Their voices were strained, as if the brittle words they carried would dissolve mid-sentence and tumble to the carpet. And faces that had at once been acrimonious and determined had gradually morphed into ones that were worn, haggard. They wore the expressions of those who had been beaten down. Again.
Maybe that’s what happens when you’re a parent and you’ve been made to wait until almost 1 a.m. while Sweetwater Union High School board members meet for six-plus hours behind closed doors discussing what they are going to pay a superintendent who no one in the crowd wants. And when the 13-page contract is finally made public and the terms are there sneering at you — $252,000 a year, $750 a month in mileage, 28 days paid vacation, full benefits — maybe the fight gets sucked out of you and resignation sets in. Especially when you consider all the layoffs and cuts the district has made while high schools crumble and classrooms go without basic supplies; maybe you give in and throw up your hands in disbelief and surrender. Nothing changes.
When the board got rid of the last bum, things were expected to get better at Sweetwater Unified. The board was supposed to conduct a national search for the person who could save the district’s reputation. In the meantime trustee John McCann brought in Ed Brand to be the temporary fix at a cost of $20,000 a month.
Despite the fact that Brand had left his last job with San Marcos Unified without giving a reason (he was reportedly paid $397,884.53 upon his departure), Brand, who served as SUHSD’s superintendent from 1995-2005, was welcomed back. He was, after all, an interim. Temporary.
But McCann and the others never looked for a permamnet replacement. Maybe he and trustees Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa felt all along he was the best guy for the job. Maybe that’s why early Tuesday morning they voted to bring Brand back while board members Pearl Quinones and Bertha Lopez were against the idea. They weren’t the only ones.
The Citizen’s Bond Oversight Committee was against Brand’s return. As were leaders of the teachers’ union and every individual in the audience that night and morning.
In the end, despite their tired protests and emotional pleas, maybe the ones who opposed Brand’s return knew in their hearts their needs didn’t matter. All that really mattered during those long hours was that three board members believe Brand is the man for the job and they were willing to give him the money and power to do what he wanted.
Maybe as the moms and dads and teachers read that contract early Tuesday morning they realized at Sweetwater Unified, nothing really changes. That’s an exhasuting reality to face.
What do you think? Does Ed Brand deserve his contract? Vote by clicking here.