The Sweetwater Union High School District came out of closed session on June 30 with two stunning reports.
First: Superintendent Ed Brand has been place on administrative leave as of the end of the day July 3; he will be paid to the end of his contract, which expires October 1.
There were about 40 people in the audience; many applauded. Fran Brinkman, a longtime public advocate, told the board that she was so was pleased by the announcement that she will not be returning to speak at board meetings.
The board emphasized the measure was not disciplinary. Rather, the reason behind the unanimous vote, according to trustee Susan Hartley, was:
“We have found that if Dr. Brand were to stay through October 1, as his contract states, that there would be a very short time for an interim superintendent and we felt like we want to move the district forward, we want what’s best for kids and the community and staff and everybody, and we think very clearly that having more time for an interim superintendent to get up to speed on all the issues is the right thing to do….
“It’s in the interest of everyone, for him [Brand] to take this time to step aside and let an interim come in and learn about the district so they can be ready for the new board that comes in early December. Because that new board is going to turn around and select a superintendent, and if the interim is up to speed he or she is going to be able to help the board with their selection….”
There will be a special board meeting July 2 at 3:30 to give the public an opportunity to give input on the interim superintendent.
Not everybody was happy. David Walden, a local resident and businessman who came to the meeting to speak against an agenda to limit speaker length, said, “At tonight's Sweetwater board meeting, I was very disappointed to learn that the board of trustees agreed to place the superintendent on paid administrative leave beginning close of business 3 July. It was an unconscionable decision by the board and at grave expense to the school district to pay the superintendent's excessive salary only to stay at home and not be a part of the turnover process.”
Who will be the new interim superintendent?
The June 30 board meeting demonstrates the future is not predictable.
Ramón Leyva, an area superintendent; José Brosz, principal at Otay Ranch High School; and area supervisor Karen Janney, a former district administrator and former Sweetwater trustee candidate were just a few names overheard in the boardroom.
The second stunning closed-session decision was that the board voted to take a 20-year lease on new district-office headquarters on the eastside of Chula Vista.
Neither the community, the staff, nor the teachers were given an opportunity to give input on the location before it was selected.
Paula Hall, an Imperial Beach parent, told the board, “Our [district advisory committee] talked about this sale. There wasn’t one parent I talked to who was pro [on] this action…. You’re moving the [district office] away to a distant area. The people on my side of the community are lower income, they often use public transportation, or they don’t have the kind of transportation to get them over to that side….”
Nevertheless, the board voted 5-0 to enter into an agreement for the Harold Place building.
Chief facilities officer Tom Calhoun gave this explanation: “I have been working on the asset utilization program for about two years. One of the biggest problems the district has is the L Street debt. The district is able to move its facilities out of 35 separate facilities at 4 locations into a ten-year old basic district office with some warehouse capability at about four cents on the dollar.
"The value will take no funds from unrestricted funds or bond funds. It’s an asset exchange program….”
Trustee Lynn Neylon said, “…looking at the overall data, looking at the information as to what might be litigated and what might not be litigated…and if I understand it completely clearly, we are not obligating the new board to purchase this.”
Calhoun clarified, “It obligates the district to a 20-year lease, a 10-year term, with an option to renew for a total of 20 years. The option to buy opens in about 18 months.”