Over-capacity crowd barred from attending October meeting.
  • Over-capacity crowd barred from attending October meeting.
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Sweetwater teachers held demonstrations at the October and November school-board meetings.

For over a month, many teachers have been “working-to-rule” (performing no unpaid jobs) and picketing before and after school. Outside the November 18 board meeting, a large crowd of teachers and counselors chanted, “I don’t want to strike, but I will.”

So, is a strike imminent?

“Our first option would be to go back to the table,” Sweetwater Education Association president Roberto Rodriguez said in a November 24 interview. “If we don’t hear back from the district on our last offer, we will proceed to impasse.”

If the district or the union cannot reach agreement, then either side can declare impasse. The Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) would then assign a mediator and talks would continue as long as they are productive.

“After mediation comes fact-finding,” Rodriguez said. Then the district can decide which, if any, of the fact-finding results to implement — then the SEA members vote to strike or accept.

Sweetwater teachers have a history of activism. In 2009, over the issue of class size, teachers, parents, students, and central labor-council members swelled the ranks of a picket that stretched around one city block. According to a U-T article from that time, following the action, marathon negotiations resulted in an agreement.

The issues this time, according to teachers at the November 18 board meeting, are health benefits, class size, and trust in bargaining.

During the meeting’s public comment portion, most of the teachers and counselors were not allowed inside because there wasn’t enough seating. The association and members of the public appealed weeks in advance to board president Jim Cartmill to move the meeting to a larger venue, but he did not.

A lottery system was used to bring a few teachers, counselors, and parent and student supporters inside to speak. Health-care benefits was an emotional topic. Some bargaining-unit members cried when they addressed the board because they could no longer carry their children on their plans.

Teachers with families told the board they will now pay $500 a month or more out-of- pocket.

Rodriguez says the association has filed an Unfair Labor Practice complaint because the district is offering a lower contribution than they agreed to during negotiations earlier this year.

The benefits issue is complex.

District spokesperson Manny Rubio posited the district’s perspective in a November 24 email. The initial question to Rubio was “What is the super-composite rate?”

Rubio responded: “The composite rate is actually something different than what your line of questions are. I'm not actually sure what a ‘super-composite’ is that you are referring to.”

Rubio continued: “The composite rate refers to what employees paid for their insurance regardless of family size. So for example, an employee with no spouse or children would be paying the same rate as a family. The Sweetwater District, like many other districts, purchases our insurance from an organization called the Voluntary Employee Benefits Association (VEBA).

“VEBA dropped the composite rate and created a ‘tiered’ system where what an employee pays is based on their family size. So in our case, it has been set up into three categories:  Single employee, employee plus one dependent and employee plus two or more dependents. Employees will no longer paying a ‘composite’ rate, we are now going to be paying a ‘tiered’ rate…. [Formerly, surplus from single employees was used defray the rates of all employees.]

“This is the same rate that has been agreed to by Classified employees and management employees. This increase also significantly reduces the out of pocket cost for all plans regardless of family size. Under the new cap, the cost for most plans for single employees will now be $0 out-of-pocket and the cost for employee plus one is significantly lower in most plans.”

Though there is an obvious discrepancy between the two sides, the good news is that both parties say they want to get back to the table.

In the November 24 email, Rubio stated, “The district is willing to continue the negotiations process with the teachers and earlier this week sent them correspondence indicating that.”

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Reader2 Nov. 25, 2013 @ 10:25 a.m.

So the good news is that the district is willing to continue discussing these important issues. What a nice surprise for the teachers shortly before Thanksgiving. Maybe as a Christmas present to the students, parents and teachers they'll get it all sorted out by then. It's sad to see my friends and neighbors so stressed out. Thank you Susan for your continued reporting.


oskidoll Nov. 25, 2013 @ 10:32 a.m.

I think the board majority, along with the superintendent (fast Eddy) have deliberately kept pushing, and taking, from the teachers in order to incite them to strike....then they can claim that all the criticism of the board and Fast Eddy is coming from those 'evil' unions -- pointing fingers in order to sway public opinion away from the real issue....the corruption at the top.

It is a diabolical plot, but not surprising, given the stakes here. Even if the board remains intact after the trials, which I think is unlikely, three seats --- the majority--- will be up for election---- the balance of power on the board.

