• Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

The Chula Vista Elementary School District board has long been viewed as a closed system. Trustees have often been appointed first, elected later; other seats appear to be an inheritance.

On October 23, San Diego County supervisor Greg Cox made a robo-call endorsing another candidate that hopes to step into a parent’s shoes — Joshua Smith. Smith’s mother is outgoing trustee Pamela Smith, who has served on the board since 1994.

According to the district website, Pamela Smith is an employee of the County of San Diego; she “was the former District Manager of the Social Security Administration in Chula Vista, and is now the Director of Aging and Independence Services for San Diego County.”

Joshua Smith works for the County of San Diego as well. Smith’s ballot statement says he has a master’s in public health, a PhD in epidemiology and states he is a “current public health professional.”

La Prensa, a weekly newspaper, had this to say about seat five candidate Smith:

“Joshua Smith…is the son of the outgoing board member Pamela Smith and this candidacy appears as nothing more than a continuation of the Smith name and legacy on the board. Beyond the endorsements of the present elementary school board members he does not list any. He does not list any community involvement. What he does list is his commitment to charter schools, which we believe is contrary to someone who is running to represent PUBLIC education. Charter schools take money away from public education and hands it over to private enterprise whose bottom line is to make a profit.”

According to the Chula Vista elementary district website, 15 percent of the elementary-school students are already enrolled in charter schools. Also, the operational budget for non-charter schools is $186,419,259 while the charter school budget is $34,749,538.

Kristin Phatak, who has been vocal in the elementary school district against the implementation of Common Core standards, attended a candidates' forum on October 21 that included Joshua Smith.

"[He] said that he is a huge proponent of charter schools and that the school board shouldn't ‘meddle’ in what goes on in the classroom. He kept repeating ‘I am an independent thinker.'… Whether they admit it or not, the school board meddles with every wrong-headed decision they make.”

There are three seats up for re-election in the Chula Vista elementary district; the other two trustees will be up for re-election in 2016.

Melissa Bejarano was elected to the elementary board November 12, 2012, when her father, David Bejarano stepped down. David Bejarano is the Chula Vista chief of police and was first appointed to the district seat when it was vacated by mayor Cheryl Cox in 2007.

Glendora Tremper was appointed to the board in April 2012 and later in the year elected to the position.

Prior to being appointed to the board, in 2010, Tremper was on the selection committee for Chula Vista elementary superintendent Francisco Escobedo. She was his former employee when Escobedo was assistant superintendent of South Bay Union High School District.

According to the district, Tremper currently works as the lead Language-Speech and Hearing (LSH) specialist for River Springs Charter School in Temecula and “is the parent of an eighth grade student at Bayfront Mueller Charter High School.”

Disclosure: The author’s daughter is a teacher in the Chula Vista Elementary School District and is a member of the Chula Vista Educators bargaining team.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Sjtorres Oct. 25, 2014 @ 11:02 a.m.

There is a whole slate of candidates chosen by the union bosses in a back room. They have all the campaign money they need to win. And their priority lies with the employees - Not the students, parents, or taxpayers. Crooked union hacks like Frank Tarantino have left a trail of destruction through our schools for far too long.


AlexClarke Oct. 25, 2014 @ 12:59 p.m.

A union's priority should be the employees they represent. If some had their way they would destroy the union and run off the oldest and highest paid teachers and hire young inexperienced ones. Same with other school employees. All would end up being WalMart/McJob workers. The only winners would be the overpaid useless school administrators. The voters have the ability to choose and to oust Board members but have chosen to keep the ones on the revolving door of nepotism.


VigilantinCV Oct. 25, 2014 @ 11:08 a.m.

Cheryl Cox and her lap dog (Supervisor Greg Cox) seem to be unable to resist wielding their power. Cheryl has always come down on the side of charter schools, whether they be good, bad, or indifferent. Are voters really going to allow them to continue eroding our public school system for their own power grab? I fervently hope voters see through this ploy!


joepublic Oct. 25, 2014 @ 2:12 p.m.

