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County Superintendent Appointee Can Now Override Sweetwater Board Decisions

The Sweetwater Union High School District central office is shown, Nov. 7, 2018.

Photo by KPBS Staff

Above: The Sweetwater Union High School District central office is shown, Nov. 7, 2018.

UPDATE: 4:50 p.m., Dec. 21, 2018

The Sweetwater Union High School District is reassuring staff and families that day-to-day operations will not significantly change under the San Diego County Office of Education's stay and rescind action. The action gives a fiscal monitor the authority to block school board decisions that could harm the district's financial health.

"(The monitor) communicated his intent to support us in the continued successful implementation of our budget solutions," Superintendent Karen Janney says in a letter to staff and parents. "As we have stated throughout this entire process we welcome and appreciate the SDCOE's input and support and look forward to working with them."

Original story:

The fiscal monitor helping the Sweetwater Union High School District navigate its budget woes now has the authority to override the district’s board.

In a letter sent to Board President Kevin Pike, the San Diego County Office of Education invokes a “stay and rescind action,” effective immediately.

“The Superintendent shall exercise the authority to stay and rescind any action by the Board that is determined to be inconsistent with the District’s ability to meet its financial obligations in the current or subsequent fiscal years,” the letter reads.

RELATED: County Office Of Ed Strengthening Budget Oversight After Scathing Sweetwater Report

In the letter, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Michael Simonson extends that authority to Mark Skvarna, whom he assigned to Sweetwater in October after the district’s budget problems came to light.

The district discovered a $10 million shortfall in its current budget. Further analysis by an independent fiscal crisis team found the district had been mismanaging its budget for years and could run out of cash to make payroll in the coming months.

The county office has also ordered an audit to uncover potential fraud.

The district did not comment on the stay and rescind action, but said Thursday it would work cooperatively with stakeholders to stabilize the budget and address the culture and practices that may have led to its poor financial health.

“The financial situation we face was not created overnight, nor will it go away overnight, but you, as a community, have our deepest commitment that we will do everything we can possibly do to make this right,” district leadership said in a statement. “The students of the district are our utmost priority and we, with your continued support, can make this right together.”

A fiscal monitor can now override Sweetwater Union High School District School Board decisions he believes will further damage the district’s financial health.

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