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At the June 11 Sweetwater Union High School District’s board meeting, Fran Brinkman and other members of her group (which reported corruption concerns to the district attorney) will ask trustees: What is going on with Proposition O Bond construction funds?

Through a public record request, Brinkman obtained charts from the County Board of Education that show the district’s monthly transactions from Prop O funds and state matching funds between January 1, 2011 and February 29, 2012. Copies of the charts were provided to the Reader.

The cash-flow charts show continuous transfers in and out of the two accounts. I consulted with an insider familiar with district expenditures. The person examined the charts and said it appears that the district has been continuously borrowing from the Prop O funds and matching state funds. The insider questioned not only the transfers out but the many transfers into the account that might indicate the district was trying to play catch-up by paying back the funds.

An analysis of one chart, done by a secondary source, states that from January 2011 to February 2012, the district received $61 million from the state, yet the balance is only $32 million.

In December 2011, the U-T revealed that the district was borrowing money from the $644 million bond to make ends meet. Subsequent to that revelation, all boardmembers except for Jim Cartmill pledged repeatedly that the district would not borrow from Proposition O funds.

Is the district borrowing from these funds, which are dedicated to construction and modernization, or not? The problem appears to be that the spending of taxpayers’ proposition money is shrouded in secrecy.

Bernardo Vasquez is the chair of Sweetwater Union High School District’s Proposition O Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee. The all-volunteer committee has struggled to keep track of construction-project spending since 2006.

According to Vasquez, the situation has worsened since Seville Group, Inc, program manager for Proposition O, was suspended in January.

In a May 29 interview, Vasquez said, “The district has not given the committee any financial reports this year.”

Vasquez also said when he and committee member David Butler went to the district last week seeking more accountability, they were alarmed by the charts they were shown by Paul Woods, the director of planning.

Vasquez said he and Butler had worked with the district early in January to develop a model report form that the committee could understand and use to track expenditures, but last week the district showed them a form that bore no relation to the one they had agreed upon.

Even more alarming, according to Vasquez, “The charts were not adding up. They raised more flags than answered questions.” Nevertheless, this is the information that will be presented to the trustees at the next meeting.

“The district is not meeting their obligation,” Vasquez said. He wants to give boardmembers the benefit of the doubt and wonders if district personnel might just be “overwhelmed and undermanned.” But he is weighing the question: “When do we start standing up and waving the red flag?”

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Jmbrickley June 3, 2012 @ 6:16 p.m.

Some of the latest numbers we have received from the State show that the State Matching Fund (County School FF Fund 35) has received approximately $61+ million from the State. Yet, there has been $152 million transferred out of that Fund between Jan. '11 and Feb. "12. There has also been transfers into the Fund of $170 million. If the State has only contributed $61 million, then the rest of the $170 million is because SUHSD is paying back money it has borrowed. That sum looks to be about $110 million. Yes, they are paying it back, but they aren't suppose to be borrowing it in the first place.

Looks like money is also continuing to be borrowed from the Prop. O Fund, as well as Mello-Roos Fund. Guess using one credit card to pay the payment on another is alive and well in the South Bay.


erupting June 7, 2012 @ 1:58 p.m.

Is anyone surprised? No, Sweetwater is the gift that keeps on giving unfortunately. I think the DA's office will be very busy because Brandara thinks they don't care. I bet when they look into this that things hopefully will change.


anniej June 3, 2012 @ 6:20 p.m.

john mccann, tell me it isn't so - you stood before all and pompously gloated, intimated that you had charged in on your white horse and stopped the practice of borrowing prop o funds. remember the meeting? we all sure do, how could we forget it, so how could it be?????????

could it be? that mccann did not, once again, know what he was talking about? could it be that mccann once again was speaking with forked tongue? could it be that brand has authorized behavior that is unbecoming an ITERIM superintendent. oh, excuse me that is brand & associates.

brand & associates, according to a recent article in star news brand was quoted that he had the district hire brand & associates so he could receive both his pension from his days as a school district employee and his current $20,000.00 a month salary as interim super.

oh my another discrepancy? i was of the impression that mccann was all for pension reform, that he supported the candidacy of De Maio, but how could that be? when the brand & associates issue came up at the last board meeting mccann sat there, once again mute - never said a word in objection. guess he is only against pension reform when it does not affect brand.

and mccann wants to know why he is being RECALLED - ah hello, it is because he is inept - just like jim cartmill, arlie ricasa and pearl quinones.

looks like board member lopez was right again. for over a year now (if not longer) she has been asking the tough questions regarding prop o - it appears she has been led astray. astray is that a synonym for lied to?

WOW, THIS IS BIG FOLKS, REALLY BIG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! taxpayers funds being used without their consent - an interim superintendent and the majority of the board fibbing to the public about it. in this case i have to say i doubt if quinones had a clue, but the then board pres mccann, well, according to him he was the captain of the ship -

IT APPEARS FOLKS THE PROP O SHIP HAS RUN AGROUND - someone call the hero mccann - surely he will save the day. NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! we are not talking about supplies here folks, not talking about paper cups we are talking about millions of our tax dollars.

just my opinion

just my humble opinion


Jmbrickley June 3, 2012 @ 7:15 p.m.

Leadership starts at the top. The very top! Four of our current Board members really don't pay much attention to what goes on beneath their station. The rely on reports from the Gandara, and now the Brand as to the well being of the District. If the Sup says it A-OK, they nod their heads and go back to their lives. They don't ask questions, because questions require effort, and effort is something these four do not want to put into this job.

It is this very lack of effort that kept some of them from learning about State laws regarding gifts to public officials. It is this same lack of effort that keeps them from asking the hard question of their Superintendent and the mood of their community. It is this very lack of effort that keeps them from even asking those people who know the honest answers, the very necessary questions regarding the day-to-day business of the District. Instead, they continue to take the easy path, the path they have been allowed to take for years, because no one was paying attention.

Well, that is no longer going to work. The community is asking some very hard questions regarding the District's budget, it's spending policies, and it's educational goals. No longer are the answers so easily given. The answers today require deep thought, sound logic, and above all, a root in reality.

