers and end this strike,” Padilla explained. “The superintendent kept basically going back to the 1.54 percent [raise increase] offer that was made.”

Parents asked Cameron whether it was true that substitute teachers were being bused in from school districts as far away as Los Angeles. Cameron refused to comment.

Then parents asked where the district had found the funds for security guards. About 30 security guards were hired from All State Security Services to keep the peace and make sure people could go in and out of the buildings without being harassed. Three of the security guards stood at the front of the district offices. The superintendent declined to answer that question also.

“He refused to answer a lot of questions. He kept going back to the chalkboard, the offer,” said Padilla. “The meeting had finally reached a point where the listening stopped on both sides. But I do believe that the parents, in all that they were asking, everyone managed to have a say. Whether they were calm about it, whether they were emotional about it, no one was ever threatening. They really stressed the point of wanting their children to have the best education and believing in their teachers that are working in this district. They want things itemized. They want transparency, of which our superintendent was unable to give clear answers to.”

At 11:25 a.m., the superintendent announced that there would be no more questions and the meeting was going to be adjourned.

“We weren’t kicked out,” Padilla said, “But he did stay and was able to speak with parents that had concerns.”

Judy Crespo, the communications officer from the San Ysidro Education Association, described the first day of the strike in an email: “At Smythe School, where I work, I witnessed with my own eyes a parent volunteer take a group of about 10 children out of Room 1 (near the front of school) after about 40 minutes of being alone with them. Large groups of children were being held in the cafeteria until they could figure out where to put them.”

On the second day, only 467 students out of approximately 1200 came to school at Willow Elementary.

A seventh-grade teacher at Willow Elementary, Eddie Garcia, said, “Usually I stay out of politics, but enough is enough. Our children do not have a voice.”

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Comments
14

This is simply an appalling situation with the students consistently being the unsuspecting victims. The PREVIOUS Superintendent and the inept San Ysidro Board are at the heart of this mess.

Where was the County Board of Ed in all of this? MIA - that is where. Their job is to VALIDATE the financial stability of school Districts - look, the San Ysidro District did NOT become insolvent overnight - so,,,, I ask WHAT ROLE DID THEY PLAY IN THIS CATASTOPHRE?

While I do not personally know Mr. Cameron, I do know that he is a man of integrity, based on his stellar reputation. He inherited this mess.

San Ysidro community members, I say this with all due respect - GET INVOLVED - vote for Board members responsibly and most importantly ATTEND BOARD MEETINGS, educate yourselves on the issues and demand proper representation.

School teachers - I so sympathize with what you are going thru!

Oct. 10, 2014

They are bringing in substitute teachers what a hoot! All they need is someone who can read a seating chart and take attendance and babysit the students a minimum wage job. Substitute teachers are useless and always have been. They don't know the students or the subject just overpaid do nothing baby sitters. Give the teachers a raise and get on with it. Note to the stupid legislators: Remove the requirement that illegal children do not have to be educated at taxpayer expense and that would cut the class size in half.

Oct. 11, 2014

Alex, if you reread your last sentence, I think you'll see that you said just the opposite of what you meant to say. Nonetheless, the district will get by with substitute teachers until the regular staff returns to work. Many substitute teachers are useless, but others are remarkably effective if used properly. But that requires the regular teacher to provide something useful to do, and the means to do it; too often they merely assign a block of time-killer-filler seatwork that the kids detest.

anniej, you are right about the dysfunctional/corrupt board and corrupt supe being responsible for all this. Why is that district broke when others in the county are finally seeing some half-way decent funding? I find it interesting that parents are protesting, not just teachers. It is union-bashing season again, with the Mill having two editorials about the unreasonable and foolish union wanting more and going on strike for it. The teachers in that district have a very difficult job, and ultimatums about imposed pay cuts would have me outraged for sure. But surely you jest about the county board getting involved. They were MIA during a worse situation in Sweetwater, and we've all seen their capabilities since they were obliged to assume control of that district.

Oct. 11, 2014

Vids uh,anniej amen,what is the purpose of the COE? I'm shocked at their lack of over sight. It appears that the community and teachers are being kept in the dark about the true financial situation in San Ysidro. Why?

Oct. 11, 2014

Part 1

Here is my take on things, and I emphasize it is my take.

The County Board of Education has been asleep at the wheel for quite some time, I can't even tell you how long. Suffice it to say there was a gentleman sitting on the board as recently as a couple of years ago who was rather obviously no longer capable of holding that position. That he stayed on and on and on was not to anyone's credit. It was a public disgrace.

So, bearing that in mind, much of what the County B of E was supposed to be at least "looking at"--the financials, the budgets, was running along its own merry way. For example, Sweetwater had been running its own financial system separately from the county's. NO ONE was looking into how that was being done. A year or so ago, the county woke up and took it back, after a bit of finger pointing from the public. School districts are not required to use the county for the major bookkeeping software--but there should have been some sort of control held onto by the county. It is my understanding there was not. There may be a couple of districts who are still running their own programs, but perhaps they are a bit more honest that Sweetwater has been, so it might not be as problematic.

I do not know if San Ysidro was running their own financial system or using the county. We do know that the previous superintendent of San Ysidro was in all sorts of trouble and was seen burning documents on school property, after he had been relieved of his duties and should not have had access to either the documents or the premises. So--there would seem to be some entrenched problems, and some people who were covering for Mr. Paul. He was never charged for those infractions, if I recall correctly.

So where has the County Board of Education been? Holding meetings where they discuss who is allowed to go to conferences and what sort of financial support they will receive for attending such = one large category.