AlexClarke: Well said, but you're only partially right about voters re-electing the revolving door politicians. It appears that the Chula Vista Elementary district has a history of appointing board members to replace those who conveniently resign. Then the appointees use their incumbency to help win the next election. Again, very convenient. The title of this article really says it all. Let's hope the voters have wised up and will put an end to what truly has been a club. I seem to recall reading in the UT that for a long time the district's trustees would meet for pizza in the superintendent's office right before each board meeting to discuss things. Amazing, and probably illegal.


Visduh Oct. 25, 2014 @ 4:44 p.m.

As an observer from outside the area, it appears to me that the Sweetwater board breakdown was in part due to knee-jerk voting to reelect the incumbents. Most of the time a person will serve no more than two terms on a board and then decide to quit. There may be occasional three-termers, but they end up vulnerable, and rarely have four terms. So, how did Cartmill end up having five terms? Answer: So County voters vote for familiar names, and whose names are more familiar than those of incumbents? As you point out, the seats are "conveniently" filled by appointment when those leaving office "conveniently" resign. And of course, conservative pols don't like the cost of special elections, so they just appoint people who are political allies. And so it goes. But this time there's an opportunity to sweep out the old and bring in the new blood. Yet they're baaaack, running for election to something new. Much of what went wrong at Sweetwater is wrong with the other districts and cities.


Wabbitsd Oct. 27, 2014 @ 2:10 p.m.

"Filling conveniently vacated seats by appointment" is not a trick that is limited to the Sweetwater School District. This is an age-old tactic, and there are several local politicians who can thank this little benefit of having friends in "high" places for helping them get through the ranks to run for, oh, let's say "Lt. Governor?"


oskidoll Oct. 25, 2014 @ 2:34 p.m.

joepublic: you are correct, such un-noticed, private meetings by a majority of any public body are clearly in violation of both the spirit and law of the Brown Act. the preamble to the Brown Act says something to the effect of : 'the people do not yield their right to participate in the public process...the public's business is to be done in public" --- I am paraphrasing here but that is the essence of the act.


VigilantinCV Oct. 25, 2014 @ 3:20 p.m.

JoePublic is right. There was a time not too long ago when ALL 5 Board members of the C. V. Elementary School District had originally been APPOINTED, then ran as incumbents to stay on. Not a single one had earned their way on the Board by being elected.

Off hand I cannot remember a time when ANY seats on the Board were truly open as now.


eastlaker Oct. 25, 2014 @ 4:17 p.m.

Before I started to pay attention to local politics and issues, I was always amazed that what passed for political discussion was merely a glossy brochure with a photo of a smiling family--and not much of substance.

Now I know why--because the people who have been in charge really don't want people to know the issues, or think things through, or ask questions, or realize that much of what passes for educational leadership in this area has been closer to taking everything that isn't nailed down and/or giving it away.

Thanks, Susan, for shedding more light on all of this. When people talk about education being a legacy, this type of coziness isn't supposed to be what they are talking about.

What would happen if those who really care about education and helping kids would run things? I sure hope we get a chance to find out.


Susan Luzzaro Oct. 25, 2014 @ 5:52 p.m.

sjtorres, thanks for commenting. I always find your posts interesting, but this article is not about union candidates. It's about the history of the people who have filled the Chula Vista Elementary school board seats. Historically, these people were not elected by "union bosses", rather by other people with vested interests. Are you good with all the appointments?


oldchulares Oct. 25, 2014 @ 10:12 p.m.

Maybe it is time for that antagonist group to start investigating the Chula district. Bet that will get the boards attention.


Susan Luzzaro Oct. 25, 2014 @ 10:43 p.m.

Found this on twitter. Curious. The time caught my attention.

Around Chula Vista ‏@OtayRanchTweets 14h14 hours ago Remember when Frank Tarantino at #CVESD fired the new Superintendent because the union bosses told him to? We don't need that again.



eastlaker Oct. 26, 2014 @ 12:37 p.m.

The interconnections found among the city of Chula Vista, CVESD and SUHSD are more than coincidental. It is beginning to look more and more as if things have been run for the benefit of everyone except the taxpayers, the schoolchildren and the teachers.

