Sweetwater board votes to open second charter school

Superintendent Brand sees it as money-maker

At the January 28 board meeting, members of the public placed tape over their mouths to suggest their voices in district matters meant nothing to trustees.
  • At the January 28 board meeting, members of the public placed tape over their mouths to suggest their voices in district matters meant nothing to trustees.

At the January 28 Sweetwater Union High School District board meeting, the majority of trustees voted to support superintendent Ed Brand’s push to open a second charter school; following up the Stephen W. Hawking Math & Science Charter School, the Stephen W. Hawking II charter would also be a PreK-12.

The district’s discussion to advance the charter centered around financial benefits that would accrue to the district. The first price tag for the school is $300,000, up-front money to acquire the state-sanctioned charter. (Board member Pearl Quiñones was absent, and board member Bertha Lopez did not support the superintendent’s recommendation.)

According to district documents, the charter school proposes to “offer a program of study in which science, math, engineering, music and technology permeate nearly every facet of the classroom…. The cradle to career concept is an interdisciplinary project-based, digitally-based, problem-oriented approach to learning.”

At the January 28 meeting, parents and teachers prompted the district to focus on the 7–12-grade students currently enrolled in the district’s schools.

Parent/activist Stewart Payne told the board, "You say it's going to focus on science, math, engineering — well, all our schools should be focusing on those subjects.... Later on you're going to be voting for money to schools that are designated by the state [as] need[ing] improvement. Well, this money should go to those [existing] schools."

Brand said the reason for creating another charter school was “the idea of customer or client and trying to serve their interest…. If we don't create this opportunity, some other entity will.”

The district is positioning itself to receive monies for services including payroll, food, administration, etc.

By fronting the $300,000, the district is hoping to gain a dependent charter, a charter that will rely on the district for services. Off the top, because the charter would be housed in a school building and use district services, the new school would collect average daily attendance funds from the state and give 3 percent of it back to the district. In addition, the district would provide the charter school with food services and administrative services at a cost.

A danger with this money-making strategy is that the charter school could simply vote to be disassociated with the district.

Brand told the audience that the school would generate a $300,000 profit in the first year. Interim chief financial officer Rick Knott corrected this forecast: the projected $300,000 would be cost recovery for the district’s initial investment.

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One more time a Board and a Brand out of control, wake up schmucks, both the board and the citizens of SUHSD. They cannot even get the existing Schools out of academic probation or finacial, peril, we are pursueing college and k-12 education. I guess if we have locals that will Re-elect indicted persons to the board, we get what we get. While I know innocent until proof, ethics are something else. Including those not indicted.

It is called "empire building" and it is what Ed Brand LOVES because he gets to play the big shot and spend money that isn't his. Feeds his psyche in ways that is very unhealthy...Brand is out of control, the district is out of control. The trustees, by and large, are untrustworthy, disloyal to their constituency, the students and the parents.

Time to give Brand and his minions the hook--this side show should have been over long ago.

Brand told audience the charter would generate 300,000.00 profit in the first year. Knott, current CFO CORRECTED BRAND - the 300,000.00 would a recovery of the investment that Brand used to start charter.

Now I could swear all we have been hearing from Brand is HOW BROKE WE ARE. Does it make sense for a district that is broke, for a district that is consistently borrowing Mello funds to make payroll to be lending money to a start up pre K charter school? Isn't this the same super who mandated furlough days, furlough days that would cut the education of our 7 - 12 th graders?

Payne is correct once again, the decision making of Brand is highly suspect. WHY DO WE SEE THIS, YET OUR BOARD DOES NOT?


"According to district documents, the charter school proposes to “offer a program of study in which science, math, engineering, music and technology permeate nearly every facet of the classroom…."

Other than math, every other subject mentioned has been either weeded out or scaled back at all the schools in SUHSD.

Most charter schools promise to offer a curriculum that has big doses of science, math, technology and the arts (meaning music.) Most fail to deliver. When this legislation for charter schools passed about twenty years ago, it was done to weaken the drive for vouchers. But proponents of the charter schools claimed that local control and unshackling the schools from the rigidities of the state Education Code would allow them all to soar. Most that are still operating are mediocre operations, and many that started are no longer in operation. The usual downfall is scandal. (Scandal? In Sweetwater? Perish the thought!) The little advisory boards for the schools lack the skills to operate something as complex as a school, and so many of them hire out the management to a firm that lines its pockets while balancing the budget on the backs of overworked and underpaid teachers.

There were flaws in the law governing charter schools, and one big one was that the chartering district was expected to maintain oversight of the charter schools. The usual staffing of a district lacks the skills and personnel to perform that task, which involves auditing. So, many districts that chartered schools in the 90's have never met their responsibilities for insuring the charters operate properly. There are a few charter schools that have lived up to or exceeded expectations, but they are in the minority.

What Brand seems to forget in all this is that there is a process that has been set in place to ensure that decisions are made properly. The board is supposed to be directing Brand--but we know four of them are little better than sock puppets.

We don't want any more schemes from Brand and the board. We do not think it is Brand's place to turn our schools into "money making" organizations. Especially when it is the runaway train that is Ed Brand coming up with one scheme after another, each one more hair-brained than the last.

We would rather Brand stop looking upon the schools and their funding as a personal fund for creative financing. He is not a 'master of the universe'. How can we get that simple fact to permeate his brain? Lithium, perhaps?

eastlaker: I still hold out hope that our new president will put the brakes on Brand. Surely, the board realizes the importance of checks and balances _ now more than ever.

Brand manipulated Quinones - HE was in total control. We are looking to the new pres to represent our wishes NOT BRANDS.

Our new president talks the talk, but never walks the walk.

