Sat, Dec 17 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampité
In a unanimous vote Monday night during the Sweetwater Union High School District’s closed session meeting, board members voted to hire interim superintendent Dr. Ed Brand full time and awarded him a three-year contract.
Former board president John McCann said Brand has increased morale and restored credibility by addressing many of the district’s controversial matters such as grade changing, financial misappropriation and personnel problems.
“He’s come into a very difficult situation and led the turnaround for Sweetwater,” McCann said. “There were so many challenges that were diverting us from focusing on our mission for student achievement, but now we’re back on the right track.”
Brand said that his 30-60-90-day plan to address controversial issues in the district verified that the majority of the community felt the district is heading in the right direction.
“In the first six months, the board asked me to refocus the district and focus on increasing student achievement, motivation and self esteem,” he said. “I think we’ve been able to do that.”
But Kathleen Cheers disagrees.
“When Dr. Brand first came on board he reached out to meet with me and we had a very candid conversation,” said Cheers, who regularly attends board meetings. “I believed he was kind of like the knight on a shining horse and that he’d lead us onto a new path.”
However, today the district’s schools are under program improvement, Cheers said.
“I have not seen anything from Dr. Brand that could go toward helping the middle and high school children of this district,” she said. “People need to understand one thing — the board doesn’t answer to Dr. Brand, Dr. Brand answers to the board, so he is getting his direction from the board, which clearly indicates that they are not interested in improving the education of the students in the South Bay.”
In addition, she and others cited an example of the district not being transparent by not agendizing Brand’s permanent hiring.
Chula Vista resident Stewart Payne said he doesn’t have a problem with Brand as the superintendent.
“The problem I have is that they (the board) didn’t tell anyone that was their intention,” he said. “It was not agendized to appoint a permanent superintendent, but his performance evaluation was on there.”
Brand said the superintendent’s evaluation was listed for the last four months.
“To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing unusual about the process that the board followed,” he said.
Cheers said the board also did not make it verbally known to the public that the board would vote on hiring him.
“The public had a right to speak on the superintendent’s hiring,” she said. “Once again all members of the board chose not to respect the voice of the people that voted them in.”
Cheers said she hopes South Bay voters remember the scandals that were brought to light this year when it’s time to vote again.
“We need a new board in the worst way,” she said. “Everybody was allowed to walk away with vacation and sick pay and no one was held accountable. It’s just business as usual.”
Karen Janney, who is a former district employee, said the issue is not a matter of Brand’s competence.
“They (the board) didn’t give the public transparency or the opportunity to speak,” she said. “They continually ignore the process and do whatever they want. It makes them look arrogant.”
McCann said Brand will receive a “no-frills” contract with no car allowance or credit card and will look to comparable districts for appropriate salary markers.
McCann said that Brand’s contract will be put together by the subcommittee that he and newly selected board president Pearl Quinones formed to vote on by Dec. 31
Brand currently makes $20,000 a month. In his new contract Brand will make less than he made as superintendent from 1995 to 2005, McCann said.
Brand’s contract begins Jan. 1.
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