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Anger and Police at Sweetwater Union HS District Meeting

Before the May 7 board meeting even began, the street in front of the district office was lined with police cars. Stationed inside the board room along the wall were several armed private security officers. An overflow crowd was fenced outside the building because the district refused to move the meeting to a larger venue.

Additionally, board president Pearl Quiñones limited the public's right to speak, down from three minutes to two.

The main action of the board was to lay off approximately 190 teachers. The vote was 3-2 with Quiñones and trustee Bertha Lopez voting no.

But the big story was the deepening division between sides — with interim superintendent Ed Brand and some of the boardmembers on one side and teachers, parents, and community members on the other.

Public distrust was expressed in placards with pictures of indicted school-board members Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa behind bars. Audience members also carried "Wanted" posters with pictures of John McCann, Arlie Ricasa, and Jim Cartmill, who are the subjects of recall petitions.

With the exception of a student award at the opening of the meeting, the four-hour meeting was filled with public complaints about district problems and priorities of district spending.

Civic activist Bill Richter returned to a common community concern in his two minutes — the lack of any limits on campaign donations.

The controversial purchase of iPads became even more controversial with the district's request to spend an additional $26,000 on iPad covers. One of the teachers who had been laid off told the trustees, "I'm getting the feeling I am worth less than an iPad."

The chaotic meeting concluded with a parent volunteer — who had been denied two minutes to speak because her card had not been submitted in time — standing on a chair yelling to whoever would listen about her frustration with the district.

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Before the May 7 board meeting even began, the street in front of the district office was lined with police cars. Stationed inside the board room along the wall were several armed private security officers. An overflow crowd was fenced outside the building because the district refused to move the meeting to a larger venue.

Additionally, board president Pearl Quiñones limited the public's right to speak, down from three minutes to two.

The main action of the board was to lay off approximately 190 teachers. The vote was 3-2 with Quiñones and trustee Bertha Lopez voting no.

But the big story was the deepening division between sides — with interim superintendent Ed Brand and some of the boardmembers on one side and teachers, parents, and community members on the other.

Public distrust was expressed in placards with pictures of indicted school-board members Pearl Quiñones and Arlie Ricasa behind bars. Audience members also carried "Wanted" posters with pictures of John McCann, Arlie Ricasa, and Jim Cartmill, who are the subjects of recall petitions.

With the exception of a student award at the opening of the meeting, the four-hour meeting was filled with public complaints about district problems and priorities of district spending.

Civic activist Bill Richter returned to a common community concern in his two minutes — the lack of any limits on campaign donations.

The controversial purchase of iPads became even more controversial with the district's request to spend an additional $26,000 on iPad covers. One of the teachers who had been laid off told the trustees, "I'm getting the feeling I am worth less than an iPad."

The chaotic meeting concluded with a parent volunteer — who had been denied two minutes to speak because her card had not been submitted in time — standing on a chair yelling to whoever would listen about her frustration with the district.

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Comments
10

You are right on with this article Susan. The big story is the major divide between district leadership, and the community and personnel they are supposed to be leading. But they can't lead when no one trusts or respects them. What a mess. The only thing keeping an outright revolt from happening is the fear of retaliation by the Superintendent and Board.

Despite all the fancy speeches about how hard it was to make the decision to lay off teachers, the Board member's actions speak louder than their "campaign speak" words. They voted to lay off teachers, but voted to fund a new charter school (approx $450,000), voted to buy iPads (at least $500,000 of the 4 million dollars used for the iPads was funding that could have been used for teachers), and have funded a wide variety of consultants to come in and do work district staff could have done. No matter what the end results are (I am still hoping some deal can be reached so teachers and classified staff can be rehired) the Board's priorities are obvious from their actions.

They continue to disappoint.

May 8, 2012

Having lived through the Gandara era and Brand's first era, last night was stunning. It was one of the most disgusting meetings I have ever attended. First, you plan to layoff close to 200 teachers, yet you will only let 10 people speak to the topic and even those ten have to be limited to 2 minutes each. This isn't a meeting that was even going toward midnight - we were done by 9. But even if it was going to midnight, doesn't the district, at the very least, owe those teachers the respect of letting them speak. Doesn't it owe the parents the respect of letting them speak? One of the speakers last night made a very good point - this board has never been a discussion board. It has been a - come in and vote board. Their purpose as a board is supposed to be to list the items to be considered, to listen to the public's view on these items, and then to take those views into consideration when they vote. That just doesn't happen. Brand was taking on all of the Gandara's mannerisms last night. He cut off speakers, he rocked back in his chair, he carried on conversations with Quinones while speakers were talking (and yet reprimanded audience members for talking). This is a man who was just given $120,000 to stick around for 6 more months while they consider whether or not they should START a search for a new superintendent. When Bertha Lopez tried to point out that the wording was implying that they needed more time to continue the search which wasn't correct since it hadn't been started Pearl Quinones just didn't get what her point was. The wording should have been - Ed Brand will continue as superintendent for the next six months at a pay rate of $20,000 per month. It should have never been written to imply that a search was already ongoing. But then again this is Sweetwater. When questioned about the fact that many of the 7th grade curriculum resources are not compatible with the iPads, Dr. Brands response was, that's a lie. And if they're not we'll just make PDF's of them. When an audience member shouted a question about the legality of that his response was, they want our business and they'll do what we tell them. Now who does that sound like? The argument that management is willing to take a pay cut "if necessary" makes no sense. It's clearly their point that they will take a pay cut IF the district isn't able to get the teachers to give up something instead. The argument that teacher jobs could be saved if SEA would just bargain completely ignores the fact that the money is there in reserves and in smarter spending of what we already have. They want others to sacrifice so that they can continue to spend unchecked and run their little pet projects (i.e. the charter school ($500,000 loan from general fun) and the iPad program ($4.2 million so far). The mood on campuses across the district today was horrendous. Do not ever forget that it is our STUDENTS who are feeling this pain. And the cause is NOT the teachers but the board & Dr. Brand.

May 8, 2012

This community can only hope that the entire county is watching what is going on, and that the county Board of Education will at some point come to life and do something to clean up Sweetwater. We can also hope that the county Board of Supervisors will demonstrate some sort of leadership and speak out against the travesty that Sweetwater's board of trustees is, and against the abject FAILURE that Ed Brand is as superintendent.

This situation is untenable. This situation is monstrous, and it is the fault of Sweetwater's own board and superintendents.

May 8, 2012

Last night's events are accurately portrayed in this article. It was a painful experience to watch. It was tragic for the people who are being affected. The board and Brand (except Lopez) were a total disgrace. The masks totally came off of Pearl and Brand. People could not believe what they were seeing. Their total lack of concern was not disguised in the least. To not even change the venue and not let these teachers express their grief was unforgivable. Out with the old in with the new. It's the only way to end the corruption and arrogance. PS did anyone hear Cartmill talk about his 9,000 yearly donation. Definitely a drop in the hat when you consider what he's taken from contractors. I was not impressed. I wonder why he felt it necessary to mention it. It doesn't change his past and present voting history nor does it make up for his follies.

May 8, 2012

Do newspapers print obituaries for the deaths of democracies?

May 8, 2012

lets sum up what happened last evening:

pearl quinones refused to move the meeting to a larger venue pearl quinones did not even look up and listen to EVEN ONE of the educators who stood before her and spoke - she was writing something? lets see what else could have been more important than a decision that might possibly raise student teacher ratio to 45 to l her total inability to run a board meeting. she and brand constantly whispering - so disrespectful her running over to the star news editor attempting to explain why the community finds her reprehensible. her speech regarding "i am the only board member who" - no, pearl there are two of you under indictment you and ms. ricasa. her limiting the comments both public and others to only 2 minutes - guess her favorite study hall (cafe la maze) was running a 2 for 1 happy hour special. Patron anyone????

as stated in a comment above, last nights meeting ranks up there in the top 5 - for one of the worst board meetings ever. and brand has definitely taken on 'the gandara's tactics - at this point it is hard to tell them apart - perhaps they were switched at birth. he was noticeably agitated when his comments were challenged - i have heard that about him.

mccann was quiet last evening, did seem to take an interest when one of the speakers asked him to help out an employee who was having issues. mr. mccann, i personally thank you for that. HOWEVER, those questions you asked brand regarding the layoffs, you two should have worked on the delivery, obviously the entire question - answer session was staged. i know, i know johnny boy, brand told you it would make you look concerned - ah, brand was wrong.

cartmill, spoke last night - let the earth be still.

ricasa, gave another one her speeches.

the student board member, wow!!!!!! heck i am proud for her parents. she knows more about the agenda items than some of the board members. someone asked if she would consider running against quinones, but, alas she is not a senior. DARN!!!!!!!

yes folks, we have all heard the term 'poetry in motion' well, our board is DYSFUNCTION IN MOTION.

just my opinion

May 8, 2012

Isn't there some role for the county office of education and its board in a situation like this one? Oversight perhaps, and maybe a call to the state to come and investigate and determine if some sort of seizure is in order? It is hard to believe that a school district is in in this sort of death spiral and no other public body or authority is not acting to prevent it. But then again, this is what autonomy for districts and duly elected trustees can do and allow to happen in our democracy. Far more criminal charges should be lodged, and due to the fact that most of the funding comes from the state, the state attorney general should be investigating. So far there is no indication of involvement from that official.

May 8, 2012

there is a group that is attempting to do exactly what you say. additionally they are looking to get national attention on the issue. all it will take is one big entity to pick up the story and it will explode. remember bell, california? well not until they received national media attention did change, real change begin.

for now, until then, attentions are focused on the RECALL and voting quinones out of office. once this is done, the front door will be opened and brand will be told "don't let the door hit ya, where the good Lord split ya" - respectfully submitted.

just my opinion

May 8, 2012

The last time Chula Vista got a modicum of national attention it was about six months ago when Graydon Carter of "Vanity Fair" sent out a reporter to scope out the Winklevoss twins training at the Olympic Training Center. It was not a flattering view. This won't make Chula Vista look any better.

Gosh, I wonder what Mayor Cox will say in defense this time.

May 8, 2012

If you would like to sign the recall petitions or volunteer to gather the signatures of your South Bay family and friends, please stay updated through our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/SUHSDRecall2012. You can also visit our website: www.sweetwater-recall2012.com, or call us at (619) 422-1617.

May 9, 2012

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