School buses at Sweetwater terminal
  • School buses at Sweetwater terminal
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Lawrence Gilly, who has been driving school buses for the Sweetwater Union High School District for 21 years, felt compelled to stand before the board of trustees on May 13 and advise them of the status of bus safety.

Lawrence Gilly

For the second year in a row, Sweetwater’s terminal received an “unsatisfactory safety compliance rating” after being inspected by the California Highway Patrol.

Obtained through a public record request by the Reader, the CHP Terminal Inspection Report for 2013 states, “This terminal is rated unsatisfactory as prescribed by the following criteria: An unsatisfactory-rated terminal…is one showing widespread noncompliance with, or willful disregard of, regulatory requirements.”

The specifics of the report include: “Failure to participate in the DMV Pull Notice Program, failure to enroll all drivers, failure to obtain periodic (up to date) printouts for all drivers”; “Motor carrier utilizing unqualified drivers”; “Violations generally spread over all vehicles and/or maintenance violations which by their nature should have been detected and corrected under an effective inspection/maintenance program.”

Three buses were taken out of service for violations such as: “steering gear box mounting fasteners loose, gear box loose at frame rail; Axle housing U-bolts broken/loose axle…”

A spokesperson for the California Highway Patrol said on May 28, “Our job is to ensure and maintain proper working conditions, and we don’t fool around when it comes to correcting things.”

Typically, the officer said, an unsatisfactory report would be brought to the board of trustees (by the director of transportation, for example) and a plan of action would be put together. “In a worst-case scenario, the superintendent could be fined. That has happened in the state of California,” the officer added.

“We could come back at any time and inspect them at any time. Generally, the highway patrol likes to do things in a measured way.”

In a May 27 interview, Lawrence Gilly said he believes things in the Sweetwater district’s transportation department “are going downhill. Bus drivers have to go through 40 hours of training and continually upgrade their training. We go through background checks. Why is this a recurring problem at our terminal when we’re dealing with precious cargo? Safety should be our number-one issue.”

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anniej May 28, 2013 @ 2:59 p.m.

It is apparent that our district leadership led by board President Jim Cartmill and VP Arlie Ricasa care little for the by students that were voted in to protect.Mr. Gilly has, for a couple of years now, brought safety concerns to the monthly board meetings, IT IS EVIDENT HIS CONCERNS ARE BEING/ HAVE BEEN ignored.

What is it going to take before the safety of students is taken seriously?

I have no doubt Ed Brand is fuming right about now, we all know how he hates bad press.


oskidoll May 28, 2013 @ 3:31 p.m.

Time for Nero, err Ed, to put the fiddle down and PAY ATTENTION TO RUNNING THE SWEETWATER DISTRICT instead of pursuing flim-flam plots and schemes!


joepublic May 28, 2013 @ 6 p.m.

In another article, the Reader exposed Brand's credit card expenditures. It showed that many of our tax dollars were spent maintaining his vehicle. Now we learn that our "precious cargo's" (well put Mr. Gilly) safety has been compromised. Does this man have no shame?


anniej May 28, 2013 @ 6:24 p.m.

Joepublic: It is alleged that we paid not only for his vehicle(s) but also for his RV. It is said that it was 'worked on' and tires were purchased.

Yet Brand told a reporter in a recent interview 'things were different back then' (paraphrase). I am sorry since when is it EVER morally acceptable to take what is not yours? The tax dollars that he allegedly TOOK to pay for these expenses, THEY WERE EAR MARKED FOR STUDENTS EDUCATION, not Brands leisure activities.

And where pray tell was Jim Cartmill and Arle Ricasa when this information was dug up by a BONITA HIGH STUDENT? What did they have to say about it? NOT A THING.

And who is now facing charges in the LARGEST CORRUPTION TRIAL IN SAN DIEGOs HISTORY - the same two board members. They did nothing to stop Brand then, and are still DOING NOTHING.


WTFEd May 28, 2013 @ 8:22 p.m.

Please ladies and gentleman. We do not have the resources to make this a Cadillac effort with the buses!! My god a lot of our students ride buses in TJ and these certaintly must be safer than those. We must spend our time on working committing our resources to new CIF's and Private Universities. How dare you bother fat Ed with this boring stuff. I am shocked Sweetwater not following the rules, lieing, hiding, and spinning? Never!!


Jmbrickley May 28, 2013 @ 11:16 p.m.