Wow this Brand is a narcissist, holy cow why does this community and board permit him to be in charge. So we are pulling back programs and supplies from all of these schools "due to budget constraints" and you people are giving the charter schools money for the same curriculum WTF. That is narcissism at its best no wonder why Brand and Tim Tim think alike.

You are so wrong, but then we are all used to that!

Pretty sure you have no idea the numbers of people who oppose you, the majority board and Ed Brand and his idiocy.

Why are you so obsessed with Ms. Lopez? Why try to direct the attention to her all the time? Makes me wonder why you are a monomaniac on this subject...

I am actually more worried about you than I am about Ms. Lopez.

Wait a second here TimTim. It was I you said was removed from from sites after a boat load of teachers wanted me gone. What's going on? You running the same old rant against anyone you oppose? Next you'll be saying Bertha was your kindergarten teacher and she said you were the next pullet surprise winner.

It does seem that the brouhaha Brand created with the proposed meeting time change was a (rather effective, I must say) smokescreen to distract us away from a major pea in his Charter School shell game.

With regard to his Sweetwater U scheme with GCU, will someone inquire as to the terms of any agreement with the quasi-religious institution for the use of any Sweetwater-owned facility. The District may not give away or provide its resources, or let a sectarian or any other private entity use any facilities unless the transaction is done at fair market rate AND if the District does not need the facility for its own uses (such as educating our children in grades 9-12.)

How about the suggested name: Stephen W. Hawking #2... Did they consider something like: Christa McAuliffe or Sally Ride - if they want to “offer a program of study in which science, math, engineering, music and technology permeate nearly every facet of the classroom….”?


Your point on charter schools is well-taken about charter schools. As you note, there are many good ones; however, charter schools have had many problems. I have read about many closures due to financial mismanagement in San Diego as well as nationally. The VOSD used to have an excellent education reporter, Emily Alpert, who wrote a 2007 article about what happens to students when charter schools close. Huffington Post had a 2011 article using DOE statistics on race and charters. Again, thank you for broadening the discussion.

mngcoraglia, As the second charter is only in the planning stage perhaps there's time to take up your suggestion--although I don't know the laws about naming rights.

Law of Naming Rights = Brand comes up with a name and the Board ratifies it 4-1. What's to know?

Yes, the Ed Brand Crazy Train just keeps rolling along...how can the educational community not see that all of this needs to stop?

I'm glad that finally the County Board of Education is mandating that Sweetwater rejoin the county's financial system--because we don't really know what the combination of "Brand I-Gandara-Brand II" actually managed to do with the money while Sweetwater has been running their own computer system.

Ed Brand continues to keep information from the Bond Oversight committee--can't he and the board be cited for that? They should be slapped with obstruction of justice!

However, we are still a very long way from putting the brakes on the "crazy" that seems to be ubiquitous where ever Ed Brand goes...isn't there anyone on the state level who can take a look at things and tell him it is time for a long siesta?

How much more do the taxpayers, students and teachers have to put up with from this man? His goal must be the destruction of the entire school district, as he is systematically pilfering funds that he should not be using for programs the public, the teachers and the students do not really want.

I have wondered this before--is he off his lithium?

What is it going to take before this school district can settle down and work on the real business at hand, not the phantasmagoric machinations that Ed Brand whips up... while what should be his true concern spins more and more out of control.

Will to power? Will to chaos? Will to destruction?

Just an FYI--the Star-News has an article about Brand's Sweetwater U partnership deal. It is online now, in case anyone wants to read and/or comment. IMO it soft-pedals things, but that is not a real surprise.

Unfortunately, the Star News soft pedals a lot of stuff. Their's is a feel good community newspaper. Or should I say softpaper? Kinda like Charmin.

oskidoll: all of the CANT DO's you speak, I would recommend that you review the signed contract as THEY ARE IN THERE as GONNA DO's.

mngcornaglia: women have their place in the SUHSD - and it is wherever Brand decides they will serve him best.

Oh, say it's really true this time!!! Tim Tim is done with us freaks. Hopefully he really means it this time. Hey word on the street is Diane Russo is able to earn money again according to PERS. She will be coming back to train our new CFO Al Alt. if you google him you will understand why Russo is coming back to fine tune him so to speak. He needs a brush up on the Sweetwater way. Our board let Brand hire this guy. Wow!

That is a truly scary combination.

This board has a great deal to answer for, and not just those with charges against them.

"Go along to get along"? Is there any way to explain to the board how wrong their behavior and decisions have been and are?

There is an interesting article in the LA Times about what is going on in Bell. anniej has brought this up before, but what is really thought-provoking is that the city is suing the law firm that had provided the advice for many of the bone-headed decisions alledgedly made by the corrupt mayor and his friends.

anniej, the parallels are quite something. I hope we will have some more brave people speak up they way they finally did in Bell, so that those stealing from the Sweetwater public can be identified and stopped.

If you have concerns, call Ed Brand to advise:

Superintendent’s Hotline is Open When Tue, February 5, 2:30pm – 4:30pm Where (619) 691-5570 (map) Description 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. more details» copy to my calendar»

As a tactic to annoy the people in the district office, maybe this will work--but there would need to be quite a few calls.

It is doubtful Fast Eddy would actually speak with anyone--and if he would, he would be his usual highly insincere self.

Sort of like the response area the district had a few years ago for questions and suggestions regarding the budget cuts. If someone actually wrote anything of substance, it wouldn't appear--but oddly, if there was a comment with grammatical errors and misspelled words, that didn't make a great deal of sense--that would be printed.

The district shapes the public input they "allow". Just another way for Sweetwater to betray the public trust.

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