Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand triggered controversy for a plan to extract up-front fees from district vendors.
  • Sweetwater superintendent Ed Brand triggered controversy for a plan to extract up-front fees from district vendors.
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Last week, Sweetwater’s interim superintendent Ed Brand suspended the Funds for Education Committee, saying, “I can stop the grief right here.” This is the second time Brand’s private-sector fund-raising efforts have ended in controversy.

Brand was Sweetwater’s superintendent from 1995 to 2005, when he retired. Last June, he was rehired to clean up the district after superintendent Jesus Gandara, indicted by the district attorney last week, was forced out.

Back in the 1990s, Brand set up a committee called the Corporate Development Team to negotiate contracts with prospective school-district vendors. Headed by former Sweetwater coach-turned-consultant Gary Zarecky, the team made deals that included up-front payments. The advance money went into the newly created Master Associated Student Body Fund, controlled by the district.

An example of a deal the team negotiated was a district-wide contract for senior class rings and caps and gowns. Previously, contracts and funds for this were handled by students at each school. According to a June 6, 2002 Union-Tribune editorial titled “Students Gouged,” the contract put $50,000 into Brand’s master fund, but students ended up paying as much as $50 more for their rings.

The editorial asks: “Are government contracts that require vendors to make an upfront donation to the government agency actually proper and legal? And what about Brand’s taking a larger and larger chunk each year of upfront monies for his own spending priorities, and trustees even getting a slice for their own discretionary spending?”

A more controversial contract was the one with Pepsi. A November 30, 2001 “Profit and Loss Statement” for the “Master Associated Student Body Accounts” shows an “Initial Pepsi Deposit” of $1.4 million and “Pepsi Deposits” of $611,000. Among disbursements are “Bonus Payments” of $87,000, “Commissions” of $1.2 million, a “Board Allocation” of $5000, and “Superintendent Allocation” of almost $92,000.

The 2002–2003 San Diego County Grand Jury’s final report cites issues at Sweetwater worthy of deeper investigation, including “the handling of money (about $40,000/yr) returned to the District by sales from the Pepsi-Cola machines” and “money issues related to other vendor contracts such as senior class rings.”

Coach-turned-consultant Gary Zarecky helped broker the vendor deals.

Given the concerns voiced by the grand jury, citizens, and editors, it is surprising that Brand would reestablish his committee to raise funds from vendors. But Sweetwater’s August budget authorized a $35,000 contract for Brand’s old friend Gary Zarecky, as well as a $30,000 contract for consultant Bill McLaughlin.

The new committee, called the Funds for Education Committee, included two parents, Stewart Payne and William Perno. Payne and Perno were to provide community oversight and transparency.

The committee began holding monthly meetings in September 2011.

On November 22, Stewart Payne resigned.

In his letter of resignation to Brand and the school board, Payne wrote: “I cannot support the manner in which the committee is proceeding.” None of the board members, including trustee Jim Cartmill, who attended some committee meetings, contacted Payne to ask why he resigned.

At the school board’s December 12 meeting, Payne went to the microphone numerous times to express concern about the committee. Perno also spoke to trustees at the December meeting.

Perno told the board that he was initially honored to be appointed to the committee by Brand. However, after he began to question the ethics and legality of the new contracts, the committee tried to silence him.

Perno said that he was counseled not to take notes during meetings and warned at the December meeting that he was not allowed to discuss publicly what had transpired in the meetings because they were covered by the Brown Act.

In December’s contentious Funds for Education meeting, Perno was asked if there was anything that the committee had done that he liked. He said there were a number of things, including soliciting individual donations. Finally, however, when he balked at approving a contract, one member told him, “I invite you to reconsider if you want to be on this committee.”

To negotiate new contracts, or renegotiate old ones, the committee invited vendors to a meeting at district headquarters. Vendors were asked what they could bring to the table; for example, newer vending machines, help in caring for athletic fields, or scholarships. Zarecky and the committee then negotiated elements of the vendor’s contract.

An example is Rainbow Vending, which has a current contract with the district to provide and service vending machines. During renegotiations, the company offered the district an increased percentage of its profit plus $50,000 up front in return for removing a 30-day cancellation policy from Rainbow’s contract.

In a recent interview, Perno said that one of his concerns was the length of the contracts. The district was offering seven-year contracts, and he questioned whether that was legal since the California Education Code limits a service contract to five years. And he questioned whether the committee should be negotiating new contracts or renegotiating old ones without putting them out for bid. Committee members told him that Sweetwater attorneys had already examined these issues. Perno asked to see their conclusions in writing, but that was not provided.

In a December 24 Union-Tribune article, Payne used the term “shaken down” to describe how vendors might have felt about the fund-raising committee’s tactics.

At the December meeting of Funds for Education, among the suggestions of ways to raise money was Zarecky’s idea of placing ATM machines on campuses. When students used the ATMs, a portion of the fees would go to the district. According to Perno, Zarecky said he knew a former law officer “up north” (Zarecky comes from Cupertino) who would handle the machines. (Contacted by phone on January 3, Zarecky declined to comment.)

Superintendent Brand attended the December meeting. According to Perno’s notes, Brand had many suggestions on how to raise money. One of them was signage — on vending machines, buildings, and the outside of school buses. Asked whether signage on school buses was legal, Brand told the committee he could get legislation passed to allow it.

Brand mentioned that some of the district’s buildings have great freeway exposure, like the adult education school in National City. Then, Perno recalls, Zarecky asked Brand if the Metabolife sign was still there.

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savesweetwater Jan. 11, 2012 @ 11:46 a.m.

Perhaps this article explains why Brand doesn't believe the "pay to play" philosophy is pervasive in Sweetwater. He obviously doesn't understand what is wrong with demanding donations to approve, or improve, contracts. Just more evidence that Brand needs to go, along with his indicted Board members.