“Motor carrier utilizing unqualified drivers”; “Violations generally spread over all vehicles and/or maintenance violations which by their nature should have been detected and corrected under an effective inspection/maintenance program.”

Yet another example of how far this school district has fallen under the leadership of Dr. Jesus Gandara and Dr. Edward M. Brand.

The school district has resorted to scrimping on the safety of it's very students to be able to afford yet another credit card for the moochers. God, I can't wait for the trials to start.

In the meantime, the grand jury testimony has been made public. Time to request a CD.


Jmbrickley May 28, 2013 @ 11:21 p.m.

“Our job is to ensure and maintain proper working conditions, and we don’t fool around when it comes to correcting things.”

Obviously, you do, else you would have insisted on compliance the first time you found them out of compliance.

“We could come back at any time and inspect them at any time. Generally, the highway patrol likes to do things in a measured way.”

If I was to be found driving an unsafe car, I can only imagine the hassles the CHP would be giving me. My limit of measure would be 10 days to fix it or keep it off the street. Evidentially, children on unsafe school buses is measured in years.


Reader2 May 28, 2013 @ 11:54 p.m.

I've suggested before that we write letters to the editor and the response was "been there, done that." OK, before I go spinning my wheels, could I have a list of names of officials and agencies contacted by anyone you know? Previous posts have mentioned the CV City council, the County Board of Ed and Bill Moyers.


anniej May 29, 2013 @ 7:30 a.m.

Reader 2- even if it has been done before, nothing says it can't be done again. LETTERS TO THE EDITOR are printed and read.


angrybirds May 29, 2013 @ 10:36 a.m.

At the last meeting this bus driver stands up as he has done in the past and tells them out right about safety issues and do you think that Jimbo or Johnny Boy asked Brand any questions about this. NOP, ZERO, ZILCH, NADA its like it was said and forgotten. I wish the CHP would fine the superintendent but oh yeah he might charge it to the district credit card that Johnny Boy cut up but that is back again (AGAIN NO QUESTIONS ASKED ABOUT THAT EITHER).

So parents send their kids on these sub standard buses with severe safety issues and the people that are responsible for overseeing this dont care. I guess you people are so busy trying to keep your asses out of jail that you wear earplugs at the meetings so you don't have to listen to all the mistakes and coverups of your idiot superintendent. Fire the bastard he isnt doing his job, well actually I wish we could fire all of the board except maybe Bertha she makes sense most of the time. These other fools just sit there like dumbasses they don't ask questions, they dont care so why the hell are they there.

Those expensive dinners are a thing of the past and so are all those events this board got for free. You all need to move on to greener pastures GET THE HELL OUT OF OUR DISTRICT BRAND, CARTMILL, MCCANN, RICASA AND QUINONES YOU ARE ALL NO GOOD.


dbdriver May 29, 2013 @ 3:49 p.m.

For this meeting, as this was not on the agenda, the board could not "legally" act or discuss this. But since this has been brought up in the past by drivers, maybe the board could, I don't know...PUT IT ON THE AGENDA???

But since the safety and proper operation of the very vehicles we are transporting our students around the county and state should take priority, the board SHOULD be able to add it on as an emergency status, and even act upon it right then.


eastlaker May 29, 2013 @ 4:06 p.m.

Of course, because that is what people who actually care about doing a good job would do. They would make an effort to improve a situation that sorely needs improving.

But what do we get in Sweetwater? Diddly squat for the students, lots of perks for Brand and his pals, including the board members who consistently support every idiotic plan Brand dreams up...while they destroy this school district.

Beyond sickening.


eastlaker May 29, 2013 @ 11:37 a.m.

One of the problems that Mr. Gilly mentioned was that the district has repeatedly sent out bus drivers on routes that they were not qualified for--specifically, routes that have been designated as "Mountain Driving" routes, and only those drivers who have documented qualifications are supposed to be allowed to drive those routes.

But in Sweetwater, who cares about such things? Let's let just anyone drive, and if there is a problem that results in injuries, damages and worse, let's just get some lawyers and pay out, because THAT'S JUST THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE IN SWEETWATER--right?

Why do things the right way? The sensible way? The intelligent way? Because the bunch we have put in charge is unable to perform correctly, sensibly and intelligently. They apparently can only do things that directly benefit their pocketbooks, or the pocketbooks of their friends.

