||Trailer Park Schools and Homeless Teachers
To understand the reason for the serious problems in the Sweetwater Unified High School District-the fact that only 15% of its graduates obtain bachelors degrees, the fact that Sweetwater students are not even required to have a C average to get a high school diploma, one must understand the teaching environment in the district.
Now most professionals have an office, a cubicle, or a place of their own . In that place they have all the things that help them do their job-a computer, stationary, files, books, organizers etc. Now just imagine that this professional had to move to a colleagues office every hour and take all of his belongings with him. Or maybe he didn't have an office at all and somehow had to transport all of his office stuff from room to room. This is the situation that Sweetwater District School Teachers find themselves in--the phenomenon of the "traveling teacher" who uses other teacher's rooms, moving through the campus with a shopping cart full of their teaching possessions in the educational equivalent of occupational homelessness. They use other teachers rooms since most teachers have what is called a prep period. One period of the day when they have no class and they can spend that period grading papers, calling parents, using the copy room, planning lessons or any of the other eighty-seven things the average teacher must do on a daily basis. Teachers in the rest of the country can spend their prep period in their quiet empty room, which they can straighten up and rearrange in the most educationally advantageous manner. Can this happen at Sweetwater? NOOOOH! Most teachers who share their room can't even stand to stay in it during their prep period since the traveling teacher usually gets there after most of the students, he or she is usually out of breath having to drag all of their teaching supplies sometimes completely across a 12-acre campus. Plus a traveling teacher is usually a new teacher who has not yet mastered the art of discipline so there is usually some degree of bedlam going on in the class, making it uninhabitable by anyone but the teacher and students who are required to be in there. So where does the host teacher go to write his lessons or to grade student work? Well there is the teacher lounge but the lounge is set up in such a way that it is difficult to do anything but lounge in there. Most teachers lounges are a combination of kitchen and living room with any teacher workroom facilities thrown in as an afterthought.
As stated earlier, it is a common sense assumption that professionals need their own place to work, but in the Alice in Wonderland of the Sweetwater School District, there is no such thing as common sense. Any old empty classroom will do! We have carts you can put your stuff in! Its a more efficient utilization of district resources! Well it may be more efficient from a dollars and sense standpoint but anyone who has ever been a traveling teacher will tell you that they are not as effective a teacher when they have to travel. An ineffective teacher means an ineffective learner-hence the 15% college graduation rate, the dropping of the requirement for a C average to graduate from Sweetwater.
Teachers from other districts are shocked when they hear about the traveling teacher phenomenon at Sweetwater. Traveling teachers are unheard of in other districts. Common sense reigns in most other districts, not at Sweetwater.
When confronted with the problems of traveling teachers, the administrative mantra is that they understand the problem, but they just don't have the money to build more classrooms. But amazingly enough, when the money was given to them by the voters to build more classrooms, they choose not to. Which brings us to the subject of Proposition BB.
The False Messiah: Proposition BB
The following is the text of Proposition BB. This was taken from the County of San Diego November 7, 2000 General Election Sample Ballot distributed to the voters of the Sweetwater Union High School District
"To relieve overcrowding, repair local schools and improve safety conditions for students in the Sweetwater Union
High School District, serving the communities of Bonita, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, San Ysidro
and portions of San Diego, shall the District repair and upgrade school facilities, adding classrooms; improving fire alarms; removing asbestos; upgrading electrical wiring; renovating water and sewer lines; improving heating and ventilation systems; renovating restrooms; and replacing worn roofs by issuing $187 million of bonds, at interest rates within the legal limit?"
Sounds pretty good. Note that the Proposition specifically identifies the school facilities projects to be funded, which were 1) adding classrooms 2) improving fire alarms. 3) removing asbestos 4) upgrading electrical wiring, 5) renovating water and sewer lines, 6) improving heating and ventilation systems, 7) renovating restrooms, and 8) replacing worn roofs.
Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, was one of the first schools to receive BB funding. Mar Vista was built to accommodate 1300 students and it now has over 2400. It has100 teachers and approximately 75 classrooms so it has the phenomenon of the "traveling teacher" who uses other teacher's rooms, moving through the campus with a shopping cart full of their teaching possessions in the educational equivalent of occupational homelessness. Try imagining doing your jobs while having to move to other colleague's offices every two hours! This is the situation in most of the schools in the Sweetwater District, so hundreds of teachers volunteered to run phone banks to contact every single voter in the district to persuade them to vote for Proposition BB. Imagine the joy when Proposition BB passed and (according to the Proposition) more classrooms would be built. The joy soon turned to horror though when the district decided to NOT build more classrooms, but a second GYM! (They didn't even tear down the old one.) So the horrendous overcrowding continues, teachers are less effective teachers, so students are less effective learners all because of the misuse of public funds by the Sweetwater School Board.
Trying to get an explanation as to why one would build a second gym at a school with 75 classrooms and 100 teachers is a true adventure in the Alice in Wonderland world of the Sweetwater Union High School District. The Principal of Mar Vista, at a staff meeting, explained that it was built because it could be seen from the street, and people wanted to see how their money was being spent. Superintendant Brand, in a La Prensa newspaper interview states that it was the planning committee at both sites (Sweetwater High Schools Planning Committee just happened to come up with a gym as their first priority too) that set the priority for school improvements. But according to one member of the planning committee, no one on the committee had a gym as their first priority, and everyone on the committee was shocked when the district came back and told them that they were going to build a gym. Diane Rose, the mayor of Imperial Beach supposedly quit the group in disgust when it was announced that a gym would be built.
