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Karen Janney
Sweetwater Union High School Superintendent Karen Janney / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the June 25 Morning Report. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox.

In the wake of a damning investigation that suggested potential criminal fraud, Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Karen Janney was placed on administrative leave Wednesday.

A long-awaited audit from a fiscal watchdog agency came out two days earlier and accused Janney and three other school district workers of deliberately covering up budget problems within the district. Sweetwater’s board met in a closed session Wednesday and made the decision to put her on leave.

Board president Frank Tarantino was the only board member who voted against putting Janney on leave. He stepped down as board president, but did not resign from the board.

The district’s fiscal woes started back in September 2018, when it suddenly became apparent the district had overspent by $30 million. Later reporting by Voice of San Diego showed that the source of the overspending had been across-the-board raises that some within the district knew were unaffordable. Two individuals named in the recent audit were shown to have helped cover up the overspending, Voice of San Diego revealed.

On Wednesday, Sweetwater’s board also voted to lay off 209 workers, including teachers, counselors and librarians.

The district has been forced to cut tens of millions from its budget since the massive overspending was first revealed. The district has already lost hundreds of teachers who took an early retirement last year that was designed to help save money.

In order to stay afloat the district will need to make even bigger cuts in the following years. Earlier in the week, board members voted to make up to $43 million in cuts next, $84 million the year after that and $139 million the year after that.

One public commenter noted that none of the people being laid off was responsible for covering up the district’s finances or potential criminal fraud.

Will Huntsberry

Will Huntsberry is a senior investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego.

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