Montgomery Adult School’s last Viva Vida conference?

Budget cuts will likely end career-oriented workshops

Kevin Leonard teaching a class on interviewing skills at the April 25 Viva Vida conference
  • Kevin Leonard teaching a class on interviewing skills at the April 25 Viva Vida conference

For the 11th year in a row, Montgomery Adult School, part of the Sweetwater Union High School District, held their annual Viva Vida conference on April 25. The conference is designed to give students exposure to a variety of skills and career possibilities by attending workshops. The unspoken question at the conference and on the campus was, will this be the last one?

The conference is an all-day event put on by the teachers. Workshop offerings included baking, floral design, connections between vision and learning, goal-setting, Zumba, and more.

The workshop on interviewing skills overflowed. Career coach Kevin Leonard gave students tips for interviewing, which included: follow the interview’s lead; avoid debates; don’t discuss your children; watch your grammar. Students left with websites to search for job openings.

Students also displayed pastries that teacher Adriana Ventura taught them to make. One student, Angelica Avila, has already started her own pastry business, KikCakes.

Principal Adriana Aldana said Montgomery serves 7500-8000 students annually and offers them a wide variety of classes, some of which are recognized as credits by Southwestern Community College.

Aldana said, “You’ve heard people say I will be the first one in my family to get a college degree. For many of our students, they tell us they want to be the first one in their family to get a GED, or high school diploma, to set an example for their children….

“The mission of adult schools,” Aldana continued, “is to be part of making effective workers and strong family and community members.”

But adult schools are an endangered species. All Montgomery teachers and classified employees have been pink-slipped or received notices of transfer (they will be bumping other teachers.)

Aldana says the problem began in 2008, when districts were given the right to “flex”spend — to spend money from adult education in other budget areas.

Last year, Sweetwater took $1.1 million from adult education; from this year’s budget, the district will take $3 million to spend elsewhere in the district.

Several sources in the district have suggested Montgomery Adult School will be the campus of district superintendent Ed Brand’s “Sweetwater U” project — possibly partnering with Alliant University.

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Sweetwater is the poster child for a dysfunctional school district. Many people mature a little later in life and then realize that more education or training is necessary for successful independence. Are we supposed to just throw them under the bus? They are demonstrating a strong desire for self improvement which is a benefit to all of society. From alleged corruption to ridiculous real estate schemes, this school board needs to do a lot of work to right this sinking ship. Perhaps it is too late and there is just no hope. It may be time for the State of California to do an intervention.

Not only do many people mature a little later in life, they also get laid off due to downsizing, etc., and need to retool in their attempt to get back into the workforce.

Woodchuck, you get no argument from me.

I personally cannot comprehend just how the Board of Trustees has abdicated all responsibility and accountability on the subject of adult education (and many other issues).

They let Ed Brand do as he pleases, and he pleases to please himself and those of his friends he employs.

If any monies are discretionary, or put into the flexible category due to budget constraints, you can bet that Ed Brand will find a way to transfer those funds to one of his projects.

Those of us who follow Sweetwater's public face from disgrace to disgrace realize that Fast Eddy is working on setting up all sorts of schemes with which to support his continuing need for control both of people and of large sums of money.

Yes, there should have been an intervention by the educational authorities long ago, but we have been told that the people who should have done that are Fast Eddy's friends, and so nothing has come of that.

So if these educational authorities refuse to step up when they--and everyone else--can clearly see that wrong is being done, will they not be considered complicit in the wrongdoing? One would think.

I feel very bad for all the students of Sweetwater--the young people, the adult education population, those trying to retool in a difficult economy--it is a horrible thing to cut off lifelines, but Ed Brand, the Sweetwater voting majority board and the complicit educational authorities do not seem to even register the slightest qualm over this.

There were people who had almost completed their course of study, had only to complete their internship--and the programs were shut down so suddenly that they were unable to do the internships, and so lost out on everything.

I think those so wronged should enter into a class-action lawsuit against Ed Brand and the voting block who let them down so suddenly, quickly and without the slightest bit of concern. Of course, lawsuits cost money, and the district doesn't need more drains--but maybe then the adult education population can get something for their trouble. Sad to say, Fast Eddy would probably also turn that into a win-win for himself by employing another of his attorney friends to defend him--with who knows what kind of kickback involved in that deal.

Yes, Ed Brand, as I have said before--the best example of what you do not want your child to grow up to be.

Where are the decision makers, the policy makers? Too busy setting up Charter Schools or their own CIF Divisions. Does Brand care about the needs of the students he oversees, his actions say NO. Oh he will tell you it is "all about the kids", but the truth of the matter is obvious "it is all about the money".

The board, where is the board, they are the ones charged by the voters, with the exception of Bertha Lopez, they are MIA. They have abandoned their positions and turned over the keys to the district to Brand.

Our Adult Ed, ROP students, their educators - flailing in the wind. They are not important to Brand, they do nothing to boost his ultra fanatical ego. He wants to see his name somewhere - his legacy and all that you know. Well how about a mill carton, that is where I would like to see his name and picture. No respect meant to the truly lost.

