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Public Trust Erodes In Sweetwater School District

Above: SUHSD Superintendent Jesus Gandara has been on the job for about three years.


Aired 6/29/09

The Sweetwater Union High School District became one of four San Diego county school districts to be placed on a federal watch list under the No Child Left Behind Act. KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis explains how Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara has come under fire for the way he's handling reforms.

Gandara discusses school bond issues at Chula Vista High School.

Above: Gandara discusses school bond issues at Chula Vista High School.

A portrait within a school board auditorium displays the current school board and superintendent.
Enlarge this image

Above: A portrait within a school board auditorium displays the current school board and superintendent.

— The Sweetwater Union High School District is the largest high school district in California. This past year it became one of four San Diego county school districts to be placed on a federal watch list under the No Child Left Behind Act. KPBS Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis explains how Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara has come under fire for the way he's handling reforms:

Jesus Gandara is credited with turning around largely Latino school districts in Texas. He has described himself as a man of faith who is on a mission.

"I see my role as a superintendent sometimes fighting evil,” Gandara said. “So I carry a blessed Saint Michael's with me, and I carry a Rosary with me."

But lately Gandara has been fighting public mistrust. It's a stark contrast to when he first arrived three years ago. At the time there was a sense of optimism that Gandara was a perfect fit for the district. But now that's turned to anger.

At recent school protests, employees have been heard shouting:

“How long has Gandara been on the job? Too long, right?”

“This superintendent has created a repressive culture and people will continue to speak up.”

“Obviously our school board doesn't understand what is happening.”

The overall dissatisfaction is tied to Gandara's top-down style of management, his spending habits and unresolved contract negotiations. He's also accused of discriminating against female administrators.

Gandara believes the rancor is all about resistance to change.

“Everybody loves change, everyone understands change, everyone will tell you, change has to come, but when it comes to them, they don't like change,” Gandara said.

Gandara has shuffled principals about the districts without community input. And he's demoted two of the highest ranking female administrators. The superintendent defends his decisions.

“There are clicks in this organization and when I hold one of their members in this click accountable, then they're going to react to that.”

However Gandara admits he hasn't focused yet on his vision for academic instruction. Instead he's been caught-up in managing his bricks-and-motor vision of how to spend a more than $600 million school bond.

So now the question is whether Gandara has enough community support to move educational reforms forward. All six employee unions have cast votes of no confidence in him. Organizers say he doesn't know how to build consensus because he comes from Texas where there are no teachers unions.

“Certainly Texas is a unique culture,” says Lynda Skrla, professor of educational administration at Texas A & M University. She studies school districts that beat the odds. She says successful superintendents have to adapt.

“If you're a successful leader in Texas as superintendent and you move to another state, you're model for success really is built on what you knew previously,” Skrla said. “Part of your job is to learn how your new culture is the same as and, different from, the one from which you came. Certainly unions would be a big piece of the equation.”

Skrla says it is possible for an education reformer to make drastic changes without losing the trust and hurting morale. She says the key is to be transparent -- something teacher Jean Chivira says Gandara hasn't done.

“This is where we went to school. Our sisters have gone here. Our children have gone here. We're really tied to the community. And we've seen what this man has done. He's damaged the district where it’s going to take many, many years for us to recover.”

Charles Wilson has sent two of his daughters through the Sweetwater school district.

“(The district) needs the type of shaking up to get things done. But still (the superintendent) has to be able to listen to people.”

Lynda Skrla of Texas A & M says this is a pivotal moment for any superintendent.

“Once the public or school community’s trust for their school leadership has eroded, its extreme difficult to reestablish. And it’s also hard to predict when things are going to go South. Some superintendents can weather storms and remain in tact. Other superintendents lose their effectiveness.”

But Gandara insists he can lead the district out of its internal turmoil to academic success. If he succeeds, it could serve as a model for other struggling Latino school districts. If he doesn't, it could be a blow to the Sweetwater community.


Avatar for user 'RevaLution'

RevaLution | June 29, 2009 at 3:31 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

This man sounds PARANOID!!!

