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Sweetwater Superintendent Replaced

The Sweetwater Union High School District has fired its superintendent after disclosures that he billed taxpayers for meals and invited contractors to his daughter's bridal shower.

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently reported that Jesus Gandara billed hundreds of meals to a district credit card despite an $800-a-month allowance for that purpose. Gandara has defended the meals as part of an outreach campaign.

The newspaper also reported that he invited contractors to the bridal shower, complete with a "money tree," and directed the district's general counsel to hire public-relations contractors without the school board's knowledge.

The district's board decided unanimously on Tuesday night to replace Gandara with Ed Brand, a former superintendent. Brand worked for the district for 10 years and will act as the interim superintendent for up to a year, or until a permanent replacement is found.

A Tuesday press release from the disctrict announced that Gandara will get 18 months' severance pay, which The Union-Tribune estimates amounts to $416,675. The board decided to place Gandara on administrative leave until Sept. 1, when Gandara's separation from the district will become permanent. For the summer months, Gandara will use his remaining vacation, sick leave and administrative leave.

Criticism of Gandara as superintendent is nothing new. Since taking the reigns in 2006, Gandara has been criticized for his handling of new reforms and management style. By 2009, all six employee unions had cast votes of no-confidence in him.

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