by Photo by Sarah Berjan

An overflow crowd gathered Monday to demand transparency and accountability from elected district officials, renovations at Castle Park High School’s crumbling campus anonymously documented on social media

The group of students, community members, and staff spoke in the public comment section of the Sweetwater Union High School District meeting. Board members granted two minutes to about 15 speakers to voice their frustrations. 

Adrian Gomez, an incoming junior and student-athlete at Castle Park High School, said this was a long time coming for his community as nearby schools have received updates. A Castle Park High School community forum was held on June 2 to allow for discussion and open communication with a district representative. 

“We did not get much done except rally a lot of our troops,” Gomez said. “A lot of the answers we were looking for, we were told we were going to get from our principal. We still have yet to be referred to any link or document from the board representative from that meeting. We got a lot of promises at that meeting, but nothing on paper. Promises about plans for a football field, but that is it. As a football player, I am here to say we need a lot more than a football field.” 

Gomez addressed the conditions of Castle Park High School to district officials saying, “we have termites in the library, mold in the windowsills, it goes from stained bathrooms, trough urinals; when was the last time you guys used through urinals? Do your bathrooms have cracked windows and stalls that cant lock? Try going to the bathroom in my school. We don't get the privacy that you get. It is inhumane that we have to deal with these things, and you guys get to sit in your pretty offices.”

Parent of an upcoming junior and a recent graduate at Castle Park High School, Pedro Gomez told board members that the neglected conditions of the school “made me feel sad, ashamed, and angry. How could this happen? How could there not be a system in place that assures these kinds of things could be repaired, remodeled, maintained or rebuilt?”. 

“I knew that the campus was not luxurious by any means. The pride that we have in our school and the Trojan community allowed us to disregard the ugly conditions. Seeing flaking paint, damaged bleachers, termite-damaged windowsills, bathrooms in worse conditions than most penitentiary centers, and drama building stages with huge holes in them, ceilings with broken tiles, and leaking roofs. Sports fields have more dirt, cobbles, and weeds than grass. One social page has really put things in perspective for me,” Pedro Gomez said. 

Gomez told board members that the community needs “answers, transparency, and a whole lot of accountability.”  

“I’m not here to point fingers yet. I’m here to let you know that as a board you have all failed the students in our community,” he said. 

Retired social justice educator, Thomas Flores, addressed his frustrations to the board, saying neglect, dereliction of duty, and lack of forward-planning are shown by the board. 

“You don't wait until the last minute when stuff is falling apart and crumbling when you touch it. I speak symbolically, but also realistically,” Flores said. 

Flores addressed board members and the audience by saying, "I trust that you will carry out the duties to which you were elected to implement. I ask everyone in this community to trust but to verify. It seems that you have counted on people being silent and not following up in determining whether accountability has been met.” 

The Sweetwater Union High School District board will meet in two weeks to adopt their new budget for the 2022-2023 school year.

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