April 16, 2004

Editorial:

Sweetwater Unified School District Failing to Meet the Needs of Chula Vista Students

The Growth Management Oversight Commission for the City of Chula Vista recently released their preliminary findings. The report, a review of quality of life issues, stated that the Sweetwater Union High School District, the largest secondary school district in the nation, is not keeping up with the needs of the community. “Great disparities are self-evident in the quality of maintenance, air conditioning, accessibility to technology, erosion of recreation space to relocate able classrooms, ratio of functional restrooms per student and cafeteria capacity”, stated the report.  

This information is not new. It was just four years ago that the residents of Chula Vista were asked to pass Prop. BB to deal with these problems plaguing Chula Vista schools. We remember the media blitz and ads that highlighted the rotted out bathrooms, mud spewing water fountains, the focus on technology. The residents believed that their tax dollars would be spent to fix these problems as they voted YES for Proposition BB. Once the Sweetwater Union High School District had the money approved, the Superintendent chose to dedicate over $20 million dollars, of Prop. BB towards building two Taj Mahal gymnasiums, for their sports teams. Playing basketball was more important than classroom instruction.

For the residents of Chula Vista, East of I-805, the issue of keeping pace with new development was not exactly a new revelation. Residents of the East side have had to deal with standing room only classrooms, delayed construction, and no schools where schools were once promised.

When the residents of the East side raised their voices and demanded that something be done the school board, well aware of where their votes come from, reacted and put all their resources into finishing the Otay Ranch High School. In the meantime, the San Ysidro High School was put on hold. It was started at the same time as the Otay Ranch High School was supposed to be completed at the same time. Chula Vista has its completed high school. In the meantime, San Ysidro students have to attend classes in a partially completed school. Year 2005 it is now promised their school will now be completed.

The relationship between the City of Chula Vista and the Sweetwater Unified School Board has been deteriorating for years now and the prospect for better things down the road is doubtful. The basic problem is size. The Sweetwater Unified School District as the largest secondary school district in the nation. This means that this district has to serve the educational needs of areas which include several cities and communities. The Sweetwater Unified District Board is incapable of serving all of them.

The City of Chula Vista is too big of a city to be sharing a school district that is not totally devoted to the needs of this community. In essence the City of Chula Vista with a population that exceeds 200,000 is providing the bulk of the tax monies for this school district and the monies are being spread throughout the South Bay, instead of being devoted to the city.

The question that the residents of Chula Vista and Bonita have to ask themselves is: is it time to breakaway from the Sweetwater Unified School District and create a unified (Kindergarten through 12th grade) Chula Vista school district? A dedicated school district serving the needs of the children in Chula Vista is an idea that has gained momentum in the past couple of years, highlighted with Mayor Steve Padilla promoting the idea of a Chula Vista Unified School District. But unification is an idea that will have to come from the citizens of Chula Vista. It is something that cannot come from the city council or any other political body. It will take a coalition of citizens to get this idea out into the light of day where the pros and cons of unification can be fully discussed.

The time is right and the need is self-evident for the citizens of Chula Vista to take control of the educational direction of their City. All that is missing is public discussion to debate the pros and cons, as well as the hurdles that a new unified district presents. It is going to take like-minded people to begin the work of furthering this idea and bring it before the voters of Chula Vista who will then have the final say.

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