Parents, Teachers Speak Out Against Sweetwater Board

Sweetwater Union High School District Board Voted 3-2 To Layoff About 200 Teachers

Hundreds of parents and teachers rallied outside Monday night's Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting, expressing their anger about the layoffs their school district is facing.

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Sweetwater Union board meetings have become volatile since some board members were criminally charged for using their positions for personal gain. On Monday night, there were at least three Chula Vista police officers outside the meeting and four security guards inside.

Though there was not enough room for everyone inside the meeting, those standing outside made sure their voices were heard. Some had megaphones.

The district is facing a $27 million deficit. At issue Monday evening was a controversial vote to lay off about 200 teachers.

Teacher Gretel Rodriguez broke down in tears as she begged board members not to cut her job.

"You give me a worst-case scenario every year and I work it," she said. "I do whatever I have to do to serve that student."

Sarah Shephard was laid off two years ago, re-hired this year and just received another pink slip. Through tears, she said the experience has made her feel "completely demoralized. Completely."

AP English teacher Louise Fericell said having more than 40 students in a class is normal now. She said she is worried the layoffs will lead to her class size growing from 43 to 48.

Before Monday's meeting, she and other teachers held handmade 'Wanted' posters with the pictures of three Sweetwater Union school board members, two of whom are currently charged in a corruption scandal.

During the meeting, Alex Anguiano, the president of the teacher's union said, "Believe me, I want you to go to prison but do something right on your way out."

One man in the back of the room interrupted while a board member was speaking.

"You know what, if you guys were more honest about things, we would respect you a lot more but you're not honest and that's why we don't respect you," he said.

The man was escorted out of the meeting but the personal attacks against school board members kept coming.

Even so, the board voted 3 to 2 to move forward with the teacher layoffs. Teachers will get another formal layoff notice by May 15.

As another indication of how tense things have become at the meetings, 10News' media partner U-T San Diego is reporting that Sweetwater Union board member John McCann has been granted a restraining order against a parent he says he feels threatened by.