If Cartmill et al. had one ounce of ethics, he/they would arrange for board meeting venues large enough to accommodate those who wish to exercise their rights of assembly and speech, as well as public comment under the Brown Act. Instead, Cartmill and Fast Eddy sets up the Board meeting to constrict and restrict public comment by those who are affected by the Board's punitive moves. This is a political chess game with the public's money.


oskidoll Nov. 25, 2013 @ 1:38 p.m.

This corrupt board and Fast Eddy have piddled away millions on nefarious real estate schemes and other wild project.....they now cry 'poverty' in order to take it out of the teachers' hides. Another shell game, brought to you by Fast Eddy and Co. Tick tock, tick tock... mid-February is now just two and a half months away.


eastlaker Nov. 25, 2013 @ 1:52 p.m.

Of course Fast Eddy and cohorts are devious, use misrepresentation and do not stand by previous agreements--they are by definition without integrity.

For some reason, they are entrenched, and feel entitled to "their" vast wealth, spending wildly and without just cause to please themselves, forgetting that we pay for what they waste.

Nothing would please me more than to see all the miscreants hauled off, perhaps after seeing some of them begin to sing the song of the poor misdirected...but we know these people have colluded of their own free will.

As I have said before, Larry Anderson is history...evil doesn't always hold power. Fast Eddy and the aggregate of selfish graspers might want to dwell on that thought from time to time.


anothereastlaker Nov. 25, 2013 @ 2:17 p.m.

"This is the same rate that has been agreed to by Classified employees and management employees."

So, that is supposed to make it okay to break the contract with teachers?


joepublic Nov. 25, 2013 @ 2:24 p.m.

This isn't the first time the district has ignored or denied requests for a larger venue for board meetings at which larger than capacity crowds were anticipated. Can this be challenged as a violation of the brown act?


oskidoll Nov. 25, 2013 @ 2:51 p.m.

The Brown Act is described in CA Code 54950. It states that all meetings of government bodies must be fully open and accessible to the public. A civil lawsuit may be filed to enforce compliance. Board actions not in compliance can be voided by court action if it is a result of wrongful intent to deprive the public of information. The Brown Act is for the benefit of the pubic that board members represent.

Who will go forward with such a challenge? If no individual member of the public brings suit, it is left to the District Attorney to enforce.


HilltopTeacher Nov. 25, 2013 @ 4:08 p.m.

Thank you, Susan for this article. One note: Teachers with families will be paying closer to $1,500 a month under the new rates. Paying $500 has been the norm for some years now. Obviously, an additional $1,000 could break many families.


Susan Luzzaro Nov. 25, 2013 @ 5:17 p.m.


Thank you for your comment/correction. That was based on some public speaker comments. Quite a substantial difference.


anothereastlaker Nov. 26, 2013 @ 6:21 a.m.

This is a quote from an article explaining the success of Trader Joe's. I couldn't help but notice the similarities. Most teachers can only dream of a salary like the superintendent's.

Places like Walmart and Papa John’s, one a retailer, the other a food service provider, both suffered and continue to take negative PR hits for paying low wages, “nickel-and-diming” employees on the issue of insurance benefits, and appearing to place the burden of economic change and demand on the backs of their workforce, all the more galling when company CEO’s are making multimillion dollar profits. Consumer good-will and the general perception of a business tend to take a beating when those at the helm come off as greedy, unethical, and denigrating of their workforce. Trader Joe’s, Costco and Quik Trip, on the other hard, have engendered loyalty and expanded their public good will with positive, worker-protective strategies that exhibit the importance they place on their most valued asset: the people working for and with them, whose skills and hard work are essential to a healthy bottom-line. And that is, after all, the goal of any smart company.


cvres Nov. 26, 2013 @ 7:40 a.m.

Negotiations aside, when the board and the superintendent don't ensure that there are enough spaces for the teachers to sit down--they're giving the employees the level of respect Walmart does.


Visduh Nov. 26, 2013 @ 9:30 a.m.

oskidoll suggests that the board and Brandara are intentionally heading for a strike that they hope will discredit the teachers and their union. Sounds like something that could be underway. Occasional comment poster timtim, who some folks are sure is McCann, can always be counted on to blame everything that goes awry in the district on the union.

Unfortunately, at this time the tide of public opinion is not running in favor of unions, and especially not teachers unions. With all the uncertainty in the health insurance markets now, many ordinary folks who have more or less taken health coverage for granted are not able to do that any more. That will make them even less sympathetic to a union striking over health coverage (and a host of other things.)

This corrupt board and its hand-picked boss-man can divert unwanted attention from itself by having an unpopular union go on strike. These next steps in the negotiation process should take them beyond February, and there should (and I emphasize SHOULD) be some resolution to the charges against the board members by that time. Unless the judge further delays the already scandalously long time she has allowed for these cases. I'm still waiting for more pleas in these cases, because I really doubt any will to to trial, or all the way through a trial. That is unless the DA waffles on the whole thing. So far the resolution of the cases, notably that of Chopra, doesn't give much cause for optimism that much will come of it. If there are plea deals, I'd expect them shortly before Christmas, or in early January.


eastlaker Nov. 26, 2013 @ 12:12 p.m.

You may be right.

San Diego courts have an imperfect record; there seems to be a desire to maintain status quo that defies all sorts of legalities.

Still hoping that there is a will to clean up the infernal mess of Sweetwater's finances and real estate transactions--for those of you interested in learning about something positive in the educational field, please take a look at


This is a documentary of a project in a North Carolina school which can teach all of us some lessons. The two young teachers behind it are now working in Berkeley. Our friend BBQ would be interested, as it encourages a revival of shop class, with design, community awareness and all sorts of things thrown in.

The world has much to offer if those who would take everything for themselves can be stopped.


lois_einhorn Nov. 27, 2013 @ 9:37 a.m.

Interesting how the SEA president sent an email to teachers (or other SEA members who "pretend" to be teachers at the district office) to work to the rule and be a role model. Be a good role model?

Objectively, the SEA president has acted professional while appearing in the media. But as for some of these other teachers or reps? If you have kids, would you really want yours to emulate some of these people?

I'm sure more than 50% of the people at the protest at the board meeting do a great job at their school site. I'm also sure that percentage above shoots way up for the number of teachers who didn't attend that rally. It's unfortunate though that there are some who represent themselves as tools and make the SEA look bad, as......role models.


oskidoll Nov. 27, 2013 @ 10:23 a.m.

I think that leadership should be modeled at the very top. So look to the board and Fast Eddy ---- do you see leaders who model behavior becoming to public officials? They are role models only for self-dealing and corruption.

We who are advocates for restoring Sweetwater to honest leadership and practice understand that the corrupt ones are threatened by anyone who challenges their decisions and deals. We also need to understand that public perception is a critical element to what happens in the next elections for board members. We need to be strategic in how we position the issues.

I would suggest that the most strategic process to avoid lumping union issues with the issues of corruption at the top is for the union to press their case for contract enforcement through process channels available to them. As has been noted, there are legal steps the union can take to resolve contractual issues, which include negotiation and arbitration --- these steps take awhile, of course.

Visduh has pointed out that there are those, such as 'timtim' who would try to control the message and deflect criticism aimed at the board by casting any agitation as the work of the devil union. I suggest it is important for the union to avoid threats of strikes until the process has worked its way through --- otherwise, union agitation will only generate criticism and ire of many of those whose votes will be essential when it is time to vote the bums at the top out of office.


lois_einhorn Nov. 27, 2013 @ 6:09 p.m.

Just because public officials don't model good public behavior is not an excuse for SEA advocates. It will be easy to detect who the real leaders and role models are based on their reactions to the situation, whether they are board members, SEA members, or otherwise.


oskidoll Nov. 27, 2013 @ 6:24 p.m.

Agreed. Nevertheless, it is evident that the Board and Fast Eddy are goading the SEA into public displays of unhappiness to demonstrate their frustration with treatment that is less than honorable. I am suggesting that SEA take the high road in this instance to avoid becoming the perceptual goat in these matters, when the real perps are the board and ceo.

SEA can take the high road, as I have suggested, and let their PERB protected processes proceed to enforce the contract they negotiated in good faith. Threats of strikes will be counter-productive in the long run, and that is what the corrupt ones are hoping for.

As a side note, I am wondering if the board and Fast Eddy are expected to pay more into their insurance coverage as they are asking the teachers to do?


lois_einhorn Nov. 28, 2013 @ 7:59 a.m.