As far as Brand being hired to clean-up the district - I have to question that. I think he was hired to provide the perception of cleaning up the district. He dealt only with already well publicized problems, no further or in-depth investigations occurred. Looking back on the "problems" in the district it is hard to see how Brand has cleaned-up: the Food Services Director who was ordering supplies from her own companies was allowed to retire, the worst thing that happened is that she will have to find other schools to buy her products to make up for the lost income; the principal and AP who were found to have cheated on grades and ASB accounts were PAID to leave the district; the principal who forged another administrator's signature is still a high school principal; the results of the investigation into the PR company paid through the district's legal firm has not been released to the public; and on and on.

Make no mistake - Brand was brought in by this school board because they thought they could continue their unethical behavior under his "leadership".

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ZORRO Jan. 11, 2012 @ 11:56 a.m.

Congratulations on great investigative reporting Ms. Luzzaro. It’s Brand and the usual suspects all over again. Thank God for honest people like Mr. Perno and Mr. Payne who will not be bought. Thank you for reminding the community of who Brand and his associates really are, not the heroes they pretend to be.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 12:15 p.m.

when questions began to arise, perno was allegedly told 'remember meetings are confidential, discussing what is said could be seen as a brown act violation' - i am paraphrasing what i listened to on the december board docs.

so, explain to me since when was/is the foundation covered under the brown act?

explain to me what an x CIF president, now AD for the district is doing being the legal counsel for said foundation. and how much is he being paid for being the legal counsel representative?

why does brand continue to wheel and deal vs do the job at hand - INTERIM superintendent? it is time for a NEW SUPERINTENDENT, one who is committed to education vs money making schemes.

if brand wants to wheel and deal, let him seek other career opportunities, perhaps as a wall street shark.

time to begin the search for a NEW SUPERINTENDENT.

brand is now getting ready to take his 3rd or is it 4th week(s) off since he was hired in JULY - don't all of you wish you could land a gravy job like that?

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joepublic Jan. 11, 2012 @ 12:23 p.m.

So, Mr. Perno and Mr. Stewart are asked to sit on this committee for the purpose of providing oversight and transparency to the community it serves and then Mr. Perno is warned not to talk to the public. What??!! Oh, that's right, this is Sweetwater.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 5:50 p.m.

joepublic: brand and the new ad who is also serving as legal counsel believed that the threat of 'brown act violation' would scare these two individuals.

well, obviously payne nor perno are uneducated. both professionals in their own right, both with obvious legal knowledge. neither of these men are the kind you want to bully or attempt to use.

the vindictive acts of some of our board members and superintendents both are either under indictment or under investigation should make it clear to all there is still much work to do at sweetwater.

these baffoons seem to believe if they continue to duck and cover all will blow over. well, it is is not going to blow over - not until those at sweetwater who are involved in all of this pay to play and ponzi schemes are blown out.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 1:20 p.m.

what i am wondering is this WHO IN THE HELL AT THE STATE LEVEL IS MONITORING ALL OF THIS NONSENSE.

much of what is being done is in violation of ed code - yet we see absolutely no change in dr. brand prop bb era and now prop o era. the arrogance, the gall, the total disrespect for the very tax payers that support that 20,000,00 A MONTH he is receiving.

time for brand to go

regarding cartmill attending the foundation meetings perhaps that is where he negotiated some of that money that he received to pay off his campaign debt. lets see there is:

3-12-2011 marston& marston-- they gifted him $3,000 3-18-2011 carlos ochoa of rar engineers -- their gift $ 500.00 3-17-2011 turpin&rattan engineers -- they gave him $ 500.00 3-11-2011 michael valdavinos of jaseva corp -- here is $1,500.00 3-10-2011 laura martinez, (bonnie garcia's wife) -- she gave $ 500.0 2-28-2011 hollywood gourment (hollywood pizza?) -- $500.00 donation 3-05-2011 rotech consultants (they're all over prop o and were all over prop bb) -- a wopping $2,500.00

so $9,000.00 of CARTMILLS CAMPAIGN DEBT WAS ERASED WITH THESE 'charitable' contributions??????????????????????????????????????????????????

now the filing date for these LATE contributions was 8-15-2011

but here is the question my fellow tax payers - why on God's green earth are these contractors/vendors giving cartmill money AFTER CARTMILL WON THE ELECTION? surely they are not giving it out of the goodness of their hearts!!!!! what company or corporation do you know of that simply GIVES AWAY MONEY?????????

"AH HELLO, BONNIE (DUMANIS) CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"

and there are the contributions made to pay off john mccann's campaign debt - more to come.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 3:59 p.m.

to follow up here are those 'special' contractors and wife of bonny garcia who chose to help pay off JOHN MCCANN's. campaign debt:

1-3-2011 laura martinez - wife of bonny garcia, donated $1,600.00

2-10-2011 swinerton builders - prop o contractor decided $5,000 would help

6-20-2011 blue coast consulting - they saw fit to drop $2,500 into the PAY OFF JOHN MCCANN'S CAMPAIGN DEBT COFFER.

$9,100 in total folks these reports were filed by mccann 8-1-2011 - hmmmmm 8 mos after he was voted in.

and again i ask why - why would companies donate monies AFTER THE ELECTIONS ARE OVER????? mccann, could hardly be considered a charity.

about those 700 forms. that mccann and cartmill filled out correctly - looking to make those public as well.

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 12, 2012 @ 8:51 p.m.

Maybe Dumb@nus only goes after corrupt Democrats and not corrupt Republicans that's why Cart-run-of-the-mill and Stewart are as yet unscathed?

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 1:31 p.m.

there will be a meeting TOMORROW NIGHT at the chula vista high performing arts center - 6:30

well folks, let the message begin - we do NOT want our district taking on yet another pet project. we want them to focus on what are tax dollars pay them to do - educate those students currently enrolled in the sweetwater union high school district - grades 7-12.

WHEN an IF they reach that goal, THEN COME TO US with expansion dreams.

besides i am hearing this is simply dr. brand and john mccann shooting a warning shot over the Elementary School Districts Superintendent's head - supposedly brand is most upset about those elementary charter schools outperforming the suhsd students at the same grade level.

but then if the sweetwater board and superintendent focused MORE on putting the tax dollars into the classrooms and LESS on all of their consultants, and special accounts, we would have the resources to do a better job supporting our students educational endeavors and our teachers.

