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10 Reasons Why John McCann Should Fire Superintendent Gandara

Saturday, May 21, 2011
posted by South Bay Sunnycrest

In yet ANOTHER headlining story written by the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Ashly McGlone, the Sweetwater Union High School District is taking up ink in the paper because of shady practices.

Not even six months into his term as school board president, it would appear from the outset that the sky continues to fall around John McCann and the school district. No wonder there’s rumors of a mayoral run in Chula Vista — he wants to get away from all the drama that is the Sweetwater Union High School District.

Just as we’ve given him kudos for taking action before in this post, I am strongly encouraging more action on John McCann’s part to act swiftly if he wants to save himself, the district, the city, and politically. Here are 10 reasons why he should fire Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara.

Reason #1: A Vested Pension. This would be my uber-big, MAIN reason Jesus Gandara should be fired. Once Gandara earns his 5 years as superintendent in September, he will be vested FOR LIFE in CALPERS. Meaning even after all the corruption, scandals, waste, fraud, and abuse of the taxpayers during his tenure as superintendent, Gandara will continue to collect retirement benefits. If that’s not giving hard-working, South Bay families and taxpayers the middle finger, I’m not sure what is.

Reason #2: Forgery. Just as the article posted yesterday states, Montgomery High School principal Lee Romero is up for a promotion after forging the signature of a district administrator who — get this — is facing demotion as part of a district re-organization. A principal commits what amounts to a felony and gets promoted, while the administrator whose signature was forged gets demoted? Am I the only one who sees a problem with that?

Reason #3: Scott Alevy. Kudos again to John McCann here for calling for an audit of the questionable billing practices of the district’s public-relations guru. The former Chula Vista councilman from 1995-1996 also serves as chair of the Sweetwater Education Foundation, which advocated in favor of Proposition BB, $187 million in bond money. So… the district’s PR guy, outside his day job for the district, is also politically active by advocating for the passage of bond money? Someone please tell me that can’t be legal — or ethical.

Reason #4: District Credit Cards. Jesus Gandara, the man who makes over $300,000/year, plus benefits, plus allowances — is also given a district credit card which he then decides to spend on dinners with various members of the school board, including John McCann. Although McCann’s seven meals don’t equate nearly enough to the 92 times Arlie Ricasa dined with Gandara, it’s the principle of the matter.

Reason #5: The Gandara Family. I know that may sound somewhat Godfather-ish, on top of the long-held taboo of keeping one’s family out of it, but in Gandara’s case it’s fair game. Why? The superintendent’s ENTIRE family is involved in politics in El Paso County, Texas in one way or another. Gandara’s brother, who was just recalled, served as Mayor of Socorro and was indicted in September 2010 in a continuing FBI public corruption investigation in which a former city councilmember pled guilty to drug charges. Ex-Mayor Willie Gandara is El Paso County’s FIRST elected official to ever be recalled. Gandara’s son, who almost faced a recall election himself, now serves as Mayor. Oh, I almost left out Willie Gandara, Jr — the son of the recalled mayor serves as an El Paso County Commissioner. Perhaps the Sweetwater School Board should be feeling buyer’s remorse.

Reason #6: Unlawful Student Fees. As of recently, the Sweetwater district was unlawfully charging student fees on high school campuses.

Reason #7: Money trees. The appearance that Gandara shook down board members, district vendors, and local leaders — all of whom rely on him for business and/or money — to donate or give money to his daughter’s bridal shower. I’m sure, in hindsight, it may have seemed like a nice thing to do but when the aforementioned stories continue to trickle out in the press the “suspicion of wrong-doing” could drive public opinion, even when there might have been no involvement of wrong-doing… at least on this subject.

Reason #8: Breach of Contract. My only rumor-mill comment is that Superintendent Gandara has apparently been searching for employment in Texas even though his contract stipulates that he is not to seek employment elsewhere while he’s employed with the district.

Reason #9: The constant bad press. Whether it’s ongoing problems with board members earning free meals or being investigated on ethics charges, the San Diego UT Editorial Board has issued statements several times just in the last few weeks: 1) Shine a spotlight, 2) The wrong message

Reason #10: Politics. I’m sure a lot of us in the know politically, are aware that John McCann is interested in running for Mayor of Chula Vista. In an ideal world, the safest route for McCann to take would be to make sure South Bay schools are doing reasonably well and not rock the boat if it doesn’t need rocking. However, none of us live in an ideal world and neither does John McCann. All of the bad press that continues to come out from the Sweetwater district are future mail pieces from Labor/Democrats with the phrase “John McCann’s Leadership Produced This…” or some facsimile thereof.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, he’s been board president six months and look — the sky falling around him in Sweetwater. If it continues to fall for the remainder of his term, I fear his political dreams end at Sweetwater’s edge.

If John McCann hopes to reach for the stars in the South Bay, as a Republican, he needs to start governing like one by showing some results and making some bold moves. The first of which needs to be the termination of Jesus Gandara as superintendent. He can take the Sweetwater district from U-T pun to number one (yeah, I rhymed… corny, but whatever).

Should he fire Gandara, McCann would be front and center in the decision making process by finding the candidate that could replace Gandara and turn the district’s ethical and compliance woes around. McCann would show true leadership abilities and prove to South Bay voters that he might be the new kid on the school board, but that he’s not a push-over.