Four of the current Board members almost never ask questions of anybody.


DavidnPB June 3, 2012 @ 7:36 p.m.

Sweetwater should hire the formet City Manager of the City of Bell near LA.

He is looking for a job, and it seems he would be the perfect fit.


eastlaker June 3, 2012 @ 9 p.m.

I recently read somewhere that Sweetwater Union High School District could just as well call itself "The Most Corrupt School District in America"--at the time I thought that might be an exaggeration, but now I am not so sure.

We've known for about 5 years that Mello-Roos funds were being comingled--wrongly.

Now, it seems that all of the funding has been used like a slush fund for whatever the Board and the Superintendent decide to purchase. I wonder what account the iPAD payment came from. I wonder if whomever sold the iPADS ended up comping the Super-duper Brand and the Board in some way.

How many times have we heard the phrase, "They have no shame!" And yet we continue to find out more. What a unique combination: the pretense that all is well coupled with a stench of corruption so foul it must be reaching the upper reaches of government entities by now. I hope someone up there is paying attention. We want this stopped, cleaned up.

We want our educational system back in recognizable, intelligent, honest fashion. The students deserve it. The teachers deserve it. The remaining honest admistrators deserve it. The public definitely deserves it.


anniej June 3, 2012 @ 11:27 p.m.

Eastlaker: i am sure john mccann wishes there was an albertson's manager he could phone to help him, cartmill, ricasa and brand out of this. i may be wrong but i do not believe that quinones had/has a clue that prop o monies, mello roos monies, and others (others i say) ) are allegedly being used as a slush fund. lopez, little bertha lopez had an inkling - soooooooo many times she asked about the prop o funds, the state matching funds - she has even called for a forensic audit of the districts books. wonder if she has read this article?

it is time for a BELL LIKE investigation into all that is sweetwater - while sweetwater consists of many cities - one of them is NOT BELL, Ca. time will tell

national media coverage - it has been mentioned before - when it happens the roof will be blown off - somewhat like a tornado - in a tornado the pressure outside affects what is going on inside and poof the roof is gone and all is exposed. time will tell

the prop bb grand jury investigation clearly indicated that there was a need for further investigation - and before the community knew it several key employees at sweetwater were headed for greener pastures - brand included. yet what did mccann do, mccann brought him back. remember the night last june - when brand talked about his love for the district his desire to leave his mark indelibly on sweetwater - well that indelible mark will be like the book 'the scarlet letter'; however in our case there will be several wearing a big C vs an A. C for corruption. it will be hard for the district to explain those redacted reports won't it? would love to be there when they try and tell the FBI "that is attorney client privilege". time will tell

gone are the political futures of mccann, ricasa, and quinones - gone are any future superintendent appointments for brand - all gone!!!!!!!!!! how will the little man who wanted to be king get out of this one? no, a phone call or email to the ut will not work, another cover story about mccann and all he has done - we know what he has done - NOTHING, ZERO, ZILCH. we want mccann and them OUTTA HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!! time will tell

hopefully they will all decide "'in the best interest of the District' - we have collectively decided to step down - it is what the taxpayers want and we will honor their wishes" - surely they are not blind as to what is coming, surely they see the writing on the wall. time will tell

it now rests on board president pearl quinones shoulders - time for her to take control - while there is little doubt all BUT she and lopez knew - now she knows - so it is up to Pearl - what is she going to do about it? time will tell

in the mean time TICK, TOCK, TICK, TOCK

my humble opinion


eastlaker June 8, 2012 @ 8:50 a.m.

There is a definite need for some forensic accounting. I would hope that someone is on that now.

And, as you said, in the best interest of the district, we need some people who are 100% commited to serving the public, not themselves.

While I can recognize that the past several years have been challenging with the reductions in budgets, I can also see that funds have been 'misallocated' -- items have been funded that should not have been funded.

I think that IB programs need to be strongly analyzed to make sure that when we as a district spend money, there is value. We need to see the results from that program as well as from the Compact for Success. What are the numbers? When students are admitted to the state university system through Compact for Success, what are graduation rates, attrition rates, drop-out rates, return rates? GPAs? What are the performance levels? All this information should be available to the public so that we can do cost/benefit analyses. And I say this as a person with a background in humanities, not business. But we need to make sure that what we do is not a waste.

This is part of the transparency that I would like. There is no need to make everything a big mystery unless someone is trying to hide something.


anothereastlaker June 9, 2012 @ 2:07 p.m.

I recently noticed that the minutes to the board meetings are no longer available. Where have they gone? An item on a recent board agenda asked for $1.5 million to fix an observatory at EHS. No one even teaches astronomy there...why do we need an observatory? Did the item get approved? How can the public know if the minutes aren't there. Talk about a waste of my expensive Mello-Roos dollars!


eastlaker June 9, 2012 @ 2:40 p.m.

Eastlake High School has had an observatory since it was build, but--the observatory wasn't built to proper strength as well as access for wheelchair-bound and other mobility-impaired individuals. So it hasn't been used for approximately 10 years now. There have been various efforts to get it fixed which languished due to all the funding problems. Personnel changes also didn't help. So--pretty sure there would be an Astronomy class if the observatory were operational.


eastlaker June 9, 2012 @ 3:16 p.m.

I took a look at the School Board's website, and here is what I found. On the home page, on the upper right boarder you will see "Board Documents". Click on that, and you will see a page that is mostly blank, except for a couple of options in the middle. Click on "enter public site". Then you will be brought to a page that says "meetings". The current agenda should be there. Look for other tabs to click on--you will see meetings by year. Click on the year and then month you are looking for. Hope this works for you!


joepublic June 6, 2012 @ 4:16 p.m.

The article quotes Mr. Vasquez, "When do we start standing up and waving the red flag?". I wonder if this lands him on McCann's anti-American list, or maybe frighten Mr. McCann into seeking another restraining order.


erupting June 7, 2012 @ 2:15 p.m.

I'm glad you blog your humor takes some of the sting out of the painful reality.


anniej June 6, 2012 @ 6:55 p.m.

