André José Branch
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Dr. André José Branch became president of the San Diego chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in January. The professor at San Diego State University’s College of Education has a PhD in curriculum, a master’s degree in counseling, and a bachelor’s degree from Kings College in New York. He is a specialist in multicultural education.

On February 27, he sat down for an interview with the Reader, a condensed version of which follows.

SDR: What drew you to the NAACP?

A.B.: The NAACP has been instrumental in gaining civil rights for African-American people and people of color since its inception in 1909. I recognize I could not enjoy the quality of life I enjoy, the job, the home, the educational attainment that I’ve had without the work of the [association].

SDR: Do you think in the last decade gains of the civil rights movement have been eroding or steadily progressing?

A.B.: No I don’t think it’s been steady progress. There have been battles and decisions that slap us backward, and we have to get up, dust ourselves off and keep walking forward and try to achieve those gains again.

Most recently I was in a meeting with the chief of police, Shelley Zimmerman, and she provided statistics about the police stops. The statistics showed quite clearly that African- Americans and Latinos are stopped disproportionately as compared to whites and Asians.

SDR: Lots of folks are excited about these body cameras. What good do they do?

A.B.: Now in our city we are told by Zimmerman that crime is down; she attributes that in some cases to the wearing of the body cameras, but both the Garner event and the Michael Brown event provide evidence — anecdotal though it may be — that people across the country, people across the world seeing events of police brutality, it means nothing, it hasn’t been effective with getting one police officer charged.

SDR: What motivated you to address the Sweetwater trustees on February 23?

A.B.: Two African-American individuals contacted the NAACP, saying they applied for the three principal positions recently open in Sweetwater. I went to the board meeting because they both are highly qualified individuals, both with doctorates in education, both of them have successful administrative experience in the San Diego Unified and both at the secondary level — and neither of them got an interview.

It wasn’t just that these people didn’t get interviews; we were also informed that the hiring committee had made recommendations and the board was to vote on them that night [February 23].

There seem to be conflicting reports about what the job announcement actually listed as requirements. One of the complainants reported to us that when he called to find out why he didn’t get an interview, he was told, “You do not have secondary-school teaching experience.” But secondary-school teaching experience was not a requirement on the job announcement.

Prior to the board meeting, I spoke on the phone with the president of the school board [Frank Tarantino], and he told me that the duty officer [filling in for the interim superintendent] had informed him that the applicant did not have to have secondary teaching experience.

Something is not right at Sweetwater if the candidate is told that you need to have secondary teaching experience and the president of the board was told by staff that [applicants] needed to have secondary experience, not necessarily teaching experience.

And, there are presently people who are principals in the district who don’t have secondary teaching experience. So, it would appear that the candidates were disqualified inappropriately.

When the district went ahead and filled two of the three open positions that night, it sent a chilling message to the African-American community. There are 1161 African-American students in the district. There are zero African-American administrators….

SDR: What if there aren’t any African-American principals? Why does it matter?

A.B.: Children in their schools need to see people of all racial and ethnic groups, including African-Americans, in positions of power and authority. When African-Americans are not in those positions, it sends a clear message not only to the African-American children but to white children and other children as well — about who can be in charge, about who can be a principal.

Children need role models; they need to see people in their racial and ethnic groups occupying these positions so that know they too can occupy them.

Children also need to be in schools that have cultural diversity that influences the policy-making at their schools. Presently you have administrators in Sweetwater making decisions that govern African-American children, but those policies and decisions were not made by people who reflect the background of those children.

White children in many school districts learn an inappropriate sense of entitlement when they see white people in positions of power and authority and no people of color.

I told the board president [Frank Tarantino] we [the NAACP] are interested in working with Sweetwater in reviewing its policies and procedures so that this kind of injustice does not happen again.

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oskidoll March 12, 2015 @ 12:17 p.m.

More doublespeak from the depths at Sweetwater? Seems someone got their story mixed up. Tarantino should definitely look into this embarrassing story.


shirleyberan March 12, 2015 @ 12:21 p.m.

The racism card had to be played here. Power to the people. Makes me hopeful he will help change that BS attitude.


Sjtorres March 12, 2015 @ 1:34 p.m.

People should be hired on merit, not color of their skin. I hope the Sweetwater board responds with details.


Reader2 March 12, 2015 @ 3:31 p.m.

Since the hiring committee made recommendations to the board, it stands to reason that the hiring committee needs better information and direction.
I feel for the new board members. Everyone makes mistakes, especially when starting any job. But they have to do it in front of the public. It can't be much fun. More than a learning curve, they also have to rely on the advice of the present administration, and some of them may have their own agendas.


ronh March 12, 2015 @ 4:21 p.m.