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cvres Jan. 11, 2012 @ 1:44 p.m.

While I understand the political ramifications of this article, I am concerned about the way the students are just sitting ducks for so much potential advertising--and vending for that matter.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 2:34 p.m.

and then there is the issue of providing 'atm' machines to students of this age. just think about the unsuspecting parent who receives their bank statement the month after those atm's are put it. all of those 'user' charges that the PARENTS will find coming out of their wallets.

i am sorry, but can someone take brand aside and give him the 411, he is in the educational business not the ponzi scheme business.

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erupting Jan. 11, 2012 @ 2:20 p.m.

This is an outstanding article Ms Luzzaro. Thanks for putting the past and the present together for me. I find it interesting that Cartmill attended these events. It seems his presence gives the ok for such bloodsucking behavior. After checking out your figures anniej ( which were correct) I don't understand why the D.A. isn't looking into this as well. Hopefully he will or maybe that's part of the on going investigation we heard from Bonnie. I hate to say this but I'm starting to like this lady. Interesting they get election debts monies from all these people after the fact. I guess if you want to be a vendor or contractor for this district you better know ther is a price to pay. Better to inflate your bid in order to get the contract.

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erupting Jan. 11, 2012 @ 2:38 p.m.

I understand Brand is going on his third vacation next week.How long has he been here? Since July I believe.( Rome) I mean Sweetwater is burning and he's in Hawaii.. I'm tired of this dark cloud over the district. Brand needs to pack his bags.We don't need a smarter crook than the one that's been indicted.I'm fearful that the board will keep him for obvious reasons.All eyes will be on Pearl,Arlie,Jim and little man McCann to see if they will do the bidding of the people they represent for a change.

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 13, 2012 @ 9:49 a.m.

Right on! Let's not forget Cart-run-of-the-mill! Actually many eye brows were raised when his house WASN'T searched. Cound be Dumanus wants to give her fellow Repub a free pass?

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joepublic Jan. 11, 2012 @ 3:40 p.m.

cvres: Good point. The kids are also sitting ducks in terms of safety when you start advertising on the sides of their school buses. The obvious reason for the color yellow is to draw the attention of other drivers on the road. Glossy yellow is an instant reminder to be cautious. Placing a clever, eye- catching sales ad on the side of a bus intentionally causing the opposite effect, is criminal. Dr. Brand's insinuating that he can get legislation passed to make it legal is very disturbing as it reveals his business-as-usual attitude rather than breaking from Sweetwater's history of corruption. This is yet another example of why we should keep the greedy corporate interests out of the public service sector, and why we must begin searching for a new superintendent.

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 3:52 p.m.

joe public: 'he can get legislation passed' - wondering if he will be using the same folks quinones attempted to use to get her that sacramento job.

it is time for brand to retire from education and move onto another career, he obviously lost sight of the mission (why most enter the education field) a V E R Y L O N G time ago.

shame on ed brand, and shame on john mccann for sitting there as president of the board from the time brand came in (john mccann brought him here) until the december meeting when the gavel was handed over to pearl quinones, (you know ms. i support those who support me) board member and now president of the board.

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angryinsb Jan. 11, 2012 @ 4:22 p.m.

First and foremost Ms. Lazarro WOW! You are able to capture this districts mis behavior from past to present and get all of the new people up to date to the business as usual that occurs with the SUHSD.

Why would releasing information regarding what occurs in a public meeting be a violation of the Brown Act? Brand and this board are running around trying to put out all of the wildfires they created and guess what people you don't have that many hoses.

Who is thinking about the students and the money they need to achieve? We have administrators stealing from the ASB and then getting released with pay and vacation time, we have cafeteria ladies stealing and a their director also being fired after lining her pockets. There is that separation agreement giving our past indited superintendent an unbelievable severance package and that second opinion Mr. Mccann where is it? We give money right and left on consultants is that because we don't have competent people from within, then why the heck are they still employed.

All of those donations and dinners board members maybe you people should have given that money to the funds for education committee and then they would not have to shake down businesses! The arrogance and blatant disregard to the law is ridiculous!

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joepublic Jan. 11, 2012 @ 7:01 p.m.

Am I correct in assuming that we're not paying Brand while he takes off on vacation? I think we were told that he doesn't have a contract, but was hired on a monthly basis at $20,000 per month for each month he worked. No frills, no credit cards, no cars, etc. So where did this vacation come from? When, and by whom was it authorized? By the way, who's in charge while he's gone? The interim's/substitute's substitute? It makes you wonder why we're paying for Brand. Why not simply have the sub's sub turn off the lights and lock the doors. What we'd save could be spent on the students.

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 13, 2012 @ 10:06 a.m.

Yeah, on top of the $400,000 severance check for Gandaya, former CPH principal Ochoa, and former CPH AP Jimenez.

Oh, but God forbid we should have overtime or extra duty supervision for a classified worker!

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Visduh Jan. 11, 2012 @ 8:25 p.m.

Where is the DA in all of this? Except for the improbable efforts she has made so far, she is silent and AWOL.

Where is the state in all this? The Attorney General has jurisdiction over matters that involve state funding. Nearly all, and all of the South Bay school districts, receive state funding, so they are subject to state law, and state prosecution. Where is the AG? The AG is AWOL.

Where is the federal government in all this? I'm very aware that low-level local corruption runs afoul of federal laws. Inzunza just lost his final appeal on federal corruption charges while he was on the SD city council and likely will have to put in his 21 months of hard time. Worse yet, this stuff going on in that school district involves misuse of federal funds. Where is the FBI? The same FBI that busted Zucchet and Inzunza some years ago? Are the Fibbies just staying low while they build a really devastating case, or they AWOL?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 11, 2012 @ 8:27 p.m.

Erupting, I think the article would have been improved if Mr.Zarecky would have been willing to answer the many questions I had prepared for him. One thing Dr. Brand has consistently done is return calls and answe

Thank you for your comments. Susan

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William_Perno Jan. 11, 2012 @ 8:58 p.m.