When asked about it at a Candidate Forum on Sept. 12, Board Member Greg Sand oval, instead of proudly taking credit for the nine million dollar project, acted uncharacteristically clueless about it, stating that he had just talked to the principal about it the other day, and she had mentioned something about some kind of committee that had approved it. The head of the teachers union at the school, Nancy Cummins-Slovik, who was a member of the Planning Committee, defended the building of a gym vigorously, stating that they had voted for it, even though she was a member of the Planning Committee.
It would seems that a nine million dollar project should have some kind of written authorization, but remember this is Alice in Sweetwaterland. When Cummins-Slovik was asked for a copy of the Planning Committees written directives, She replied. Contact Katy Wright in Planning at the District Office. All meetings were open to the faculty & staff-check FAC minutes and bulletins. Only a few teachers showed up to give input. Thats about it." The implication being that the gym was the result of teacher indifference. A message left with Katy Wright produced a reply from Rafael Munoz, the Assistant Director of Planning at SUHSD suggesting we talk to the Mar Vista Principal and Assistant Principal, Bob Aguilar, also a Planning Committee member. So the buck is passed again in another Sweetwater runaround. Stay tuned to the next installment of Who Ordered The Nine Million Dollar Gym?
Harassment and Intimidation: A Sweetwater Tradition
A letter to Rick Roberts
May 23, 2002
I am teacher and I am writing to you only after I have reached a point of great frustration in trying to get help within my school district. Bad things are happening there. I know you've probably heard that before, but I really mean BAD!
In fact, I have some court documents that I am faxing you to prove it. Many of our high school districts (Sweetwater Union High School District in San Diego County) administrators, are corrupt. The people they are hiring to protect our students are hurting them.
Example: At Mar Vista High School, a security guard, Brent Davis, was arrested and pled guilty to 9 counts of unlawful sexual intercourse with two minors at that school, one of them was a cheerleader. This was horrific enough. But the real clincher is that the school district did not inform, at least one of the girls parents. They had believed until contacted by another parent and told to look up the court record that their daughter had been called in and questioned about an incident that never took place. This is unbelievable! According to a teacher at that school, one school administrator tried to hide the incident. That a school district would try to hide this from a parent! Shouldn't they be trying to help this child and her family, not protect its own butt. This child and her mother are now suing the district.
In the same school district, another security guard/teachers assistant who worked with first high school students, then later junior high school students, until he was arrested for raping his own daughter, was kept on in the district even though a principal knew he had been let go at another school for inappropriate conduct with female students. As you will note from the psychologists report I have enclosed, after being let go from Palomar High School, National City Middle School Principal Jose Brosz hired him knowing he had problems. Then, there was an incident in which he made a female student feel uncomfortable. This man was working with special education students at this middle school some of the most vulnerable young people around and was still kept on and only when he was arrested for the sexual intercourse with his own teenage daughter, did our district fire him. How scary!
This is something I uncovered with some tips and one hour research in the courthouse. How many other incidents are there I dont know about? Some of our parents are poor and uneducated and I think the district thinks they can fool them. I am a teacher trying to help. Can you help us make the district come clean about all this? We believe they have paid out money to settle other claims such as these and sexual harassment against female employees?
(Please do not release my name. I wish to remain anonymous because I have already been on the receiving end of some heavy retaliation.)
State of California vs. Brent Davis
State of California vs. Jorge Alvarez
Katy C vs. SUHSD
$678,000 Worth of Wrongful Termination
Mary Anne Weegar was the head of categorical programs for the Sweetwater Union High School District until 1999. Categorical programs are programs and money allocated for specific educational purposes by both the state and federal governments. Sweetwater received over $2.5 million in categorical aid from the Federal government and over $4.5 million from the state of California in fiscal year 2001. There are stringent requirements on how categorical money can be used and Weegar attempted to see that the money was spent properly. This was not appreciated by those above her and her authority as watchdog over categorical spending was slowly eroded. A computer whiz student aide who helped Weegar with her computers noticed a form in the Superintendents part of the computer network called Reacquiring of categorical funds When it was discovered that someone had accessed this part of the network, Weegar was locked out of her office, forced to retire,and the young computer whiz was accosted in the parking lot by a well known Sweetwater sociopath and threatened with denial of graduation. The young mans father was a cop and soon straightened that out, but Weegar was out of a job and soon filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the District.
The main witnesses called from the district were Superintendent Ed Brand and Chief Financial Officer Barry Dragon. Dragon was formerly with Arthur Anderson and when he was asked recently by a concerned citizen what the Superintendents annual salary was, ($200,000), since no one else at the District Office knew, he reacted as if the concerned citizen had threatened to crash a plane into the District Office. When reminded that he and the Superintendent were public servants and that their salaries were from public funds, his venom and hostility subsided and he belatedly divulged the evidently little known fact that Brand (at $200,000 per year) makes more than the Governor of California ($175,000 per year).
When Brand testified, he stated that he had a vast and thorough knowledge of all of Sweetwaters policies and regulations, but when asked which policy gave him the authority to lock Weegar out of her office, he sat slack-jawed and speechless for over a minute and never could come up with any legal justification for locking out the 30 year veteran employee.
The District was eventually found guilty of wrongful termination and ordered to pay Weegar $678,000. When asked to comment about the Weegar case at the August 26th Board Meeting, Brand stated that he couldnt since it was under appeal and that they were confident they would prevail.However if they appeal, they will have to pay 10% annual interest on the judgement when they ultimately lose. But its not their money, so what do they care?
One cant help but wonder, how many teachers could have been hired with $678,000? How many classrooms could have been repaired for $678,000 dollars? How many books and supplies could have been bought for $678,000. Evil and injustice always has a price and the Mary Ann Weegar case is a good example.
Sometime in July, a bullet was fired through Weegars attorneys office window. He said the only case that it could have been related to was the Weegar case.
Facts About the Weegar Case