Is Sweetwater Too Big to Function Well?


Some people feel that Sweetwater High School District is too big for its britches. They are looking into the possibility of dissolving the district so that each city takes care of its own students. They claim that the purpose would be to promote more parental involvement, accountability, and local control. Is this a crazy idea? Let’s explore it for a bit.

Sweetwater is the largest secondary school district in California. The district serves over 42,000 students in twenty-five high and middle schools. These schools are spread out over four cities: Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City, and San Diego.

As everyone knows, controversies have plagued Sweetwater for years. A recent superintendent was fired after a tumultuous reign, the district’s contracting system seems compromised, and there have been several questionable expenditures of bond money in the past. Needless to say, the Sweetwater District is not without its critics.

However, if dissolving the district is the only alternative, how plausible would such an effort be? It would not be the first school district to fold, but often the reason others have gone this route has been because, financially, there was no other choice. That is not necessarily the case here. Sweetwater is suffering, as are all school districts in California, but it is far from being insolvent. So, it seems the effort would have to be led externally.

Who would be affected the most? There are many groups of stakeholders. Obviously, there are the teachers, but there is also the staff and students. It seems that (and someone please add to this) teachers could be displaced especially if the school system that they are being folded into already had secondary teachers (like San Diego Unified), but might not (?), if they were added to a system that did not already have that category (like Chula Vista Elementary). Staff, on the other hand, might be affected in either scenario. As far as how students would be affected would depend on who you talk to and we really couldn’t measure that without looking back after five years or so.

Would it improve the system? That also sounds like a subjective answer and the better question is: what is broken that needs to be fixed?

Which do you prefer? Is reform not sufficient to satisfy critics? Post a comment and voice your position.

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One Response to Is Sweetwater Too Big to Function Well?

  1. annie j says:

    while i agree that there is much about sweetwater that needs to be fixed i do NOT believe dissolving the district would in the best interest of the students or the taxpayers.

    many steps need to be taken to ‘clean’ up the district, let us begin with board members who can NOT be brought via campaign contributions – something all of them have done HOWEVER board member lopez realized early on what was going on and began challenging the staus quo. additionally we need to begin the search for a ‘new’ superintendent – again, one that can not be bought.

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