CHULA VISTA, Calif. — The budget axe fell on the Sweetwater Union High School District Monday night after the school board in a 3-2 vote approved $20 million dollars in cuts despite protests and emotional pleas from parents, teachers, retired teachers, and students.
“Excuse my language, but I’m pissed off about what I’m seeing in a district that I sacrifice and gave 38 years as a teacher and 43 years as a coach,” said retired teacher and coach Greg Rady.
Superintendent Karen Janney, PhD, said with a $30 million shortfall, 237 positions will be eliminated including teachers, counselors, and librarians.
“Losing even one staff member impacts students and in our budget considerations students’ needs are our highest priority,” said Janney.
Chula Vista Middle School librarian Stephanie Hubner said she is expecting a pink slip.
“In this district where we have socioeconomic difference between haves and have nots, you take away a line set you are taking away resources to be successful," she said.
The meeting was emotional with some students crying, pleading to keep its learning centers open, but the board approved to close its 12 high school learning centers, which are known for alternative education.
“If it wasn’t for the Learning Center I wouldn’t be graduating,” said a Hilltop High School Learning Center student.
Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas also spoke in front of the board not as a city leader but as a grandmother.
"I have a granddaughter at the Learning Center and it’s her lifeline," said Mayor Salas.
Her granddaughter talked about the hope and motivation the center has given her at Hilltop High.
“Before Learning Center I didn’t know if I would be able to graduate, but now I’m finishing credits and I see graduation in my future," she said.
District Spokesperson Manny Rubio said 1,300 students will be impacted, transferring them back to campus for its Independent Study program. Rubio said it is about efficiency.
“We can actually tailor the services we are freeing a little bit better and we’ve helped them in a better way so they can be more successful at the end of the day,” said Rubio.
The district said most teachers and staff at Learning Centers will transfer back to independent study and not lose their jobs. Teachers and counselors worry students will only get one-on-one time once a week.
“We are talking about students that suffer from anxiety, depression, their parent is in prison, the foster care system, they are homeless. The Learning Center is a safe haven for these students,” said Maribel Andrade, Castle Park High School Learning Center counselor.
Under California education code, pink slips must be delivered by March 15. The community said it’s not giving up.
“You want to fight, you want to go to war, we are coming, and we are going and we are not going to stand for it dammit,” said Rady.
The district is looking for ways to cut an additional $10 million from its budget but has not laid out any proposals.
Board members Paula Hall and Nicholas Seguara voted against the cuts.