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Avatar for user 'savesweetwater'

savesweetwater | June 29, 2009 at 6:27 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

He has been here three years and hasn't yet focused on instruction?? Doesn't that say it all?

Gandara needs to learn that fear doesn't build trust, and the click (clique) he has put in power now seems to only know one leadership style - fear based on positional power. Ask anyone who was at any of the recent management meetings - no one speaks up about anything - because they are afraid of the repercussions. Not a productive or healthy environment.

Wake up school board - Gandara has got to go.

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Avatar for user 'RevaLution'

RevaLution | June 29, 2009 at 6:41 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

could more people in management please grow a pair or join the union so we can get rid of this guy???

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Avatar for user 'LeadershipHero'

LeadershipHero | June 29, 2009 at 7:52 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you, Anna and KPBS. Wow, what a story!

So many people in this district have had their voice silenced over the past 3 years. Whether it is because they are told not to talk to the press or say anything to students for fear of retaliation on their performance evaluation. Having to use a moniker in order to share my views says volumes.

I appreciated your source from the university in Texas who explained some of the differences between Texas and California.

I believe that Diversity is not solely about skin color, ethnicity or cliques. Diversity can be found in the values of an organization that believes that every employee and student matters. A district that believes in Diversity supports the values of the community's past and present.

It is time we move from the anger, shock, denial and frustration we've experienced over the past few years.

Now is the time to show our strength, our diversity, and our courage to challenge the bullys who want us to believe that our voice is not of value.

Now is the time to ask the school board why this has been allowed to continue. How many examples of 'our dirty laundry' must we share with the public before we are heard?

Thank you KPBS! I am a proud member of your organization and will continue to contribute to KPBS.

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Avatar for user 'Gandarasgottogo'

Gandarasgottogo | June 29, 2009 at 11:09 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

The situation in the Sweetwater Union High School District is appalling. As a long time employee, I have never seen morale as low as it is today. It has been a long downward spiral under the leadership of Dr. Jesus Gandara. He rules by fear and intimidation. Dissent and discussion is not allowed. We have a dictator. When will the school board wake up? More and more local constituents are speaking out against Gandara's leadership and the present school board that rubber stamps all of Gandara's decisions. Promotions are not based on merit. Agree with the Superintendent and you will be promoted. Don't even think of asking questions or dissenting. If you do disgree or question, you'll face a future like Karen Janney and Dr.Carbury.

Did Dr. Gandara break his contract by going to Texas and interviewing for a position there? Why has he spent District funds on frequent trips to Texas and Monterey? How can the District spend $17 million on consultants and the Board doesn't even bat an eye? Whatever it costs to send Dr. Gandara back to will be money well spent!

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Avatar for user 'freesushd'

freesushd | June 30, 2009 at 9:16 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thanks once again, Ana. For example: teachers still don't know when to report in July for the year-round all district schedule that Karen Janney coordinated so seamlessly. It's all just rumors and tentative schedules and under a month to go. When you earn about as much as the superintendent for LA Unified School District (245K vs. 250K --perks not counted) shouldn't these wrinkles be ironed out?
Using Texas as an excuse for not knowing about unions is lamer than the dog-ate- my-homework line and blaming clicks (not sure he meant "cliques" --that was kind --I think he meant "chicks") three years into it is, again, indicative of a person who refuses to accept his own (major) role in this disaster.
When one pays property tax here and sees that chunk added to the bill for Prop O one can only close one's eyes and hope that all those chunks which add up to millions are being used wisely--to improve learning facilities for the children of Sweetwater. If this superintendent doesn't understand unions (or chooses to disregard them) and was trained to be an educational leader but hasn't gotten around to that in three years--if these two major bullets on his job description are lacking-- why is he at the helm managing 600 million dollars worth of bricks & mortar gleaned from our local property taxes? Learning while on the job will cost this district dearly (and has).

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Avatar for user 'NotGonnaTakeIt'

NotGonnaTakeIt | June 30, 2009 at 10:38 a.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

OMG! Are you kidding?

