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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego

Good Schools for All is a podcast about education. Hosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn from the Education Synergy Alliance cut through the jargon and debate to get to the news and ideas that matter. Good schools are at the heart of our democracy and economy. We are about good schools for all kids.
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Good Schools For All by Voice of San Diego
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Now displaying: June, 2017
Jun 26, 2017

“The culture of the district was basically based on retaliation, intimidation. Those are the two words that I can think of,” said former Sweetwater school board member Bertha Lopez.

Exactly six years have passed since Sweetwater schools superintendent Jesus Gandara was terminated at 2 a.m. on June 21, 2011 following seven hours of closed door meetings.

A raucous crowd of 500 people gathered in a high school gymnasium the evening before to attend the Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting, many to demand better from their school district leaders. Some hoped Gandara’s departure would close a dark chapter in the district’s history dominated by stories of malfeasance.

But what was supposed to be the end was only the beginning of the end for leaders of California’s largest secondary public school district, which spans from the city of San Diego to the U.S.-Mexico border.

An investigation of Gandara’s activities, as well as the Sweetwater school board and contractors by the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office would last a few years and end in various criminal charges, including felony bribery and conspiracy. A couple Sweetwater leaders landed behind bars.

Much has been written about the DA’s case, the outcome and the troubling decision-making that occurred on Gandara’s watch.

But there is a story behind all those stories that has yet to be told, about the six individuals who set the whole thing in motion by demanding accountability from their local school leaders and going to the district attorney for help.

“I felt like if we didn't do it, nobody else would, and these folks would continue to get away with crimes,” said parent Stewart Payne.

“The public has more power than they think that they do,” said parent Maty Adato.

“Did I think justice was served? No. Not only no, but hell no,” said grandparent Kathleen Cheers.

Payne, Adato and Cheers were part of a group of mostly parents and concerned community members who spent years faithfully attending public school board meetings, scouring documents and sounding the alarm when students were shortchanged by district leaders.

To mark the six-year anniversary of Gandara’s termination, we put together a special podcast to allow them to share their story, their motivations, challenges and the sacrifices made along the way. They also have advice for others who want to see change at their local government agency.

Read the full transcript of the podcast interviews here.

Jun 23, 2017

Entering the real world is difficult for many young adults, but for some that transition often leaves them stuck in limbo.

The term "opportunity youth" is now being used to describe the growing number of 16- to 24-year-olds who don't attend school or have a job.

A few institutions in the region have started noticing the problem of disconnected youth and new programs serving the population are in the works. San Diego Continuing Education, a school that provides adults with different job and education alternatives, is one of the organizations testing out a few different solutions.

On this week’s podcast, cohosts Scott Lewis and Laura Kohn sit down with Carlos Cortez, president of San Diego Continuing Education, to talk about how the school is helping guide students who struggle with the transition into the so-called real world.

"Many [students] have so many gaps in their educational development that it really requires simultaneously providing foundational skills and support, while also providing them with the job training that's going to help them to land a job that pays a livable wage," Cortez said.

Number of the Week

9.6 percent: The percent of 16- to 24-year-olds in San Diego County who are considered opportunity youth. That's almost one in 10 of the 43,000 students in the county.

What’s Working

The International Rescue Committee: An organization that helps refugees settle in cities across the country, but also makes sure young adults have the tools to succeed in American schools.

 

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