South Bay Community Services contract re-newed for another year

July 17, 2015

Stories

By Susan Luzzaro

Kathryn Lembo and Mauricio Torre of SBCS field questions Sweetwater board members.

Kathryn Lembo and Mauricio Torre of SBCS field questions Sweetwater board members.

Sweetwater meetings continue to be long. The July 13 meeting did not recess until after midnight; many believe it reflects the new board and new superintendent’s commitment to transparency. More than an hour of the July 13 meeting was devoted to gathering information from South Bay Community Services CEO, Kathryn Lembo, and Director of Youth Services, Mauricio Torre, about the services they provide to students.

In the end trustees passed two agreements with South Bay Community Services that total $1,134,000—but not before considering the concerns of community and district personnel.

Parent and community advocate Stewart Payne told the trustees that the agreements with SBCS needed more precise language about accountability. He said, “They’re doing sports, they’re doing art, they’re doing music, they’re doing homelessness, they’re doing child welfare, they’re doing everything, but these Memorandums of Understanding give you absolutely nothing by which to hold them accountable. They don’t spell out specifically what it is they should do…there are no teeth in these agreements.”

One of the services offered by South Bay Community Services is academic intervention by tutors who work with students at risk of failing. Community advocates have persistently asked about what kind of training the tutors receive and if they are trained in the new common core curriculum.

According to CEO Lembo, the tutors must have at least 48 college credits. She added that through SBCS they are also trained in child abuse, foster care and homeless issues. After that she said it is up to the individual schools to give additional training to the tutors.

Director Torre pointed out that SBCS programs are not just for the students who are failing academically, but also for the students who need enrichment.

Another issue before the trustees was whether the positions have been offered or should be offered to district staff before being offered to SBCS employees.

Troy Johnson and Diana Clayton, representing local chapters of the California School Employees Association brought documentation to the trustees that demonstrated that after school positions had not been offered to employees of Sweetwater in previous years. Clayton made the point that she and many of her co-workers already work in the capacity of tutors for AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and as instructional assistants.

Clayton further made the point that many CSEA employees only work 61/2 hours a day, and that many of them have to take on a second job to make ends meet.

The district’s agreement appears to address CSEA’s complaint. The agreement states: “The contract with South Bay Community Services will provide staff for the program only in the event that employees of the Sweetwater Union High school District show no interest in the positions.”

In a followup conversation, Clayton expressed reservation about the effectiveness of noticing the employees about openings at this late date; the new school year begins next week.

Looking to the future, Superintendent Karen Janney said that the district will be committed to tracking the academics and behavior of the students who attend the after school programs. Janney promised the trustees quarterly reports. The agreement is effective July 1 2015 and terminates on June 26, 2016. Trustees have expressed interest in exploring other options to support students’ after school needs in the future.

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32 Responses to “South Bay Community Services contract re-newed for another year”

  1. Annie J Says:

    While the Board meetings continue to run long, it is refreshing to observe THIS Boards engagement in the issues at hand. Historically it has been community members who raised questions and required documentation – no more. Gone are the days of blanket approvals.

    I must say it was troubling to listen to the ‘manner’ in which Ms. Limbo responded to not only Board questions but community comments/concerns as well. One would think a vendor, any vendor, looking to receive monies in the $2 million range would present themselves in a manner that was obliging to a School Board’s questions vs. being defensive and somewhat argumentative. Mr. Torre, as a representative of SBCS – the exact opposite. Obliging, non defensive and a willingness to share. Perhaps SBCS might consider NOT using Ms. Limbo as a representative at meetings where tough questions will be asked in the future.

    While I understand the need to approve THIS YEARS expense – I am looking to the SUHSD Board to vet next years providers and consider other organizations.

    Many many questions remain, – and those questions will not go away due to simply the yes votes.

  2. John Popper Says:

    SBCS is Ms. Lembo’s fiefdom and she has made a kings ransom on the backs of taxpayers. She is well connected and of course would feel insulted that she would need to provide any information or respond to questions. The money from the city and the school district has continued to roll in for years and years unanimously and without question. Compare her salary to that of the Superintendent of SUHSD or the Mayor of Chula Vista. How dare you expect her to not be defensive and argumentative.

  3. Annie J Says:

    A question that was never answered to the satisfaction of the community – was there an audit? District staff says no, Ms. Limbo says yes. The taxpayers are deserving of a definitive answer.