You want to see change, start packing those board meetings, start raising a bit of hell over these moronic decisions of Brands, that is what the board is paying him the big bucks for, not educational leadership but rather silence. THEY WANT ALL OF US SILENCED!!!!!!!!! The public attending board meetings, makes them uncomfortable, the public speaking at those board meetings - almost as bad as a search warrant being handed to them.

Unfortunately, all that McCann, Cartmill and Ricasa did was talk about how they value Adult Ed/ROP/CTE, but actions are truly louder than words. Being from our community, they should understand that these programs are a lifeline for many families. But alas, their ties to Brand are stronger than their true concern for our community! 2014 will be a critical year for this District and Community; election of 3 seats (Ricasa, Cartmill and McCann), trial for those indicted (Cartmill, Ricasa, Quinones and Lopez). We need to keep these stories in front of our community so we can reform this District with an entirely new board. This is the only way we will get rid of the stench coming from the superintendents office!!

Can anyone give me the tally of Brand Charter schools? Mar Vista Middle School will be a charter school starting in July. The ROP facility is going to be a charter school. Aren't there a couple more? A K - 12 somewhere? Another in the offing?

Now people are saying that the Montgomery physical plant will turn into "Sweetwater U" accompanied by the tie-in with Alliant University?

Please note the systematic shift of resources and the greater control Ed Brand has over those resources. Does anyone feel good about that? I sure don't.

Will students line up to attend these schools? If enrollments are not as expected, what then? Will all these schools be run as vanity projects, taking a greater percentage of educational funds than they should be? Will all the new hires be expected to take a loyalty oath to Ed Brand? (I am only half-joking...).

What about those adult learners? Will community colleges be ready to absorb them? Will they simply be lost in the shuffle? Will there be any effort at all to help them transition and find programs that can substitute for what Sweetwater has destroyed?

What is the economic result of the destruction of ROP/CTE and the Montgomery Adult School? How many students are affected directly? Indirectly? As in--would have attended, had that option been available, as in--had been planning to attend, but never got the chance.

These are the types of questions that an engaged and involved school board would have asked.

Instead, we got Ricasa's mini-tirade about respecting Ed Brand. Arlie, give us all a break, and pedal your brown-nosing, insulting, off-target nonsense somewhere else--if you can find anyone who cares to listen to you. Arlie, you are so far from being in a position to lecture anyone on respect that your words instantaneously reached a level of grand, shall we say, delusion. Do you believe those words, Arlie? Or are you in so deep that you are fighting for air?

Yes, Ed Brand still has his loyal defenders in McCann, Ricasa and Cartmill. Quinones occasionally comes to life, but is ineffectual. Lopez asks questions THAT NEVER GET ANSWERED!

Yes, bvagency, there is a stench emanating from Ed Brand's office: corruption, decay, a rat's nest of ugliness and confusion.

Yes, let's all be heard. (From the district website) Here are two opportunities for comment coming up:

Superintendent’s Hotline is Open When: Tue, May 7, 2:30pm – 4:30pm (619) 691-5570 Dr. Brand is accepting calls at the Superintendent’s Hotline. If you have a suggestion or concern, call 691-5570 between 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. to talk directly with the superintendent. The hotline is open the first Tuesday of every month.

Board of Trustees Meeting Regular Meeting When: Mon May 13, 2013 6pm – 10pm Pacific Time Where: 1130 Fifth Avenue Chula Vista CA 91911

The adult school will be an additional sacrifice (ROP classrooms and offices on Second Ave) for Brand's pleasure. With the Hawkins Charter School taking over the other site we now know why he did not want to keep either program. The selfish SOB. I really thought Pearl would have put up a continued fight but that doesn't appear to be the case. I heard that the ROP director was sent home and not permitted to finish the school year because Brand thought he would get the students and community to continue to complain at the board mtgs. Brand's board the gift that keeps on giving. There doesn't appear to be anything they won't do for this man. Do they really believe he can get their attorney fees for them? I hear Cartmill set up a defense fund for himself like Arlie. It should be interesting to see where the donations come from. After Cartmill announced that he did not like to respond to e-mails at the board mtg. community member have been hard pressed to get in contact with him. I believe it's BS. I feel if he can't perform his duties we need someone that will. I believe he is hiding behind this because of the DA and he has an excuse to only deal with the things of his choosing.

Brand and Board seem to have only two things on their agenda: making money for themselves; and building their own power base(s).

Today a thought occurred to me. When NOT if the majority of the board is gone what happens then?


First on the agenda will be letting Brand go.
A reorganization in the district office, bye bye several consultants and a few of the henchmen (women). Then the dismantling of all of Brands questionable projects. The refocusing of our monies and efforts back into the education of our students, ALL OF OUR STUDENTS!!! Including ROP and Adult ED.

Brand and others will leave in disgrace. They will be remembered for their greed and self serving votes. They will become the butt of every alleged corruption joke.

Wonder if there is special recognition for that? MOST CORRUPT BOARD MEMBER OF 2014.

There might be plenty of awards to go around: Board Member Best at Displaying Contempt for the Public; Least Prepared Board Member; Board Member Who Would Prefer to be Anywhere Else; Most Docile/Best Bootlicker Board Member.