Thank you Ms. Luzzaro for your excellent article on The Funds For Education Committee!

I am William Perno, one of the two parent committee members mentioned in this article.

If what you have read in this article is a cause for concern to you, please make every effort to attend the next Sweetwater Union High School District School Board meeting on January 30, 2012.

As a parent in the District, I respectfully call upon all community members to become involved in the efforts to bring positive change to this District. Learn more about the issues and make a difference!

My hope is that the silent majority will take a close look at what is occurring in this District. We need your help!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

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anniej Jan. 11, 2012 @ 9:52 p.m.

Mr. Perno:

after listening to your plight at the district board meeting in december i became enraged. ESPECIALLY, when dr. brand said the following to you "ok, i have heard enough". but those in the audience had not heard enough, they wanted the whole story, and now thanks to Ms. Susan Luzzaro's excellent reporting, you and mr. payne they have it.

rather than brand give you the courtesy of responding to your list of obviously legitimate concerns he attempted to dismiss you as if you concerns were not valid. when the truth of the matter was he was scared out of his mind that all of this would bring the da or fbi knocking at his door; and rightfully so. from what i was able to hear on the board docs the only board member who even showed concern was board member lopes. she asked brand to be prepared to respond at the next board meeting, if i heard her correctly. quinones, board president, obviously sees no problem with this type of questionable activity - surprise, surprise as she was then indicted about 2 weeks later; along with board member ricasa.

hopefully others will follow you and paynes example and stand up for what is right and against what is wrong with this district and the way it is being run - hopefully they will call that Bonnie Dumanis hotline.

oh, i bet they wished they could have that board meeting back - but alas you can not unsing a song. that evening clearly defined dr. brand for who and what he represents and clearly defined just how much those board members want those campaign contributions by contractors and vendors.

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oskidoll Jan. 12, 2012 @ 7:31 p.m.

Nice Job Ms. Luzzaro, Perhaps it is important to recall that Dr. Brand's 'arm twisting' MO for his so-called Educational Foundation goes back awhile.

For example, in 2001, he hired Mike Inzunza (yep, youngest bro of that clan) to produce a magazine for the local high school crowd. It was to be called "BLURB" and I think there were a few issues published before it folded in 2005 and Mike was sent back to the adult school classroom. Mike may still have the printing press set up in his garage.

The magazine was to become self-supporting with advertising that Mike and his 'consultant' arm-twisters wrought out of local folks. The concept itself was not bad and legitimate on its face. However but the message was clear to those of us who were 'invited' to hear the pitch. "Pony up" with what we think you should buy and you will receive greater access to the sup and to designated important people. If not, we will go over your head and get what we want. It was quite intimidating, to say the least, and perhaps influence peddling to boot.

The magazine morphed into something that Mike ran, called the South Bay Review, that also solicited ads but was not under the Sweetwater umbrella as was BLURB.

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anniej Jan. 12, 2012 @ 10:03 p.m.

i believe it is time for the DA and the FBI, or maybe just the FBI to look into brand, much is starting to surface about the man. many concerns being raised.

if john mccann and jim cartmill believe they are sitting on the fence in all of this, let them just try and hire brand. i believe all hell will break loose.

perhaps the information in this article needs to be copied and passed out at all school parking lots to parents. perhaps this article and other information needs to be copied and passed out at the january 30th board meeting. i am hearing there are those in the community who are willing to take up the fight all of the way to the FBI.

time for the community to get to know the interim superintendent.

time to demand the search for a new superintendent to begin.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 12, 2012 @ 7:59 p.m.

oskidoll, you obviously have a great deal of information about Chula Vista's history. Your comments on the Sweetwater U article show land use history too. I appreciate your comments and the breadcrumbs you throw on the path. As I recall, the district attorney's affidavits refer to Quinones being a friend to one of the Inzunza's.

Thanks

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Wabbit Jan. 12, 2012 @ 8:04 p.m.

If someone wanted to look into San Diego Unified The story is not that different.

In November 2011 Gafcon/Vanir was awarded an $18 Million contract for 3 years, after holding numerous fundraisers and making personal contributions to Scott Barnett's campaign.

Maybe, someone needs to look at why San Diego Unified can spend $18 Million a year on 3 separate program management firms? How much work is San Diego putting in the ground each year? How much are they spending on internal staff?

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Missionaccomplished Jan. 12, 2012 @ 8:48 p.m.

What happened, ANNIEJ you were one of the biggest supporters of Doc B when he was named interim. Have you read his write ups in the District website??? Does he really think we're stupid?

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anniej Jan. 12, 2012 @ 9:56 p.m.

OUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Missionaccomplished: yes you are right, I was indeed one of his biggest supporters - and I was wrong. Now, according to my husband I have never admitted to being wrong, but in this case i was not only wrong, but i was really wrong. but don't tell my husband i admitted to that, ha ha

i wanted to believe that he cared, i fell for his speech about his legacy with sweetwater. but now, well lets just say, i have lost all faith in the man. dr. brand who brought in his old friend mike ellis, a man who was convicted of manufacturing meth and someone who served time for that very offense. is this the type of person we need 'looking to find money'? for the very same 'foundation' that did not want to leave a paper trail.

mr mclaughlin, former cif president, acting legal counsel for said foundation - ah, hello i thought mclaughlin was hired as the district athletic director. he was suppose to be getting paid $30,000.00 - for his athletic director duties, so is he playing attorney (i am told he does have a law degree) and charging 0 for his legal services? or is this another bonny garcia, back door billing, situation?

the way he treated mr. perno at the december meeting, now that was the real dr. brand.

in all honesty, brand has done nothing since he came here other than wheel and deal. all in the name of money.

so now, i hear that there are people looking to take information about brand forward - it is time for him to be investigated. time for him to be exposed for who and what he is.

but again, i was wrong, very very wrong about brand. he is another 'the gandara' and you all know how much i did not respect 'the gandara'.

dr. brand, i am ashamed to say i ever supported or believed in you.

hope i have done a good enough job apologizing for a poor choice.

