Yes, Yogi, you were right. It is like “deja vu all over again” .
In the waning moments of 2011, Sweetwater Union High School District officials past and present had their homes raided by the District Attorney’s office. Perhaps the only people not stunned by news that investigators were rummaging through the personal belongings of board member Pearl Quiñones or knocking on the front door of Arlie Ricasa —to name but two people facing corruption charges against them—were those in the inner circles of law enforcement and the school district.
SUHSD isn’t Las Vegas. What happens in the district doesn’t stay in the district. If you want to know who is in line for a promotion, who is on their way out or who is going to have to lawyer up chances are most of that information can be heard at the district board meetings. You just need to know which people to sit next to.
But if you’re a district employee there is an unspoken penalty for speaking out of turn or even being seen with the wrong people. At least, that’s the message outsiders hear time and again when they drop in and start asking questions.
As one individual wrote in an email.
“Thank you again for covering this story. Many teachers have not been able to speak out for years due to the culture of retribution in our district. I would like to remain anonymous as a result of this.“
The sentiment was prompted by yet another legal blast in the ongoing Sweetwater corruption saga. The grand jury on Dec. 28 announced it was indicting its own set of suspects connected to the the school district.
Whether the timing of the announcement was intended to be symbolic or merely coincidental doesn’t make much difference to weary employees who are sick of learning about leadership’s alleged corruption at press conferences, or of parents who, really, just want their kids to get the best education minus the drama. Is that too much to ask? A reasonable person would say no. But if you watch what happens at the district on a daily basis and speak up in hope righting wrongs, speaking out could get you in trouble.
The corruption trial involving former Superintendent Jesus Gandara, Quiñones, Ricasa and others is supposed to begin in February. On Jan.7 the figures in the grand jury action will be in court for arraignment. High profile cases like these generally get tongues wagging. Of course, for those who choose to be mute for fear of losing their jobs or being retaliated against, there are other ways of getting a message across.
“I have been present at numerous SUHSD board meetings to listen to the antics and folly of these inept, corrupt figureheads. I have created three visuals for your use.”
To see a related video, click here.