Joepublic: no doubt the District - mccann and brand - are strategizing as we speak. but you know it is hard to dispute facts. it is hard to dispute the spoken word as captured on tape.

this will not bode well for mccann, this is yet another example of his failure to lead - another example of why he is considered mere fodder by many 'in the know'. he sits there in front of the public and gives his word that prop o will no longer be touched - well it appears his word is not valued by brand.

brand sat there at the sweetwater board meeting and complained about not having the prop o check book any longer and exclaims 'so we are now using mello roos funds'. (now that makes the eastlake folks feels more than a little betrayed). and here, come to find out THEY ARE USING BOTH.

"hello mr. printer, about those flyers you are printing up for us regarding RECALLING john mccann, cartmill, and ricasa - well can we add a line? - it will have something to do with - ah, lets say 'maybe they stretched the truth and allegedly misused funds'.

speaking of misused funds - what about the ipad fiasco. i am willing to bet that 20% of the households in this district do not have access to the internet - now we were told the district was going to negotiate a contract with cox cable for a discounted rate - ah yes, we were told but, the real question is 'DID THEY NEGOTIATE WITH COX'? none of the incoming 7th grade parents i know have received such a communication from the district.

i am not knocking ipads i know their value: i have purchased several - one for my recently college graduated daughter, i purchased one for my husband, and i purchased one for each of my two grandchildren - not the cheap ones either - in the first week my very responsible, straight A grandson accidentally knocked his off the of the counter. OOPS!!!!!!! so how many OOPS are going to happen? who is going to pay for their replacement? and what about our District being given training to repair them? hmmmmmmmmmmmm

i understand the ACLU is suing one of the local districts regarding this very issue - hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm


eastlaker June 8, 2012 @ 1:49 p.m.

Just what can Brand and McCann be doing now? Strategizing? Trying to dig themselves out of a hole that is approaching the size of the Grand Canyon? Strategize that!? Not remotely possible.

It is time for one and all to come clean. This school district needs to concentrate on what is really important--the education of the young people. We need to show them that ethics matter, that doing your best matters, that working for the public good isn't a joke--it is important. All the shysters and self-serving empty suits can depart. We'd like the honest and hard-working people, who have a view to building a better community, to stay.


cvres June 9, 2012 @ 8:16 a.m.

The Sweetwater saga has gone on too long. When is the DA's office going to act. Indicted board members should be tried, if they are guilty they should not be making decisions on behalf of the district.

An interim superintendent should not be making such sweeping plans (charter schools, etc) while the district is in this situation--it's taking advantage of the compromised situation the district is in.


eastlaker June 9, 2012 @ 9:45 a.m.

Hear, hear!

I agree with all your statements. I'm hopint the DA's office is putting together an air-tight case, which is why we haven't heard much from them in a while.

And what you say about Brand is certainly true. He should be held to "caretaker" positions and decisions. Policy-making, long-term planning and building his own realm of creature comforts should not be allowed--the Board should be strong enough to contain such grandiosity. That the Board is not and does not, speaks to their own lack of insight, backbone and wisdom. More on that later.


anniej June 9, 2012 @ 1:10 p.m.

i have no doubt it is air tight - remember those contractors who pleaded guilty? something tells me they are singing canaries about now. and oh do they have stories to tell.

brand is brand, he is not going to change and so therefore he needs to go. one by one, sooner or later, one way or another we will be cleansed of these greedy politicians. the legacy he will leave this time will probably end up being much worse than last time due to all of the 'legalities' involved.

karma, we have all heard about it and most try and live a life that honors 'do unto others'. however when this group was in sunday school they must have heard it wrong for in their minds it is 'do for me to hell with the others'.

john mccann is running scared, sending out emails to anyone who has not been able to block the little man, doing all he can to deflect his ownership in the campaign donation and voting record on contractors for prop o, doing all he can to try and make us forget 'the vega report', doing all he can to try and deny his alleged hiding the second opinion regarding firing 'the gandara' for cause, doing all he can to paint himself as something he is not, doing all he can to make it all about quinones and ricasa - all the while the two of them continuing to vote right along with him. ah, hello!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!, are the two of you reading the blogs???????????????? yes, johnny boy can be seen driving thru south bay, his little red camera right next to him hoping to spot one of the antagonizers so he can snap their picture - poor little john, he thinks he is intimidating them, all he is really doing is encouraging them to fight the good fight - and in doing so single handidly ending his own political career.

had the opportunity to speak to a mover and shaker in the community today while ''''''shopping''''' at vons - he thanked me and told me to thank all of the others who have brought to light the real john mccann. "you all are being toasted all over town, JOB WELL DONE". NO, not yet, but close real close!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

we are fighting the good fight, we have no personal gain in mine - we are fighting the good fight for those who are unable to fight alleged corruption on their own, the students!!!!!!!!


eastlaker June 11, 2012 @ 10:25 a.m.

I am glad to hear you are getting positive public response. Something needs to happen. We are not hearing anything from the County Board of Education, I do not believe we have heard anything from Mayor Cheryl Cox on this, and the Star-News once again published an article that seemed rather biased in favor of the malefactors. One would think that the public outcry would be greater against the cast of "Bumbling Trustees of Sweetwater Union, the Reality Show".


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 1:36 p.m.

Eastlaker: i have a different opinion when it comes to the Star News coverage of the sweetwater district. they are reporting the news, and for the most part it is unbiased, as a reader, that is all i ask -


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 10:31 a.m.

I guess I was relying on older news articles. The two that just posted on facebook I had not been able to read. The community needs as much information and input as they can get, and I am glad the Star-News is joining in.


Edward_Brand June 11, 2012 @ 11:05 a.m.

This article is categorically untrue and one-sided. We demand that you retract the story and offer an apology to the district and the dedicated employees whose integrity you called into question.

Contrary to what the story asserted, there has been no borrowing of Prop O funds to cover district operating expenses since October 2011, when the board of trustees issued a directive to staff to stop the practice.

A story involving the use of public funds deserves a more thorough examination and more careful reporting than was applied here. In this case, the reporter “consulted” only with district detractors who drew false conclusions based on misunderstandings.