School administrators, board members, city council members, mayors, ex-mayors, local developers, members of all sorts of planning boards, utility boards, etc.--things have been very nice for all of them, as all of us humble, work-a-day people get the rugs pulled out from under us. All of a sudden we are supporting all kinds of charter schools while the financing is being lied about. All of a sudden the city plan keeps getting changed in ways that certainly do not benefit the neighborhoods. All of a sudden we learn of long-standing real estate speculation on the part of the school board--while games are being played with funding. All of a sudden it seems the multiple decks in play have been stacked against those of us who just wanted a nice neighborhood with good schools.

Yes, I know that Ed Brand should at this time be only getting his retirement pay, and not his salary. Why is he not being investigated? Surely these financial "packages" that were drawn up, giving developers enormous profits (1/3 of proceeds here, $5 million dollars there) cannot be considered reasonable, ethical and in line with best practices?

What about all the legal fees for all of this? What about the real estate entities associated with these schemes. For the most part, no names have been mentioned. Why is that?

Will those of us who are trying to "unravel" all the schemes get the satisfaction of learning the truth? I certainly hope so.

As it is getting close to Halloween, I'd like to throw in something else.


Let us clean things up from start to finish. Let's get some real answers. No more protection for the Status Quo Brigade. They have made an enormous mess of things.


VigilantinCV Oct. 26, 2014 @ 3:28 p.m.

Old Chulares said: "Maybe it is time for that antagonist group to start investigating the Chula district. Bet that will get the boards attention." Maybe he is on to something. We are very puzzled, why did three CVESD Board members all decide to not re-run at the same time? There has not been an "open" seat on that Board for decades. What do those three Board members know that we don't know? So, 'antagonist group,' do your duty!


Visduh Oct. 26, 2014 @ 8:28 p.m.

If I may hazard a guess, the news reports of Sandoval and Gandara being yanked out of their seats in the courtroom, slapped in handcuffs and hauled off to jail immediately after they were sentenced might have something to do with it. Even the utterly wishy-washy judge Espana was able to send a message to school board members and school administrators all around the county (maybe even the state) that they need to WATCH IT, I'd guess that trustees in Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, Oceanside (for sure), Fallbrook, Carlsbad and a host of other spots here in No County got a little or not-so-little twinge in the gut when they learned that rotten folks in a school district were actually GOING TO JAIL. In CV, so close to the SUHSD, that would have been even greater, and maybe, just maybe, a few decided that their fast-and-loose behavior was actually putting them in danger of a few weeks in county custody. Is is worth it? For some who were on the edge of improper conduct, that was enough to make them call it a day--and now hope that this digging goes no farther.


oskidoll Oct. 26, 2014 @ 4:57 p.m.

Has the CVESD moved to district representation on its board? That may account for the current state of affairs, as I believe all of the former board members were residents of one community.


Susan Luzzaro Oct. 26, 2014 @ 7:37 p.m.


I am always grateful for your comments. Whether they come down on one side or the other--they always raise the level of discussion. Your comments ask the right questions, create the right context for thought. And that is what we need.


Susan Luzzaro Oct. 26, 2014 @ 7:47 p.m.

oskidoll, I think your point is well-taken. The city of Chula Vista is moving toward district elections, Sweetwater is holding a district election and Chula Vista Elementary should, perhaps, conform. I have to say that I hate not being able to vote in all the districts, because there are some candidates that I would like to vote for...but, I believe the districting has infused the Sweetwater election with choice... I haven't plotted out the elementary district. Is the representation reflective of the population geographically?


oskidoll Oct. 27, 2014 @ 10:52 a.m.

Susan, I have not checked out the details, but I would be very, very surprised if there were equal representation of west or north or even south Chula Vista. It is my assumption that the CVESD is 'ripe' for some action to move to district representation.

