Another Sweetwater board meeting mired in disagreement

Failure to elect oversight committee member

Arlie Ricasa
  • Arlie Ricasa

Sweetwater Union High School District board meetings often last five hours and are characterized by conflict. The April 9 meeting ended in a meltdown over the selection process used by the district to choose members of the Proposition O bond oversight committee. The construction bond is for $644 million.

Sweetwater’s process for choosing oversight committee members dates back to the Proposition BB construction bond in 2000. A 2002–2003 San Diego County Grand Jury investigation made these recommendations to Sweetwater regarding choosing members:

“Revise and strengthen guidelines for the Bond Oversight Committee member selection process to ensure that situations are avoided which can be perceived as inappropriate by the community.”

“Open a regular formal dialog with the Bond Oversight Committee that gives more consideration to that body’s advice and recommendations and the rationale for them.”

At the time of the grand jury investigation, appointments were made by trustees. Ed Bagaporo, husband to trustee Arlie Ricasa, was appointed to the oversight committee.

After Sweetwater passed Proposition O in 2006, the selection process was still arbitrary. One current bond oversight member was chosen by SGI, the company managing the construction.

The fracas at the April 9 board meeting was the result of an agenda item to approve the appointment of Ditas Yamane to the oversight committee.

Nick Marinovich, the current Prop O oversight chair, was part of a recent selection panel that sent forward several candidates for approval. There were two vacant seats.

At last week's meeting, Marinovich said, “The committee process does not work. We interviewed a number of excellent candidates and ranked them in order of their professional abilities and their responses to questions during their personal interview. The candidate being recommended to the board of trustees this evening did not follow the committee’s recommendations.”

Marinovich also made the point that the committee’s bylaws require an odd number of members. The appointment of only one person would create an even-numbered board.

Potential committee members were also interviewed by district superintendent Ed Brand. One of those candidates, Brian Clapper, appeared at the meeting and stated he believed his appointment was waylaid by Brand. Clapper is a National School District trustee.

This is where the discussion began to heat up.

Trustee Bertha Lopez demanded a public explanation from Brand about who made the decision to send only one name (Ditas Yamane) forward for board confirmation. She told Brand, “I’m waiting.”

Brand declined to speak about qualifications. Lopez pointed out that the interviewees were not district employees, so the rules of confidentiality did not apply. Lopez continued to push for a response.

Arlie Ricasa angrily told Lopez she was tired of the disrespect shown on the dais and, regarding the selection process, “We decided among ourselves to leave it up to district leadership,” and gestured toward Brand.

Lopez then referred trustees to a transcript of an April 16, 2012, board meeting in which Brand stated, regarding the selection process: “One of the other criticisms that was repeated to me…was the concern that process and procedures were not followed, and that the board or the superintendent, or some other entity, arbitrarily and capriciously anointed people to serve…. So this item that is being brought to you tonight reflects partially our effort to fill the vacancies through an identifiable, pre-determined, non-interference by the superintendent or this board, to allow the process to play out.”

Over the continued commentary, president Jim Cartmill gaveled the meeting to an end — and no bond oversight member was confirmed.

Comments

I can't imagine who Ed Brand and his trusty "sidemen" voting block of Ricasa, McCann and Cartmill think they are fooling.

The reality is that they do not want campaign donation limits, they do not want any legislation or regulation of gifts from those who are trying to get district contracts, and they do not want oversight of how they are spending Mello-Roos and construction bonds.

Because they want to be free to garner all the perks they want, build their "war chests" for future campaigns and play with taxpayer monies without consequence.

Ricasa and Cartmill have several indictments and are scheduled to go to trial next February. (As is Quinones, but she apparently sat this one out...). A reasonable person would think that these weighty matters might tend to make these "trustees" want to at least give the impression they are straightening out and flying right...but reason has little to do with what goes on in Sweetwater.

Once again, we have Bertha Lopez trying to get to the bottom of Ed Brand's latest little foray into the realm of obfuscation.

Eddy, Eddy, Eddy--the man whose judgment is so bad, he is setting new records for public idiocy--and I do not say this lightly.

The man who can't cover his tracks fast enough.

The man who has nightmares over the concept that honest bookkeeping might someday arrive in this district.

The man who lives to churn public resources into private schemes for all of his good friends.

The man who evidently lost out when decency was given out.

The man so devoid of any sort of true public spirit that he stops at nothing to take everything from the students of Sweetwater, up to and including real athletic competitions...so that another crony can land a fulltime job. Apparently those $30,000 contracts are so tedious to renew...

Such wonderful stewards of the public's money and trust! Yet another disappointing example of failure to lead. Why are we not surprised? How many felonies have they already been indicted for? Such behavior, which disrespects the public they are supposed to serve, should also be considered felinious.

Of all people to lecture the community on 'respect' - Arlie Ricasa. Where was her respect for the taxpayers who funded Prop O? What, we don't matter? Respect of those she took an oath to protect did not seem to matter to her when she was asking for money for a family members beauty pageant.

Ricasa made it quite clear, she cares FAR more about protecting Ed Brand than she does her very own community - WHY????????????

What about L Street, why isn't she jumping up and down on the dais demanding that the public be told HOW and WHY property that WE purchased, that cost over 20 million dollars, was given away? - oh that is right, Ricasa was a board member at the time and obviously approved of the shady deal. Brand, Husson and Russo simply MUST be held accountable for giving away property that our hard earned tax dollars purchased. ------- WHO BROKERED THS DEAL, names of EVERYONE WHO MADE MONEY MUST BE MADE KNOWN - from the Bank on down.

Regarding the BOC, Ed Brand was not suppose to be a part of the selection process, the question Lopez asked and now we DEMAND to know is WHY IS BRAND INTERFERING IN THE PROCESS?????? Is he, as is alleged, looking to put Grossman on the committee? Is that his goal? When a person is recommended by a Chamber of Commerce, who has a stellar reputation is not selected, Brand is seen for what he is -

Ed Brand employs a few of her key campaign contributors.

I hope that this matter is not lost on other readers. That BOC requirement was put in place when the voters of the state decided, erroneously I believe, that the old 2/3 vote for bond issues was too high, and lowered it to 55%. That ballot measure required that bond props requiring only 55% put in place some safeguards, and one was some community oversight. As it was up until then, once the bonds were approved, the district's board could do just about anything with the money that didn't get them sued. In our new-age speak, that BOC was intended to insure "transparency" and "accountability", and to reassure voters that their votes had not been in vain, and that their money would be used effectively and efficiently. In most districts, that is what happens. The members of the BOC are reasonably independent, capable, take their roles seriously, make their observations known to the public, and have their opinions taken seriously by the school board. In fact, in many districts, until the BOC was satisfied with the spending plans, they didn't go forward.

But in SUHSD, the BOC has been emasculated and ignored. Worse yet, its members have been vilified by the district's board and administration. So much for control and oversight. This district proved that the laws regarding the BOC are toothless if a rogue board and.or rogue superintendent want to just blow off the BOC. In fact, we might refer to the SUHSD BOC as the "blown-off committee". Time for some new legislation or a new bond measure to make sure these BOC's have some real teeth? I'd say so. Or better yet, go back to the Prop 13 requirement of a 2/3 vote on bond issues.

You make a strong case, Visduh.

Sure wish we could get some backing on some of these issues, but I guess it is asking far too much from our public figures to step forward and tell Ed Brand, "Enough is enough!"

Who would have thought someone with so little sense of decency would ever be granted carte blanche by anyone, let alone a board of elected "trustees"?

Visduh- not sure if you are aware, but Brand is looking to float a new bond before the voters. He saw that the voters sanctioned the most recent one for Chula elementary so hey, why not attempt to hood wink us again.

NOT THIS TIME ED BRAND!!!!!!!!

I just testified before the CA Senate Education Committee on bond oversight. Sweetwater was a hot topic of conversation among the Senators. They are clearly aware that tighter laws need to be on the books to oversee district bond programs as districts like Sweetwater can't control themselves. What is sad is thhat the Senators view Sweetwater as the poster child for what is wrong with school districts. Legislation will help, but rogue leadership is the real problem here!

Very good to learn that the legislature is looking at this overall issue. I suspect that there are other examples of this breakdown in the state. When complicated pieces of legislation pass, or when poorly-drafted ballot initiatives pass, there's a shakeout period, and we are now in that process with this matter of oversight. SUHSD is doing the state a service (really!) by showing how the intent of the law can be perverted or ignored, allowing the weaknesses to be seen and setting a course for fixing the law.