  4. Accountability Says:

    AnnieJ,

    Which organizations are you referring to? The YMCA. Loren Tarantino is on the YMCA board. Reliable sources informed me that Loren was not happy about South Bay Community Services taking over several years ago, and that she was bitter about the success they had with schools. API scores went up since this happened. I’ve also been told the Tarantino couple believes that parents should enforce homework and teachers should not. Unfortunately, some parents don’t care and teachers have to make that extra effort, which many like to do.

    I have confidence in Kevin Pike. I also sense that Arturo Solis understands what is best for the students. I’m not so sure about the other 3 board members, especially Tarantino.

  5. Accountability Says:

    Also AnnieJ, I strongly agree with your comments about Maurucio Torre. I have no comment about Kathy Lembo.

  6. SBAdvocate Says:

    Who is Kathy Lembo???

    We heard this week that she has a long history of trading grant dollars for favors – quid pro quo arrangements similar to the corruption we just put a stop in the district. One example are the thousands of dollars Lembo has given SANDAG in exchange for giving her son fulltime employment and a high salary (something her political ally Cheryl Cox was also accused of a couple years ago). Could this be true?

    We also heard she has a long history of giving political contributions to friends in public office. This always in her maiden name and in her husband’ name to avoid criticism. Turns out these contributions have yielded heR and her agency millions in contracts over the years. Could this be true?

    Finally, we heard Lembo’s high salary, which ranks among the higher salaries in the county for non profits, is an example of her true motive for running this agency. We heard this has allowed her to live a lifestyle of the rich and famous which includes owning a multimillion dollar house with a view of the ocean in point loma and sending her son to one of the most expensive, prestigious but elitist private high schools in the county. Could this be true?

    Mrs Luzzaro, please confirm. Is this information accurate? This is an urgent matter of public interest.

  7. SBAdvocate Says:

    Would like to add that after the board meeting several current and former SBCS employees notified our office to notify us that Lembo is a ruthless dictator who frequently screams, curses and bullies her employees to break them down into tears causing many to fear her. According to these current SBCS employees, many in the agency including board members feel that she is an narcissist and ego maniac. Torre, on the other hand, behaves himself with as a true gentleman at all times and is the one responsible for much of the success this agency has received the last 10 years. We also heard that Torre frequently has to go clean up the mess and collateral damage left behind whenever Lembo gets involved. I agree with AnnieJ, If business is going to be conducted with SBCS it is best that Lembo stay out of it or it will likely turn out bad. Better yet since the agency has outgrown her abilities and skills, and since Lembo is a lawsuit waiting to happen, maybe it’s time for the SBCS board to consider making a change from Lembo to Torre as the CEO. Either way,
    She needs to be kept far away from SUHSD.

  8. Fran Brinkman Says:

    Hopefully after a year more of the South Bay Community Services our district will have the time and opportunity to truly vet the services our students are receiving. I believe The new supt.will really evaluate them. There has never been any accountability from these people. They certainly know how to come back every three months and ask for more monies. I believe this board will not be giving tax payers monies away so easily. As far as Lembo way to big for her britches as far as I’m concerned. Her presentation was indicative of that.

  9. joepublic Says:

    Anniej: What audit are you referring to?

  10. Annie J Says:

    I too believe that Mr Pike cares and it is more than evident that Mr. Solis, an educator himself, has an understanding of the needs of our students. I vehemently disagree with your statement regarding Mr. Tarantino – he has dedicated his entire life to education and has a strong reputation of integrity and fairness. Mr. Segura, the member of the Board that lives in the Castle Parks neighborhood is consistently seen at the two schools and is known for his willingness to meet with anyone that seeks him out. Ms. Hall, a strong advocate for all students, especially the most needy.

    Monday was the perfect opportunity for SBCS to begin to lay a new foundation for the future. However, in my opinion, which is shared by others, she CHOSE to stand before the Board arrogantly with a ‘how dare you question me attitude’. 411 to Ms. Limbo, WE ARE WRITING THOSE CHECKS TO SBCS THEY ARE NOT WRITING THEM TO SUHSD.

    It appears that monies are going into SBCS from many different entities – TAX MONIES – so my question is are these monies put into one pot?, are Promise Neighborhoods, SBCS, Juvenile Court, etc. monies separated? Is it a possibility that ‘Johnny’ is being claimed by all pots? Hmmmmmm, something to consider,

    One last point I had received a couple calls from persons I have deep respect for and trust. They wanted me to know they believed SBCS was a good Program – which, I eluded to in my comment Monday – then Ms. Limbo CHOSE to stand before OUR Board in a defiant, unprofessional manner – she missed the opportunity to win over the taxpayers in that room that evening and instead cast more doubt on the Programs she represents.