The district representation model is interesting. The theory is that it does provide more opportunity for those in the less affluent areas to run for office, and therefore, provides more opportunity for minorities to be elected to boards and avoid concentration of representatives from singular areas of affluence and influence. On the downside, it does promote some 'horse trading' between or among representatives in order to get more for their own areas, and as you mentioned, individual voters may vote only for their geographical representative. There are some other models that include an 'at large' membership representative or representatives to help instill a more 'universal' perspective among members.


eastlaker Oct. 30, 2014 @ 7:36 a.m.

I am wondering how the "war" for students between CVESD and SUHSD is going.

If I remember correctly, this started when some parts of the community were unhappy with Sweetwater's middle schools, and so one or more elementary schools in CVESD decided to include grades 7 & 8.

Ed Brand did not want to take that sitting down, so he decided to try to expand Sweetwater to a K - 16 (yes, inclusive of a 4 year college of some sort) program.

With Brand's departure, does anyone know what the status of his expansionist schemes would be? The charter schools are a part of all this--have they been evaluated in any way? Are student populations growing in the charter schools? Remaining about the same? Declining?

Brand kept saying that the charter schools weren't costing the district anything, but I don't know anyone who believed him (on that, or on much else).

Will the forensic audit be addressing any of these issues, or would these issues be outside the scope? I would think that the forensic audit would call attention to the wrongful expenditure of funds: Mello-Roos, other Bond funds, any funds which came from the state or federal authorities and were earmarked for specific purposes.

So is this competition for students still active, or have Sweetwater and Chula Vista Elementary School District settled any differences they had in the past?


anniej Oct. 31, 2014 @ 6:32 a.m.

There 'MAY' be Master Facilities Plan meetings next week.

'YESTERDAY' the District posted a notification of meeting times on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday - yes indeedy Mr. Calhoun scheduled one on ELECTION DAY - that one, has since been rescheduled. So, Mr. Calhoun decided that we need only 48 business hours for notification, eventhough the community has consistently made an issue of poor timing and advance notification. Why were/are we the LAST TO KNOW?

I have a major concern with these meetings for a couple of reasons. The timing is at the forefront - these meetings should be held after January 1st which would give the newly elected Board members the opportunity to meet with their constituents and listen to their ideas.

Now that Brand is gone, maybe the new Biard will have other ideas.

Surely there will be no agenda items this month or next related to these meetings - agenda items with a major price tag affixed to them? Hmmmm

The Districts calendar - well yesterday there was no mention of the meetings there.

The ROBO CALLS Mr. Calhoun is alledging was made - who were they made to - NOT the parents, not the taxpayers, not the attendees at the first meetings so who? Surely this is not a case of CYA with a fib.

Any potential Board member reading this comment - this very situation - the lack of respect for we the funders to the coffers, this is what concerns us. There are certain individuals that need to be evaluated after 1-1-2015 - oh, and I am sure they are preparing their panned speeches about those that 'bust their chops' - yes, this is what one such individual said to me. 'Bust chops' ah, no - expect professionalism, truth and integrity that would be a resounding YES.


eastlaker Oct. 31, 2014 @ 5:03 p.m.

About those robo calls--I didn't get one, and I don't know anyone who did.

So, anniej, I suspect you are correct in determining that may be a claim that will remain unverified.

Just who is Tom Calhoun, anyway? He isn't the CEO, is he? Isn't he supposed to be the functionary of the superintendent, doing what he is told?

Who would have told him to schedule these meetings at this time? Is he still loyal to some departed players? Is he determined to fulfill all the requests of Ed Brand? Is this attempt to get meetings in before the elections are over and counted up merely a way to try and shove a few more Ed Brand projects through?

Are there deals involved?

I would be very suspicious of anything Mr. Calhoun does, especially if he is trying to slide something through before a deadline. Let's just say that I am not sure the district's best interests have ever been involved in what Mr. Calhoun does. Maybe Ed Brand's best interests. Maybe the best interests of some real estate brokers and developers. Maybe the best interests of the attorneys we here in Sweetwater are paying for unceasingly.

But not the district's best interests.

So can anyone tell me why Tom Calhoun is still here? Who is supporting this person?


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader