On January 26, newly elected trustees of the Sweetwater Union High School District played to a packed house and a packed agenda, but the biggest upset did not come until after 10:00 p.m., when interim superintendent Tim Glover resigned.
Earlier this month the board voted in closed session to begin the search for a company to hunt for a permanent superintendent. The search appears to have precipitated Glover’s resignation; he is returning to the county office as early as February 18 in order to ensure “transparency” in the superintendent search.
Glover stated at the January 26 meeting: “…I truly believe if I stayed as interim superintendent through the search, and if the gods shined upon me and I was able to be a candidate, there might be some people who would say it was a waste of money, or why did you do that if that’s what you were going to do?”
The meeting that preceded Glover’s announcement was also eventful.
After five years of Jesus Gandara (who was recently sentenced to jail on a felony corruption charge) and another four years of former superintendent Ed Brand, the district is alive with concerns about cronyism and potential mismanagement.
An example of this undercurrent came when a representative of the certified public accountant group Vavrinek, Trine, Day & Co. presented the annual audit report.
Although the district passed the audit, and although the trustees ultimately accepted the audit, the plethora of questions and discussion — as well as the discussion centered around a possible forensic audit — suggested that many still believe there are bodies buried in district paperwork that need to be exhumed.
Trustee Paula Hall questioned why details from charter-school budgets were not included in the audit. The charter schools currently owe $4.8 million to the district and Hall stated that the board would like to see the details of their budgets.
Community members and trustees also wanted more information regarding the issues the audit raised about Associated Student Body accounts.
The audit cited improper accounting and reporting problems.
Trustee Frank Tarantino commented on the lack of standardization for items such as yearbooks and said, “I don’t understand why these problems keep coming back over and over. It’s not fair to blame the students, as they can only be as good as the adults in charge….”
However, Tarantino also reminded the audience that it has been difficult for people to speak out about ASB problems and that some years back, an ASB advisor was penalized by a previous administration for coming forward.
During public comment, several speakers turned the talk to the search for a permanent superintendent. They suggested sifting through local talent rather than going on a national search.
The speakers also pointed out that two previous national searches brought two superintendents, Anthony Trujillo and Jesus Gandara, who were indicted by grand juries. Both Trujillo and Gandara were from Texas, and one speaker told the board “Don’t mess with Texas.”
On January 27, via email, board president Tarantino offered this about the superintendent search:
“The board has only authorized that an RFP [request for proposals] be sent out Friday, January 23. The RFP process will solicit information about services that can be offered by the various firms that respond, cost of services, resources they can provide to the Board, how the firm operates, who will be designated as the firm's primary contact for the Board and ask for references.
“The firms that respond to the RFP will be evaluated by the board at a public meeting and 2–3 will be selected to be interviewed by the Board at a subsequent public meeting. Community/stakeholder participation in the process is a MUST but the final decision on who will be the next superintendent will rest with the Board. There has been no discussion as to the scope of the search.”
At the end of the long meeting, the trustees called a special meeting in the hope of selecting a new interim superintendent. They reported out from closed session that there will be an immediate search for a new interim superintendent who does not wish to be permanent. They have asked the County Office of Education to facilitate the search.