    As always – just my opinions.

  11. LemboHatesonCesarChavez Says:

    I am a former employee of SBCS who sued them after alleging wrongdoing on several counts including falsification of documents as a matter of maintaining funding and retaliation against employees who complain of such. My story was covered extensively in The San Diego Reader. I personally don’t believe anything the upper management says in order to secure funding or pass an audit. I still have an issue that Kathy Lembo herself has steadfastly refused to recognize Cesar Chavez Day despite calls from staff, board members and clients, while the holiday is observed by almost every similar agency and govt entity in the region.

  12. Annie J Says:

    joepublic – Ms. Adato, a community activist, had, at a previous Board meeting asked if the Programs were audited – she was told by a SUHSD Administrator no, they had not been. So, when Ms, Limbo stated an audit had been done, that was a RED FLAG – was there, or was there not an audit done?

    As I had commented before I believe that our communities children are worth every penny, I simply want to know that the MILLIONS OF TAX DOLLARS WE HAVE SPENT OVER THE YEARS AND ARE CONTINUING TO SPEND, ARE ‘RESULTS ORIENTED’. When that information is not available ‘HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM’. Ms. Adato has been asking for this information as well, for years.

  13. Annie J Says:

    Accountability – we have questioned why other Service Organizations, such as the Y are not used more. Years back far more tax dollars were spent on the Y’s Programs – then all of a sudden SBCS seemed to assume somewhat of a monopoly.

    The Y SERVED OUR CHILDREN/STUDENTS VERY WELL IN THE PAST – hopefully they will be invited to the vendor table once again. Y personnel speak negatively about SBCS, quite frankly it is a subject they won’t touch with a 10 ft pole – I know, I have asked.

    API scores improved under SBCS? Where is that data? Let’s not forget our hard working teachers, Admin, and all other school personnel – let us take note many students praise SUHSD personnel, even at the Coaching level as inspirational mentors.

  14. oskidoll Says:

    Each and every program operated by SBCS with public money should have an annual audit by an outside entity as a matter of course. We should not have to ask for that, it should be standard operating procedure by every agency doing grant-funded programming — no exceptions for SBCS!

    Further, I do not find any recent annual reports on the SBCS website, or any non-profit tax returns which would show exactly how much money is being spent on which programs, and how much the executives are paid.

    I am guessing Ms. Lembo is ‘sensitive’ to inquires regarding her compensation, which has been characterized as excessive when compared to other San Diego-area non-profit organizations.

    Please continue to stay on the case and demand better financial accountability from SBCS. They should have measurable objectives for each program that can be assessed periodicall

  15. susan Says:

    SBAdvocate, you raise some interesting questions. Others have written to me through email with questions. If this link works, it is the most recent SBCS 990 tax filing which will clear up some questions for some people.

    http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2014/952/693/2014-952693142-0b35e705-9.pdf

  16. susan Says:

    In the Form 990 it says that the organization paid out $4,245,190 to subcontractors.

    At the board meeting, one CSEA member suggested that students fare best when they are tutored by someone who originates from their school site.

  17. Annie J Says:

    Susan – well, well, well, well, well, well, well – I AM STILL CHOKING ON THE SALARIES OF THOSE THAT HEAD UP SBCS – Ms. Limbo leading the bunch.

    Non Profit – Community Service – that is definitely not what those salaries reflect to me. This is an example of what is wrong with ‘some’ of these Programs that are touted as all about ‘giving/helping’. While I have no doubt there are many many SBCS employees who care and are doing a great job – the numbers that are reported regarding the salaries of those that oversee the Program border on criminal.

    Time for a full fledged audit, time for accountability on ALL levels. Time for a spotlight to be shed on so called Non Profits such as SBCS – no doubt the average taxpayer has no clue that leaderships of these organization are MAJORLY PROFITING!!!

    If I sound a bit ticked, good, because I am!!!!!!

    Ms. Luzzaro, please stay on top of this issue, and Thank You for the data.

    *simply my opinions

  18. SBAdvocate Says:

    Susan,
    Thank you. Would you mind looking into whether Lembo’s son in fact works at SANDAG and how much he is paid? Also, can you confirm whether SBCS contracts with SANDAG? If so, would this not suggest possible corruption – quid pro quo similar to the favors for dollars at SUHSD.

