SUHSD superintendent placed on leave, elimination of over 200 positions confirmed in board meeting


Lucia Rivera

Karen Janney, Ed.D (left) sits next to former Board of Trustees President Frank Tarantino while a speaker addressed the Board on February 24. Janney was placed on paid administrative leave on June 24, after which Tarantino stepped down as president.

Lucia Rivera, Editor-in-Chief

During a closed special meeting on June 24, the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) Board of Trustees voted 4-1 to place superintendent Karen Janney, Ed.D. on paid administrative leave. Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations Moises Aguirre will fill the role of interim superintendent.

This vote took place after the San Diego County Office of Education and the Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistant Team (FCMAT) released an extraordinary audit of the SUHSD that found that “there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that fraud, misappropriation of funds and/or assets, or other illegal fiscal practices may have occurred in the specific areas reviewed.”

“The board’s action is not a disciplinary action but it is to support and ensure an efficient investigation of the concerns raised in the FCMAT report,” former Board President Frank Tarantino said in the YouTube video of the closing of the closed meeting.

Tarantino stepped down as President during the closed meeting as well, leading Board Vice President Nicholas Segura to take over his position immediately until an election takes place.

“As evident in the vote of the action taken in closed session, it is my feeling that the board deserves a leader that supports this action,” Tarantino said in reference to the vote to place Janney on paid administrative leave. He was the only board member to vote against the motion.”

Additionally, the Board of Trustees passed Resolution No. 4681 to eliminate the 209.13 positions of employees who had previously received notices of layoffs on June 24 during a special meeting. The meeting was broadcasted live on YouTube and followed an in-person meeting on February 24 when Resolution No. 4658 was passed.

After much discussion, Resolution No. 4681, which finalizes the elimination of librarians from the SUHSD, was adopted with a priority set to bring back librarians when able in the future. After three failed motions, Board Member and representative of Area 2, Kevin Pike made the motion that was then seconded by Board Member and representative of Area 1, Arturo Solis. Tarantino, Solis and Pike voted ‘yes,’ while Segura and Board Member Paula Hall voted ‘no.’

“[The] motion is to adopt the resolution as presented. As enrollment and resources present themselves–and [when] we’re in a position to bring back staff– then librarians would be our priority,” Tarantino said during the meeting.

Among the total 209.13 positions that are eliminated are several Bonita Vista High (BVH) staff members including Elizabeth Tran, Timothy Woolston, Michael Wegenka, Lalaine Torres, Randi Wittak, Dennis Perez and Lubna Nona according to Resolution No. 4681, Exhibit A.

Janney, expressed that as factors like enrollment numbers are made apparent in the future, SUHSD will be considering the return of laid off staff members. Based on the latest decision, librarians would be the first to return if the budget allows. Throughout the board meeting, Pike reiterated his opinion that “We [the Board of Trustees] need to make some sort of compromise so that we can’t just cut them [librarians] across the board.”

Board of Trustees President Nicholas Segura became president on June 24 after Frank Tarantino stepped down as president during a closed board meeting. (Lucia Rivera)

Meanwhile, Segura expressed his reasons for disagreeing with the presented motion to be a lack of transparency to the public on the matter and a lack of cuts from the top, something that he stated would show leadership from the district administration. Earlier on in the meeting, Hall stated she could not support one version of the resolution due to the input she has received from her community.

“I understand that we have a need to make cuts, I’ve been noting that for quite a long time. But from all the public comments, contacts from people, the people that live in my area– that I represent, but not just my area– all across the district, I have to vote my conscience and support what they’re expressing and vote no on this resolution,” Hall said.

In addition to passing Resolution No. 4681, the board voted unanimously in favor of Board Item C.2. to reduce the work years of two Program Manager positions from 222 days to 205 days. Janney stated this was an example of cutting district management as Segura had suggested earlier in a failed motion.