August 6, 2004

Editorial

Sweetwater Unified School District Out of Compliance and Control

In November 2000 the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) went before the voters of the South Bay and asked them to approve Prop. BB, a $187 million dollar bond to fund specific improvements that would ensure safe, healthy and adequate conditions conducive towards educating our children in our public schools. In general the outlined needs included: Replacing and or repairing electrical and plumbing systems, broken sewage and drainage pipes, inadequate ventilation and heating systems and classroom spaces poorly configured, as well as building classrooms necessary to provide technological-intensive systems to our students. The Board of Trustees and their Superintendent have failed in their responsibility to ensure that Prop. BB funds were spent as approved by the voters!

The City of Chula Vista’s Growth Management Oversight Commission’s (GMOC) 2003 Annual Report, which looked at the quality-of-life threshold standards for all aspects to city services, stated: “The threshold standard for middle and high schools has not been met. Schools and classrooms differ tremendously in attributes among the various schools. While it is not expected that each school and classroom will be equivalent it is expected that a minimum standard will be in place so as to be equitable. Great disparities are self evident in the quality of maintenance, air conditioning, accessibility to technology, erosion of recreational space, relocateable classrooms, ratio of functional restrooms per student, and cafeteria capacity, to name some.” This was the report that was supposed to be a part of the GMOC report that addressed the City’s quality-of-life threshold standards for 2003, 2004 and compliance concerns over the next five years.

  Though a separate political body governs education, it is an integral part of the city. The quality and standard of a city’s educational system can either drag a city down or catapult a city toward greatness. Greatness, for Chula Vista, is part and parcel of why the city has been actively pursuing to bring a four-year college institution to this city.

  The general public will never see the educational portion of this report because Superintendent Ed Brand had this section pulled from the final report. At an April 8 GMOC meeting a representative of the school district called the GMOC report “incorrect, with short notice, arbitrary and without basis”. Superintendent Ed Brand asked that the commission wait for the “soon” to be completed School District Facilities Master Plan and then judge the district. Now the school district is telling the City Council that their plan would, “not be ready until September 2004”!

  The Sweetwater School District wanted the report and recommendations pulled because of the change in the standard of being in compliance. Prior to this report, for the schools to be considered in compliance, or meeting the threshold of compliance, it was limited to having one desk per student. If you met this standard you were considered in compliance. For this report, the Commission determined that this definition was no longer appropriate when defining a “quality of life threshold”. The Commission felt that providing seats was not enough, that this threshold was outdated. The Commission felt that when you considered the “quality” of education and the ability to “accommodate” the students that the threshold must consider qualitative topics such as adequate non-classroom facilities as restrooms, proper lighting, and/or be technologically equipped. In this respect Sweetwater school district does not meet the threshold. The school district thought that this was unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game and the City Council agreed, and allowed the district time to respond to the changes and a review of the changes by the city council.

  We couldn’t disagree more with the School District calling this change in the threshold as unfair. In 2000, when the District went before the community asking them to support their multi-million dollar bond, Prop BB, they stated to the need to fund those aspects, which comprised a “quality of life threshold” for the schools. The Commission, in its infinite wisdom, was holding the District accountable. The District has failed to meet the standards that they themselves set!  

  The City of Chula Vista needs to have under their control the K-12 school system and make the educational system accountable to the residents and taxpayers of Chula Vista. The current method of having the education of our children under the control of an elected Board of Trustees, which is not accountable to the elected Mayor and City Council, and who then have the authority to hire the Superintendent and all the staff to run the school, has proven to be a recipe for disaster. It’s now obvious that there is little or no accountability under the present system. A change is desperately needed.  

Letters to the Editor Return to the Frontpage