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anniej Jan. 13, 2012 @ 7:42 a.m.

sweetwater led by dr. brand held their charter school meeting last night.

the only thing missing were the baloons, cotton candy and dancing elephant.

it was a hip hip hooray for sweetwaters new vision charter schools. it was last month that brand held a meeting ridiculing the elementary charter schools in the area. touting the fact that sweetwater could do a far superior job educating the youth of those charter schools. what 'data' brand was using is hard to say. according to the 'data' that all schools are measured by those charter schools are beating the pants off of sweetwater. brand was threatening to pull the compact for success eligibility for said charter school children - what he failed to consider was this: those charter school parents were bound and determined to fight him, all of the way to court if necessary. THEY WON

sweetwater, as we have come to realize, does nothing by the rules, nothing - and so it was last evening. oh, they had their petition however, it was simply a petition; the required information the charter was not attached. the hand outs, well they ran out of those. the person heading this charter up - one of brands consultants being paid $30,000.00. then there was the principal that had been run out of southwest high; she evidently is going to be a major player in brands charter school.

it was suppose to be a question answer period, questions needed to be written down. there was a problem though, those questions were never read aloud. instead the audience sat there and listened to her while she attempted to answer questions, it was obvious, the whole session had been pre arranged. when the audience spoke out they were chastised for being rude. and yes, some might have perceived those rebel rousers as rude - but might i remind you that this country was built by persons who simply would not be dictated to. no, throughout our history when we have witnessed wrong doing we have stood up and challenged.

now sweetwater charter is promising child care and free lap pads, so hip hip hooray!

in closing, i would like to state for the record, the reason brand is being challenged is due to the fact that they are failing to provide the necessary tools for those students they currently have. 14 or is it 16 of their schools on program improvement - the state so concerned they just decided to put the entire district on their program improvement watch list.

and then there is this 'foundation' aka ponzi scheme that brand has brought back with him. he left previously under the same cloud, the grand jury has noted that his previous money making scheme warranted investigation. even with that history brand comes back and then has the gall to add a convicted meth manufacturing felon to the mix as a person involved with this 'foundation'

sweetwater is like a fish that has run out of water - it is laying here flapping around, slowly dying, before the tax payers very eyes.

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 1:24 a.m.

anniej, you have a nice wit and seem very attached to this district. Do we know each other? Jauhn Hinkle, Eastlake High.

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anniej Jan. 15, 2012 @ 8:24 a.m.

i know who you are - and yes i am very attached to the district.

about the parents of eastlake high - where are they? one would have thought that with them bearing the majority of the tax burden on prop o they would be turning out in mass demanding an end to all of the madness.

it is important for all schools to get as many parents out as possible. remember, parents pay the salaries of all of them.

and while i am at it, where are the teachers? i realize many live outside of the district, but if we want the parents to support us we must support them - anything and everything being discussed involves the students, and thereby affects teachers and good administrators.

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 10:05 a.m.

like you in the beginning... they drank the kool aide of Brand as the fixer and Gandara as the devil. Most people are too busy for bad news or reading more than blurbs and sound bytes. How many people do you know personally outside of our district that could name the board members before this scandal broke? Southbay voters do 2 things, both kind of reprehen-sible.

1) They vote incumbent 2) They vote for surnames of the same ethnicity

I think the district zone based board member idea was a good one. That's why it got tabled. ie. lost

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anniej Jan. 16, 2012 @ 10:23 a.m.

thinwalter: i do not know what the inside story if regarding the redistricting.

mccann, cartmill and ricasa were all hot for it. even voted, all 3 of them, to vote for it (but then the 3 always vote in the same block). they initially saw it as a way of getting rid of lopez since she lives so close to ricasa, and ricasa has been a board member longer. then the gentleman that they paid all of that money to broke the bad news - no one would loose their seat with the redistricting, they would be voted out. but, here is the corker it was then discussed that the 2 caucasians up there were at a greater risk than any of the others. so alas their efforts had been foiled. so what to do ---

jim cartmill, recommends, 'perhaps we have rushed into this, i would like to recommend that we step back and move a little slower". ah, hello, earth to cartmill, the community had been recommending that to the 3 of you for months. but no problem it was only our tax dollars that you wasted, it was only money that you took out of the classroom to fund this scheme.

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thinwalter Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:24 a.m.

In this proposed redistricting system Pearl would theoretically have to run against Lopez because they're both from NC, the rest live in Bonita or the close therein...so they'd be running against each other, so NO one is for it because it's actually good democracy and discomfortable for them. The Imperial Beach/South San Diego folks haven't had anyone to represent their nonexistent "district" since the days of Lorenzo Provencio, my old Little League Coach actually. One of the few board members who took time off from his day job as a teacher to visit EVERY SCHOOL- EVERY YEAR. He had polio as a child, not a super stentorian speaker, walked slowly, refused to be escorted where he showed up to a school site and he'd pop into any class he wanted to to see what was really going on. He would add about 2 hr.s to every board meeting because he went over everything with a fine toothed comb. He was obviously... not a good politician. No one shows up to sites unless their's a photo op. ribbon cutting or something. So Quinones gathered a group of her PTA buddies from San Ysidro whre she was working and other active professional Latinas from our district and beat him in ...01? Heavily supported/organized by the Inzunza machine that hadn't been blemished yet by scandals to come. When some of her supporters suggested that she should actually walk some of the precincts herself and actually work instead of schedule mini-vacations? She "let them go" for not being full supporters. In once particular case, Sarita Fuentes? Her super rising star career in the district began to wither on the vine, Pearl likes to be the only Belle at the ball. I helped with The Canaris Campaign against her in 2004? Largest school board spending match-up in the history of the district, still...she squashed Canaris 60/35%. Heavily funded by district contractors and the California Democratic party's speaker of the house (forget his name, his son killed someone then walked/pardoned by Swartz Fabian Nunez?) Anyways...so..the Districting? The Southern parts of the district really have no crusader for them. Cartmill keeps membership at several mega churches and most of the Bonita/Hilltop kids who followed him as a Campus Crusade for Christ in the 80's still remember him fondly, so he has a lot of white/middle class automatic voters. Janney who ran against him last was the better candidate, a consumate professional administrator who turned around every school she touched. I hope we get her back someday. (cont.)

