Sweetwater Union High School District Trustees Approve Proposal to Buy Financial Software

Update: The Sweetwater Union High School District voted unanimously Monday to buy new software to manage its finances. In response, a spokesperson for the County Office of Education said "We are disappointed in the multiple misstatements, factual errors and misleading information presented [at the board meeting]." 

The cash-strapped Sweetwater Union High School District, millions of dollars in debt, is planning to vote on whether to purchase a software system against the recommendation of the San Diego County Office of Education.

On Monday, Michael Simonson, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services for the San Diego County Office of Education, discouraged the board from moving forward with plans for a new software system.

The district said the new software system is in response to criticism of its antiquated software system that led to its budget crisis.

The district was $8 million in debt at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

As of March, the SUHSD's budget shortfall improved from $10.5 million to $4.9 million for the 2018-2019 school year. 

For 2019-2020, the district's projected deficit is $22.5 million which is 4.5 percent of the district's budget.

The county has offered the use of its temporary software "at zero cost" while the district can get on its financial feet or at least get a new software system through competitive bidding. 

However, at the next board meeting, a proposal is on the agenda to spend more than $300,000 a year for five years on a new software system that is being used by few, if any, school districts within California. 

Simonson thinks that's a mistake. 

The letter from the county was addressed to Board President Kevin Pike.

SUHSD spokesperson Manny Rubio said the district has done its due diligence. 

“This is a direct response to the shortfalls that have been brought up in terms of our financial situation,” Rubio said.

One community member, Kathleen Cheers, said even if the county's version isn't perfect, using it will save money that's needed to educate students. 

"Zero cost vs $300,000 plus a year - do the math," Cheers said. 

The district expects student enrollment to decline for the next two years. 

There are more than 4,000 employees in the district with 2,000 of those teachers.

The district serves an estimated 40,000 students in 28 schools including 11 middle schools, 13 high schools and four alternative education sites.

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