Visdu you make great points! You will likey see tighter legislation soon. That is a point a few Senators made ~ better legislation to require and prohibit certain acts.

Bvagency - it is good to read that others, outside of our district have clearly identified SUHSD has problems.

Rogue leadership and a complicit board.

Thank you for your representation, persons like yourself give us hope.

I think it is sad that to pass that ballot prop that lowered the bar on bond issues from 2/3 to 55% had to have such "safeguards" built into it. The governing board of a school district is composed of trustees. Look up that term in the dictionary, and the major element is that these are people entrusted to do the right thing, protect the public purse, and fulfill the educational mission as effectively as they know how. They are not elected to those trusteeships to line their own pockets, or start political careers (ala Bob Filner and Susan Davis and others), or to indulge their own personal agendas or whims.

But we see many school boards in the county that become heavily politicized (such as Grossmont or Vista Unified) and doing things that may feel good to a few people at the time. However, none of those political dust-ups in local school boards have ever gone to the extremes of this current situation in Sweetwater. So, I'd rather not ever need to have one board, the BOC, looking over the shoulders of the other board, the school district board of trustees. When voters know who they are voting for, things will improve. But I fear that voters will be so informed just when pigs fly.


The Carlin Law Group has forwarded this youtube video clip pertaining to the appointment process from the April 9 meeting.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Ecqvx...

Ms. Luzzaro: Thank You for the link.

Watch it my fellow neighbors and then ask yourselves DON'T IT JUST MAKE YOU PROUD to have Ricasa protecting Brand?

Notice how Brand never did answer Lopez's question -

Very informative. I had left the meeting by this time.

The vastness of the moral turpitude on display, excuse me, I meant to say superintendent, is revelatory.

What is great to see is that there are dedicated public servants who are trying to do the right thing, under very trying circumstances. And then you have Fast Eddy and the Toadies.

The difference between the BOC members and the majority of SUHSD board members - they not only understand their role, but they relish it and take it very seriously. Not to mention the combined wealth of knowledge on the BOC.

If you want to see how public servants - paid or not - should act - I would highly recommend all attend a BOC meeting.

anniej: Yes, I did notice how Brand didn't answer Lopez's question. In fact, it was more like an order that he refused. Isn't that insubordination? Would any other employee be allowed that?

Joepublic - Unfortunately Brand answers to no one . Quite the contrary, he dictates.

Did you also happen to notice how Brand NEVER looks at a speaker? He has been called on it many times - his excuse - he is sorting the speakers cards. Allow me to remind you, this board meeting lasted close to 4 hours, and for 4 hours Brand continued to 'sort' the cards?????? If it takes this man 4 hours to sort thru a handful of cards why are paying him the huge salary?

I have no doubt if Brand could have legal council write Lopez a letter for daring to ask the question "why did you interfere with the process" he would. Goodness knows Brand sees nothing wrong with paying for such correspondence as is evidenced by letters received by community members.

TONIGHT, THURSDAY, APRIL 18 there is another opportunity to interact with the District, Dr. Al Alt, CFO will be at Olympian High School 6:00 - 8:00 for a presentation of the Second Interium Report of the 2013 Budget.
This is a very informative meeting, if you do not understand the budgeting, income and expenditures of the district I highly recommend you attend.
On Tuesday at Chula Vista High School, only three people attended... If you really care about getting answers you MUST ATTEND these outreach meetings. My review of the meeting and Dr. Alt from CVHS on Tuesday was positive, the numbers speak for themselves and there was little "Sugar Coating" or "Branding".
Show your support by attending, if you don't you just give the Board and Dr. Brand that much more power, They will be saying "See it's only the same few diehards that really care about what we are doing" BBQ

bbq - having sat thru previous years budget review - Tuesday nights meeting was a refreshing change indeed. Dr. Alt stood there and took every question, every comment - received them, did not attempt to deflect them. Questions were answered, not dodged.

                                                                                                                                         These are tough financial times, and, in my opinion, all brought on by TWO UNSCRUPULOUS superintendents and a majority of complicit board members.

I urge you to attend tonights forum and offer your suggestions for financial change which will bring about fiscal responsibility.

Dr. Brand has a new committee it's called the Superintendent's Advisory Committee. The committee is made up of mostly business people from the community. ( Tony McCune,Jim Morris the BOC refugee) I'm told that they will be a non profit money raising group for the district. They are trying to get a few women on board at this time. It appears that this will be a repeat of the past where Brand collected a 75% fee for his part and the kids got less than 10 % after the consultants were paid. Same story different year. Are we really doomed to repeat the past?