As presented, the story was completely inaccurate. The reporter did not bother to seek clarification or comment from anyone in the district administration. Had she done so, she would have been invited to sit down with the interim deputy superintendent of operations to review the district budget records to get a clear understanding of district finances.

That offer still stands, should the Reader care to report news rather than hearsay.

Edward M. Brand, Ed.D. Superintendent

Sweetwater Union High School District


eastlaker June 11, 2012 @ 4:48 p.m.

Any further comments with regard to Mello-Roos funds, Dr. Brand? Or is that an issue you would much rather side-step?

Brave defensive move on Prop O, however. Somehow, despite your late response, I feel that there is yet more truth to be found.


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 12:40 a.m.

now don't you remember the meeting held at Sweetwater High - brand publicly declared that he is using Mello Roos funds to make payroll.

EASTLAKE TAXPAYERS - these are your tax dollars we are talking about.


erupting June 12, 2012 @ 11:16 a.m.

Truth hurts doesn't it Eddie boy. You can't hide from this one or make it go away. Therr is plenty of space here for you to explain if you choose,but we know that won't happen.


savesweetwater June 12, 2012 @ 1:49 p.m.

I agree with the other responders to Brand's post - it boils down to a total lack of transparency and integrity among the leadership of the district. They have totally forgotten that they are here to SERVE this community, not to try to hoodwink us with their speeches while their actions betray the truth.
The problem is the unbreakable alignment of Brand, Ricasa, Cartmill and McCann. They decide well before the meeting (in violation of the Brown Act - again) how they will trade favors so the four of them all get what they want out of the district.

The remedy to this situation - 1. recall Ricasa, Cartmill and McCann, or even better - they should resign 2. start the search for a real superintendent - NOW. I find it interesting that Brand signed his comment as Superintendent, not interim or acting. When did the Board vote on that? Is he interim, or not?


Susan Luzzaro June 11, 2012 @ 11:14 p.m.

Dr Brand, I've just returned from the Sweetwater board meeting where trustee Lopez told you it was unacceptable that you had not provided the bond oversight committee with information on Proposition O spending for six months. You said you would get the information to the committee right away. The actions of the meeting verify the reporting in this article.

The article is posed as a question--a question about district transparency--that is why there is a question mark in the title and a question in the middle of the story.

You identify the people who carried concerns to the district attorney's office, concerns which have resulted in indictments, as "district detractors." Many people in the community consider them their voice.

As your letter says the reporter only consulted detractors that means you consider Bernardo Vasquez, chair of the bond oversight committee a detractor. That is most unfortunate for the committee and for the taxpayers.


savesweetwater June 12, 2012 @ 1:55 p.m.

Susan - Once again you have done an awesome job investigating and reporting on the news in the South Bay. You and The Reader have earned this community's respect and appreciation. Please keep up the good work.


angrybirds June 12, 2012 @ 4:16 p.m.

The audacity of this man is through the roof!


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 12:02 a.m.

i too was in attendance at this evenings sweetwater board meeting - the information in question was provided to the board clerk - copies for all of the board members to follow along and it was given to dr brand. dr. brand failed to hand the board members their copies WHY??????????????????????????????????

if the Bond Oversight Committee collectively are raising the red flag then why shouldn't we? if they are concerned, then why shouldn't we be? from what i heard they are being disrespected in their roles of oversight members, now that is unacceptable, clearly unacceptable.

the documents were obtained from the County - FROM THE COUNTY!!!! there is no disputing the numbers, what is being disputing is why, why is the district continuing to borrow from prop o bond dollars.

what this has done is made it perfectly clear that NO FUTURE BOND PROPOSALS will fly in the south bay for the district of sweetwater under the current leadership of interim superintendent brand or the majority of the board. board member bertha lopez is the ONLY board member who has consistently asked the tough questions. board member lopez is the ONLY board member who understands what being a board member is all about - acting in a responsible manner protecting the education of our youth and responsibly handling the tax dollars of the south bay community.

speakers spoke of more important data to come. THERE IS MORE????????????????


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 12:37 a.m.

Ms. Luzzarro: i have observed Mr. Vasquez for a couple of years now. He is NOT a detractor, quite the opposite. He has at every opportunity pointed out more about what is right with the students, teachers, parents and some aspects of the board. the fact the board and brand are charged by law to provide information to the boc is regulation, so why isn't brand honoring what he is legally charged with doing.

our board is not use to dealing with a bond oversight committee (boc) president who is dedicated to integrity. for far too long the boc was led by 'yes' persons, i.e. persons who were associated with certain board members, i.e. either married to them or a sorority sister of one of them. well this is a new dawn day of a new day - and we the community are proud that there are now members of the boc that are willing to stand up and speak the truth. i mean after all isn't that what they are legally charged with doing? what could potentially happen to Mr. Vasquez and the other members if they chose to turn a blind eye?

"hello Ms. Bonnie Dumanis, we know you are busy, but we need you to look into our district. - AGAIN"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"hello, County Board of Educations, i believe there is the real possibility that the sweetwater district is insolvent - so you tell us, who calls the STATE, your or us?"

the information, provided which is based on the county board's numbers is proof, proof that there is much wrong with sweetwater under the leadership of the majority of the board and the interim superintendent, brand.


johndewey June 12, 2012 @ 8:03 a.m.

Mr. Brand: You say, "The reporter did not bother to seek clarification or comment from anyone in the district administration." You've got to be kidding. Mr. Vasquez, who chairs the district's bond oversight committee has been trying for months to get clarification from the district administration to no avail. You also wrote, "We demand that you retract the story and offer an apology..." Question: Who is the WE you refer to? Your consultant firm? Remember, you are INTERIM. In fact, you even call yourself a consultant (I understand that's so you can rake in your retirement as well as ripping the public off for $20,000 a month.The Reader has been a consistent source of truth about this corrupt district, and for that the public is grateful. It is you, not this reporter who owes the community an apology and a retraction of your ridiculous comment.


johndewey June 12, 2012 @ 8:03 a.m.

I want to thank the dedicated members of the community who attend every board meeting and represent the interests of the public.


erupting June 12, 2012 @ 11:22 a.m.

Please join us, we could use people like you that care.


eastlaker June 12, 2012 @ 8:22 a.m.