Safety of the students be damned. Finances of the district be damned.

Do we need any further proof that this district is being run by complete incompetents?

Obviously they are not doing their jobs. Obviously they have never really given a rip for the school system or the students or the taxpayers or the teachers. Just themselves, their family and friends who are benefitting from the largesse that is being stolen from the students.

It's a wonder that the mob with pitchforks hasn't already come after them.


erupting May 29, 2013 @ 3:47 p.m.

It's disheartening to think that something bad will have to happen in order to get something done. It's frustrating this board cares nothing about their true responsibilities and closes their eyes to anything that is an inconvenience to them. I believe they gave their power to Brand to distance themselves from the DA. I'm sure this will prove to be a mistake it's just a shame some innocent student will have to be hurt to get their attention.


eastlaker May 29, 2013 @ 4:02 p.m.

Exactly. Shameful, and a willful act of refusing to take responsibility, when taking responsibility is what they have been elected to do.

Miserable creatures that they are.


Visduh May 29, 2013 @ 5:14 p.m.

A surprising aspect to this controversy is that SUHSD still runs a significant fleet of buses. In recent years most districts have ceased busing both middle and high school students who are not in some special situation. "Special education" still warrants busing, but the really long and large buses are not those used for special ed. (Those tend to be shorter and also usually are equipped with wheel chair lifts.)

Two other high school districts that were busing large numbers of students as recently as a decade ago no longer to do. They are the Escondido high school district and the San Dieguito high school district. The buses were eliminated or sharply curtailed when school budgets were cut about ten years ago. Unified districts that I know, such as Vista and San Marcos have stopped routine busing of 6-12 students in the 90's.

So, I'd wonder why Sweetwater didn't do the same thing. Or did it? Maybe that bus operation is just a vestige of a more extensive system. Regardless, the district should be highly embarrassed when the CHP rates them unsatisfactory. If that occurred in most of the No County districts, it would be a scandal of large proportion, and likely would turn into a cause during the next round of school board elections. But that's not the case in So County, where nobody is easily embarrassed, or (usually) embarrassed at all.


Visduh May 29, 2013 @ 8:20 p.m.

I based it on the photo that accompanied the article.


anniej May 29, 2013 @ 5:38 p.m.

Oh, and by the way - they are raising fees for bus transportation. Soooooo, parents will be paying more to have their children transported in unsafe vehicles.

Perhaps, IF the bus drivers would write a couple of checks for 'certain' board members campaigns', perhaps then Jim Cartmill, President of the board, and Arlie Ricasa, VP of the board might just be inclined to ask Brand 'what are you doing about this legitimate concern'. Until those campaign checks are written it will be more of the same.

Speaking of campaign contributions................. Let us take a moment to remember the excessively, mind boggling, amounts that persons like Jim Cartmill, John Mccann, Arlie Ricasa and Pearl Quinones were given.


oskidoll May 30, 2013 @ 12:06 p.m.

From Toxic Dirt on playing cheer coaches that have not been paid what they were unsafe school multiple schools on 'improvement needed.... to multi-million $$ sour real estate dismantled adult ed programs....and all those indictments for perjury, bribery, extortion and goodness knows what else is lurking behind the curtain. Surely the 'saga of Sweetweater' could be set to a sad ballad.

Our kids and community certainly deserve better, we taxpayers deserve and demand better!


Reader2 May 31, 2013 @ 9:38 a.m.

The buck stops with Ed Brand and the board. A majority of the board is voting with Brand and against the community. Let me refresh your memory who we can thank for the new leadership: Excerpt from an October 19, 2012 article in La Prensa about Ms. Quinones' re-election. Question: From Gandara to Brand, how did this come about? There was a lot of support for a new Superintendent. Quinones: After separating from Gandara we had to find a replacement that same day to get us through the transition. We didn’t feel there was anybody in-house who could fill the position. John McCann then suggested Ed Brand.
Question: How did Brand become permanent? Quinones: The very first time I heard about going in this direction was in November when McCann brought it up. This was after I was put in charge of heading a search committee for a Superintendent but McCann, who was Board president then, never gave the go-ahead to start the process.

timtim, McCann has not been indicted, but there is definitely a perception of back-door deals.


eastlaker June 1, 2013 @ 9:22 a.m.

This is a treasure-trove of information! Has it made it into the public record?

Susan, can you highlight this? It deserves some space!


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