Valedictorian Used Her Privilege and Her Platform to Call Out Her Failing High School

Nataly Buhr is the valedictorian of San Ysidro High School in San Diego, California. On June 6th, Nataly’s speech during her graduation set the Internet on a frenzy. Even after all this time, she is being dragged (mostly by adults) and praised (mostly by students/young people) under the hashtag #NatalyBuhr. Nataly made a bold move that has gone viral, and people can’t stop talking about. In my humble opinion, I can’t believe this took so long. 2019 marked the year of class speeches with a smidge of social and educational justice undertones and in the case of Nataly, overtones.

It’s easy to forget that our kids are forced to enroll in school at the age of five years old. By the time they graduate, they have been mandated into the system for 12 years, at minimum.  Institutionalized since the age of five, most students give in to the education injustices they bare witness to every day.

The state of the public school system is such that we can easily refer to it as a monopoly, and we have, which is illegal in every other public entity. Still, we have allowed public education to be monopolized and this ensures that parents only have one choice of where to send their children to school.

The state of California seems to go out it’s way to make sure that kids and our schools are under financed, poorly managed and filled with too many people that want to hurt kids.  Throughout each child’s educational journey, many things will happen to them. They will see a lot of things, they will feel a lot of things, and they will witness a lot of things. Some will be good, but too often, it will be bad. We can’t expect kids to remain silent about the mistreatment that they experience and/or witness in our schools. Again, I repeat, on my part, I am shocked that this type of situation hasn’t already happened. So before we start to feel sorry for the poor adults of San Ysidro that were put on blast by student hero, Nataly Buhr, let’s not forget that the border area in San Diego has been plagued by scandal and wrong doing, from top to bottom!  And let’s not forget that this particular high school is a low performing school. Look at the proficiency rates at San Ysidro HS:

Sweetwater Union High School District and the surrounding area schools and districts, in fact, have had a rough few years filled with escandolo (scandals) and it’s heavy share of fiduciary misdeeds. In December of 2018, the district was facing serious money management woes when they misplaced $30 million. The San Diego County Of Education (SDCOE) had to intervene with a fraud investigation.

You might also remember that in early 2018, the story broke about the former superintendent of San Ysidro Unified School District giving himself and another administrator hefty payouts for vacation time.  

“Fonseca was hired in 2015 to lead San Ysidro, the district with some of the poorest students in San Diego County. He resigned 26 months later amid allegations of financial misdeeds. During his tenure he cashed out almost $91,400 in vacation and leave days.

Using payroll records and his contract, inewsource calculated Fonseca’s total compensation was at least $1.1 million. That includes a roughly $375,000 separation agreement he received in September when he resigned, $143,000 for life insurance and health care perks, and his vacation and leave payouts.

That averaged out to make him the highest paid superintendent in the county, and the second highest paid in the state.”

You may remember that La Comadre shared the chisme at the time. We share these escandalos and informative stories in the hopes that our readers will keep a watchful eye on the schools and staff that they entrust their children to every day.  

Later that year, San Ysidro Unified lost $276,000 on an afterschool program that never happened.  

“Tyree Dillingham promised that her Greater San Diego After-School All-Stars would provide a yearlong sports and cheer program for more than 1,600 of San Ysidro’s students. The program was important for a district that serves some of the poorest students in the county.

“I feel that we were taken advantage of,” San Ysidro school board member Marcos Diaz said. “That would be me personally. But even a little bit farther, our children were the ones that were stolen from, if that is the case and if that is what is proven”

Late in that same year the district was still trying to recoup the $276,000 it was duped out of.

Then in late 2018, another scandal breaks when the district was forced to pay out a newly hired special education director, who was abruptly fired after just five months on the job (in 2016) after she had been honored by the board just days before. That director, Danielle Clark, was victorious in her wrongful termination case.  

So Nataly called out a teacher that was allegedly intoxicated in the classroom, good. That teacher should have been reported and dismissed. Saying she shamed the teacher as an alcoholic should not be the first thought. The first thought should be, “Good thing that no one got hurt” or “I wonder if the parents were aware that students were possibly trapped in the classroom with a drunk teacher for 50 minutes everyday.” It’s still unclear whether anyone had complained about the teacher or if the district knew. But let’s be honest, drunk teachers are protected by the teacher contract and won’t be fired anyway. Same is true of the counselors at schools. Let’s please not act like this a shocking revelation. High school counselors can be the worst. Again, not all but many, too many! They, too, are protected and are rarely held accountable.  

Nataly Buhr is a brave young woman who should be commended for telling her truths and sharing the real story of virtually any high school in America!  

And the last thing that I will say on the matter is this — San Ysidro High School is NOT a charter school. There is no task force to review whether this school and others like it should remain open. There is no moratorium on schools like this from existing, and Senators who have sent their own children to private schools are NOT writing bills to prevent this type of failing school from continuing to operate. No, this is a traditional school that has installed an infrastructure to protect bad people, perpetuate mediocrity, and make your child look like the bad guy when they question the adults. And therein lies the hypocrisy that I so despise. No one will call for the shutting down of our failing schools. This school has failed Nataly and her 499 peers.

What do you think?
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Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia

Leticia Chavez-Garcia is a Mother, Grandmother, former Middle School Teacher, former Member of a School Board of Education and an Education Advocate for hundreds of parents and students in the Inland Empire. Having become a mother at 15, Leticia knows what it’s like to be a single mother trying to navigate the education system. Leticia received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science and Public Administration from California Baptist University and a Masters’ Degree in Education Technology from Cal State Fullerton in her 30’s. Leticia has used her knowledge and experience to help hundreds of families as an Education Advocate in the Inland Empire and currently works as an Education Specialist.

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