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The Sweetwater Union High School District board called a special meeting on November 29 that raised as many questions as it answered. The meeting reviewed expenditures for Proposition O, a $644 million construction bond, with the Bond Oversight Committee.

But the first public speaker, Kathleen Cheers, had some information to offer. Cheers said it was the community, not the oversight committee that drew attention to bond construction money the district borrowed in 2010.

Cheers also said it was the community, not the committee, that brought attention to construction change orders and trustee campaign coffers bloated with construction-company dollars.

Lastly, Cheers said the community did not want “a good old boy’s club.” She questioned the district’s hiring of Eric Hall & Associates to conduct the 2010-2011 audit. She pointed out that Barry Dragon, a former 16-year employee of Sweetwater, is a principal in the company.

Dragon worked in the district as chief financial officer under former superintendent Brand, retiring just one month after Brand in 2005. Subsequently, they served as boardmembers for a nonprofit agency in 2007 called “Partnership for Success.”

Eric Hall assured the board that Dragon would not work on the Sweetwater audit.

Posted to Hall & Associate’s website is a January article titled: “Borrowing Bonds to Make Payroll: A Common Practice to Support Cash Flow.” In January, the Union-Tribune charged Sweetwater with borrowing from Proposition O funds. Brand defended the action.

The San Diego Taxpayers Association opposes such actions.

Pictured: Eric Hall

Image from erichallassociates.com

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Comments

anniej Dec. 1, 2011 @ 6:56 p.m.

i believe the lady you are referring to stated it was the community NOT THE DISTRICT. she appeared to make a genuine effort to applaud the oversight committee on their efforts.

as the president of the oversight committee stated - the committee is limited as to what it can and can not do. their powers are limited. this should be changed, the committee should have more power, as they seem to be the only persons that the community trusts when it comes to prop o.

regarding the new bond that suhsd will be seeking - it is dead on arrival. there is great concern amongst taxpayers regarding the trust worthiness of the management company and those board members who have PROFITED from the campaign contributions from the very contractors who were given contracts.

i understand there is a request for the next board meeting to LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS perspective board members will be able to accept from ANYONE doing business with sweetwater.

once those limits are in place, the next item on the agenda is term limits.

the board has lost the trust of the community - the board appears to be in it for political gain vs student achievement. definitely time for new blood - mccann, cartmill, ricasa, and quinones need to move and and NEVER LOOK BACK, what has happened under their watch is shameful.

case in point - WHY ISN'T THE VEGA REPORT BEING RELEASED TO THE TAXPAYING PUBLIC. what is john mccann trying to hide?

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 1, 2011 @ 8:22 p.m.

anniej, I did hear that there was a request to agendize campaign contributions for the next board meeting. In light of the fact that the district is going for a new bond, limiting campaign contributions would be particularly important for the community and the board to consider.

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savesweetwater Dec. 1, 2011 @ 9:19 p.m.

Good Old Boys Club aptly describes what has been going on in Sweetwater since Brand came back. I think it would be very interesting to see how much Brand, with the approval of the Board, has paid consultants who are personal friends of his. So many retired SUHSD employees are back on the payroll now that long time district employees are joking about traveling back in time. Is that any way to build capacity at the district? Are there really no current employees who could do these jobs? Or is that the way Brand is ensuring loyalty to himself (not the district), no questions asked?

I haven't heard of the Board even starting a search for a new Superintendent. This Board didn't do such a great job last time they picked a superintendent, so I think it is time for the community to step up and ask to have input into the process (a transparent process) for picking Sweetwater's new superintendent.

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 1, 2011 @ 9:59 p.m.

savesweetwater,

I understand that Dr. Brand's performance evaluation was on the closed session agenda for this meeting as well. It's not clear to me what the outcome was or if the evaluation might be linked to a contract.

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 1, 2011 @ 10:16 p.m.

anniej, Correction noted: Ms. Cheers said the district and not the commitee. The distinction is important because the bond oversight committee volunteers their time. Thanks.

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Visduh Dec. 2, 2011 @ 2:35 p.m.

Any fool can plainly see that Brand wants the job on a permanent basis. And these moves he's making are to ingratiate himself with the dysfunctional and corrupt board. The reason that they've done nothing to start the search for a new supe is that they are seriously considering him, and may have already decided that he's their man. Who is pulling the strings of whom? Is he the board's puppet, or they his?

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SurfPuppy619 Dec. 2, 2011 @ 2:46 p.m.

SUHSD is a great district, and by great I mean the kids. These clowns that run it are morons. Brand is the biggest moron of them all-that is why he was canned in San Marcos. The entire admin is a good old boys club. I have been involved with many school districts and this is a common operations theme. Cronyism and incompetence.

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anniej Dec. 2, 2011 @ 7:23 p.m.

you are correct, SUHSD is a GREAT DISTRICT - the kids i mean. i would also have to give a shout out for all of the great educators. those hard working administrators who are focused on the kids vs the promotion deserve our respect as well.

surely suhsd NEEDS what southwestern is now in the process of - a good old fashioned house cleaning. sweep ALL of those rats out of there -

for whatever reason the voters seem to forget the power they have - but and however - that is going to take them becoming involved at WHATEVER level they are able. even if it is starting up the conversation with their friends and neighbors. the conversation should begin with 'we need change on our sweetwater board - '. business as usual will simply not cut it anymore, our children deserve so much better.