I ask myself, what made me start wondering what was going on with Sweetwater--and when I started to get that feeling that things were not right, it was several years ago in perhaps the second iteration of the budget reduction. The district website's comment section for sugggestions from the public was so carefully and closely screened that essentially nothing of substance was ever made public.

If you are not hiding something, there is no need for secrets. If you are telling the truth, all the information can easily be forthcoming. It is only when you are trying to keep the public from knowing what they should rightfully know that it is necessary to act the way this Board of Trustees and the Superintendent(s) and all the administrative lackeys have acted, and still continue to act.

What a crew, brewing the festering stew of misappropriations, lies, pay-offs, bribes, threats (to those who attempt to let the truth be known) and assorted sordid goings-on too numerous to mention.

We aren't afraid of you and your threats. I think you know why.


Alex_Anguiano June 12, 2012 @ 11:26 a.m.

At last night’s school board meeting, Public Communication was moved to the end of the agenda. At 10:02 p.m., the school board meeting recessed with only one remaining item left: Public Communication.

I suppose the school board will reconvene someday to hear Public Communication so that the June 11 school board meeting can end.

I had two issues that I wanted to share in the Public Communications part of the agenda. I wanted to discuss how school master schedules are shaping up for the upcoming school year since I have reviewed most of them. They look bad. As they are shaping-up, students will have more program changes than ever before, hundreds of classes will start without a teacher of record, and many teachers will need to be transferred to new schools with little time to prepare for the 2012-13 school year.

The master schedules are not standardized. For example, Eastlake High School’s schedule included the names of some teachers, but not most. Some listed teacher A, B, C,…, others included the names of teachers that have lost their jobs. What a mess. I am pretty sure that the district has not reviewed the master schedules. All-in-all, they are the worst master schedules that I have ever seen. They need to be fixed. School starts next month.

The other thing that I wanted to discuss was that the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) will not allow exemptions to the earning limit ($31,020) for the upcoming school year. (http://www.calstrs.com/Help/forms_publications/printed/MemberHandbook/after_you_retire.pdf) That requires immediate attention since we will need a new superintendent one and a half months into the new school year. There is another option. Our superintendent can work for free.

Our HR department failed to file an exemption for our superintendent and his wife. I understand that they are scrambling to do so since the exemptions must be approved by June 30, 2012. If it is not approved, STRS will require reimbursement for monies received beyond the earning limit.

I sincerely hope that our district does not waste student resources to attempt a legal maneuver to circumvent the law. We have a situation that needs to be addressed quickly.


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 11:59 a.m.

Mr. Anguiano: i believe it is time for the entire community to contact calstrs - our district is in dire straights, the majority of our board, the consistent 3 continue to vote in a block 3 - 2 john mccann, cartmill, ricasa vs bertha lopez, quinones. quinones is new to this side.

one would have hoped that ms. ricasa would have given pause and taken stock - thought about the legacy she will leave when she is RECALLED or voted out, which ever comes first. one would have thought that it was time for a look in the mirror and a change of course.

last evening i did see signs of the old Arlie Ricasa, the woman who so many had trust in and voted for ( i consistently voted for her long ago) i saw her take pause and really consider a few of the agenda items i.e. the ability of brand and the cfo to transfer funds from 'accounts' (unspecified) to the general fund and from the general fund to 'accounts'. Arlie Ricasa asked for the titles of those 'accounts' to be specified - brand did not look happy at all - but he never does when he is challenged. but it is important to give credit where credit is due and i credit Ms. Ricasa for taking this stand on that agenda item. we need to see in black and white, written, that the board has not approved the borrowing of prop o - we were told it stopped - but the county's data now proves that to be false.

as a closing note i am wondering why ALL of the board members did not publicly state - dr. brand may you be so kind as to give me my copy of the data? why did they simply sit there like minions being led?


erupting June 12, 2012 @ 11:27 a.m.

Thank You Reader and Ms. Luzzaro for the unbiased,honest reporting that is your signature in reporting.I'm gladden by the fact that you do not feel that you have to the superintendents approval to do an article.


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 11:37 a.m.

it is apparent that brand, for some reason, believes he can control all of the press. he calls them in defines 'this is the way it is gonna be done' and poof it happens. well, The Reader is obviously old school. you remember those days, when reporters reported the news, quoted persons of interest and then allowed those who subscribed to make up their own minds. it is refreshing to read a news source such as this - truth be told, never bothered up until about a year or so ago. my main source was the ut, however the news there began to change it seemed to lead me vs. educate me with facts and then with the revelations that the tape revealed (regarding ut not wanting Filner) my subscription to the ut was cancelled last week. it was not that they were against Filner, it was that they were trying to persuade the readers to be against Filner. again i say i am old enough and smart enough to make up my own mind.

while i am but one, i say, Thank You to the Editor and Owners of The READER, thanks for adhering to the right of - FREEDOM OF THE PRESS.

THANK YOU for not buckling under the pressure of 'brand' oh, i am sorry, i mean 'brand & associates'.


angrybirds June 12, 2012 @ 12:54 p.m.

Why hasn't the county, state or federal government taken over this district? Dr. Brand you are a scam you always have been and you always will be. All of your comments that you love this district and you are back to help is a bunch of crap! The love came with a $20,000 a month price tag and let me tell you that is not love that is greed. You fit in very well with the greedy board you attempt to lead, they are just as bad as you. Shame on you and shame on them for keeping you. But as a friend who was at the meeting last night told me the only people with any sort of brains and/or common sense are the people that speak at every board meeting. They are the ones that care for the students and the staff they do this for FREE and all they get from this board and you are smirks, and a lack of attention to the logical things they are saying. Maybe if you all would put aside the ego's and listen you would find truth and logic into their questions and remarks. This district is a definite hell hole and is drowning in their own lies and ineptitude's. Ms. Luzzaro keep up the good work and thank your editor for now cowering to the idiotic bulling tactics that Brand tried to pose on you because we all know the UT cowered!

I would love to see those reports everyone is referring to that Brand decided not to give to the board, not that they would understand anything or ask questions. Could the reader get a copy of those reports to post them if possible?


oskidoll June 12, 2012 @ 1:59 p.m.

Whoa! The meeting of 6/11 was recessed prior to Public Comment !!!! So the public was denied its Brown Act rights to be heard during an open meeting of a public agency???? As of today (6/12) there is no notice of a resumption of the 'recessed' meeting of 6/11.

And who is Dr. Brand to 'decide' that he only agrees to place an item on the agenda (his quote in UT article) only if and when he has the ok of three board members? That smacks of collusion of board members, which is absolutely prohibited by the Brown Act. He just does not have any authority to do that.

Further, the Brown Act, as well as the SUHSD own by laws, stipulate that any member of the board (singular) or any member (singular) of the public may provide agenda items.

Please call in the 'Brown Act' police here and arrest Dr. Brand and Co. There are flagrant violations here.


eastlaker June 12, 2012 @ 3:12 p.m.

Yes, you got it!!

Several more violations of the Brown Act (which are now added to the already long list)--shouldn't this mean that it is time for other authorities to step in and take over? Brand is clearly out of control. The board is disfunctional. The people who are responsible enough to want to accomplish business are not being allowed to.

The system has been hijacked by self-serving politicos whose biggest interest is in keeping the scam going.

This must end.


Greenville June 12, 2012 @ 7:16 p.m.

Dr. Brand, thank you for joining the conversation. After reading all of these comments, and reflecting on my own experience as a Sweetwater employee, I am reminded of the advice I received from a district administrator regarding my rejected application for an administration position. This person advised me to be patient because those in power had a lot of favors that they needed to repay. Could a few of those people be principals who are key campaign contributors to one of the indicted board members? What about those administrators who have contributed so many times to so many board member campaigns, that one would think they were tithing to a church? I could continue, but that would be a digression. The point is that this board is financially beholden to the very people it purports to supervise. These very same district administrators run our district, write your reports, and until very recently offered legal advice. There are other recent questionable promotions which have the same flavor. Who are you protecting Dr. Brand, or who are you rewarding for their loyalty and silence? I have absolutely no faith in the ability of this school board to do anything other than protect their own pocket books, floundering political aspirations, and diminishing reputations. Sadly, I have observed that those who would question you do not have the background needed to fully and effectively challenge you. I can only hope that the press will keep reporting, that the recall will be successful, and that two of our board members will go to prison. If we do not clean house, I doubt that there is a single eligible superintendent candidate who will apply for the job.


eastlaker June 12, 2012 @ 7:31 p.m.

The question is, who would have the background to question Brand? A Grand Jury? Because that's pretty much what it would take. Think Augean stables for degree of filth. Where's Hercules when you need him?


Greenville June 12, 2012 @ 7:51 p.m.

A grand jury could question, but they need to know which questions to ask.


anniej June 12, 2012 @ 9:43 p.m.

Greenville: very interesting post, you have given the reader much to consider. for far too long it has been not what you know but who you know. under 'the gandara' many were wooed with promises of promotion and title. look where those persons are now. principals who donated so generously into the campaigns of 'certain' board members believing they would be part of the inner circle. what they failed to realize is this............ you are only part of the inner circle as long as you are needed - once you have been used up you are discarded. wow, what a sad state of affairs, stressful working conditions to say the least. unfortunately there have been casualties along the way, some of the best of the best who were dazzled and then left blind sighted, careers ended.

who is being protected? well many believe it is all about the money - follow the money.

but here is my question why? why all of the smoke and mirrors? what is being hidden, what could be so bad that they would go to such lengths?

regarding an eligible superintendent candidate - respectfully i disagree - surely there are candidates - i can think of one right off the top of my head - who in the history of sweetwater could not, would not be bought???????????????

what questions to ask? there are those who not only know the questions but know the factual answers.


Greenville June 13, 2012 @ 9:43 a.m.

I think the cafeteria scandal might be something worth looking into more deeply, along with those ancillary administrators who worked at the site and district office. Why haven't felony charges been filed in this case? I may not have the most recent facts on this one. Perhaps the district has followed through with their promise to fully investigate. But given what I know about Ed Brand and his "best friends" as he once referred to them--well let us just say he is wishing this most recent cafeteria incident will be brushed under the carpet and stay there. Do I have any proof? No. But I know what's been done in the past when the boys behave badly.

As regards an eligible candidate: there are some excellent candidates out there, and I suspect I know who you are talking about. But, would this board hire any of those people?


anniej June 13, 2012 @ 8:28 p.m.

then and NOW the community has voiced concern that the head of the Dept. was allowed to simply walk away. keep in mind, her resignation date was projected into the future in an effort to ensure she would be eligible for district retirement. remember those cafeterias like otay that had all of her product logos all over the newly designed areas - our tax dollars people. oh, but that is right she turned the business over to her son after she was given the Director position. hmmmmmmmm - surely 'the gandara' was not given a % for that would have been illegal - surely he would never, she would never do such a thing.

there have been stories of pay offs, i will get you a job you pay me lets say 10% of your salary for six months - finder fee????????

then there is the allegation that persons were paid to take the tests needed to assume the position because potential future employee could not read english.

of course there is the story of the cafeteria employees who were taking the supplies i.e. hot dogs, sodas, napkins etc. going to the parks and selling the goods and keeping the monies.

and of course the stories of the missing cash out of the tills


anniej June 13, 2012 @ 8:53 p.m.

Greenville: i do not mean to over step any boundaries here, but i am quite sure the district attorney's office would be very interested in these campaign contributions you referred to - while not illegal???????????, OR maybe, just maybe in this case they were.


Greenville June 13, 2012 @ 11 p.m.

Well that is the problem. The contributions are legal and a matter of public record. The recent contributions are posted on the Registrar's website. Older contributions might still be posted on the web. Or if you are really curious I think the Occupy Sweetwater people might have a breakdown of who has contributed, and to which campaign. If this board were to adopt some sort of camping contribution rule, they should definitely include district employees on the taboo list.


Susan Luzzaro June 12, 2012 @ 10:14 p.m.

angrybirds, I think your idea is interesting. I'll check into seeing if the charts could be posted. They are county and state documents obtained through a public record request. The docs might generate comments or thoughts from people in the know. Might be late in the game for this article, but a good idea.


angrybirds June 13, 2012 @ 10:31 a.m.

