Anger and Police at Sweetwater Union HS District Meeting
Before the May 7 board meeting even began, the street in front of the district office was lined with police cars. Stationed inside the board room along the wall were several armed private security officers. An overflow crowd was fenced outside the building because the district refused to move the meeting to a larger venue.
Additionally, board president Pearl Quiñones limited the public's right to speak, down from three minutes to two.
The main action of the board was to lay off approximately 190 teachers. The vote was 3-2 with Quiñones and trustee Bertha Lopez voting no.
But the big story was the deepening division between sides — with interim superintendent Ed Brand and some of the boardmembers on one side and teachers, parents, and community members on the other.
Public distrust was expressed in placards with pictures of indicted school-board members Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa behind bars. Audience members also carried "Wanted" posters with pictures of John McCann, Arlie Ricasa, and Jim Cartmill, who are the subjects of recall petitions.
With the exception of a student award at the opening of the meeting, the four-hour meeting was filled with public complaints about district problems and priorities of district spending.
Civic activist Bill Richter returned to a common community concern in his two minutes — the lack of any limits on campaign donations.
The controversial purchase of iPads became even more controversial with the district's request to spend an additional $26,000 on iPad covers. One of the teachers who had been laid off told the trustees, "I'm getting the feeling I am worth less than an iPad."
The chaotic meeting concluded with a parent volunteer — who had been denied two minutes to speak because her card had not been submitted in time — standing on a chair yelling to whoever would listen about her frustration with the district.