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SurfPuppy619 Dec. 2, 2011 @ 10 p.m.

I loved working with the SUHSD students, they were very special, plus they all worked hard to teach me Spanish. They were all good kids and respected authority-of course I demanded respect and they caught on fast, but always gave it back if you respected them from the start.

Working at SUHSD was the best job I ever had. I especially loved working at National City Middle School.

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 2, 2011 @ 3:16 p.m.

"Who is pulling the strings of whom? Is he the board's puppet, or they his?"

Interesting question Visduh. When I interviewed Brand, he said pretty straightforwardly that if the board doesn't act on his proposals that he's prepared to walk.

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anniej Dec. 2, 2011 @ 7:15 p.m.

it is ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that the taxpayers DEMAND that the board vote on campaign donation LIMITS.

currently the board members use the prop o management company, contractors given prop o contracts, and vendors as their personal bank accounts. donations in the THOUSANDS, and i mean MANY THOUSANDS - one of the speakers at the last board meeting shared with many of us in the audience a form someone had compiled - they had labeled it PARTIAL list of donations. OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! talk about good old boys club, this form was a whose who of contractors and vendors doing business with suhsd.

sweetwater u - this is business as usual for the next round of elections. contractors funding board members political campaigns. the community has the power to make their wishes known - CAMPAIGN DONATION LIMITATIONS - this is the another step to cleaning up sweetwater union high school district. the first was sending 'the gandara' bye bye. then they made it so bonny garcia is no longer backing in an 18 wheeler to load up his monies. many are now looking to change the lack of term limits -

it is time for those living in the south bay to take their district back.

suhsd is doing a TERRIBLE job in providing quality education for the students. the teacher student ratio - a mess. teachers AGAIN looking for pink notices. our PRIORITY should be money spent in the classroom on the students.

and they want to build a university - incompetents all of them! look what they have done to our middle and high schools, can you imagine this bunch running a university?????????????????

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 2, 2011 @ 8:09 p.m.

annie j,

Having covered the Southwestern College Prop R and board elections, campaign contributions and bond action are inextricably linked. I don't remember what Karen Janney collected in her Sweetwater campaign but I recall she didn't take conributions from bond construction companies--she was way outmatched.

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joepublic Dec. 2, 2011 @ 9:54 p.m.

This is just like when they hired "good old boy" Mr. Vega to investigate possible election tampering. By the way, why hasn't the board voted to let the public see that report? We paid for it and we have the right to see it. The board simply has to vote to release it.

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Founder Dec. 3, 2011 @ 11:51 a.m.

Suggestions: 1. Follow the Money! 2. Demand public funded reports 3. Demand Brown Act violations to be investigated! 4. Demand copies of Form 700 for every candidate ... be filled out before the election, to provide "openness".

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 3, 2011 @ 3:23 p.m.

You just reminded me I have seen the board members' 700 forms on the County Registrar's Campaign Disclosures but I haven't seen the forms for other key people.

I think a lot of people want to see the public funded reports.

Thanks for the reminder, Founder

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 3, 2011 @ 3:26 p.m.

Surf Puppy,

I think your point is well taken. The kids in the district are great!

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anniej Dec. 4, 2011 @ 11:34 a.m.

john mccann needs to answer for his refusal to release the 'Vega Report' - there is something in that report that could hurt him and/or others - if not, why not release it? just my humble opinion

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joepublic Dec. 4, 2011 @ 4:13 p.m.

Anniej: You're absolutely right. It doesn't make sense that they would want to create such suspicion, especially when they're supposedly trying to create a new atmosphere of trust and transparency. Something smells here. Has any board member asked for this to be agendized? Has Bertha Lopez? If not, maybe she will. She's come through in the past.

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Visduh Dec. 5, 2011 @ 9:39 a.m.

Sadly, whenever a person or group proclaims transparency and trust and openness, it means that just the opposite is underway. Why that is the case, I do not know. The real hangup is that most of the really important moves being made by school boards have to do with hiring and promotion. Those matters are always taken up in closed session, and that they keep telling us is a legal requirement. Is it really, or does that approach just make it easier to say one thing to the voters and do something much different? These buyouts of fired administrators, especially supes, always "personnel" matters handled in closed session are poisoning the public to the public education system. That's not limited to SUHSD at all, but has happened statewide.

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Susan Luzzaro Dec. 5, 2011 @ 8:43 p.m.

Visduh, You read my mind: closed session. How much public business is conducted in closed session--and how much of the time is it necessary? I don't think it follows the spirit of the Brown Act.

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Twister Dec. 8, 2011 @ 7:38 p.m.

DEMAND that personnel matters that REQUIRE confidentiality are ALL that is discussed in closed session. ALL public business MUST be discussed by officials in OPEN session.

They do do, however, whatever doo-doo they can get away with.

SEMPER VIGILANS!

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