He is just now going to concentrate on curriculum? If he hasn't been able to get to the instructional side of the business yet (BTW, THAT is our business), then why has made so many personnel changes, unwarranted promotions, mean sprinted, unwarranted demotions, strong armed push outs, reverse discrimination, general hate and discontent to the instructional side of the business?

Did I read that wrong? Or, did he just admit that he made those changes without knowledge or forethought to that very vital part of our business?

Things that make you say... hummmm

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Avatar for user 'itsaboutthekids'

itsaboutthekids | June 30, 2009 at 2:45 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

As a long time resident of the South Bay and alumni of this District I am saddened at what we have become. We are being led by persons whose ONLY agenda is that of personal increase. To some it is the notoriety to others it is future political ambitions. Then, to make matters worse 'our board' brings in someone who has nothing but distain for unions and feels that teachers ought to do what they are told, no questions asked. The fact that he would bring religion into ANY comment is reprehensible.

The fact that this man, Dr. Ghandara, was so intimidated by a long standing, hard working, selfless, caring woman named Karen Janney is a reflection of just how poor a leader he is. I am quite sure that he rues the day he ever came up with the idea to publicly humiliate this pillar of our Community. One needs to investigate recent position changes he has made to see that this man has absolutely NO ability to judge quality. No, he would rather promote YES men and women.

Recent research has uncovered (free on the internet to any one who is willing to spend the time to look for it) that the majority of our Board members have had their campaign contribution pockets LINED with monies 'contributed' by the very companies that Sweetwater does business with. This is a 'good old boys network', with a few females as members plain and simple. I would call on this very entity - KPBS to do some research into a certain female Board members attempt to run for Assemblywoman; I would ask that you research Election Each time you see a company listed with a contribution then 'google' the company name. You will be aghast to see just how many of them have been given Sweetwater contracts. Additionally the fact that this very same Board Members husband was named to the Prop O Advisory Committee is a clear indication just how deep corruption lies within this District. The fact that this dynamic duo thought the public was dumb enough not to put 2 and 2 together simply because she began using her married name is a personal insult to every member of this Community.

Shame on the Superintendent and shame on this Board. IT IS TIME FOR A CHANGE, AND A MAJOR HOUSE CLEANING OF ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!!!!!! What this District needs is new, fresh, legitimate, untainted blood.

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Avatar for user 'ccookesalas'

ccookesalas | July 1, 2009 at 4:20 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Well, I sure didn't consider that being one of a group of educators who believe in the value of people and have respect for all learners was considered a clique. Then I guess I'm another proud member!

And who is the "evil" the superintendent sees himself fighting? He's currently at odds with the teachers, being unable to bargain a contract successfully. What, really, is his perspective of teachers? I guess he continues to show and tell us.

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Avatar for user 'cguerrero'

cguerrero | July 1, 2009 at 11:14 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

Thank you for your continued excellent reporting on the Sweetwater District. It is only through an informed public that there is a chance to expose the politics that have become destructive of the educational purpose of the district. Dr. Gandara has no articulated plan to improve anything directly related to improving instruction and learning. If he were a transformational leader, he would have articulated a plan to address the achievement gap and to implement reforms at the schools where indicators of academic achievement show the need. He says that the rancor is about "resistance to change." How can this be when he has proposed no changes? The changes he has made are in personnel. This is not an issue of change. It is an issue of questioning the personnel changes and the manner the changes were made without any clear rational. Changing the chairs around and throwing some of the crew you don't like off a sinking ship does not change the fact that the ship is sinking. He even admits that he has been focused on spending the Prop 0 money and not on instruction. He says that he was breaking up a click (clique). A clique is an exclusive circle which implies that others could not get in or were intentionally excluded. Could he has confused a clique with a team? In order to be on a team you have to want to be there and willing to contribute and cooperate. I know Ms. Janney and others who were demoted. They were not a clique and certainly would never intentionally exclude anyone. Perhaps Dr. Gandara's top down leadership style kept him off the team by choice so he describes them incorrectly as a clique. I also am very suspect of his references to religion and "fighting evil". Is he saying the people he fired are evil? I would contest this most strongly. Lynda Skrla also brought up a most important point. There needs to be transparency and with Dr. Gandara there is none. There were no public reasons given for any of these personnel changes and there was no connection to any plan for making improvement in the instructional program of the district. He has only decreased his credibility with these remarks.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 3, 2009 at 5:20 p.m. ― 6 years, 5 months ago

