The Star-News


Public wants Gandara gone

Sat, Apr 16 2011 12:00 PM Posted By: Allison K. Sampite

The Sweetwater Union High School District board of trustees was schooled by an angry public Tuesday night.

Scores of community members showed up at the district's monthly board meeting to vent their outrage over Superintendent Jesus Gandara's spending more than $11,000 on a district credit card in the last three years.

Last Friday, board president John McCann made a decision with Gandara to cancel his district credit card "in the best interest of the district."

Gandara said the expenses were a necessary part of outreach for the district and was a way to make himself available to the community.

According to a public records request, Chula Vista resident Stewart Payne said Gandara has had 46 community-based lunch and dinner meetings in the last two years.

In addition, records show that on several occasions, Gandara had lunch and/or dinner with board members.

Critics said he should have never had a credit card in the first place and that the board is also responsible for not holding Gandara accountable.

Payne was one of a few people to call for Gandara's termination during public comment.

In an email to the board last Wednesday, Payne suggested holding Tuesday's meeting at a larger venue, anticipating a bigger crowd due to recent controversy with Gandara.

Payne said that McCann called him Friday to tell him the board could not change the venue because there was not enough time to do so.

"But they had time to get a fire marshal and two extra security guards," Payne said.

McCann said the second reason was that the board did not want to change the venue and confuse people who would normally go to the regular meeting place, because that confusion might have caused people not to be able to participate.

McCann said he had no comment regarding the public's request to terminate Gandara's contract because it revolves around a human resources issue.

Thomas Hassey, a 72-year-old teacher at Chula Vista High School, said he has a vested interest in the district.

He was one the few people to speak in support of the embattled superintendent.

"I don't care about your expenses," he said. "I care about the fact that you care about our kids... Last I checked the only thing that was important is that the students succeed."

John Brickley is a recently retired alternative education teacher who said he is frustrated with the board for not holding Gandara accountable for his actions.

"This is like watching a slow train wreck - you just know there's going to be a crash at the end," Brickley said.

Another former teacher, Fran Brinkman, said she is outraged by the recent events.

"The board condones and ignores blatant activities," she said. "Why did it take public humiliation before the credit card was taken away?"

Payne said the board should have a closed session agenda item listed under employee discipline so the board can determine whether he violated terms of his contract.

Cause for termination under the Gandara's contract includes: Failure or the inability of the superintendent to perform any substantial duties, any act of dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation or other acts of moral aptitude, a substantial breach of any representation or warranty made by the superintendent, the commission or omission of any act by the superintendent which could constitute a permissible "for cause" termination under federal or California law.

Tuesday, the entire board made a decision in closed session to release all the credit card charges, locations and who Gandara met with since he's been on the board.

McCann said the information will be available to the public as soon as they receive it.

Board members Arlie Ricasa, Jim Cartmill and Pearl Quino–es could not be reached for comment.


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