Susan, you could always run this on the front page of the reader. i think everyone should see the nasty letter Dr. Brand sent to you and maybe you should demand an apology.


Susan Luzzaro June 12, 2012 @ 10:35 p.m.


I know one of your repeated concerns is the Mello-Roos. Who oversees the district's spending or borrowing from Mello-Roos....other than the district? I guess it's a good question for me to research.


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 9:22 a.m.

I will try this again. My first attempt at responding to this got an error message.

Mello-Roos funds are collected through the county tax bill. I do not know if the funds are then sent to the city of Chula Vista, who then distributes to Chula Vista Elementary School District and SUHSD, but I would think that is what happens. I can't see the county having the precision to distribute these funds. Just my gut feeling. Or maybe the funds go to the County Board of Education, who then distribute. I do not know.

I do not know if the funds are on-going in terms of being given to the school districts, or if it is a once a year, or quarterly distribution, or what. I am pretty sure it is a sizable amount, rough/low estimate at $1000 per home per year, with all the Eastlake homes? With only 1000 homes, that's $1 million, and if you consider Eastlake 1, the Greens, the Hills and the Woods--I really don't know what the numbers would be. Substantial. Enough so that even whoever holds those funds temporarily prior to distribution must earn a healthy amount in interest.

When we bought our home, we were told that the Mello-Roos would be payable for 15 years. Not so. The terminology on the real estate tax bill changed about 10 years ago, so it is harder to decipher and determine what is what, but we are still paying. Then we heard that it is for 20 years. Then we heard that it can be extended to perpetuity.

This is why I feel we need to know exactly what is going on with this money.

Regarding who oversees what, in general I think that the County Board of Education is supposed to have a hand in that, but they seem to be completely ineffectual, if not actually comatose.


angrybirds June 13, 2012 @ 10:40 a.m.

Eastlaker I truly think that you should really look into this issue and start questioning the practices of the Mello Roos funds, especially if you are paying them. The County Board of Ed I think sits with their feet up and has done nothing to help this district get back on track, maybe they are in cahoots with them.... If they are illegally using one fund there is probably a lot more to this money thing then we know.


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 12:19 p.m.

I have made a couple of attempts, but can never get beyond the entry-level position holders, who can't answer questions. Messages left then never get answered by anyone higher up. I get the feeling no one wants to talk about this...


Greenville June 13, 2012 @ 5:07 p.m.


Just found this link on Mello Roos funds. Let's all do some reading and report back. It seems to me that the district should not need to borrow funds to run day to day business. What is that money being used for? Who holds the proverbial purse strings? Is it the county or is there some sort of intermediary agency?


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 6:15 p.m.

Thanks! This is great, even if it isn't the most exciting read out there.

The really good part seems to be that you are not supposed to take Mello-Roos funds and invest them at a higher interest rate--I skimmed through, so will have to return and maybe print the more pertinent sections. You can, however, reissue bonds if they are being charged a higher rate and a lower rate is available. My guess is that they are trying to make money off what Mello-Roos funds they haven't actually been borrowing against. Any other thoughts?


Greenville June 13, 2012 @ 10:21 p.m.

Oh, that is a good thought! I was being much more creative--money laundering and so forth. But the interest rate idea is more in line with the sort of "fund raising" that we know has taken place in the past.


Jmbrickley June 12, 2012 @ 11:23 p.m.

Excellent article Ms. Luzzaro. Excellent response to Dr. Brand's post as well.

It is my belief that the SUHSD has moved beyond the casual borrowing from the various Funds to make ends meet on the occasional basis, and has now moved to the borrowing of large sums of money, tens of millions, to run the day to day operations of the District and service the debt for the previously borrowed funds in months past. Even Dr. Brand said this amount was approaching $80,000,000 as early as September, 2011. He also said the only Funds large enough to provide those kinds of numbers were the Bond Funds, and he intended to use them. After all, if we don't then we would have to borrow the money from a bank.

We have moved well beyond September 2011, and the need for monies has grown only more desperate. A promise to not raid the Prop. O Funds has only lead to massive borrowing from the State Matching Funds and the Community Facilities Fund (Mello-Roos).

These three Funds are the life blood of the construction authorized by the community, first with the passage of the Mello-Roos for infrastructure, with the School District being responsible for the building and upkeep of school facilities WITHIN the Mello-Roos Districts; second with the strict language that was written into Proposition O , that the money was to only be used for modernization of schools buildings and facilities; and thirdly by the State Matching funds that are to be used for the specific purpose stated in the application for the State Funds.

Because the administration of SUHSD sees these funds as fair game, there has been a general slow down on construction of the Prop. O projects. Not because there isn't work to be done, but rather because so much money has been borrowed from these funds that there really isn't enough money left to keep construction going. SUHSD administration will tell you that we have plenty of projects going on. The reality is that the few that are still ongoing are mostly watching the paint dry.

Last nights Board meeting had an agenda item regarding the Districts budget. One of the supporting documents that described the State Matching Funds balance had this line under expenditures... "Other Outgo - $51,456,564." This money was not spent on supplies, services, administrative expenses, site/facility expenses. It was spent on "OTHER."


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 9:26 a.m.

Other outgo at $51,456,564 is a pretty big slush fund. Which makes me wonder what the real number is, as we have do little to go on here. They could be picking random numbers and no one would know the difference, because they are not releasing the information they are supposed to be releasing. And even then, things most likely have been "massaged".


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 6:29 p.m.

So do think "other outgo - $51,456,564" is actually debt servicing/interest paid? Or all sorts of pet projects?


Susan Luzzaro June 13, 2012 @ 11:23 a.m.

Thank you for your comments Mr. Brickley.

I am surprised that your board comments do not generate more discussion among the trustees. You've often raised questions about material that I have had when I reviewed the agenda. While I know that trustees don't act on new material, certainly it would help to keep the public better informed if there was a discussion around some of the questions you raise.


eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 12:12 p.m.