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thinwalter Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:28 a.m.

McCann? name recognition, graduated a couple years ahead of him at high school, went to a campaign fundraiser Canaris sponsored for him early in his campaign, we had no idea he would stab everyone in the back by bringing Brand back. Even without the charges...he's burnt some voter bridges there. Plus his outbursts against "you people" (on youbube) when teacher Martin Casas mentioned that he leaned a little heavily on his Vet Cred when giving pseudo campaign speeches at every high school graduation he could book. Like you, I love our vets, my 95 year old dad took some amazing vacations with the Marines in 1944 & 45 to shitty little islands like Choieseul, Vela la vela, Guadalcanal, Okinawa and one you've probably never heard of called Iwo Jima. But unlike a lot of people today his service to country wasn't the first card he'd play at the drop of the hat to defend himself against "those people." Which...we think he was referring to Educated Latinos...teachers...or Insurgents that had followed him back, we're not really sure who "those people" were. Ricassa? Married to Ed. a manager at MFCU, seriously one of the nicest guys on the planet. I think she should finally make an honest man of him and take his surname and try and wash some of this scandal off. As a board member? You're right, she's not the brains of the evil, just the vote that creates a block for them to execute their evil. Not quite the Nuremburg "taking orders" defense, but... not far though. Lopez shows backbone now and then but she singled out Jaime Mercado to run against because he won by the narrowest margin since Griego back in...92? Jaime was a thorn in the side of every douchebag at the district, it was never the easy way with him and he was also not a very "good politician." He refused to shake Ed Brand's hand and single handedly made life so uncomfortable for him that he left to...Vista? Which last a whopping 10 weeks before they axed him. I seriously considered warning their boar when they were interviewing him...but honestly...I wanted him gone. Mercado was exponentially a better champion for ethics than Bertha. She's not unredeemable, but ...she now has a platform to set her self apart and start driving some reforms, if she doesn't hit it hard at the next board meeting? She's complicit in my book. Let's hope.

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anniej Jan. 16, 2012 @ 2:04 p.m.

Thinwalter: board member lopez lives in bonita, VERY CLOSE to ricasa.

quinones, OMG, between those ears - AIR, that is all. hard to believe she allowed herself to be used by the rest, by hey, when you are getting all of those freebies i guess FOR SOME it is hard to say no.

Karen Janney, now there was/is a true professional - she is a woman who can not be bought. a real person whose only focus is what is in the best interest of the district. unlike brand, she is sincere.

'the gandara', was very threatened by janney, that is why she was voted out of there. she too questioned the ethics and integrity of many of 'the gandara's decisions.

it is time to do some major house cleaning on this board, the 4 have to go, board lopez did after all go forward to the da as mentioned in the introduction of the da's affidavit. brand, out of here. and then we turn to the district office, maria c - long overdue for a demotion. the students are suffering under her reign.

what a mess, hard to believe we are dealing with educated professionals.

but we must continue to put in the effort to bring about change, we must begin to focus on education.

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AndrewSphincterstein Jan. 16, 2012 @ 9:23 p.m.

What is not written in your comments above is the fact that in order to put Brand on a three year contract the vote had to be 5-0, if Cartmill, McCann, and Ricasa where able to get the redristricing approved and Lopez was gone then they wouldnt have the votes needed to hand Brand a contract so they scrapped the idea, then got the votes needed, but the kicker is that they didnt pull the trigger quick enough and new legislatior was passed 1-01-12 so they could not vote Brand in.

Now they are all making it look like Brand is the one who didnt want to go through with the deal(contract), but it is not true.

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 1:17 a.m.

Super article. I don't know who your sources are, but there are only about 5 people I know of that know all that. And one of them is sadly buried now. I'd love to be of any help possible to you Ms. Lazzaro in future research. The "UT editorial" you mentioned? That was mine. It's not "Watchdog" reporting to just rehash what the DA is saying at the press releases, your article shows vast insight into the ugliest dirtiest few who run an otherwise challenged but beautiful district. On the first day of corruption class 101 Gandara didn't even bring his book, but Ed Brand was GIVING the lecture. Ed Brand talks about previously being an ASB advisor at Sweetwater High and from this experience he gained keen insight into where money could come from: athletic gear, soft drinks, snacks, graduation & ring vendors, pizza, you name it, he soon got his fingers in it. Gary Zarecky was a basketball shuckster there at the same time in the 70's who had his hand out all over town and took the basketball team all over the world with magical monetary resources. Brand looked up to him. Although Brand couldn't even keep a lid on his own kids who were busy stealing basketball tickets and selling them on the cheap on the side; yep...the apples didn't fall far from the tree. Little in the way of records were ever kept for any of this fundraising, I'm SURE it ALL went to the kids. In 1995 Brand sat down the 9 ASB directors from every high school in the district to a breakfast hosted by our colleague Bill McLaughlin at the top floor of "The Executive Club (when Bill was still little people but had loftier ambitions) and more or less announced to them/us that the Borg, I mean Brand, was now in charge of consolidating all contracts and that together we would all prosper. Besides myself, the rookie, he was talking to a table of Titans of Student Activities in the district, people like Rindone who had negotiated directly with the commodities market to get the nation's best senior ring deal and Mike Swift who literally had just finished writing the country's first million dollar soda contract. It didn't make a lick of sense. The whole City in our view below us? Ours...if we'd just let him turn that rock into a loaf of bread. Up until that time we would consult with each other as colleagues and strike our own deals, usually using local vendors when possible. It became readily apparent that not only would contracts be put out to bid for a collective best price but that they were now going to be looking for "something extra" for the superintendent and board to have kicked back to them. Strangely Brand never asked any of the experienced people like Rindone or Smith into these meetings, it was

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 1:19 a.m.

