The Coronado School Board on June 8, enhanced the district's STEM program and said farewell to some long-serving employees. Staff photo by Julieta Soto.

Coronado Unified School District will expand STEM or natural sciences, math, engineering and technology-related opportunities up to the high school level next year, and the Board of Trustees recognized several retiring employees at the June 8 meeting.

A pair of community members also raised questions about a Coronado High School employee being placed on administrative leave after “inappropriate” material was sent to smartphones of students on May 24. Neither the district nor Coronado Police have provided any additional information since the event unfolded last month.

And Luke Johnson, student board representative, gave his last report, thanking the governing board and Coronado High School Principal Karin Mellina.

New STEM money

The trustees also approved a $98,000 contract for a district-wide Robotics Program Development & Implementation Services from May 2023 through June 30, 2024, thanks to funding from the district, Coronado Schools Foundation, Amazon, Qualcomm, and High Tide Pizza.

That was good news for the Coronado Middle School Robotics students, coaches and parents who shared their experience with the program and the importance of expanding similar opportunities up to the high school level.

One meeting attendee voiced support for this educational opportunity and board members acknowledged the program’s accomplishments, coach Roberta Lenert’s leadership and the importance to strengthen this type of program across the district.

Superintendent Karl Mueller made reference to the CHS Crown City Robotics Club and the approved contract expanding the middle school program onto the high school. 

We look forward to seeing the magic that continues to grow in the area of robotics across CUSD.”

-Superintendent Karl Mueller.
Superintendent Karl Mueller.

“We feel that this is going to enhance the experiences that we offer and build upon the small little club that we’ve had for a number of years,” Mueller said. “We look forward to seeing the magic that continues to grow in the area of robotics across CUSD.”

The program will allow Coronado High School students to compete, be eligible for college scholarships and collaborate with elementary and middle school students beginning in the fall.

Public comment regarding ongoing case

Two residents during public comments on non-agendized items expressed concern about the district’s hiring and retention practices, making reference to the late May investigation of a Coronado High School staff member who has been on paid administrative leave.

Bill Pate, a CUSD parent and lawyer, said school districts can move for the ‘expedited dismissal’ of employees who engage in immoral conduct.

Pate questioned if the board rescinded the alleged educator’s resignation, approved earlier in the year, he said.

Pate attempted to raise the same issue during a May 31 special board meeting, but he was interrupted by board members who said the comment was not related to an agenda item, was based on allegations and would not be permitted at “special school board meetings.”

Resident Ann Sonne, meanwhile, asked for clarification on the hiring and retention process by the district. 

“You have an obligation to students to prevent the hiring of unfit employees and to immediately terminate unfit employees,” said Sonne. “Please make this a priority.”

Celebrating retirees

The board also celebrated six longtime CUSD employees and acknowledged years-long service at the meeting.

Nicola McMahon, Robin Nixon, Jean Pehrsson, Todd Thielman, Christine Preciado, and Arthur Sawi are leaving the district this month.

McMahon, one of two registered nurses in classified staff, has held different roles throughout her years working at CUSD since August 2000.

Nixon will be retiring after 37 years in the district and from years in her role as athletic director.

Pehrsson is a Coronado High School English Department teacher who has worked in the district since 2005.

Thielman has worked at CUSD for 22 years and will be retiring from his role as Coronado Middle School physical education teacher.

Preciado, from Silver Strand Elementary School, will finish her 19th year with the district and conclude her teaching role in kindergarten classrooms.

Sawi has worked in the district for the past 28 years and is currently a physical education teacher in Village Elementary School.

Student representative graduating

Johnson, the student board representative, introduced his replacement in Wyatt Riebe, who has previously served in the high school’s Associated Student Body as Commissioner of Spirit.

Elementary, middle and high school teachers throughout Johnson’s educational career in the district special received shout-outs, and he encouraged students to attend school board meetings.

“He [Johnson] has provided a critical connection between the student perspective and experience and educational policy decisions that we make,” said President Renee Cavanaugh. “Thank you for being a valuable member of this team.”

The board presented Johnson with a parting gift, a travel backpack.

The Coronado Unified School Board gave Luke Johnson, the student board representative, a parting gift at the June 8 board meeting. Staff photo by Julieta Soto.

Board member comments

During Board member comments, Trustee Mal Sandie and Whitney Antrim discussed the Cyber Committee meeting in June.

As a Region 17 delegate, Antrim said she was inquired about and applied for a position in CSBA’s Legislative Committee.

Trustee Alexia Palacios-Peters commented on CoSA’s DigArts Extravaganza documentaries related to family stories, friendship, plastic pollution and the Tijuana sewage crisis that has polluted Coronado’s beaches.

“We have the beach day for seventh graders coming up, and they won’t be swimming in the water when they go to the beach, that’s not going to be an option,” said Palacios-Peters. 

Scot Youngblood mentioned major events taking place next week including: Senior awards, CMS promotion and the CHS graduation on June 15 at 7:00 p.m.

Cavannaugh said the next Budget Study Committee Meeting will take place June 21, and shared she attended a summit by the San Diego County Office of Education. 

Superintendent Mueller recognized the first group of six students to earn the State Seal of Civic Engagement. Mueller said 11 juniors are on the track to receive this seal.

The next Regular Board Meeting will take place at 4 p.m. on June 22 at the District Office.

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Julieta is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering education, small business and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from UC Berkeley where she studied English, Spanish, and Journalism. Apart from reporting, Julieta enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with family and friends.