Oct. 11, 2014

Part 2

Regarding what the County Board of Education actually does, I suppose they help schedule WASC visits, send memos on new requirements, and things of that nature. They must also act as a sort of clearing house for the property taxes and Mello-Roos and other bond funds that the county gathers up.

Mostly, however, I have the impression they sit around and congratulate themselves on having achieved a nice level of "cush". Which is why I strongly feel it is high time they actually put their collective noses to the grindstone and accomplish something.

Such as finding out what the real state of affairs is in all these troubled schools and school districts. Such as putting actual effort into solutions instead of chastising the public for having bad attitudes! (Yes, this has been done at a couple of Sweetwater board meetings. Apparently truth is difficult for these people to hear, and they resent when the truth is thrust upon them).

If these people actually want to be educational leaders, they could accomplish something. As it is, they need to be pulled and prodded into action like a team of very reluctant mules, who would far rather sit in the shade and drink from the trough than have to pull their weight.

If I am wrong, please correct me, as this has of necessity been pieced together over the past several years, and perhaps I have misconstrued something. Yet--if I have managed quite by happenstance to have come upon the truth, and there is anyone out there who can vouch for this, please do so. We really need the truth.

Oct. 11, 2014

No, you have succinctly identified the role the county board has been playing, and its many shortcomings. Well, actually you have been rather gentle with them. For some reason, instead of having that board out in the public eye, it has been a place for faceless folks, who once elected, keep being reelected by voters who know nothing about them. Even thought he is from No County, I know nothing good about Mark Anderson. What little I do know of his is that his wife associated herself with a group of people calling themselves "conservative" who have attempted to run the Vista school district. But their main desire seemed to be to put the district out of business--via the massive use of charter schools and union busting--rather than to improve it. And so it goes.

Oct. 12, 2014

That is interesting about Mr. Anderson. Those members of the County Board of Education who are temporary appointees to the Sweetwater Board of Trustees seem very bland on the surface, and not all that inclined to look below the surface. Getting through to them is not easy, because they seem to have decided that their main goal is to get everyone to quiet down and behave. While the local school district is still wildly out of whack.

Oct. 14, 2014

AlexClark: "illegal children"? That kind of thinking would be dismissed as simple ignorance if it wasn't so dangerous, not to mention un-American. Your attempt to divert attention from the fact that these teachers have been victimized by corruption and mis-management is pathetic. By the way, Mr. Cameron (interim-superintendent and candidate for Chula Vista School Board ), who won't come out of his office to talk to parents, is exactly what the Chula Vista Elementary District DOESN'T NEED. I guess we're lucky that he has shown his true colors before the election.

Oct. 12, 2014

What about stolen money not being reported?

Oct. 12, 2014

AlexClark: P.S. I do agree with you on one point however, give the teachers a raise!

Oct. 12, 2014

The union bosses that control the school board don't give a rats fanny about the children. It's all about money and power for them.

Oct. 13, 2014

I really don't think that union bosses are controlling the school board.

What I believe is happening is that teachers have been pushed around for the past several years, what with great budget cuts mandated by state shortfalls in funding, bad leadership from various school districts and all the "reform" efforts that are really all about dismantling public education as we know it.

As a result, many teachers have realized the need to be more politically active than they have in the past, so that the voices of the teachers will be heard.

That is not a bad idea.

We need to hear from all sides, all voices are welcome in public discourse.

It is, of course, helpful when rhetoric is ramped down rather than up, so all of us can focus on practical, reasonable solutions to the various problems at hand.

Please don't make teachers out to be the enemy. They most definitely are not the enemy. The teachers' unions aren't the enemy either.

The enemy is those who would shut down all of our voices, who in fact did their very best to shut down our voices, and those names included are Jim Cartmill and John McCann. They worked very hard to disenfranchise everyone in Sweetwater school district, by limiting public input, ignoring the serious concerns of the public, doing their level best to confuse the public regarding board meetings, expelling the public from a board meeting, and so forth.

Let's remember what we have gone through to get where we are, and remember that we aren't done yet. We need honest, hard-working, reasonable and intelligent people on our school boards--for a change.

Oct. 13, 2014

eastlaker, you have it right when you talk about the teachers. The standard answer in these school disputes is to blame the teachers unions, especially their "bosses." That sort of talk might have made sense in the 40's, 50's and 60's, when there were career union officials in industrial and construction unions, especially in large, corrupt eastern cities. But to talk of "union bosses" in the teachers unions is absurd. A few of the people elected to union positions are chronic malcontents, but most are everyday teachers who have a heightened sense of right and wrong. Add in an imperious and arrogant superintendent along with an out-of-touch board, and you get activist teachers in union leadership roles. But nobody stays in those jobs for life, hence, no "bosses." There's also the journalistic cliche that puts the term "powerful" in front of teachers union, especially if it is the statewide union, the CTA.

It was that anti-union rhetoric, lapped up by voters, that enabled the crooks in Sweetwater to keep getting reelected and engage in their scheming for many, many years. If that union had been at all powerful, things would have played out far differently. As it was the union was pathetically unable to get any reforms or transparency or even blow the whistle on long-running and deeply embedded corruption. Cartmill and those others who ran the district for all those years employed the union-busting rhetoric as a standard tool for excusing their own wrongdoing, by diverting attention from their misdeeds. Unions can be a force for holding back progress, but that wasn't the case in Sweetwater, or in San Ysidro, or Southwestern College.

Oct. 14, 2014

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