Here are a couple of theories regarding why the trustees have not discussed Mr. Brickley's comments: 1) They are not 'authorized' to speak unless told what they are to say; 2) If they in fact are possessed of the free will allowing them to speak up, they are unable to cogitate sufficiently to do so extemporaneously; 3) They live in fear of saying/doing the wrong thing, thereby earning the wrath of Dr. Brand.

And the wrath of Dr. Brand equals what?--being cast into the outer darkness? Being set up to take the fall for the rest of the bunch? Losing the comfort of a job where you show up, do what you are told and never question anything, so you can move on to some other comfortable position on another board, or as mayor, or?


anniej June 13, 2012 @ 9:01 p.m.

Eastlaker: surely it is not collusion, surely they do not all have the goods on each other? - (mccann, ricasa, and cartmill).

these three (3) historically vote as a block, one would wonder why ricasa continues to do so as she is being thrown under the bus publicly by persons who support the other two.

a massive effort has begun this week, sooner or later, some one is going to be knocking on some doors, and guess what, it is not going to be the boogy man knocking - as he does not drive a big black suv.


anniej June 13, 2012 @ 8:41 p.m.

Ms. Susan: generate more discussion, surely you jest!!!!!!!!!! That would take initiative, that would take interest, that would take a legitimate concern for acting in the best interest of the students and taxpayers.

why is there no discussion?

my understanding is that the 'interim' meets with individual board members before the board meetings, so, one can take from this fact that the board has its mind made up before they ever step up onto the stage. or 'brand' has made up their minds? or have 'certain' board members made up brand's mind?

who knows, the only thing the public does seem to know is this - you almost need a mirror to put under their noses to get a sense if they are breathing or if those objects sitting in those chairs are mere blow up dolls.

one thing that is most apparent, while 'the gandara' use to sink low in his seat at the board meetings when he was irate with the public - brand sits there and looks like a frazee color chart of red. you can detect how torked he his by the intensity of the shade of red on his face.


savesweetwater June 14, 2012 @ 7:41 a.m.

If Brand does meet with individual board members before each meeting that is called a serial meeting and is a violation of the Brown Act (again) unless the meeting is officially agendized and posted.


oskidoll June 14, 2012 @ 2:44 p.m.

I believe the CEO may meet with individual members, even in serial meetings, BUT he/she is prohibited from revealing the position(s) of any of the members to any of the other members. This is a very gray area and is best avoided.


Jmbrickley June 20, 2012 @ 10:39 p.m.

Ms. Luzzaro, Our group brought our materials to the Board meeting to share with the Board members. Those materials were confiscated by Dr. Brand when the Board Clerk tried to pass them out, and they were not shared with the Board members.

Because other budgetary items also made up the agenda, we were able to give our oral presentation on those charts and graphs, but without the actual documents sitting in front of the individual members, our main points were harder to follow.

We will keep plugging along, bringing these issues into the light of day. Hopefully, the public will begin to "get it" and demand for the dismissal of the responsible people. After all, that was how Dr. Gandara was let go. Just saying.


Susan Luzzaro June 13, 2012 @ 7:09 p.m.

Greenville, thanks for the recent posting on Mello-Roos. The link and information will be useful to many. This is a very interesting issue which resonates with half of Chula Vista. I was speaking with someone this morning who mentioned it might be a campaign issue in November.


Greenville June 13, 2012 @ 11:15 p.m.

It's an issue now Susan, if we want it to be. The question lingering in my mind is this: When the district repays these $50 million loans, who exactly are they repaying? Are they repaying the SDCOE or some sort of private entity that specializes in the management of funds derived from these sorts of bonds?


anniej June 13, 2012 @ 8:44 p.m.

Greenville: i was just reading Ms. Susan's response to you and i feel the need to comment.



eastlaker June 13, 2012 @ 9:40 p.m.

I am not a statistician, but I just looked up population by zip code. Using some very rough methods, I came up with approx. 20,000 households (not including apartment-dwellers). With the previously mentioned rough estimate of $1000 per household per year of Mello-Roos required payments, that looks like about $20,000,000 per year. Some would go to the Chula Vista Elementary School District as well. I don't know if there are still other projects besides the schools that these funds are supporting.

So, yes, with only very inexact tools, this is a low estimate for what the SUHSD gets as 'play money' apparently. As there has been no way to trace where the money goes.


Jmbrickley June 14, 2012 @ 7:33 p.m.

eastlaker... My wife and I were approx. the 25th family to move into Eastlake in the fall of 1986. We bought a modest single story three bedroom. Our Mello-Roos bill was about $1,250,00/year. So, I would say your numbers are well on the low side.

Mello-Roos funds are shared by many different entities; city, schools and so on to provide services to the community that pays the tax. CVESD's share was moved into new schools in a very timely fashion. SUHSD likes over-crowded schools. Just saying!


eastlaker June 14, 2012 @ 7:52 p.m.

Thanks for the info--I was just trying to get some kind of possible number out in the air. So what's your best guess?


eastlaker June 15, 2012 @ 2:12 p.m.

Quick question, if you don't mind--if you still own the house you bought in 1986, are you still paying Mello-Roos on it? If so, do you remember if you were told how many years you would have to pay MR when you bought? If not, how many years was it until you no longer needed to pay MR?


Jmbrickley June 14, 2012 @ 7:36 p.m.

Ms. Luzzaro... I would be very surprised if any of the Board members, with the exception of Ms. Lopez, even read their Board material before a meeting. I'm sure they just meet with Dr. Brand and he tells them how they should vote.


Jmbrickley June 14, 2012 @ 7:49 p.m.

Just to add some clarity to my statement regarding the Board members not reading the Board material... John McCann has been on the Board for a year and a half. In that year and a half, how many items has he pulled off the consent agenda for discussion? The agenda item regarding indemnifying the others for $1.3 million doesn't count. Seriously, how many?

Same question for Jim Cartmill... and again for Arlie Ricasa.


anniej June 15, 2012 @ 6:25 p.m.

Jmbrickley: you could probably combine them all and not use all of your fingers.


Nichole Aug. 22, 2012 @ 9:14 a.m.

Anyone know how many board members are up for re-election this fall?


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