Sweetwater’s Ed Brand Seeks to Remove Committee Members

Jim Morris and Ed Brand at December 2011 awards ceremony
  • Jim Morris and Ed Brand at December 2011 awards ceremony

Fresh out of the chute as new superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District, Ed Brand recently sought to remove all of the members of the Proposition O Bond Oversight Committee, save one — Jim Morris, who has had a relationship with Brand and the district in the past.

The committee is charged with overseeing the district’s expenditure of $644 million in bond money. In September, the bond-oversight committee made public a “no confidence” vote in Brand.

Brand writes in a October 4 letter to the board of trustees that the motivation for his recommendation is that he has asked the committee members to fill out conflict-of-interest forms and they have not. Brand says filling out the form is part of oversight-committee best practices “as well as to comply with the transparency that we have repeatedly heard from members of the community.”

Brand’s letter continues: “The reason for me informing you of this request is that, as of today, only one member, Jim Morris, has submitted his form, and I believe that there will be members who decide not to complete the 700 form and turn it in. Therefore, I will be recommending that they be removed from the [committee] and be replaced with other members of the community that will agree with the stipulation.”

Some of the committee members attribute the creation of this requirement as punitive. Aside from the “no confidence” vote, the committee has been aggressively requesting construction documents, legal counsel, and a more complete audit of Proposition O expenditures.

According to committee member Kevin O’Neill, the first time Brand mentioned the 700 form was at an August 29 meeting. O’Neill commemorated the occasion with an email: “Dr. Brand, attached is the Government Code section 82700 regarding who is required to file 700 forms.… Your statement that something was going on with the [committee] and you were going to make us fill out 700 forms was out of line….”

Joe Casillas, a member of the Southwestern College Proposition R Bond Oversight Committee and a former member of Sweetwater’s Proposition BB Oversight Committee, said in an October 12 interview that he has never been asked to fill out a 700 form for an oversight committee.

“I raised the question when I joined the Southwestern committee,” says Casillas. “I was told that since we were just an advisory group, with no connection that would affect the spending of public dollars, a 700 form was not necessary.”

Casillas said when he was on the San Diego County Tax Assessment Appeals Board he was required to fill out a conflict-of-interest form, and that the requirement was logical for that position.

On October 11, the Sweetwater Bond Oversight Committee met and voted to adopt the standards of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees, standards that include filing a 700 form. Members, however, expressed reluctance to give in to what they characterized as a “heavy-handed” and “bullying” tactic by Ed Brand.

In an October 12 interview, Bernardo Vasquez, who has served on the committee for three and a half years without being asked to fill out a 700 form, said he is seeking legal counsel from the district on the requirement. Vasquez says he is hesitant to put personal information out after he and other Sweetwater parents were smeared in the San Diego Rostra website.

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Thanks again Reader for putting the truth out there for all of your readers. This is another tactic used by Brand to intimidate the BOC. He's afraid of these men. They are asking the right questions and this is making Brand nervous. He will attempt to get rid of them as he will not be challenged. The problem is the BOC are volunteers that work for the public not Brand. They are representing me and my tax dollars. Keep up the good work guys.

I agree with erupting, this committee seems to have the public's interest at heart. What bothers me though, is they caved in to this bully of a superintendent's threat. Ed Brand didn't use the "transparency" card for 3 and a half years. Why now? Because this committee has been asking too many good questions, and like when he skipped away from the toxic soil press conference, he doesn't want to answer them. Had they stood their ground, the public would undoubtedly been enraged.

joepublic: while i agree that this was bullying we must understand IF they boc would have voted not to subject to the will of dictator brand, he would have disbanded them and tried to paint his actions as looking out for the community - i.e. protecting us from the crookedness of corruption.

so now the ball is in brand's court - he said he wanted the 700's turned in because that is what the best practices of the states boc advisory committee represents.


thank you erupting for stating the obvious. brand would have much preferred boc days of old when members were basically hand selected i.e. arlie ricasa's husband was a member of the boc under prop bb - you all remember that was the bond issue that landed sweetwater UNDER THE THEN SUPERINTENDENT ED BRAND 1st TENURE the topic of a grand jury investigation. why john mccann would have brought brand back after brand left under the cloud of a grand jury investigation is a major source of speculation in the south bay even now.

the CURRENT BOC is being recognized state wide as the type of boc that all district tax payers should have representing them - yet here we have brand with his bullying tactics attempting to disban the group. what message is that sending? what does brand not want found?

why has john mccann, jim cartmill and arlie ricasa bowed and kissed the ring of the dictator brand? what is in it for them? they have turned the district over to brand - they show up once a month, vote in all of his pet projects, leave and go home till the next month. the three of them enjoy being introduced as sweetwater board members, they believe it adds to their credibility - surely they know, surely they wonder - this person shaking my hand is this one of those who is laughing at me behind my back?

this community has lost all confidence in three 'muskacheaters' - all of the promises to meet with concerned citizens broken, all of the promises to focus on the students fallen by the side of road as if the issue of education were simple minutia.

three new schools added to the Program Improvement list this week - Montgomery High (who was just taken off of the list right before john mccann brought brand back), SAILS (prior to brand's return one of the highest functioning schools in the district), and finally Olympian High ( prior to brand's return it was the seen as one of the best schools in the district). WHY?, HOW - well, perhaps if brand would have sat his booty in his office chair and performed as a superintendent we would not be spiraling down the drain education wise. but oh no, brand is far too busy out and about - meeting with persons he sees will help him in his endeavor to build 'brand university' - you see it is all about his super ego - he wants his name carved into stone down here in the south bay, and by gosh he doesn't care what the price. what i see is a different picture, it is a black and white picture with a background of a height chart and there will be identification markers, but they will be numbers vs letters. now Visduh, brace yourself but i am told i must add this, this is just my opinion.

megalomania, n. 1. a highly exaggerated or delusional concept of one's own importance. 2. an obsession with doing extravagant or grand things.

So, if Brand manages to squelch all opposition from the BOC, can we start referring to that as a "Putsch"?

What would be the next step? Spending hours with an Albert Speer-equivalent, going over architectural plans for all his schemes?

The voice of the public has already been undermined and disregarded. The "majority Board" members are inextricably snagged by Brand's machinations, so they must want to align themselves with Sweetwater's own master of disaster and doer of malice!

anniej, systematic denial of civil rights is occurring in Sweetwater under the malicious statecraft of Ed Brand; this denial of civil rights is growing, having started with the reduction of public input during board meetings, continued with the switching of times for public input, the cancellation of meetings and the obfuscation of important information regarding our funds.

Who gave Ed Brand the powers of a dictator?

When will our leaders start speaking out in favor of the public's right for information and a voice in the direction of our schools?

What should the public do?

eastlaker: you ask "What should the public do?" - well there is a law that we might use to TAKE OUR DISTRICT BACK AND DRIVE OUT THOSE WE FEEL ARE USING OUR TAX DOLLARS and NOT FOR THE BENEFIT OF OUR STUDENTS.

  • i believe that all of us as stakeholders in our district could unite with the employees of the district and take control. while i realize that some might see charter schools as an assault on the representatives of our district employees i would propose that we NOT take the charter school route as i personally view the employees of our district as an asset to the success of our students.

please read and weigh in -

The following law that applies to parents of students in the state of California. The "Parent Trigger" Law

The "Parent Trigger," Parent Empowerment law (SBX5 4), is a new law that gives parents in California the right to force a transformation of their child's current or future failing school. All parents need to do is organize - if 51% of them get together and sign an official Parent Trigger petition, they have the power to force their school district to transform the school.

Five Choices for School Transformation

1) Charter conversion: Parents can choose a charter school program that will continue to serve all the same students that have always attended the school.

2) Turnaround: If parents want huge changes but want to leave the school district in charge, "turnaround" is an option. It forces the school district to change by bringing in a new staff and giving the local school community more control over staffing and budget.

3) Transformation: This is the least significant change. It forces the school district to find a new principal, and make a few other small changes.

4) Closure: This option would close the school altogether and send the students to other, higher-performing schools nearby.

5) Bargaining power: If parents want smaller changes but the school district just won't listen to them, they can organize, get to 51%, and use their signatures as bargaining power.

Parents get to pick which option they want for their children and their school

In order to be eligible the school must be in program improvement year 4 or higher.

School In PI Year Eligible Notes Mar Vista high Yes 5 Yes
Castle Park High Yes 5 Yes
Southwest Middle Yes 5 Yes
Mar Vista Middle Yes 5 Yes
Southwest High Yes 5 Yes
Castle Park Middle Yes 5 Yes
San Ysidro High Yes 3 next year
Chula Vista High Yes 3 next year
Montgomery Middle Yes 3 next year
Hilltop Middle Yes 3 next year
National City Middle Yes 2 2014-2015
Hilltop High Yes 2 2014-2015
Sweetwater High Yes 2 2014-2015
Montgomery High Yes 1 2015-2016 Was off Progam improvement for 1 year Olympian High Yes 1 2015-2016
Options Secondary Yes 1 2015-2016
Move to:
Prev | Next

This would require a high level of parent support--something that would be good to see under normal circumstances.

But this leaves out the taxpayer sector of the community, and that sector deserves a great many more answers than they are getting.

Personally I have come to the conclusion that the reason we here in Sweetwater can't get any backup from those who are in authority is that:

  1. As Mello-Roos funds are gathered with property taxes, they have become very tied into county financials in a way that helps to stabilize the county. So the county isn't interested in untangling anything, even though they may well be aware that some of the strictures on Mello-Roos funds are not being followed by their accounting measures. The county wants things swept under the rug--it is much more convenient that way.

  2. The County Board of Education, which is supposed to be an arm of support, encouragement and enforcement of and for the school districts has become pretty much fossilized and uninterested in anything except making it look like they are doing their job, while not actually lifting a finger. They are so used to inactivity that they no longer know how to act. I doubt they could leave a burning building without instruction.

  3. Self-serving politicians who are interested in further offices don't want to antagonize any potential contributors to their war chests, so they don't want to speak up about all the fraud, waste and abuse within Sweetwater.

  4. Some citizens, realizing all of this, have decided that maybe it will just go away of its own accord if we ignore this long enough. Except that only gives Brand and his ilk the courage of their non-convictions (personally, I'd like them to get some convictions, in both senses of the word).

  5. The upshot--those of us who care about education, the students, our community and life in the United States that is recognizably sane--find ourselves ignored and out in the cold. Maybe for now, but not forever.

  6. I will keep speaking out and hope that some honest individuals will keep speaking out and others will join in. Maybe the students will realize what is being stolen from them--and galvanize themselves, their parents and the entire community. What is happening here is a great shame.

What we have here is a portrait of stasis--until the whole system is in complete breakdown.

But you know all of this, anniej.

Castle Park Middle is not and will not be in program improvement for a while.

The union hacks run the Prop O committees just as they do the SWC Prop R committees. There has been lots if corruption over the years with these people.

Brand is doing the right thing here.

Sjtorres: perhaps you might want to attend a BOC meeting before you comment. there are NO union reps on the BOC - interesting that you do not comment on the hand picked BOC's of old - back when spouses (with different last names), sorority sisters, and board members of others districts pretended to look out for the best interests of the taxpaying citizens.

IF you pay taxes you should be complimenting the efforts of the BOC rather than chiding them. you sound like john mccann, everything wrong with the district is all due to the unions - HA! funny, he didn't seem to mind those union folks when he was taking their money as campaign donations -

brand fears the integrity of 99.9% of those who sit on the boc, plain and simple. he is not use to dealing with persons whose ONLY interest is the responsibility of the position they hold. he can't bully these guys, no way, no how - now THESE are men that respected, THESE are men who are professional, THESE are men who have expertise.

Sjtorres: Where to begin...I'm not sure if you are trolling, or simply baffled by reality. The juxtaposition of "Brand" and "doing the right thing here" is beyond laughable. Ed Brand, doing the right thing? I'd like to see it happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sjtorres, i take absolute exception to your comment. I encourage to contact me immediately to provide your proof. I am the longest tenured Prop O committee member (3.5 years), and was the chair of the committee from april 2011 to June 2012. If you have the courage and proof to speak with me contact me. I would be interested in hearing and seeing your proof! Or are you like The Rostra who likes to throw flaming spears with no regard for the truth?! In my time on the committee, i have never once been asked by any teacher or union member to support anything on their behalf, nor take a public or private position on their behalf! I have never even been approached by the Union! As Chair of the committee, i was approached by Ed Brand to support the districts use of prop o funds for district operating expenses. He even provided me legal opinions that he said supported his position and asked me to take a public position that i supported this! He and Diane Russo took me to lunch for a coke and a smile to convince me to support this. He called me on numerous occassions to convince me to support this. When i refused, he told me the district would just have to use Mello Roos money for this - which they are now doing! So sjtorres, who is the real hack trying to run the committee? Again, expose your facts and be man (or woman) enough to contact me to support your blatently false statement!

Sjtorres are you out there? Cmon lets hear from you!

bvagency: surely you jest, there are no reporters or tv cameras to smile in front of. persons such as Sjtorres are mere pretenders who will never speak to or offer up facts.

he is probably waiting for brand to write his response to you.

Sjtorres, please look for me at Mondays board meeting. I am usually there and im sure if you ask Ed Brand or one of the Trustees, they will point me out. I really do want to speak with you. Let me know if you are interested.

bvagency: Sir you are one of those of whom i speak. you could not be bought and refuse to be bullied - your only interest is the best interest of the students and taxpayers. Sjtorres, is a minion pretender who speaks of what he does not know - and what is more concerning is the fact that he/she fails to educate him/herself with the facts of the situation.

We shouldn't be so hard on Brand. He's just doing what the three board members--Ricasa, McCann, Cartmill--hired him to do. Bull dog down on the unruly elements.

I just had a thought. Maybe it's the other way around, maybe the three board members are doing what Brand wants them to do.

Yes, there is a folk dance in Russia called the "Troika"--kind of reminds me of Ed Brand, Ricasa, McCann and Cartmill.

Sjtorres: Actually, I don't think it would be a bad idea to have union input on the BOC. Classroom practitioners, as well as all other district employees who service students, would offer invaluable input. Their organizations (unions) would be a great asset, offering the views of those who deal with the day-to-day operations of the district in an organized, collective format. Why would that be so bad? Wouldn't you want nurses, doctors, and other health care workers to have input on how to best finance the running of a hospital or clinic? When you constantly use words like "union hacks" when referring to workers organizations, you lose any credibility you might have, and sound like a hack yourself. bvagency has asked you to provide proof of your allegations. I hope you publish them here in this forum for us all to read, as he has.

Bvageny: Your comments are very disturbing. Your pressure-lunch example is a real eye opener. Thanks for sharing. You are to be commended for your courage and honesty.

Maybe Sjtorres has had one coke and a smile too many.

TO ALL: often time i see written here, how did this happen? welllllllllll, i have provided you some info that will truly make you sick - this folks has been going on a very long time.

IF THERE WAS EVER A DOUBT THAT QUINONES, CARTMILL, RICASA, AND MCCANN NEED TO GO - while McCann is not included on THIS list, all one has to do is do your own homework regarding his campaign contributions when he was elected to the board.


Thanks for showing us this--while we may have suspected something of the sort, it is like a slap in the face to see it all drawn out.

So what is the legal situation regarding all this? Obviously if it is a "requirement" to pay into an account in order to be considered for a position or a promotion, that is illegal.

So "pay to play" has been around for a very long time. Wouldn't it be great if we could end that game?

Please, everyone, check the blogs for the article on Mello-Roos, misuse of funds. There are specifics that are very informative!

The best laid plans . . . Those oversight committees were written into the law when the 55% requirement was approved. It was a great selling job that the tax-and-spend crowd did when it wanted bond issues to be easier to pass. The notion was that the committee had some real clout with how the monies were spent, and now we can see that in a corrupt district such a committee can be rendered powerless. Now Brand has gone a further step and is behaving like Boss Tweed of old. This ought to make everyone who voted to reduce that vote requirement from 2/3 down to 55% wonder what he/she was thinking. The whole picture painted by the proponents was that there were not only safeguards against waste and abuse, but multiple layers of such protection. We now see from SUHSD that there really are none at all, and that a rogue superintendent and board of crooks can do whatever they please. Great, huh?

Very true, Visduh. The manipulators do seem to get their way, don't they?

But Brand is more than a rogue, it really looks like he has protection from the County Board of Education--because they don't even stop for a moment to make a public statement when that is indicated, needed and appropriate.

Crafty while creating his swath of influence, Brand has still underestimated his opponents. People in this district still want the truth, transparency, and the funding to benefit the students--not pals of the superintendent. We are tired of large amounts of money being funneled to attorneys, "consultants" of dubious value and pet schemes that end up smelling like there have been payoffs involved.

We are tired of our tax dollars being misapplied. That should not happen, and there should be accounting practices in place to ensure that does not happen.

We are tired of all the accounting "tricks" that have been employed in a vain effort to fool us.

We are tired of the lack of support from the authorities who are supposed to be looking out for us, and for honesty on the part of our public officials.

Visduh, if you lived here, would you plan to move out? Or is there some other solution?

the board meeting monday night was one for the records. brand began the evening happy enough - i mean why not? he is sitting there with one of the richest contracts around. HOWEVER, it was as if the stars aligned and simply were not having it ----------------

monday night exposed john mccann, jim cartmill and arlie ricasa for exactly what they are all about - THE MONEY - many issues were raised, but they mattered little to these 3 - they were there to do what they do SIT THERE 5 hours questioning nothing.

throughout the entire evening it became more and more apparent - brand is not happy with how those in his work kingdom are seeing him - he became infuriated more than once, turning as red as red can be - he could hardly compose himself. no doubt as he sat there looking out onto the audience he realized - HIS DAYS ARE NUMBERED............................ when he is gone we must all make it a point to thank johnny boy mccann, jim cartmill, and arlie ricasa - for it will all be THEIR DOING.

there was an attorney in the audience, he was seen going up and handing each one of them papers - hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm wonder if those chickens are coming home to roost. mcann, cartmill and brand - hold onto your hat - the road is about to get real bumpy....................... something tells me there is a storm a comin'.

WE WANT OUR DISTRICT BACK - the take over began approximately 20 years ago

Hear, hear!

Great job, anniej!

Looks like Pearl and Arlie are starting to realize how their actions can be interpreted in view of the charges against them. Looks like Ed Brand, the manipulator-in-chief, is having some trouble staying in control.

Thanks to all who have brought the heat and will continue to bring the heat, until Sweetwater is run along honest and straightforward lines.

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