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South Bay Superintendent Shakes Up Leadership

Pesonnell Moves Spark Controversy


Aired 6/8/09

A South Bay school superintendent is under fire for initiating a leadership shake-up in his district. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis says some educators are now questioning the direction of the district.

Veteran teacher Carol Guerrero sits in her classroom at Montgomery High Schoo...
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Above: Veteran teacher Carol Guerrero sits in her classroom at Montgomery High School -- one of 32 campuses in the Sweetwater Union High School District. She questions the direction and leadership of the district’s current administration.

— A South Bay school superintendent is under fire for initiating a leadership shake-up in his district. KPBS Reporter Ana Tintocalis says some educators are now questioning the direction of the district.

Jesus Gandara is superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District.

He's recently come under attack for demoting two of the district's highest-ranking female administrators. He also unexpectedly reassigned four principals without a formal explanation to the public.

One of the top-ranking officials -- Karen Janney -- has since left the district because of the demotion. She was at the forefront of implementing a series of education reforms to get Sweetwater back on track academically next year.

Teachers like Carol Guerrero now worry the drastic change and Gandara's leadership-style will impede future progress.

"Teamwork has to be reflected in the culture of the district," Guerrero said. "If you have someone at the top that doesn't believe in teamwork, I don't think you can build a culture of teamwork which is necessary for reform at a school level."

District officials say the change is a personal action approved by the school board. But there's also been a series of allegations against Gandara including gender bias and fiscal mismanagement.

The district's Lillian Leopold denies the allegations. She believes some of the accusations are tied to unresolved negotiations with the teachers union.

"Whenever you have difficult economic times, whenever you have a difficult negotiation for a contract, there will be accusations of all kinds," Leopold said. "We think (the accusations) are unfounded."

Last month all six of the district's employee unions cast votes of "no confidence" in Gandara's leadership. But district officials call that a union tactic.

Check back with KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis as she continues to take a closer look at the administrative culture in the Sweetwater Union High School District.

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Avatar for user 'mas'

mas | June 8, 2009 at 8:53 a.m. ― 7 years, 7 months ago

Moving Karen Janney was a move absolutely contrary to improving student achievement. Dismissing administrators is NOT a union issue. Administrators are not part of the teacher union. The move was a 'macho' power play and nothing more. The climate in the Sweetwater District has deteriorated to the point that teachers and administrators are uniting in their dissatisfaction with the superintendent and the board.

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Avatar for user 'RevaLution'

RevaLution | June 8, 2009 at 10:49 a.m. ― 7 years, 7 months ago

Leopold sounds like a broken record. Rather than answering a simple, direct question, she pushes the blame onto unions in negotiations. Why aren't other teacher unions across San Diego County having the same issues? They are ALL in negotiations. What's REALLY going on with Sweetwater???

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Avatar for user 'freesushd'

freesushd | June 8, 2009 at 4:45 p.m. ― 7 years, 7 months ago

Thank you y gracias for getting the word out, KPBS. As this district limps into summer season with an on-again off-again summer school session, board members conspicuously absent from honored retirees' celebrations, confusion around the year-round implementation, another consultant hired to walk in Ms.Janney's difficult-to-fill shoes (a retired assistant superintendent --what lump sum are we paying him?) and a superintendent who will not divulge who he buys lunch for on the taxpayers' dime....(hmmm where was this sentence going?). Yes, with all that going on, blaming the union is really reaching. Blaming the world-wide recession is far-fetched. When there is money to spend in this district, it is shoveled over to consultants and out-of-town construction companies (see the Union Tribune article in Saturday's paper --the point may not be that trustee Ms. Ricasa's nephew's address was used by RC construction. The point should be that they are not local contractors and the prop O money is leaving South Bay as fast as RC can break ground on a 7 million dollar building. Digging up an address for these developers and digging up retirees and out-of-towners to finish up jobs dismissed administrators were capably doing is costing this district money. Our students require quality educators guided by trustworthy leaders. Our school buildings must be built by locals who, by and large, are capable and talented graduates of this district. Our community deserves a board that puts education above personal ambition and nest-feathering. Once again, thank you Ms. T for your article. I look forward to more as promised in the last line. FREE SUHSD!

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Avatar for user 'LaLucha'

LaLucha | June 9, 2009 at 2:02 p.m. ― 7 years, 7 months ago

How long will this thug have control over Sweeetwater? Are we going to let him bring in his thug friends and spend all the public money on his salary and bonuses, and on his "friends"? He already has us all working overtime to fill in for the very competent people he has terminated. He cut the schedule apart, and he cancelled summer school. This man is RUINING SWEETWATER UNION HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT. He cares NOTHING for the students here. What kind of a school board would let this travesty continue? LAME!! Get rid of Gandara ASAP.

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