Agreed as well. Actual strikes are more efficient than any boasting threats or several prior actions by SEA. Not saying if a strike is right or wrong, but doing this will definitely send a clearer message.


Susan Luzzaro Nov. 27, 2013 @ 7:36 p.m.

lois-einhorn, What is the poor modeling you are referring to? Thanks,


lois_einhorn Nov. 28, 2013 @ 12:48 a.m.

Never used the word "poor". You used it. Attend SEA meetings at schools, observe, and formulate opinions based on those observations. After that, ask parents throughout the community which educators at sites are the most efficient. The parents opinion is the most relevant. The students opinions are next, followed by the ones who evaluate them. There are many "tiers" below these 3 groups.


lois_einhorn Nov. 28, 2013 @ 7:55 a.m.

Efficient at being a good role model, not a "poor" or "bad" one. This would also include asking these groups about labeling "board members" or any other public servant in education.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.


eastlaker Nov. 28, 2013 @ 10:16 a.m.

So--back to Sweetwater Union High School District, and the ability of the so-called leaders to do their jobs...there was vandalism and a fire reported at Chula Vista High School this morning.

The fire department was called because someone saw smoke.

Does this mean that the fire alarms/detectors were not working? If that is the case, does that also mean that the watch was unstaffed?

Where is the leadership? Straight to Ed Brand's bank account, most likely. No wonder he'd like to continue reducing staff benefits, that means more for himself!

Really, when will the fiasco that is the Ed Brand administration be stopped? As I have said before, I wouldn't trust this bunch with anything--not even the proceeds from a curbside lemonade stand--much less the multi-million dollar bond monies, the real estate debacles and scams, the hiring not according to regulations, the ignoring of health and safety issues. $40 - 50 MILLION has disappeared from Mello-Roos! Did it disappear into Ed Brand's voluminous pockets? Where is the forensic accounting that could explain all of this? What about the millions that were never repaid to the teachers' fund? Where are the answers?

Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving. Don't let your turkey stick in your craw if you think about any of this--just remember who has created this mess, who is still in charge of this mess, and who continues to expand the mess.


shirleyberan Nov. 29, 2013 @ 12:14 p.m.

Without a doubt ethical behavior is like a lighthouse.


shirleyberan Nov. 29, 2013 @ 1:12 p.m.

Susan - if she knew you better she would have known your word usage of poor is not at all financial.


anniej Nov. 30, 2013 @ 3:13 p.m.


With all due respect - when a District, such as ours, SWEETWATER, spends more time negotiating real estate land/building deals than they do our educators/employees contract - HOUSTON, WE HAVE A REAL PROBLEM!!!!!!

Please join me next November in voting OUT the three board members who will be up for reelection. Help me replace them with three persons of integrity - one of which is NOT Burt Grossman (my opinion).

Once that task is completed - first major change Ed Brand is outta here!


anniej Nov. 30, 2013 @ 3:26 p.m.

My opinion only -

To the average taxpaying homeowner who values educating our youth - the Union appears weak. It is clear Brand is doing what he believes he can get away with. Why not ask for help from the Teamsters?

*for the record I am not, nor have ever been a member of a union, but I do believe in them - why? Well, take a look at Ed Brand - - he is the Wikipedia definition of why unions are necessary.


shirleyberan Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:18 p.m.

Strike is last resort - I think it may very well be required - who cares about public opinion any more - public is being duped by dupers - board is still playing an illegal game. I was in retail clerks union, same time as Ed, the 70's. They can do good as apparently yours did for Southbay about 2009.


shirleyberan Nov. 30, 2013 @ 5:31 p.m.

And anniej - his paper for his doctorate had something to do with union bargaining. See if he really gets it :)


anniej Nov. 30, 2013 @ 6:48 p.m.


I am of the opinion that Ed Brand has tended to forget where he came from - but, that is just my opinion. His focus appears to be SELF, nothing or noone(s) else seem to matter.

Hopefully this time next year he will be gone - and the legacy he will leave behind at SUHSD will long stand as to what should never occur again.


shirleyberan Nov. 30, 2013 @ 7:31 p.m.

I just want to hear someday, somebody stood up and cleaned them up, and out. Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones as well, dear Annie.


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