I totally disagree with many of the comments stating that The District is at an old time low in employee morale and that Gandara is a tyrant. You were not around when we had the family run the school disctrict, later we had the second family run the school district, followed by the Mexican group who took over under Anthony Trujillo. Gandara seems to be just another one in the chain. Not much has changed. Responsibility lies with the school board, not the superintendent, however, the superintendent is the one running the show and the board allows him. He makes most proposals and has a staff to research and the board views the super as the expert. School Board Agendas are by the Superintendent, not by citizens, who are not educated as to the agenda and are discouraged to include an item. The superintendent is the employee of the board and he is to implement board recommendations, however, superintendents recommend to the board, and usually they agree with the superintendent. That includes how millions of your dollars are to be spent. The superintendent sets spending priorities of the district,not the board
When citizens come before the board to inform them of a concern, usually the citizen is viewed with suspicion and not supportive, unless, one tells them what a great job they are doing. Do not go to tell them that there are no supplies for the kids, or that there are $700,000 missing from the district, or that children are graduating without knowing how to read. You will be viewed as a malcontent. Employees who say that should go elswhere, and those who insist on accountability will be sued. Most superintendents are career people, they are looking to get hired somewhere else for more money and fringe benefits. They will tell the board and the community what they know sounds good, while searching for a higher paying position. Secretaries, bus drivers and teachers, usually will stay for 30 to 40 years. Most are not looking for another job outside. They have a reason to want to have their district be a good one.

I am appalled that Dr. Gandara, speaks in personal religious terms. He mentions the rosary and St. Michael's as well as fighting evil. I am offended the he brings his personal religious experience and belief into a public school system and that seems to guide his attitude in the management of the district. The Sweetwater Union High School District is public. What evil is he fighting?

In a successful district, the school board must be the one to set goals,objectives, from spending priorities to relationships with the community, the unions and ORDER the superintendent to carry out their wishes as representatives of the community and its employees. Until the schoold does not operate that way, there will be no changes made.

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Avatar for user 'Okay'

Okay | July 4, 2009 at 3:50 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

What is scary is that he is a personal friend of Anthony Trujillo. Isn't that interesting?

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Avatar for user 'Okay'

Okay | July 4, 2009 at 3:55 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

What does he mean “There are clicks in this organization and when I hold one of their members in this click accountable, then they're going to react to that.” So it is really if you are a white woman with a mind I am going to hold you accountable buy demoting you? What does he have on the board that they are making these choices? The board works for us the tax payer not him as he works for them. I think the message should be we will not tolerate the superintendent and we will not reelect the current board. They have done nothing but cause me and my family heartache. I fear for my friends who work for the district. I have seen too many of them quit or retire at the last minute because of him. If you speak out he will come after you like wild fire. Last I heard someone spoke out via the Union Tribune and now this director sits where her secretary sat and the secretary sits in the director office.

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Avatar for user 'itsaboutthekids'

itsaboutthekids | July 4, 2009 at 10:15 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

I am totally disgusted with the Board. I mean when you hear stories from students about one female Board Member demanding that a weight room be closed to the students one hour early so she can work out - all I can say is the word 'reprehensible' comes to mind.

Jim Cartmill, I hold him the most responsible. There was a time when he was all about the kids, what happened? APATHY! He is on the way out and think about it what kind of legacy is he going to leave behind? THOUSAND OF STUDENTS UNEDUCATED UNDER HIS WATCH, Teachers up in arms, Unions unable to negotiate, the worst Superintendent in Sweetwaters history brought in under his leadership.

It is time to put some term limits on these Board Members. It is time to mandate that NO Board Member may take ANY contributions from ANY business doing business with our District.

