October 3, 2008

Editorial:

Jaime Mercado is still the best person for Sweetwater’s School Board

Jaime Mercado is running for re-election for seat #4 - Sweetwater Union High School District. In our opinion, Jaime is the best person for this seat and deserves a second term to accomplish the goals that he has set out for this term.

Mercado is a retired principal. After working in the district for 32 years, Jaime knows the district from top to bottom. As a board member, he asks tough questions and has sought accountability. During the budget crisis, the Sweetwater school district did not send out one pink slip and did not fire one permanent employee. It was able to maintain the school security program, the campus police, the nurses, and also increase school student health services with volunteer doctors at school sites. The Sweetwater school board was able to do all this and balance their budget for the upcoming year.

Jaime Mercado has been aggressively identifying any misuse of funds, dealing with construction defects and substandard work among the hundreds of millions of dollars of school building projects done in recent years. He has done a commendable job and has saved the district a fortune.

Mercado is now trying to reduce the rate of student dropouts by providing at-risk students and vocational students an opportunity to learn life skills and career choices with a proposed vocational/technical/career training center.

Mercado cares about students, community members, and taxpayers. He abhors wasteful spending. Mercado takes his job as a public servant seriously and makes a point of being out in the community, visiting school campuses, observing and talking with the students, parents, faculty, staff, and service employees.

Mercado’s main challenge in this race is Bertha Lopez, a sitting board mem-ber on the Chula Vista Elementary School District.

Lopez has served on the CVESD board for ten years. The biggest problem with Lopez is her lack of accountability and accessibility to the community.

When the parents at Castle Park Elementary school wanted to talk with board members to understand why teachers were being transferred, Lopez refused to meet. When the parents at Heritage Elementary school were upset and angry over the firing of their principal, they were met with a wall of silence by Bertha Lopez and the CVESD school board. Elected representatives are supposed to serve and represent the community. How can they represent the community if the only contact they have is in three-minute public comment allow-ances at school board meetings?

Recently, several community members petitioned the County Board of Education with over 1100 signatures to put a geographic districting petition on this November’s ballot. The ballot measure, if successful, would have restored integrity to the way school board members are elected in the CVESD and SUHSD by creating representative districts rather than the bizarre (and unique) way those two districts elect members - numbered seats versus open seats. An unintended consequence of the existing system is that all of the CVESD board members live in Bonita. Two of those board members were originally appointed by their board member peers. Bertha Lopez led the fight against the community members.

Last winter, the County Board of Education held a Geographic Districting public hearing in Chula Vista. Bertha Lopez publicly declared that she lived in Chula Vista when in fact she lives in Boni-ta. Community members and reporters were baffled by her false declara-tion. She deceived the County Board of Education in a public hearing.

School board members are elected to represent the voters and the community. In Berth Lopez’ case she has a proven track record of taking the voters for granted and ignoring their concerns. Enough is enough.

The Sweetwater Union High School District has a history of problems: poor spending choices, lack of oversight, and accusatory Grand Jury reports. A Grand Jury report chastised school districts in the South Bay for having unhealthy alliances.

The Grand Jury report was critical of interconnecting relationships and the perception of possible conflicts of interest. These ongoing conflict of interests have to be stopped, they do not serve the best interest of the voters. Several board members serve on a school or community college board while they are simultaneously employed by an adjacent school district.

Such is the case with Lopez - she is employed by the National City School District but is a CVESD board member. Now she’s trying to become a SUHSD board member. The National City School District is a feeder district to the SUHSD.

A school board member is elected to represent the interest of the voters. Jaime Mercado has a track record of doing exactly what he is elected to do – he represents the voter. His office is open, he is available, and he communicates with the public. If you have a problem or an issue with the high school district, Jaime Mercado is there for you.

La Prensa San Diego Supports and Endorses Jaime Mercado for Sweetwater Union High School Board, Seat #4.

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage