The Star-News

Exploring unification

Sat, Feb 08 2014 12:00 PM Posted By: Robert Moreno

Chula Vista Councilwoman Mary Salas put forth a proposal to City Council on Jan. 28 that she says will “improve the overall quality of education” for students attending schools in Chula Vista.

The councilwoman, who is running for mayor, proposed the idea to unify schools in the two school districts in Chula Vista.

“I really believe that a unified school district would provide a better continuity of education for our students,” Salas said.

Based on her research, she said, people make decisions where to live and where to locate their businesses based on the educational opportunities in the community.

“Cities are defined by the quality of their school systems,” Salas said.

The Chula Vista Elementary School District is home to thousands of K-8 students in the city.

The Sweetwater Union High School District educates high school students in Chula Vista, National City, Imperial Beach and South San Diego.

She said unification also makes schools more open to the community when it comes to its finances.

“It requires the school districts to have full disclosure of their financials, to lay it all on the table,” Salas said. “It really makes the school districts be transparent about their finances and we as taxpayers should know that.”

Sweetwater Trustee John McCann said the unification could make schools more liable for their actions.

“This idea has been around for several decades and it would bring additional local control, accountability and continuity to our children’s education,” he said.

McCann said he would need to explore all the details of the proposal before he decides whether he would fully support the idea.

He said he does, however, like the concept.

Chula Vista Elementary School District Director of Communications Anthony Millican said the idea is something the district “isn’t interested in right now,” citing financial implications such as unfunded pension obligations.

Salas said she has met with Chula Vista Elementary School Superintendent Francisco Escobedo to discuss the proposal.

Escobedo said in an e-mailed statement: “We do have significant reservations but will study the possibility.”

National City Mayor Ron Morrison said although Salas mentions Chula Vista schools in her proposal, he said National City will also be impacted if schools were to unify.

“If the Chula Vista schools unify that only leaves (the) National School District and the South Bay District, so they would have to unify also,” he said. “I don’t think a lot of thought went into this.”

Morrison said his main concern is also dealing with the financial aspects, specifically how bond money will be distributed among the schools.

Salas said she doesn’t’ t anticipate the item will get to a vote at the next council meeting on Feb. 18.

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