I have heard of bloodsucking parasites...but they have (for the most part) been a bit lower on the food chain. Guess Brand is aiming for his own category.

Are there any Historical Documents from the last time this committee existed? If it was a non-profit the docs should be public record. I would really like to know their charter and financials.
Has the Board of Trustees approved (Rubber Stamped) this committee? How many $29,999 chits has it cost us so far? Do the principals of this committee really know what's been happening around here? I would think if they did they would distance themselves from the Superintendent and this so called advisory committee, Dr. Brand has never been noted as seeking or using anyone's advise.
BBQ

bbq - The principals, as you refer to them, THEY KNOW AND DO NOT CARE! They are part of Brands camp. They have a long, very long history with the BRAND.

Follow the money!!!!!

Can all of you PLEASE stop calling the fat man ''Dr?" It imparts an aura of undeserved and unearned dignity to him, all he stands for, and the office.

Visduh, here lies the issue with written text, you cannot see me roll my eyes or fingers shake everytime I write Dr. Brand, if you could you would certainly notice the sarcasm of my facial expression or the sound of my voice if we were speaking. I'm trying to think of other Doctors that Dr.Brand compares to, Dr. Frankenstein, Dr. Mengala, Michael Jackson's doctor .... My other uses of Dr. for Dr. Brand would be Dr. Can't Look you in the eye, Dr. Obfustication (sp), Dr. Sorts the cards ... BBQ

Perhaps the reason that just three people attended Tuesday's meeting is that there has been no attempt on the part of the district to invite the public that I can see. I do not see the meetings posted on the district's website.

They were scheduled without enough advance time to do a proper 'community notice/invitation". Seems like the district is hoping, and trying to ensure, that there is almost no attendance so Ed and Co can claim that the general public doesn't care. The district has an obligation to notice the public about such meetings -- and I mean more than just a cursory effort!

oskidoll, nobody denies the poor performance of the district in posting the information, but I have been trying to get the word out through these blogs and through editorials of the Reader, to no appearent avail.

These meetings are on the Board of Trustees calendar but have not been there very long, less than a week. Again I will give Dr. Alt a pass this time as the system is not clear within the district as to how to have something posted. He also asked what other outlets for this info there were, so go and let him know.

However this is not the first time I have attended these Townhalls and been one of well under ten attendees.

I do not want to give excuses or complain about the poor posting or poor attendence but meerly want to make a point that the meeting is available again tonight and everyone should make an attempt to attend. BBQ

Thanks BBQ... You have been doing a great job to get the district in gear to answer the questions we have been asking for such a long time.

Following other educational institutions' best practices, the District should be sending out/posting electronic messages, via Facebook and Twitter at a minimum. They should also be using systems such as 'constant contact' or 'mail chimp' to reach their stakeholders. At a bare minimum, it should be posted on the District's site, not just merely on board members' calendars.

Doesn't each school have a school site committee, composed of parents and community? I would hope the district has a way to communicate regularly with those folks, at a minimum.

The district also has an in-house communications person, I believe. What is that person doing to spread the word? Why weren't the sessions announced at the last board meeting, or did president Cartmill 'forget' in his haste to end the meeting and avoid any more embarrassing questions for Ed?

Perhaps the district's communications personnel can do a better, more comprehensive job, of informing their stakeholders about any upcoming sessions planned for May. Unfortunately, the print media outlets have become nothing more than 'shoppers' that it is difficult to disseminate anything that way anymore. Nevertheless, the district's communication person should send releases about such events to the UT, Star News, La Prensa, the Reader, etc.,. as well as the electronic communications strategies mentioned above..that is their job. It ought not to be up to you to do it for the district!

Thank YOU for all you are doing in this effort.

I was on a school site council for a few years, and the only form of communication was email. Which was fine if you were on the committee, because you would be notified. An outside person would have to be in close contact with the school administration for updated info at that time.

I can't say if that has changed, or is even the same policy across the district.

Thanks to all for the combined effort! We will grow in numbers, in strength and in determination so that Sweetwater UHSD is honestly organized and run, with students in mind, not schemes!

oskidoll - the meetings were not posted until Tuesday morning, a mix up I was told.

If you click on the pencil picture at the top it will link you to the notification.

timtim - I thought you were in Korea?

timtim nice to hear from you, if you are back in town, you might learn something about the budgeting process used at SUHSD and the fact we have spent our way through all of our reserve funds, over $40,000,000 in 4-5 years.

All of this since I accused Ms. Russo of running the district like the wonder years of full development, ie "Fat, Dumb and Happy", unfortunately there are at least a few of us that don't think "F,D&H" should be status quo, by the way F,D&H are not part of the Seven Dwarfs only our District Adminstration.

With the advent of the Local Control Initiative from the State Budgeting Process we all should understand the priorities, direction and implications of the Board decisions or lack of decisions on the overall Budget.

So take the time to learn about the process to at least be knowledgable of what's being said at the Board meetings, instead of the dull look in your eyes. BBQ

erupting - tony mccune as in 'the only dog on this lot'? Interesting, very interesting - I believe he has served on other non profits of Brands. Historically Brand has set these up and then 'certain' people have profited. Non profits such as these has tickled the I.R.S.'s fancy.

For some strange reason our non profits have a major problem filing their 900 forms. Another NONO.

Thanks for the info.

Anyone know anything about a meeting Marty Block had last night regarding 'Saving Adult Education'? I got the notice about 5 minutes before it was scheduled to start--maybe others heard earlier?

I still cannot fathom the way the Sweetwater ROP/CTE students were completely left adrift...I do not think the programs should have been dealt with the way they were. Furthermore, if the district is going to set them adrift, then at least organize some sort of way for those who have started to be able to finish their internships.

It is unconscionable to leave these students in this way--they had no warning, no ability to alter their plans. These are people who are trying very hard to get into a position so that they can earn a living!

If the argument genuinely is that they are not a part of the district's core "mission"--and if the district wants to take that tack, then fine--but let those students finish up! Then, to behave in civil and responsible manner, find alternate ways for those who would have liked to have the same chance. Meaning: do not, in high-handed fashion, cut people off, leave them adrift and then walk away as though you had nothing to do with it!

Because that is cold, unfeeling, heartless and NOT WHAT WE SHOULD BE TEACHING THE YOUNG PEOPLE IN THIS DISTRICT!

Do we want to live in a humane society, or do we want to live in a society ruled by the Ed Brands of the world? Out for themselves, doing favors for those who will then be 'beholden'--creating a netherworld of sleaze, when this should be our public educational system, completely honest, transparent and with equal chances for all?

Think of the madness that Ed Brand has already caused, and that he continues to cause!

Is there any reason why he should continue in this position, creating more and more chaos, disarray, pain and suffering?

The man is a disgrace, and he is remaking Sweetwater in his own image--a large, unwieldy and vastly unlovely disgrace.

RESPECT, Arile is talking about RESPECT, you didnt respect the public when you took all that money for food and your campaign did you ? Why didnt you (Arlie) rip into Brand for not answering the question asked to him. Who is who's boss? I want to know if Brand would tolerate that kind of behavior from a subordinate. Lopez or any other board member deserves an answer to their question. Especially when it was an item that you were talking about on the agenda. So Arlie you need to get your head out of the super's ass and demand respect for your fellow board member.

I am very rarely able to attend the board meetings, as I am active with my kids in their school activities, so I am glad to be able to hear the audio recordings. I am also glad that a video of this portion of the meeting was posted.

Ricasa talks of respect, and in watching the video, I can see Brand "fiddling" with the cards for a portion of the time. When he is not handling the cards, he is sitting back, looking off away from whomever is speaking. I do see him occasionally glancing over in their direction, but for the most part, his body language is showing disdain for the discussion.

I do see, at least on the video for the portion of the public speaking, Cartmill and Ricasa sitting up and facing the speakers. However, regarding the Respect on the dais, when Lopez is speaking, Ricasa is looking at what appears to be her computer. So it seems that she asks, nay, DEMANDS, respect, yet does not give it.

I understand why they could not discuss appointing Mr. Clapper to the BOC, as that bypass the "process" that is set in place. As the board agenda item does not include his applying for the BOC, they can not legally take action.

However, "regarding the selection process, “We decided among ourselves to leave it up to district leadership,” and gestured toward Brand." (Ricasa)

                         vs.

"fill the vacancies through an identifiable, pre-determined, non-interference by the superintendent or this board"

What is this process? I assume Human Resources receives and screens applicants. Apparently the BOC gets to review candidates as well, and rates them. Brand gets to interview them as well? What else is on his action list regarding the process? Does he get to veto them before submitting names to the board? So, am I correct in assuming the "District Leadership" places the agenda item? If so, leaving it to the district leadership wasted 20 minutes of everybody's time by only submitting one name to the board for approval. And the board chastises the one and only member who questions this?

dbdriver- after all of the nonsense, we are still no closer to an answer to the question:

Why did Brand interfere in the selection process. The committees choices were partially respected. What was it about Mr. Clapper that bothered Brand? His integrity, his community service, his endorsement by the National City Chamber of Commerce - what?

AND Pearl Quinines, why did she not speak up in favor of one of her communities leaders? She resides in National City - why the silence? National City residents deserve an answer from Quinones. Why wasn't it she who asked the tough questions? Why did Lopez have to stand up for one of the good guys AGAIN!!!!!

Ed Brand, we are waiting, for your response .........

Ed won't respond, so I will venture a guess. I think Ed could tell that Mr. Clapper was too smart, too knowledgeable, too interested in really doing a good job--Ed prefers the semi-comatose or those he feels he can pawn off with gifts and favors.

I do note from the audio of the meeting that there were only members of the public that asked to speak up about this agenda item. I notice that whenever board members do not ask about an item, most of them typically vote in favor of the item. Particularly when the item has the superintendents recommendation. If not for public intervention, would they have passed this item without really looking at it, throwing the BOC into disarray? Would that have been legal? Or would someone have stated that, while it is recommended that the BOC have an odd number of members, it could operate for a period of time with no issue, respectively submitted.

dbdriver - if it were not for the public and Lopez, the board meetings would end in record setting time.

The entire agendas at all board meetings would be labeled 'consent' - a Brand dream come true.

The community needs to be told WHY Ed Brand interfered with the process. Why Ed Brand went against his own word? Now the 64 thousand dollar question, other than Lopez, who on the board will push for the answer?

It does occur to me that these common criminals also terrorize us with their blithe and ignorant avoidance of their duty to us. Month after month, sometimes more often, they assault us with their abdication and dereliction. They are no better than terrorists because they reign without any semblance of conscience or control. It is past time to take back our district.

Yes--the voting block that is firmly in Ed Brand's pocket has cooperated with him in undermining this district for far too long.

Paying attention to what Fast Eddy has been up to shows us that he will give public money to pals, funnel students into expensive "for profit" classes when free alternatives exist, destroy Sweetwater athletes' chances for a real CIF experience, take programs away from ROP/CTE students, and many more, too numerous to list.

The man is a wrecking crew, not an educator.

And we have heard that he is interested in setting up more "non-profit" organizations...which, with his track record just means that he is working on supplementing his already overly-inflated salary--because in his previous dealings with such a non-profit, this was the result: Ed Brand's take $200,000 plus, students' take $16,000...

Yes, it is time for this bag of corruption to go. And time for all of those who assist in the schemes to go as well.

Did you see this? I had to edit it to fit, but read to the end where she answers questions from Sweetwater faculty.

Champion of Public Education, Diane Ravitch, Speaks On Sweetwater Concerns

On Monday, April 15th, nationally recognized public education advocate, Diane Ravitch, spoke to an auditorium full of teachers and concerned citizens regarding the current state of public education.

Diane Ravitch took the stage to a standing ovation (with the noted exception of a few Sweetwater administrators in attendance). She explained how hopeful she is over the progress being made in San Diego Unified with the appointment of Marten.

Ravitch stated that nationwide, " . . . the lights are going out on public education." She explained that "In places like Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, where the union voice has been silenced, public education is being crushed." Ravitch places blame squarely on the shoulders of reformers such as Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates, the Broads, and the Waltons, as well as other "big money that is trying to buy public education."

As the event came to a close, Ravitch took questions from the audience. Several Sweetwater teachers brought issues from our district to her attention. SEA member Mary Holden asked, "How can we look to the future and remain positive?

Ravitch responded, "Teachers' professional beliefs are correct. What is happening in education today is malpractice."

Another SEA member raised concerns about the SUHSD Board of Trustees being influenced by contractors. Ravitch drew parallels between the local problems we are experiencing and the national problems of corporate influence. She expressed doubt that campaign contributions would become a reality in any school district, but drew cheers from the crowd when she said, "They have millions, but we are millions. We have the power to vote."

Finally, Mar Vista Middle teacher Chandra Goodnough spoke on the restructuring of MVM. Ravitch offered these words of support," What is happening to [Mar Vista] teachers is ridiculous. [Mar Vista] teachers must realize that what is happening is wrong, and maintain your principles and ethics. You are right; they are wrong."

Ravitch asked teachers to "pursue the change they want to see," and encouraged teachers to use "political theater" to draw attention and bring publicity to the cause of public education. In addition, Ravitch encouraged teachers to join the Network for Public Education, her new grassroots organizing and advocacy group. The main focus of NPE will be to help elect education friendly candidates to school boards.

This is very encouraging.

I keep trying to bet Bill Moyers interested in Sweetwater's mess. If others want to join in on that, it might help. Mr. Moyers is respected by all, and if we could get his ear, I think it would do a great deal.

In our efforts to bring greater exposure to this story, I recommend that it be cast as "community-wide efforts to expose and rid our community of a cartel of corrupt officials, their equally corrupt CEO, and those who would bribe them to obtain lucrative construction contracts for public schools".

That is our story in a nutshell. Please do not succomb to well-meaning, but also opportunistic efforts, of union officials to co-opt the story and the issue for their benefit.

The only evil corporate interests here are those who would bribe our public officials and those who play into the willing hands of the CEO, those who will 'pay to play' on the public's dollar.

Certainly, our teachers are being abused, and our students shortchanged, by the corrupt CEO and the corrupt board...no one denies that. However, the teachers are only one group of those whose rights and interests are being violated. Actually, it is our students who have been harmed the most! We have citizens who are stepping up to the plate to challenge the status quo, and they come from all walks of life.

Our issue, and our efforts, include all varieties of stakeholders. It is too easy to fall into the 'union vs. corporate' polarization and in this case, it just is not so.

Sweetwater's mess is public stakeholders....ALL of us...as David, vs. the Golliath of the indicted and self-serving public officials and the bully they hire.

We need to keep the message simple if we hope to grab a wider audience.

oskidoll, you have it pegged. Ravitch is one of those glib talkers who goes out into the world and sells a liberal agenda, probably financed by either the NEA or some other social activist groups. Her comments about the "union voice" being silenced, and the crushing of public education, are over-the-top, and even if true, would have no pertinence to this district. The issue is a simple one, as you state. The district is run by crooks who hire a crook, and the whole nest of corruption needs to be rooted out and purged. It has absolutely nothing to do with dueling ideas of educational "reform" as floated today.

However, Ravitch can be more widely heard than most of us. If she could speak with Bill Moyers about what is going on here, we might have a shot at getting some national attention.

Yes, this "district is run by crooks who hire a crook, and the whole nest of corruption needs to be rooted out and purged." No argument there at all.

In fact, it is almost a chicken and egg situation...was the corruption in place to this degree before Ed Brand's first installation as potentate extraordinaire, or is the corruption something that Ed has developed through his enormous encouragement and support??

Anyway, if someone here knows Ms. Ravitch, and wants to ask her to tell the world about Sweetwater and its ills, I say, have at it!

The corruption was in place before the first Brand tour... with a predecessor, Trujillo and his alleged practice and sales, er, 'gift' of district computers to Mexico. It then grew 'legs' and it is what we have today.

I would not like to see Ms. Ravitch or any other 'advocate' take over as the 'sponsor' of the Sweetwater story because it will then likely be cast as a union vs. evil corporate story and flavored by her sound bytes. . That is NOT what this is about. We will lose much in the translation if that is the case. We can tell our own story, thank you.

It is a story about a community that comes together to take back its own schools...take back the schools from the corrupt and divisive public officials who continue to hire bullies to run the enterprise. We do not need Ms. Ravitch as our Robbin Hood. It is our story to tell.

Anyone can speak with or pitch a story to any media person. Ravich does not have representation for us.

True enough, but she and Mr. Moyers have already worked together, so he would listen to her.

I don't want to argue with you; I personally don't have a way to get any of this heard by a wider audience. Thus, when I read that Ms. Ravitch had been in San Diego addressing the educational community and also happened to see that she had been featured in an extended interview with Mr. Moyers some time back, I thought that this might indicate a reasonable possibility. Mr. Moyers might very well be the most respected man in the news media today.

I have been following this intently. The real question is why does this continue to go on in our midst and nobody other than those who write in this blog, attending Board meetings, and community meetings seem to care to do something really. I think all of us who have been pursuing this get rid of Brand and the Board need to figure out how do we do it. I work in the District and I know how. You get at the money and power over elected officials that really matter in the South Bay. The City Councils and then the elected representatives in Sacramento who can make a difference. We can complain all we want but we need to get to the Mayors, Hueso, Block, Gonzalez/Castaneda, Vargas, and Councilmember Alvarez and tell them that the quality and perception of the South Bay region and yes the economy is impacted by our wonderful school district. Otherwise we are just going to be complaining to each other. We need to mobilize and be coordinated. If they (elected officials) don't help us then we let them know we will find a candidate next time that will. We need to have Sacramento lean on the County Board of Educatlon. One among us needs to become a leader and get us organized. I can not do it because I think Brand might be on to me and I can do more damage in stealth mode while a District employee. Please less complaing and more coordinated action!! Believe me that little piss ant John McCann might jump ship if he thinks his "legend in his mind" political career is at jeopardy.

All who have read my posts over the past few (3) years know that I support educators. Having said that I must ask the question - why are the majority of our educators only showing up when it affects them personally I.e. contract negotiations? The antagonists consist of two retired teachers, yet their fight for quality education began long before they retired.

Why is the community not turning out in force? Waiting for the DA's office to do what needs to be done - well folks, with each passing month more and more of our financial budgets are being raided. By the time the trials are held or the deals brokered, we will be sitting here broke and broke down.

The time is drawing nearer when, once again, WE the community will decide who will sit on the Dias. WE, the voters will decide if we want to be represented by the same old camp, or whether we will back NEW BLOOD. My vote, NEW BLOOD! We can not allow Brand to allegedly, once again, interject himself into the process. Each of us, needs to do our part in being instrumental in bringing about change.

Here is a tidbit for you, the year 'the gandara' left he borrowed 8 million dollars from the teachers retirement benefit plan - he stated it would be repaid the next year. Well, it wasn't, AND we have failed to fund it ever since. SOOOOOOO, currently there is approximately 45 million that is owed to that fund. DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW??????

Brand has started a Charter, Brand is trying to form his own division of CIF, Brand is forming a non profit under the pretense of helping our students - what do all of these have in common? A Board of PAID overseers. Are you following me here? Brand leaves SUHSD yet returns to sit on the very boards that he started. What a racket, huh?

As the majority of the board made perfectly evident last month, THEY PROTECT BRAND AT ALL COSTS? Do they know all that Brand is doing - NO. Do they care - NO. The ONLY board member to EVER speak out is LOPEZ, listen to board docs, or better yet help pack the board meetings and see for yourself.

The Southwest board meeting, the Hilltop board meeting - not that long ago. YOU WANT CHANGE, then show up, AS MANY TIMES AS IT TAKES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Keep Winston Churchill in mind: "we will never, never, never give in!"

The quote that I can locate isn't quite the same. He said "We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!"

Stirring words, weren't they? Such a stalwart approach is what is needed in the South County today. Keep up your courage, don't stop fighting and posting comments, and this too shall pass.

Yes, if anyone could be cloned, Churchill would be one of my top candidates!

Such a resolute individual, with an outstanding gift of communication. The gist of another of his quotes is something like this:' Real genius is the ability to determine the truth from an abundance of conflicting reports.'

I feel that is a skill that all of us need to work on! Thanks for your encouragement as well as your appreciation of Churchill.

More Churchill quotations:

"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."

That is for all of those who give Ed Brand what he wants, hoping he will just go away. Anyone remember the principles of operant conditioning?

"What kind of people do they think we are? Is it possible they do not realize that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?"

That is for Cartmill, Ricasa, McCann and sometimes Quinones, for voting away the interests of Sweetwater's students, for giving Brand the power to destroy what others devoted their lives to building, for somehow abdicating all responsibility in the face of Ed Brand's greed and grasp.

What a nauseating spectacle they are. Petty, thick-headed, morally repugnant and lazy. Not even interested in pretending to try and do anything for the students.

Has anyone heard what's happening with the district's latest felon, Al Alt?

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