No doubt the applicants got short shrift. But before he complains that only the white children have role models, perhaps he should look up the demographics of SUSD's administrators?


Visduh March 12, 2015 @ 4:42 p.m.

The ethnicities of the successful candidates who were hired were not mentioned. Bet I can guess.


Susan Luzzaro March 12, 2015 @ 5:24 p.m.

ronh, thanks for the comment.

"White children in many school districts learn an inappropriate sense of entitlement when they see white people in positions of power and authority and no people of color."

Just to point out this quote reads "in many school districts." Also to mention that Mr. Branch had statistics and quite a bit more to say. In the end an interview with 2,000 some words had to endure cuts.


anniej March 12, 2015 @ 6:16 p.m.

Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, White - unnecessary labels. At the end of the day we are all humans - until and unless we begin to see the soul of others, until and unless we judge based on the content of their character vs. the color of their skin we will continue to struggle ( words that changed my life).


Sjtorres March 13, 2015 @ 2:11 a.m.

A huge detriment to civil society is dividing and segregating people up based on ethnicity. To claim we need certain people to be of a certain ethnicity perpetuates racism.


Susan Luzzaro March 12, 2015 @ 8:45 p.m.

Reader2, who was on the hiring committee? How many parents, teachers, community members and staff?


shirleyberan March 13, 2015 @ 10:41 a.m.

Stupid to say no effect on self-esteem of black kids when very qualified role model candidates that should be principles aren't even interviewed. That's clearly racial discrimination and fanatical prejudice. Uncivil society created a huge gap in equality and civil people will correct it now.


swell March 13, 2015 @ 4:18 p.m.

anniej: "Black, Brown, Yellow, Red, White - unnecessary labels."
They may not be necessary for you and me, but as long as people in power use and abuse them, we have to deal with them too.


eastlaker March 13, 2015 @ 7:03 p.m.

This report makes me think that all sorts of committees and departments at Sweetwater might benefit from examination. It looks like there are too many leftovers from the Brand/Gandara/Brand eras of cronyism and dishonesty. Time to clean house.


shirleyberan March 13, 2015 @ 7:36 p.m.

swell - anniej only meant she's color-blind and loves everybody. Sjtorres makes random meanie remarks nobody pays attention to. Welcome to the Party!


joepublic March 14, 2015 @ 10:11 a.m.

They say that the "sweetwater way" has been administrators rewarding their friends with promotions to higher positions, and this could very well be the case here. Even with a new board, the old guard is still in place. However, to simply dismiss racism as the reason two applicants were denied interviews, as some commenters seem to be suggesting, is naive at best. That these two applicants were held to criteria not applicable to others, should be enough to investigate the situation, and in a district where no African-American principals exist, the question of racial discrimination must be explored. Dr. Branch has offered to work with the district to address this problem. That should happen as soon as possible.


shirleyberan March 14, 2015 @ 11:37 a.m.

We already know about the Sweetwater way of nepotism for years, maybe decades, but racism factors in, surely.


oskidoll March 14, 2015 @ 12:39 p.m.

joepublic is right on target in his description of the operant Sweetwater culture. I note that tomorrow is March 15....hope at least that some of the most 'deserving' of the 'good old and girls club' within the administrative ranks have been duly noticed with regard to their futures with the District.

The 'old guard' has been in place thru several superintendent administrations. The questionable and seeming irregular treatment of two applicants for principal positions is a good case in point. wonder who might be afraid of any new well-qualified faces, whatever their color, from outside the district? Seems to me that this situation bears close review and investigation.


oneoftheteachers March 16, 2015 @ 6:15 p.m.

These highly qualified candidates never had a chance because they are not part of the Sweetwater good old boys network. The same cronies that performed the paper screen of candidates also selected the members of the interview committee. I wonder if the people on the committees had actually had the opportunity to interview these candidates if the results would have been different. I heard that the heir apparent was the only one interviewed who was actually in the running. The other ones who passed the paper screen were a joke, which guaranteed that the pre-chosen candidate would actually be the one selected. Nothing will change in the Sweetwater District until the new board clears out the cronies.


Susan Luzzaro March 16, 2015 @ 9:49 p.m.


so glad to hear that people are paying attention to the details. As Dr. Branch mentioned, if you can't make it into the interview pool, how are you going to make it into the district.


calbear March 18, 2015 @ 11:47 a.m.

Maybe Sweetwater should institute the Rooney Rule like the NFL. The Rooney Rule requires National Football League teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. It is sometimes cited as an example of affirmative action, though there is no quota or preference given to minorities in the hiring of candidates. It was established in 2003. I'm not in favor of giving a less qualified person, regardless of race a position solely on their race but at least this will get minority candidates an interview.


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