The Star-News


On the ropes?

Sat, Apr 16 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

Jesus Gandara's nickname ought to be "Everlast." The Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Tuesday night took a bigger beating than any of boxer Mike Tyson's heavy punching bags ever did. Chances are the verbal pummeling isn't going to stop soon.

Gandara has come under fire recently for a series of Union-Tribune articles revealing he invited contractors to his daughter's bridal shower where guests were invited to donate to a "money tree."

Next, the paper's Ashly McGlone and Tanya Sierra (now with the District Attorney's Office) wrote a story detailing how Everlast went to town on the school district's credit card, spending more than 10 grand over three years on meals with district board members and community leaders.

The charges came despite his receiving $800 a month for business expenses.

Oh yeah. Last year the dude made $246, 399 and come July 1 his salary goes up to $250,920. Yet he allegedly charged $5.40 at Starbucks on the district's credit card.

(On second thought, maybe his nickname ought to be Cheap Bastard.)

Given we're in a recession and the average Joe still has to think twice about how he spends his pennies, I understand why people are pissed.

If Gandara gets it, his empathy isn't coming through to people in the district.

Time and again during this month's school board meeting Gandara was criticized for being out of touch, aloof, arrogant, distant ... you get the idea. A majority of the speakers that night want him gone. Terminated.

Good luck with that.

It's not illegal to be cheap and aloof. Perhaps more importantly, neither is it a violation of Gandara's contract.

The credit card charges were approved repeatedly by the district. Not until the shiitake hit the fan recently did school board president John McCann and Gandara jointly decide to do away with the superintendent's plastic.

Both men would like to see the public accept that as a suitable act of contrition and move on. Get over it.

Given the rest of the board's previous behavior, I wouldn't be surprised if the majority of them harbored that same hope.

In 2009 former Star-News staffer Jon Campbell wrote a couple of stories detailing how Gandara was looking for a gig back in his native Texas. No problem, right?

Well, according to his contract Gandara was required to tell the board president in writing (emphasis mine) that he was willingly seeking employment elsewhere. He didn't.

When then-board member Greg Sandoval asked if he was looking for a job elsewhere, Gandara told him no.

He lied.

How did the board respond? Did they publicly reprimand him and put him on "if you screw up again you're out on your butt" notice?

Naaah. The weak-kneed palookas Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricassa and Pearl Quinones approved a contract that absolved Everlast of having to state his intentions of looking for a job elsewhere.

I'm not a scientist but I'm pretty sure backbones don't grow in two years. Nothing leads me to believe the trio will act differently this time around.

The only ones who were openly critical of Gandara's behavior were Sandoval and board member Bertha Lopez. With Sandoval gone. Lopez is a lonely voice amidst the deafening roar of her colleagues' silent indifference.

So if Gandara is going to leave, it's not going to be because the board forces him out. It will be because the mob makes his life so miserable he'll have no choice but to throw in the towel.


© 2009 The Star-News