It is time for the State to come and audit the Prop O monies. I am personally making a call tomorrow to Sacramento. How long does it take to make improvements to our Schools, "Groundbreaking, my foot" the only entities profiting from our tax dollars is the Company the District brought in to oversee it. We are steadily paying these people every single month, and for what?

I would urge that we look within our Community for rational, caring, reputable, honest persons that would be willing to serve on the Board. We need to get rid of Board Members who come to the Board Meetings time after time and state "I have nothing to report". When it is time to vote be sure that none of these inept current Board Members are brought back. Let them go out and get a REAL job, we are tired of them using our children to line their pockets and further their political aspirations. I was at a recent Board meeting where one of the Board Members got her feathers in a ruffle because 'her integrity' had been brought into question. Everyone in the Community knows what is going on with that situation.

Ghandara is an insecure bully - he is not a professional by any stretch of the imagination. I am quite sure some of the 'new' transfers he has in mind for key positions are going to end up blowing up in his face. A true leader surrounds them self with knowledgeable people, people who are not afraid or intimidated to share their ideas or opinions. But this man only wants those people who know three words - 'yes, Dr. Ghandara'. A true sign of a man with an insecurity complex. Shall we talk about his earnings package??? Shall we talk about the position that his wife got???????? I smell fish!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every journey begins with one step - everyone Students, Teachers, All District employees, Community members need to join together and FIGHT for change. Now is NOT the time to let up.

WHISTLE BLOWERS THAT IS WHAT WE NEED, persons who know what is going on and care enough about this District to expose what needs to be exposed.

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Avatar for user 'freesushd'

freesushd | July 4, 2009 at 10:44 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

I continue to focus on that clique comment. Approximately 800 people (community members, staff and alums) signed a petition to the board requesting that they reconsider the Karen Janney/Dianna Carberry demotion. (783 or so to be exact) These signatures were gathered in less than a month and during a time of intense confusion and fear of reprecussion, during a pink-slipping month and contract negotiations for the unions, during a time of economic confusion and fear of loss of livelihood. A second petition mentioned in the press gathered about 2000 signatures (though the Tribune reported 1300). This petition was a no-confidence petition and four unions collected these signatures, again in under a month. The district web site noted that the district employs 4,000 + people (this data now removed from the site) but the Tribune reported 6,000 employees (is that 2K difference "consultants" ?). So, this "clique" comprises half to one third of the employees and hundreds of community members. And those are the people who put their names (and livelihoods, jobs) on a piece of paper. How many more clique members lurk in the neighborhoods of Chula Vista, National City, San Ysidro and Imperial Beach? On this day celebrating a country born of freedom from tyranny and no taxation-without-representation could the "clique" get it together and run this redcoat/carpetbagger out of town--this "clique" of thousands whose members will most likely practice their privilege to vote anonymously more vigorously than sign another petition that risks their career and puts them on the Gandara hit list. I hope you are reading this board members. FREE SUHSD

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 5, 2009 at 10:01 a.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Remember, anything Gandara does such as the comment that he hired his wife, is not his doing, it is the school board. The school board has the legal authority to stop Gandara's actions. Focus, on the school board, they are the ones who are responsible.

There is no need to term limit anyone. Just do not elect them.

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Avatar for user 'Okay'

Okay | July 5, 2009 at 1:30 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

It is Gandara doing as is all the firing and demoting. Does he have something on these board members they are the worse I have ever seen. That is why we need the state to come and audit the district. Too many I'll rub your back and you rub mine going on.

AND we do need term limits. Most of these members have been on the board for over 15 years and nothing changes. All I see is them getting more and more perks. Why does the district have to pay for them to have board home telephone numbers and fax number, computers, cell phones? And Cartmill is the worse everytime a new piece of electronic equipment comes out he uses OUR tax paying money to get the latest and greatest.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 5, 2009 at 2:45 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Gandara cannot act without the authority of the majority of the board. The board is the only body that has the legal power to hire and fire. THe board can the priorities of the district. The superintendent is an employee of the board. The superintendent serves at the pleasure of the board.