always the same little shop of "Corporate Development" chronies; Gary Zareceky first and foremost. Eventually they didn't even pretend to be looking for a great deal anymore and the kick back was the key criteria. When the 9 of us took it up with our district office "liaison," Earl Wiens, he advised us to "write it all out, crunch the numbers" and if we all "agreed to the findings put" our "signatures on it and submit it to Brand." How could Brand be against such unanimous dissent from experienced professionals who had students interests paramount in their priorities? I'm no genius but my calculations showed that the exact increase in cap and gowns being charged to the students would average out at a $20,000 increase in net profits for the company, the magically SAME quantity that the company (Jostens) was going to kick back to the district. We all naively signed our names on the document, but I was singled out as the "ring leader" to be made an example of. My job was posted without even the good decency to tell me. A Counselor who was asked to apply for my job asked me where I was going? "Straight to hell for about a year" would have been the correct reply. I was admonished repeatedly in closed quarters for not "being a team player," although never specific about what, I was told by Brand that I was "VERY, VERY DISAPPOINTING" to him, although I'd put in about 4 years of 17 hour days and flipped an inner city ASB back to the black by about $74k. When I did a great job as a summer school principal at a middle school they refused to give me any evaluation rather than give me the good one I deserved. Administrators do not have unions to protect them. When I heard about federal whistle blower protections from another colleague who was currently suing them in court for creating a hostile work environment, they gave me a lateral "promotion" to a "brand new start and school." They said it was "my last chance to prove myself." It was a trap. They drilled me with micro-managment and second guessing till I just gave up. I literally broke down. My dad's going to turn 96 this May we hope, but a lot of the light went out of his eyes after I quit, he couldn't understand why his son would quit something if he hadn't done anything wrong. He was so proud of what we'd accomplished at that first modest, but proud, s

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 1:20 a.m.

chool. I asked if I could go back to the classroom at that same inner city school that I'd fallen in love with if I resigned from Administration. They said "no, the wounds are too fresh." Whose? The Sweetwater District is considered by most who graduate from, and then work there, like a family. Want to know irony? My Sunday school teacher as a kid was frequently Jim Cartmill, Brand's biggest supporter, ally, confidante and the one who privately pushed Mc Cann to bring Brand back to the district. Cartmill never once intervened on my behalf or as far as I can tell asked "What Would Jesus Do?" I don't want these people to go to jail, they have families, I've met them. And despite having done their best to ruin MY life, I just want this district to get fixed and move on. But it will not do so with them in their current positions. Every single one of them has to go. Recall and appoint Karen Janney, Stan Canaris, Jaime Mercado, Sarita Fuentes and John Devore until elections can be held. These 5 people reflect the community's values and would make for very loooong and meticulous board meetings, but at least we wouldn't need a superintendent anytime soon. Each are respected and accomplished administrators in the district, have proven track records of standing up to injustice and are very capable professionals. This COULD be the very best thing to ever happen to our district. If you're reading this Ms Dumanis? Please...increase the scope of your investigation. Thanks for your time. Thanks for that article. Jauhn Hinkle

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anniej Jan. 15, 2012 @ 9:13 a.m.

many know of your story, and unfortunately there were no 'antagonists' at the time to take up the fight. but evidently those 'antagonists' are what was/is needed.

you know i watched a movie 'we were soldiers' last night. as i sat there watching what so many went thru fighting the vietnam war i was reminded of why 'they' did it. 'they' meaning the soldiers, not 'they' meaning the government. because in truth i did no believe in the vietnam war, but i so believed in all of those who valiantly served our country.

the movie shook me to my core, and i began to think about what is going on in our district, is this what all of the valiant soldiers have fought for in all of the wars we have been in?

sacrificed their lives, their souls, for all of us to be able to walk freely and hopefully 'do our part' (small in comparison to all military personnel and their families) to make this country THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD.

and what are these persons who are sitting up there doing? - for our children, for our country? doing whatever it takes to take advantage of their position.

ricasa's daughter scholarship, i am sorry what about the impoverished straight a student? think about what that paid scholarship would have meant to them.

sandoval's daughter beauty pageant, really???????? we are in the education field, using educational bond dollar connections to pay for a beauty pageant?

'the gandara' feeding his fat face, again on our dime. receiving gifts of humidors, sports tickets, money for his daughters wedding?

pearl quinones going on trips, so called educational trips, then spending the majority of the time shopping - again on our dime; we have in her own words "i support those who support me" - she was speaking of a position she wanted in sacramento - have you ever spoken to pearl quinones? have you ever had an intelligent conversation with her - not possible. and what about all of those coors/crickett free tickets she received from the district - couldn't those have been used to give to a student?

we have JOHN MCCANN and JIM CARTMILL, sitting back laughing at the indicted 4 - funny prior to the raids they were all kissing cousins, now MCCANN has the members of the republican party seeking ricasa's dismissal from her position at southwestern. in 2011 both MCCANN and CARTMILL profited when contractors and bonny garcia's wife donated $9,000.00 and over to each of their campaigns to help them pay off their campaign debt - remember they won the election in 2010. now i am told that both wives carry themselves as if they are the b all to end all, perhaps now they will take time to reflect that their husbands are no better and far worse than the average joe. at least the average joe is not allegedly in bed with the contractors or pr firms such as focuscom or alvey. little johnny boy, driving that golf cart up and down the streets, what a puts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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anniej Jan. 15, 2012 @ 9:15 a.m.

so to all of them i say - enough is enough - resign, allow persons who truly view the board member position as public service to assume your seats. go back to your fine wining and dining, go back to your playoff tickets, go back to your green fees on some of the states finest courses. we do not ever want to see the names of those above on another ticket in another voting booth - go back to all you should be grateful for or just GO AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

in closing, i would like to add, there is one name i have not hounded on - that is board member lopez. the reason, well if you read the 'introduction' section of the district attorneys paper work he states that board member lopez came in and met with him. obviously she was concerned enough with what she discovered once she got there to blow the whistle. funny, i thought that was what JOHN MCCANN, little man who wants to be king, promised us back then in our living rooms.