  19. Accountability Says:

    AnnieJ,

    Another opinion or issue with the situation at hand. When it comes to Southbay Community Services, another issue has to to with Principal Accountability. For example, I know for a fact 4 years ago, when students who played sports had AEC at Hilltop Middle, they were not held accountable to do their homework. They did nothing at AEC and played sports after an hour. On the other hand, over the last 2 years, sites, like Castle Park Middle, Granger Junior High, and this school year at Chula Vista Middle, AEC and tutoring services that involve South Bay Community Service tutors have been an effective intervention, especially for students who play sports. It depends on the administrator at that site that holds their employees accountable.

  20. Accountability Says:

    Also AnnieJ, The YMCA did not give better services. One can look at the california ed website and see that the API scores that SouthBayCommunity Services offered schools at SUHSD went up. Also, the Y charged a lot more at the time and they were not responsive to the schools needs. That’s why schools started jumping ship from the Y and working with SouthBayCommunity Services. It was a wise business decision. I do however agree that competition is good, and there should not be a monopoly. Before that, after school tutors were hired through the district. It was much worse, due to cost and red tape. Better with outside agencies.

    Word is Loren Tarantino had a lot of say about the services with the Y before SouthBayComm.Services replaced them. Yes, I am concerned with Frank Tarantino and Paula Hall on the board. As for Nick Segura, I will remain mum for now and see what decisions he makes and how he reacts to issues in the future.

  21. oskidoll Says:

    It appears to me from the 990 tax filing that the 11-memeber board of directors for SBCS should be performing a higher degree of oversight… what do they do and how do they perform their responsibilities as directors?

    Do they review the financials, do they set forth expectations for each and every grant program administered by the SBCS? There seems to be some real expertise and talent on the board (Dave Rowlands is former Chula Vista city manager)… would like to learn more about their roles with regard to actual operations of the SBCS programs!

  22. Annie J Says:

    Accountability – ‘me thinks you campaign very hard to down play the good works of the Y’. I continue to say while the work of SBCS may have played a part in any alleged IPA scores your attesting to ‘it’s all due to SBCS, is a stretch’. Again SUHSD personnel, particularly the teachers are deserving of the praise.

    Regarding sports programs having an influence on educational excellence – SUHSD/CIF has mandated grade eligibility – no satisfactory grades, no play. It is indeed a sad point that we are discussing ‘government’ (SBCS, supported by tax dollars) having to play the role of parental guidance – I am referring to homework completion. What you are insinuating is that the parents of these students have checked out of their responsibility – and, the end result is ‘others’ tax dollars are picking up the slack. Difficult issue indeed.

    Regarding ‘Loren’ Tarantino ( I always prefer to be politically correct and would prefer to address her as Ms. Tarantino ) while I do NOT know her personally a family member of mine worked with her and had nothing but rave reviews of her integrity, commitment and love of students. In the 5 + years I have been actively involved as a community member YOU ARE THE FIRST TO SEEM HELL BENT ON CASTING A DARK SHADOW ON THE TARANTINO NAME – both the Mr. and the Mrs. Perhaps you were/are aligned with the Brand and or ‘the gandara’ camp.

    Ms. Hall, FINALLY a Biard member who is able to cut thru the ‘verbiage’ and dissect the numbers – you having a problem with that is a red flag. Her wanting detailed back up data – that is what she does well. Yes, she is my area rep and yes I did promote and vote for her. Past Boards have offered no person as numbers oriented as she – and, if they were, they kept it a secret.

    I must say, as a taxpayer, I am troubled that I as a taxpayer my hard earned monies are being used for after school recreational programs for high school students. In my humble opinion, these young men and women would be far better served with other ‘young adult’ activities that would help prepare them for the reality of adulthood – balancing a checkbook, bill paying, how to dress for an interview identification and use of every day tools – to name but a few. I doubt seriously if tumbling on mats will add function in adulthood. I come from humble means and can not even begin to imagine the words my father would have used if someone offered me to stay after school and tumble. It is time to see all students as victors vs victims. Once our students receive their diplomas no employer is going to take into account the tax bracket of their parents – to the employer it boils down to whether you can do the job or not and work ethics. But,,,,

    These are just my opinions and we all know what they say about opinions.

  23. Annie J Says:

    oskidoll – perhaps one might forward this article and commentary discussion to Mr. Rowland’s. While it is Saturday this article is creating much buzz via text, email and phone calls ALL CALLING FOR A FULL FORENSIC AUDIT OF THIS NON PROFIT – no doubt the tax filings and Ms. Lembo’s reactions to Board and community questions have contributed to the concerns.

  24. eastlaker Says:

    What a fascinating array of opinions and thoughts.

    I am relieved to see that SBCS is being looked at, because we all know that sure didn’t happen under previous administrations at Sweetwater.