Term limits never determined who are the better or the worse board members. I have seen some very good board members serve twenty years and also not so good serve 20 years. Every public official has term limits, usually four years when they are up for election, that is the public's chance to end their career by voting those you think are not doing well, that is you can vote them out.

If you want to know about perks, check out what does the superintendent earn as well what are his perks? That will surprise you. Everything a school district does is public information. Are you aware of how much they spend on Consultants? Find out. Again, the superintendent cannot do anything without the majority of the board's consent. The board can reserve the superintendents decisions. Example: tomorrow the majority of the board could call for a meeting and rehire the two ladies. Simple as that.

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Avatar for user 'Okay'

Okay | July 5, 2009 at 3:08 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Not only does the district pay way too much for consultants, are you aware of the one consultant who wrote is own job decription and then got hired? The former director has been demoted and now she works for him! They hire consultants to audit the books yet they have people to do that. They hire consultants to save the district money yet the supervisors/managers should be doing the jobs. I could go on and on as I do read board items. The only board member who called these people out was Jaime Mercado and boy do I wish he was back on the board.

You are right that Gandara cannot act without the authority of the board but that is just BS. They do his bidding and that is what we need to find out. And then this corrupt board hides behind him and says we only act on his recommendation.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 6, 2009 at 4:04 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

When are the citizens, taxpayers, students going to get organized to make sure that there is accountability? If we are lucky, government is the same as farming, you have to take care of the land and the what you plant to get a return. The citizens in the District do not seem to want to do much about it, they rather spend their time and money on sports and the Michel Jackson's of the world(do not get me wrong),however, that is more important to most than making sure that there is enough support for a good reading program, math or whatever.

As for Jaime Mercado, fine, but he showed how stupid he was when he pulled that stunt on the two Lopez candidate trick. THat cost him the election. All that means, that he will play dirty tricks to get the power he wants.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 6, 2009 at 4:05 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Baord members can say whatever they want, but in the end they have the last word if they want to take control.

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Avatar for user 'itsaboutthekids'

itsaboutthekids | July 8, 2009 at 11:21 a.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

We DO need term limits!!!! What we have currently are Board Members who have been elected and then after years of service begin to loose focus. Serving as a Board Member should NOT be considered a JOB or a source of INCOME. It should be considered a SERVICE for the betterment of the Community. Mr. Cartmill has been heard to say at many a party that his long term goal is to be able to hand his daughter her diploma. Well, we DON'T have that kind of time to wait for him to move on. The Board as a WHOLE has let down this Community.

The Community needs to be motivated. The Community needs to have a fire lit under their behinds and do what is long overdue and make A CLEAN SWEEP OF THE OUR CURRENT BOARD. One by one they HAVE to go.

I would recommend that the Unions recognize that without the voters of this District NOTHING is going to be accomplished. I would recommend that they, the Unions, begin sending out mailings that identify their plight. With knowledge there is power. Currently many in the Community believe, wrongfully so, that it is all about money and they are not sympathetic. I am quite confident that if the correct information was out there that we would see a Community that responded 'YOU ARE OUT OF HERE'. Perhaps Teachers, and other entities should take steps such as sitting outside of Grocery Stores offering to speak of what the real issues are.

Regarding Mr. Mercado, I would like to interject, HE WAS THE ONLY BOARD MEMBER WHO EVER GOT BACK TO ME ON ANY ISSUE I HAD CONCERNS WITH. The other Board Members simply leave their fax machines on, have a bogus family message at the number given out, or the number simply rings and rings.

Our current Board Members are suffering from apathy, they simply are NOT taking their responsibilities seriously. More concerned with notoriety vs, accomplishing what is best for our youth. PITIFUL!!!

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 8, 2009 at 12:46 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

itsaboutkids keeps focusing on the wrong issue, as it is not about term limits or Jim Cartmill, it is about getting good people who are concerned about the taxpayer and how his/her tax dollar is being spent. It is about the taxpayer caring enough to get out on the shopping centers and passing out the literature, rather than spending their time on the PTA and baking cookies and usually, being manipulated by the information that the Adminstration gives them. If you have excellent, aware, sensative board members to the needs of the educational community, I would hope you would not want term limits, besides, they end up running for city council, assembly etc. and usually they get elected.

