Sweetwater Union High School District

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District office in Chula Vista, California

The Sweetwater Union High School District is a school district headquartered in Chula Vista, California.[1] As of 2011, the school district is the largest secondary school district in California.[2]

The union high school district serves over 42,000 high school-aged students and over 32,000 adult learners. Located in the southwestern part of San Diego County between downtown San Diego and the International Border with Mexico, the district serves the communities of Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City and the San Ysidro portion of San Diego.

Sweetwater is one of the most ethnically and economically diverse districts in California. Approximately 87 percent of students belong to an ethnic minority group and over 40 percent of students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program.

Overseen by a five-member Board of Trustees, the district operates 14 high schools (11 regular, two alternative, one charter); 11 middle schools; 4 Adult schools; a regional occupational program (ROP); and special education.

The district has earned recognition for its "Compact for Success" program, a deal made with San Diego State University that guarantees Sweetwater graduates admission to the university if they meet certain requirements all throughout their High School career.


Board of Trustees: Jim Cartmill, President; John McCann; Bertha J. López; two vacancies.

Superintendent: Edward Brand (replacing Jesus M. Gandara, Ed.D. who was ousted June 21, 2011)

Assistant Superintendents:
Sandra C. Huezo (Human Resources)

Executive Directors:
Maria Castilleja (Curriculum and Instruction)

Lead Principals (Area Superintendents):
Ramon Leyba
Bonita Vista Middle & High, Chula Vista Middle & High, Marvista Middle & High, National City Middle, Granger Junior High, Sweetwater High, Palomar High, Options Secondary School, Chula Vista Adult, Montgomery Adult, San Ysidro Adult, National City Adult.

Maria Esther Lizarraga
Eastlake Middle & High, Montgomery Middle & High, Southwest Middle, High

Jose Brosz
Castle Park Middle & High, Hiltop Middle & High, Olympian High, Otay Ranch High, Rancho Del Rey Middle, San Ysidro High

Cabinet Members:
Edward M. Brand - Superintendent
Imelda Genovese - Executive Assistant to the Superintendent
Sandra C Huezo - Assistant Superintendent - Human Resources
Thomas Calhoun - Chief Facilities Executive
Albert G. Alt - Chief Financial Officer
Maria Castilleja - Executive Director - Curriculum & Instruction
Ramon Leyba - Director/Lead Principal
Jose Brosz - Lead Principal
Maria Esther Lizarraga - Lead Principal
Manuel Rubio - Director, Grants & Communications


High schools[edit]

Middle schools[edit]

  • Bonita Vista Middle School [21]
  • Castle Park Middle School [22]
  • Chula Vista Middle School [23]
  • Eastlake Middle School [24]
  • Granger Junior High School [25]
  • Hilltop Middle School [26]
  • Mar Vista Middle School [27]
  • Montgomery Middle School [28]
  • National City Middle School [29]
  • Rancho Del Rey Middle School [30]
  • Southwest Middle School [31]

Senior Portfolio Controversy[edit]

In December, 2005, the school board voted to eliminate its senior portfolio project as a requirement for high school graduation after months of student protests.[3] Students, led by Bonita Vista High School senior Gordon Siu, protested outside district offices and made their case during the October school board meeting. In one example presented during the meeting, a student passed the requirement despite writing an essay about how he learned a valuable lesson in using a glue stick to make greeting cards. While portfolio supporters argued that the portfolio "gives students the chance to connect their learning to the real world," Siu criticized the portfolio in an editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, lampooning the portfolio's "magical ability to instill communications and life skills in students, which apparently make up for four years of lousy instruction."[4][5]
Because the school board voted to end the requirement beginning with the class of 2007, Siu, Bonita Vista's co-salutatorian, submitted a satirical portfolio to demonstrate how lax the requirements are to pass. School officials failed him, which Siu believed was retaliation. He redid the portfolio and was allowed to graduate.[6]

This controversy helped spark a national debate over alternative assessment, and was covered in a U.S. News & World Report article which asked, "Are students working too hard for a high school diploma?"[7]

2012 Bribery Charges[edit]

In 2012, charges including bribery and perjury were filed against current and former Sweetwater Union High School district officials. The probe has so far resulted in guilty pleas from two construction contractors, a bond underwriter, former Superintendent Jesus Gandara and former board member Gregorio Sandoval. Board members Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quiñones pleaded guilty and were forced from office. Board members Bertha Lopez and James Cartmill pleaded guilty but remain in office. The district attorney alleged widespread corruption and bribery, involving meals and other considerations given to officials in consideration for favorable treatment on school bond projects. Many of the plea agreements involved lesser charges such as accepting gifts above state limits and failure to report gifts.[8]


  1. ^ "Home." Sweetwater Union High School District. Retrieved on March 30, 2010.
  2. ^ "Community". 2011 membership & resource guide. Chula Vista Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]
  8. ^ Moran, Greg (2014-04-29). "South County probe: Case status". U-T San Diego. Retrieved 29 April 2014. 

External links[edit]