The Star-News

Continued call for Gandara's departure

Sat, Jun 18 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite

Sweetwater Union High School District trustee Bertha Lopez held a press conference Wednesday to publicly state it is time Superintendent Jesus Gandara be placed on administrative leave.

Addressing a crowd of active and retired teachers, parents and community members, Lopez said the school district has suffered under Gandara's tenure.

"We have a crisis right now," she said. "For the past two and a half years I've been asking for accountability. I've been given no answers - instead I've received critical remarks."

Since the beginning of the year Gandara, who leads one of the largest high school districts in the state, has come under fire after media reports revealed he invited contractors to his daughter's bridal shower and he used a district credit card to pay for meals despite receiving a generous expense account.

Retired teacher Fran Brinkman said the district's once stellar reputation has been sullied.

"Sweetwater has become a laughing stock," she said.

Brinkman said perhaps the biggest shock is that board president John McCann said he would come in to reform the school board and that didn't happen.

"They (the board members) wear blinders and pretend that nothing is going on - that he's (Gandara) doing a great job," Brinkman said. "This is quite a legacy this man is laying down for Sweetwater."

Lopez said she's asked twice to put the issue of Gandara's administrative leave on the agenda, an action that would take three votes.

So far she has been the only board member to express that desire and her agenda request has gone unanswered by McCann, she said.

Maty Adato has a child who is a student in the district.

Adato said that Gandara's evaluation should be conducted in open session without him and the district's attorney present.

"We've spent money on investigations, but we have no money for students," Adato said. "I challenge the board to begin questioning everything."

Gandara issued a statement Thursday morning saying the public's concerns have been addressed.

"As the educational leader of the Sweetwater Union High School District, I promise you that lessons are being learned. Where we've fallen short, we are making corrections and will do better," he wrote.

McCann said he has taken care to make sure the board acts in a way that is transparent.

"We've released everything that has been asked of us. We are trying to bring truly concerned citizens into the fold, especially the parents of our students," McCann said.

"Lopez has been aware of the issues. She's playing politics," he said.

The district's next regular board meeting is Monday, June 20, when Gandara is set to receive an evaluation from his peers.

© 2009 The Star-News