    Having had the opportunity to see Ms. Lembo in action in front of the “Old Board”, I have to say that she reminded me of a cheerleader trying to drum up school spirit–which wouldn’t be a bad thing if in fact she had been a cheerleader.

    However, she is the extremely well-paid head of a large organization–and I believe her well-designed public persona was designed so that she would look like an “All-American” non-threatening good person, while she was basically funneling public monies to places those monies weren’t meant to go.

    But–these are my thoughts, nothing more. Yes, it is time for the Fine Tooth Comb to be applied to all SBCS financial records, contracts, donations, board members, and sphere of influence, just to see how much effort has been on maintaining a “presence”, as opposed to actually supporting the education of the young people–the alleged mission of the organization.

    Pretty sickening. Time to dig deep into the morass of political influence.

    No wonder Ed Brand liked to boast that his friends would always protect him.

  25. joepublic Says:

    According to president Tarantino, what the board is looking for is ALL agencies agreeing to an evaluation/accountability component in their MOUs If they wish to provide services in the SUHSD. His quote: {“Questions from the community and the board seemed to center around the academic support programs offered after school. Based on the discussions, I think that an evaluation /accountability component is what the board is looking for in all future contracts/MOU’s with agencies that provide services…”} So, whether it’s SBCS, YMCA, or whatever group, they would be held to performance expectations. It’s about time, and maybe should become official board policy.
    Anniej: Thanks for the clarification regarding the audit. If Ms Lembo says there was one, where is it?

  26. Accountability Says:

    AnnieJ,

    We both have different opinions, as well as some facts. We both could be respectfully correct or incorrect. Time will tell. As for the Brand and/or Gandara, I’m not affiliated with any camp.

    Eastlaker,

    What the heck do any of the SBCS board members as well as donations have to do with this? They are not paid by SBCS. They are there to assure accountability is present, just like a board member of the SUHSD board, or a YMCA board member would. Your opinions about how Lembo is as a CEO is a community concern as most would agree. But keep the board members out of this. They’re in that position to serve the community only.

  27. Accountability Says:

    Cmon Eastlaker,

    It’s not like there’s criminal charges against anyone on the board, unlike SUHSD had. I think we both can agree on this. Geez…….

  28. Annie J Says:

    Accountability – often times good people with even better intentions look to pay it forward – I have no doubt that applies to certain individuals on the SBCS Board . With that said Non Profits are governed by laws that focus heavily on accountability of how taxpayers dollars are spent – how the money that comes in goes out and to who/what? As an example on top of her LARGE base salary Ms. Lembo also receives ‘other’ dollars yet, listed on the forms are expenses for such things as travel?? ( I will say the ‘political donations’ allegations are concerning and bare looking into to – either way this is not what one would call a win for the reputation of SBCS.)

    Just curious – were you in attendance at last Monday’s Board meeting? If not perhaps you might take the time to listen to the audio of both SBCS agenda items discussed that evening – including those in the public who spoke – surely then you will have an understanding of the concerns.

    ACCOUNTABILITY, ah yes, that is all we taxpayers are asking for.

  29. Annie J Says:

    joepublic – in my opinion, Mr. Tarantino and the entire Board have taken on the mantra ‘trust but verify’ and rightfully so. The general,public is of the belief there is more work to be done to get our District running efficiently and with integrity – but then ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.

  30. oskidoll Says:

    Accountability: the POINT is that the SBCS Board of Directors is ultimately responsible for the work proposed and supposedly accomplished by the organization. The role of the Board of Directors is oversight…and direction of the CEO.
    So, IF there are questions or concerns about the operations and delivery of program ‘deliverables’ (accomplishments proposed in the grant application) it is the responsibility of the SBCS Board of Directors to investigate and correct as necessary.

    It is also their responsibility to provide guidance and oversight to prevent any lapses in the organization’s performance of its contracted-for duties. They must be more than a rubber stamp!

    The SBCS Board cannot be ‘left out of it’ as the Board is by its intrinsic nature very much a part of SBCS. If the organization’s CEO is not performing, or is failing to keep the organization on track with its mission, the BOARD must take action to remediate and ameliorate.

  31. joepublic Says:

    Good points, oskidoll, and since SBCS receives public funding, maybe their board meetings should be open to the public. While Brown Act open meeting laws may not apply, it would be beneficial to the community to have these questions and concerns addressed by the SBCS Board of Directors in open, public sessions.

  32. eastlaker Says:

    Looks like I inadvertently struck a nerve with “Accountability”.

    Perhaps there is some inflammation there that needs clearing up? Otherwise, why so sensitive?

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