Bottom line, it is the taxpayer who pays the bill, it is the taxpayer who should care more than anyone else and above all, it should be the taxpayer who also has children in the public school system who should be in the shopping centers informing their community.

Taxpayers and parents should be contacting the leaders of the unions because they can really educate parents and taxpayers as to budgets, issues from a different view, however, that does not mean that you need to agree with them all the time.

I served on a committee where parents and employees met and 95% of the time, they all agreed as to how the funds should be spent. Excluded were administrators.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 8, 2009 at 2:55 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I cannot dispute Jaime Mercado's actions on the board, however, what he did was unethical and stupid and probably the reason for his defeat.

I also want all of you to know that Jaime was a great supporter of the administration for over 25 years, good principal, but a great supporter of the administration for years and years. He was for them and he got promoted and one day he was shafted and he was done in by the prior superintendent Ed Brand. He was done wrong, however, when others were done wrong he kept his mouth closed and still supported the administration. Just as he acted unethically during the last election, he has shown that he will do anything to promote himself be it as an administrator or as a school board member. To be fair, he was one of the better principals and he was known to be a good school board member, but he can be dangerous for when he wants power he will too forget you.

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Avatar for user 'KarenF'

KarenF | July 9, 2009 at 10:24 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

All the above comments are right on. As a 35-yr employee of the District (retired in '08), I, too, have seen a lot of disgusting district administrations and shenanigans. It is true that Gandara is just another sad consequence of a Board that is either inept or on the take when they continue to hire ineffectual leaders to head the District. Sadly, I do not live in the district and cannot, therefore, have any say in the election of board members; but those of you who do absolutely MUST get out at each election and walk the streets (and THAT I can, and will, do!) to let voters know who is on the slate and why certain candidates must not be (re) elected. Then, vote!
Gandara is a low-intelligence fool who was hired with no experience in a 7-12 district. A negligent board allowed, rather, caused, this to occur. Further, they did not fire Gandara when they had the chance when they found that he had illegally sought employment with another district.
Just imagine if Karen Janney were our Superintendent now---how perfect would that be......

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 15, 2009 at 3:41 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago


Karen, thanks for your comments. I have a feeling that this is all going to die out for lack of citizen organization and involvement. I knew good people who ran for the board many years ago and one problem was that when time for precint walking was needed very few people showed up to help and the candidates had to do it all by themselves. LOts of people promised to help, but when the time came they did not show up.

Also, unless there is an issue, not many care about the board or the schools. I am concluding that nothing will come from this, unless there is an organized group with some good leadership. If not, this will die out soon.

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Avatar for user 'LaLucha'

LaLucha | July 20, 2009 at 7:50 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

It can't just die out, JML, people are dissatisfied and angry. This does not just go away. Jesus Gandara is now the name of a common household pest in Sweetwater families. We are all getting more and more disgusted every day with SUHSD corrupt and careless administration. The schoolboard is a bunch of vapid, self-stroking harpies waiting in line to scmooze a loser who is obviously on his way out of the ballgame, and off the field. They did not have a big district meeting for the start of the school year, and they cite budget worries. The truth is he is afraid to face us! The board is also afraid! Administrators are afraid,too. NONE OF US WANTS TO GO BACK!!! OUR DISTRICT IS A FOUL WORKING ENVIRONMENT!! The kids, especially don't want to come back. I don't blame them a bit. SUHSD is ruined.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 21, 2009 at 3:38 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago


1. How are you going to organize and have a good school board?

2. Who are the qualified, informed and people of principles who are going to run for the board?

3. Do you know how much money it takes?

4. How many really committed people do you have to organize a door to door campaign?

5. Have meetings in the neighborhoods so that citizens become aware of the situation and vote for good candidates?

6. How are you going to get the candidates become informed?

7. HOw many people are going to be willing to go and put up yard signs?

8. How many candidates are not going to be intimidated by the superintendent?

First of all, who is going to organize all this?

