Sweetwater Union High School District interim superintendent Dr. Ed Brand may be out-staying his welcome.
Brand, who came out of retirement because he said the district needed a change, is fighting criticism from angry parents, teachers and community members, some who say he is acting no better than former superintendent Jesus Gandara.
Gandara was indicted by the District Attorney’s Office in January on felony corruption charges.
Chula Vista resident and community member Maty Adato said it’s been nearly a year and Brand’s time is up.
“The intention of hiring Dr. Brand was for the sole effort of putting the district back on track … we haven’t moved forward,” she said.
Brand signed a contract with the district last June to replace Gandara and serve as acting-, then interim-superintendent for up to one year or until a permanent replacement was found.
After nearly a year the board has yet to begin the search for a permanent replacement. Instead they recently approved a six-month extension for Brand’s contract.
At last month’s board meeting, members of the public critical of Brand’s decisions questioned the board’s lax approach.
“Why they haven’t started the superintendent search is beyond me,” Adato said Wednesday.
Brand said he’s going to wait until the (next) election to decide if he wants to be the permanent replacement.
“If there’s a new board we’ll see what they want to do,” he said. “My interest is to have the district be successful.”
Adato said she felt Brand was chosen as a default.
Brand was the district superintendent from 1995 to 2005.
“My understanding is that if they are extending his contract, they are only hiring him as that so he can keep his retirement,” Adato said. “I don’t think his contract should be extended again, I think the board should be doing their job.”
Another issue that irks critics is that Brand’s contract is between the district and Ed Brand & Associates, Inc., which is owned by Brand and his wife Betty.
The business has two purposes in which he operates as an educational consultant and also manages his and others’ properties.
“That’s the way I proposed it and that’s the way they took it,” he said. “I couldn’t be hired as Ed Brand because I’m in the State Teachers Retirement System, which limits the amount of money I could earn. So the only way was to have some kind of business.”
As a consultant, Brand is not a regular employee and therefore not on the payroll. Because of this, he said the district gets a $20,000 to $30,000 benefit.
“I have to pay for Social Security and Workers Comp through my consulting agreement,” Brand said.
Brand added it’s a way for the district to save money.
Brand is paid a flat rate of $20,000 each month. To date, he has received $226,400 from the district, an amount that will surpass Gandara’s annual salary on June 30.
“When you add in all the fees that they paid my predecessor (Gandara) I’m a lot less expensive,” he said.
“When I signed on I said I was trying to get the district back on an even footing and trying to make it a place for the community to be proud of,” he said. “I believe the district is better off today then it was when I took over June (22) 2011.”
Parent and retired teacher John Brickley said he is concerned with the deal.
“It’s my understanding that, as Ed Brand and Associates, he’s essentially drawing retirement and a sizeable income,” Brickley said. “I think if he wants to go back to work he should be paying into the retirement system.”
Brickley said he feels that the public could potentially be taken advantage of.
“I question the (LLC) issue in regard to civil financial liability for a corporation to be a superintendent,” he said.
Brickley also questioned what would happen if Brand became incapacitated.
“Does that mean that she (Betty) becomes the superintendent?” he said. “…It opens up a can of worms. Until the board authorizes the search, I find it a little disingenuous.”
Brand said his situation is not unique.
“I can name you 10 superintendents who have retired and become consultants,” he said.
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