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 9:58 a.m.

btw...HOWARD Rindone and it was the 34th floor of the "University Club" on top of Symphony Towers, not the "Executive Club" as stated

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William_Perno Jan. 16, 2012 @ 9:43 a.m.

Mr. Hinkle,

You're comments on the "Corporate Development Team" are similar to the actions of the "Funds For Education" Committee, with some of the same people involved.

I sincerely hope you will be able to assist Susan Luzarro with "future research". The actions of this "Corporate Development Team" years ago, under the leadership and direction of Superintendent Brand need to come to light.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana

These individuals absolutely remember the past. They willingly chose to go down the same path. Unfortunately for them, the two parents did not follow...

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thinwalter Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:30 a.m.

I will, thanks for being the tip of the spear on this with Mr. Payne, I'd like to meet with both of you gentleman at your convenience.

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Pancho Jan. 15, 2012 @ 8:25 a.m.

Just a question . . . Wasn't Brand recently awarded a three-year contract, which in turn no longer makes him an interim superintendent?

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thinwalter Jan. 15, 2012 @ 9:56 a.m.

that's right...we had to make sure and capture this winner before someone else grabbed him right out from under us. He's the guy...short of criminal charges we're going to pay him for the next 3 years regardless of his performance.

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anniej Jan. 15, 2012 @ 3:41 p.m.

no, he was NOT from what i am hearing he wanted that contract to go thru before 1-01-2012 due to gov brown's new ab law (sorry i am not recalling the number right now).

the 'antagonists' were ready and willing to go forward raising all kinds of hell if johnny boy mccann, little man who wants to be king, and jim cartmill would have pushed for it. but from what i am told they backed down. more media coverage is NOT what they needed.

so, brand is still INTERIM superintendent. the voters want him gone and are willing to host another 7-8 hr board meeting to make that point clear. we want a search for a 'new' superintendent; but until and unless we get rid of the 2 wheeler and dealers and the 2 under indictment it is going to be tough. goodness only knows who this bunch would hire.

while i am sure MCCANN and CARTMILL would love to bring in one of their own, pressure is building via calls to Bonnie Dumanis with all kinds of inside information. if MCCANN and CARTMILL were smart they would simply step down - MCCANN, could show up wearing his fatigues with that infamous 'howdy doody smile' and give us one of his boring Iraq speeches - hell, if meant he was leaving i might just sit thru one without insulting the little sawed off pip squeak. CARTMILL would then be free to put all of his efforts into his 'healthy' pills and public speaking business.

i am hearing the State has been contacted and asked to come down. the books need to be opened up, brand needs to go before the Grand Jury, the Feds need to step in and question why mike ellis is, in any way, involved in anything having to do with children or public education. mike ellis, convicted of manufacturing meth - also served time.

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anniej Jan. 15, 2012 @ 3:43 p.m.

we need to show up and we need to be heard. now is the time. the meeting will be on the 30th at hilltop high. why hilltop high i have no idea. why not the c.v. performing arts center - it is available. the meeting would allow us to sit in those comfortable chairs our tax dollars paid for vs the hard, uncomfortable bleachers. knowing the district they will pay EXTRA to have employees set up uncomfortable metal chairs - hmmmm, dr. brand not showing much fiduciary responsibility in paying for that, but truth be told brand wants to limit public comment. he wants to limit attendees. most likely ricasa's family will be there with their pink 'i love arlie' buttons- hope not, i do not want to add to these innocent folks embarrassment while they sit there and listen to the truth FROM US, you know the taxpayers. what is that piece in the Bible, "you can love the sinner but hate the sin". besides while her family was bragging about seville paying for the families table at the '100 most influential Filipina's in America award' we were fuming. why wasn't seville donating that money to our students vs. ricasa's family? if they wanted to attend - do what most of us regular folks do - PAY FOR IT YOURSELVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! perhaps ricasa might explain that scholarship her daughter received. again, wouldn't that money have been better spent on a student who could not afford it. oh, but that is right, that students mother is not a board member. then there was all of the wheeling and dealing (emails and faxes) ricasa did while she was being paid to work at Southwestern. one would have thought she should have known better, oh, but dummy me this is ricasa, and she is above the law.

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William_Perno Jan. 16, 2012 @ 9:17 a.m.

Brown Act violations have been filed to void the award of the three year contract to Interim Superintendent Brand. California Government Code 54950 et seq (Ralph M. brown Act) defines exactly how an offer of employment must be listed on a closed session meeting agenda.

It appears this process was not followed. I was at the December 12th SUHSD Board meeting. Additionally, I did not hear the Board announce the new contract when they came out of closed session or anything regarding the performance evaluation of the Interim Superintendent (the agenda item).

If there is a finding of a Brown Act violation then the action of awarding the contract at the December 12, 2011 meeting will be voided. It will be interesting to see what the Board does in regards to the Brown Act violation filings.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 15, 2012 @ 10:39 a.m.

Hi Thin Walter, You have quite a story to tell...it would be good for people to be able to read that UT editorial and some of the other coverage from that time in it's entirety. You must have been so surprised to see it all circle back. A lot of people contributed to broadening this story and making it a fuller picture, still it seems like we have only scratched the surface.

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thinwalter Jan. 16, 2012 @ 11:35 a.m.

Your article is the buzz of the district right now, people kept telling me about "my article in the Reader," so...without even being named, I felt somewhat vindicated when I cracked it open late Saturday. I've never followed your work as a "stringer" in City Lights before but...you've definitely a lot of journalism talent. I've got friends who walk through the press room at what's left of the UT and they say it's like a Community College cafeteria...lot of youngin's, bless their hearts, but not a one of them who could find a throat if you drew them a dotted line to it. Anytime Ms. Luzarro! 619-952-9141.

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Susan Luzzaro Jan. 16, 2012 @ 5:24 p.m.

ThinWalter, your contributions to the dialogue are very much appreciated. I have been contacted by several people who have been taken by your experiences. Hopefully, these issues which are past and present will become part of a deeper investigation.

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