Maybe we should call them the Brass Boot Awards, and we can boot them from their offices!

Great comments from everyone. Now, what will it take to wake up the electorate and vote these bums out? At what point does the amount of campaign money NOT determine the winner? The actions of just these few individuals is so shameful and disgusting, it is hard to admit that I live in this school district .

What will it take to wake up the electorate and vote the bums out? More information in the public sphere--I wish all the high school newspapers could cover all these issues!

Because 18 year olds can vote!

Do your best, everyone, and work for more exposure of the hijacking and destruction of a school district!

School Site Council meetings - how many would be willing to attend a meeting at your home school and share the news?

Keep in mind, as a taxpayer it is your right to do so as the meetings are open to the public. You would need to call the school before hand to find out the dates and times.

I'm willing to attend my local school in Eastlake, but I will need a list of facts and figures (talking points) as well as web addresses or documents (board minutes?) to support my claims. Can someone help?

Anniej, great idea about school site council meetings. The only problem is the audience at these meetings. I am on the school site council at Eastlake High. It consists of 3 parents, 4 students and 4 teachers, with an AP and the Principal. This is really not the target audience we are shooting for here.

A better audience, where more parents attend, would be the PTA, DELAC, and DAC. These are committees/groups with more parents involved. If we could get folks that are up to speed on these issues to attend these meetings at various schools, there may be a better impact.

Reader2 - I believe our purpose should be focused on parent/community/taxpayer involvement. My opinion, each person should form their own opinion based on the information they find or are given. Might I recommend that you simply print a copy of some of the articles on The READER and take them with you. Let them know about the upcoming trials for sure. The ROP/Adult Ed programs being cut. The fact that we have so many schools on the states PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT list, including OLYMPIAN HIGH. The open boundaries that have impacted Eastlake High, for one. Superintendent Ed Brand quitting, the Board failing to advise the public, and then the HUGE CONTRACT the majority voted for. I think these news worthy items should do much to get the ball rolling.

Oh, and for sure the fact that Ed Brand phoned an employer of a community member who 'dared to speak at a board meeting, while her intent was a recommendation, Brand obviously took offense and decided to enlist the assistance of her employer as a means of silencing her'. Fortunately, her employer did their own research and dismissed his request.

I hope that helps.

bvagency - Thank You for your recommendation. It is excellent. I know that not all schools have PTA's. ALL means, ANY means possible to get the word out.

Don't be surprised if you don't see anniej on the overpass at 805 and H or the 5 and E possible the 5 and 24th street - with a sheet hanging over the ledge. Desperate times, call for desperate measures - with any luck I will get to wave to Ed Brand and point to the sheet -


Am I kidding? Well lets just say I AM A PRODUCT OF THE 60's!!!!!!!!!!!

my monikr is montana64/ i live in the mountains and by the seashore/ for half a decade i have said never ever never ever more/ even taylor swift knows i said it before/ but confusin' corruption is all that's in store/ for this l'il scool dis--trict blessed with a BORE/ lettin his minions muddle, munch and snore.. / --- riffin on march fifteen an unpleasnt chore/ then post on may 1 with many of the same reduction in force jobs now needed???? fo' sure!! but when your cronies would never dare to keep score/ and the apple is rotten down to its common core/ o bring me some bandwidth! Let's all eat cake./ Cause the bread is all goin" to the dudes on the take!

montana64 - it is sad indeed that your amazing talent has to be used to tell the sad stories of SUHSD.

Our community will not begin to heal with the likes of Ed Brand steering the ship. Those board members charged with keeping quality education afloat - Jim Cartmill, Arlie Ricasa, John Mccann, and Pearl Quinones long ago abandoned their positions. WILL WE STOP - NO. We are on a mission to take our district back - we want to look up at the dias and respect, trust and have faith in those sitting up there. IT IS AS SIMPLE AS THAT!!!!!!!!

We need replacements in place to get the board members out. In order to save the Adult ed program we need a dedicated source of funding. Governor Brown wants to move adult education to the community colleges. If this happens all of SUHSD's adult programs will be closed. Please write to the politicians below to designate funding for adult education. Also please sign the petitions! Check out our YouTube video and join our facebook page. Save Adult Schools SUHSD

<p>[email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]

Years ago each high school district decided how adult education would be handled in their service area. As community colleges 'grew out of' high school districts, they usually serve the same territory. As a result, Sweetwater UHSD offered a robust, and award-winning adult education program which has successfully served the community for years. In San Diego, they took the opposite approach and the community college district has been the agency for adult education, again for a very, very, long time.

I would say to Governor Brown: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Whoever has been the agency to deliver adult education has usually done quite a good job of it. It makes NO sense for such upheaval and to arbitrarily legislate that community colleges (who have not been funded for the huge job they have to do as it is, and now must do more with even less given the new requirements for student success measures) absorb Adult Education programs if they have not already been managing them.

Further, the funding the Governor has 'guestimated' for such is far LESS than what Adult Education had been receiving. The students, and communities who rely on Adult Education to train entry-level workers across a wide range of occupations, will all surely lose.

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