Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mayor Cheryl Cox confronts Sweetwater Union High School District; CVESD Supt. Escobedo needs to do a LOT MORE than work on "relationships"

Mayor takes aim at Sweetwater during speech
Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox delivers final state of the city, addresses issues at Sweetwater
By Allison Sampite-Montecalvo
Feb. 25, 2014

CHULA VISTA — Chula Vista Mayor Cheryl Cox delivered her final state of the city address Tuesday night to a packed city hall, using the forum to zero in on the Sweetwater school district, which she said needs to improve its relationship with the community...

Cox said the Sweetwater Union High school District's problems continue to affect the city’s reputation and students’ future. A major issue in the district has been the prosecution of four of five school board members on corruption charges. One has since pleaded guilty and resigned...

Cox said she’s done watching poor governance get worse.

[Maura Larkins comment: I see no indication at all that Sweetwater has gotten worse. Mayor Cox seems to be forgetting decades of bad behavior. Or perhaps Cox is only worried about contractor kickbacks, not the deeper corruption that affects students directly.

Does Mayor Cox think that the Mary Ann Weegar case was a result of better governance than what SUHSD has at present? And does she think Bonny Garcia gave better legal advice than Dan Shinoff does? Just over two years ago attorney Dan Shinoff took over Bonny Garcia's duties as SUHSD's lawyer for day-to-day advice. Shinoff continues, as he has done for over a decade, to defend the district when it gets sued. The board seems to think that Shinoff is good at silencing public comment about the district, but Mr. Shinoff seems to have lost his touch in that regard. He doesn't appear to have been much help to San Ysidro School District recently. Does Mayor Cox think that perenniel SUHSD Supt. Ed Brand suddenly became corrupt?]

See all SDER posts re Dan Shinoff.

“I am compelled to confront Sweetwater’s current problems through my ability to convene community members in constructive conversation,” she said. “It’s clear that the district is an asset that reflects on perceptions the city.”

In essence, she said it’s time for the district to overcome its bad reputation.

...In a statement released the following day, Sweetwater district superintendent Ed Brand said that putting learning first has been and will continue to be, the commitment of the district.

“Is the Sweetwater Union High School District going through a difficult time? Yes," Brand said. "Are there actions that we can take to improve the district? Of course there are. We appreciate the concern of Mayor Cox and welcome a dialogue on how to move forward."

Francisco Escobedo, superintendent of the Chula Vista Elementary School District, said her comments were poignant.

“I understand where she’s coming from and I look forward to improving our relationship and collaboration with Sweetwater,” he said.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Escobedo is right not to attack Sweetwater. He needs to clean up corruption at CVESD, but he has shown absolutely no interest in any such effort.]

Councilman Rudy Ramirez said he was glad to hear her weigh in on the issue.

“I like that she stepped out on Sweetwater,” he said. “It was a little uncharacteristic and edgy for her.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: Edgy? Are you kidding, Mr. Ramirez? It's about time someone made an issue of school corruption.]

Cox also discussed the concept of unifying the Sweetwater district with local elementary school districts, a proposal brought up last month by fellow Councilwoman Mary Salas.

“The idea of unifying K-12 was … in response to what I perceive to be frustration with the Sweetwater district,” she said. “First, it doesn’t address the issue of better governance, and second, minus the support of districts themselves, unification is dead on arrival.”

[Maura Larkins' comment: Good point! The unification project does NOT address the issue of better governance. Cheryl Cox knows that there are problems at CVESD. I suspect that she was pretty disgusted with CVESD by the time she left.] Cox, who will be termed out of the mayor's office in the fall, said the culture at Sweetwater should change at the top before a conversation about unification can be had.

“We’ve turned things around at city hall in the face of dire circumstances,” she said. “The same can be done at Sweetwater.”...

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