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 21, 2009 at 3:42 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago


BEing angry is not good enough, it is about getting a job done. A well organized plan of action needs to be set up, anger will not do it.

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Avatar for user 'Gandarasgottogo'

Gandarasgottogo | July 21, 2009 at 5:58 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

How convenient for the district and Dr. Gandara to schedule the next board meeting on the first day of school. i guess he really doesn't want a large turn out. Then the usual meetings at the beginning of the year have been cancelled. A budget cut? or is he afraid of teachers expressing their dissatisfaction of his leadership. Wake up school board. You will be accountable for the actions of Dr. Gandara. Start listening to your constituency. Enough is enough!

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 22, 2009 at 3:33 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago



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Avatar for user 'LaLucha'

LaLucha | July 26, 2009 at 11:34 a.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago

Okay, so come to the rally August 17th , at the District Office, on Fifth St. , CV. The Board will be there, showing up in their Benzies and overpriced show cars, because they have a meeting. Gandara will be there...AND WE will all be there. All of us. Let's let the school board know AGAIN how we feel. JML, you be there, too. You seem to be hellbent on communication with the board as the only answer. So we are going to count on you to be our anti schoolboard spokesperson. Talk to them. THEY DON"T LISTEN....but try again and again, and let us see what we can do. They are going to make their "last and final offer" and it is going to be the same offer from the start. "We get everything plus more control over you, you get less money, less chance to improve your situation as an educator, less healthcare, less respect in the community, MORE WORK, LESS PAY, and we can fire you whenever we want for whatever reason. If you don't like this, teachers please BE THERE THIS TIME. YELL! Make a sign. SHOW them we are ALL ANGRY. Parents , please be there. These jerks are filling up all the classes to 40+ students! How are your kids going to be taught ? IN A BIG CROWD. And it won't be the teacher's fault, but the teacher will be blamed. BLAME THE SCHOOL BOARD. BLAME Bertha Lopez, Blame Jim Cartmill, blame Arlie Ricasa, all of them for wrecking Sweetwater District.

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Avatar for user 'jml1942'

jml1942 | July 26, 2009 at 3:55 p.m. ― 6 years, 4 months ago


I do not want to communicate with the board. I want enough of them removed and to elect a new majority board who will clearly understand that they, not the superintendent, are the representatives of the community, the employees and the students, that they are not the representatives of the superintendent.

I no longer have faith that the community, the employees and the students have what it really takes to remove three board members who will understand what I have just said. Besides, I do not think that in the community you can find three people who are willing to do what it takes. I have been through it all and other than all the good speeches and intentions, there are NOT ENOUGH committed community members, employees and students to really change the direction of the district. I know that some of you here are committed, however, all of you have to get really organized, have a plan of action, including lots of money, work hard etc. and even if you got three school board members, unless they are exceptional people who are strong and savvy, eventually they too will change.

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Avatar for user 'Jobaby94'

Jobaby94 | August 31, 2009 at 9:20 p.m. ― 6 years, 3 months ago

For some time now, I have been monitoring online how Jesus Gandara was doing in the Sweetwater District. I have no opinion of your school board, administrators, teachers, or unions. My interest is because I was an employee of Mercedes ISD in Texas where Gandara claims the "Miracle of Mercedes" happened. You people in California should have done your homework better. The only miracle in Mercedes was that Gandara finally left his position supposedly to go earn his doctorate degree. All the problems I'm reading about in Sweetwater happened in Mercedes, too. If we didn't comply with the dictator Gandara, we were threatened with the Three "R"s : Resignation, Retirement, Re-assignment. That is a direct quote from my principal at a faculty meeting. We had MANY reassignments and forced retirements/resignations. We had MANY unhappy employees. I was actually told to end a friendship with a certain teacher (who was on the %^&% list with Gandara because of her Texas State Teacher Association position) or I would suffer also. I don't play that game, and I did pay the price. Your Unions should check out some folks in Mercedes,Texas and you'd hear an earful about Gandara. And most of it not pretty.

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