The converse side of things, should McCann bring up Gandara’s termination for a vote — and it fails — it would put on record the boardmembers who voted to keep the incompetence in office. Keep in mind two of those board members, Pearl Quinones and Bertha Lopez (who failed to earn a majority of the vote in 2008) are up for re-election in 2012. It’s a win-win situation and all it takes is three votes, John. Even if you’re not able to get to three, the fact is you put it on record for the world to see, and let the chips fall where they may… in your favor.

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22 Responses to “10 Reasons Why John McCann Should Fire Superintendent Gandara”

  1. Thor's Assistant Thor's Assistant says:

    Reason 11 ? — Sweetwater winning the Grand Golden Fleece the other night for many of the reasons above, plus the use of public dollars to promote Arlie Ricasa during her school board reelection last November…
    http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/may/20/sweetwater-schools-win-golden-fleece-honor/

  2. Thor's Assistant Thor's Assistant says:

    SD Reader: Citizens Denied Attendance to Sweetwater Union High Meeting…
    http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2011/may/20/citizens-denied-attendance-sweetwater-union-high-m/

  3. annie j says:

    I would like to state that I am in agreement with all that has been stated here.

    Unfortunately it is much worse within the District than is being reported.

    I have called for, on other blogs for the following:

    John MCCann must provide to the Community of the South Bay, the taxpayer AND/ALL billings submitted by bonnie garcia corruptor at law – the legal firm representing the District. I am requesting that he post said information on the District website – with no redactions.

    Bonny Garcia, corruptor at law, has a contract with the District and on the last page it clearly states that said Garcia has the right to hire anyone he chooses. Now this is WITHOUT the Boards approval. Technically without ‘the gandaras’ approval as well. HOWEVER, please note that NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING happens without ‘the gandaras’ approval.

    If , Mr. McCann is genuine in his transparency speech he should have NO problem with providing said information WITHOUT REDACTION.

    This is time for Mr. McCann to put up or shut up.

    The eyes of the South Bay are upon you

  4. Jim Sills says:

    annie j:

    John McCann was just elected to the school Board last
    November. He has his share of responsibility to deal
    with issues, but why is he (one of 5 trustees) somehow
    100% responsible for matters which he largely inherited?

  5. Jesse Esparza says:

    Jim Sills – EXACTLY! Let’s remember people, McCann needs 3 votes total to do anything! As for now it seems that Cartmill, Ricasa and Quinones are the 3 against doing anything. I would strongly doubt that McCann is against getting rid of Gandara, he is definitely smart enough to know that Gandara is a liability to the District and also to himself, not to mention that he doesn’t need Gandara for ANYTHING. But, where are his 3 votes? I am sure he would get Lopez to oust Gandara, but his vote and Lopez only make TWO (I may not be a pro at math, but I think I can get that one right!) McCann stepped into a mess – let’s place the blame on the Board Members responsible. I have no doubt that McCann will make a positive impact on this Board, but I also know the process and the process takes more than a few months.

  6. Jesse Esparza says:

    @Annie J, I also know (and you know as well) that there are many things that cannot be made public due to legal ramifications, so by demanding that ALL legal bills be placed in the public view you are actually demanding that McCann break the law.

    @South Bay Sunnycrest – I think a better title for your article would have been “The Top 10 Reasons Why the Board Should Fire Gandara”!

  7. Alger says:

    Jim,

    “…why is he somehow 100% responsible for matters which he largely inherited?”

    Do you feel the same way about President Obama?

  8. Jim Sills says:

    John McCann: 5 months in office…..President Obama
    28 months in office.

    John McCann, 1 of 5 trustees… President Obama,
    head of executive branch with power to reshape
    cabinet and other personnel heads at will.

  9. Alger says:

    McCann is the President (Chair) of the School Board.

    McCann doesn’t have any other branches of government he has to deal with.

    The problems Obama inherited (two wars, worst recession in our lifetime, zero job growth over the previous 8 years, crashing stock market,etc.) were much more significant.

    You, or at least others of your political persuasion, were blaming Obama for everything long before he had 5 months in office. In fact, some blamed him even before he took office.

  10. Jesse Esparza says:

    No, McCann just has to deal with 4 other Board Members – 3 of whom are hardcore supporters of Gandara (Cartmill, Ricasa and Quinones). He is just one vote and at least trying to make changes to the issues at hand. It certainly doesn’t help him when people like Scott Alevy keep doing stupid things that McCann has to address and take the focus away from the students and the schools.

  11. Alger says:

    Jesse,

    McCann is more than just one vote. As President of the Board, he sets the agenda. If he were to ask that Gandara be fired, he would have three votes to do so. You have badly misread the position of at least one of the Board members.

    Continuing the Obama analogy, the President of the United States has to deal with 535 (that’s more than 4) members of Congress, each of whom comes with his/her own agenda and has to please a constituency that might not be interested in what’s good for the Country as a whole.

  12. Jim Sills says:

    The ‘President’ of a school board is largely an honorific
    title. President of the USA is not. If President Obama
    wants to make a peronnel change in the executive
    branch leadership, he can do so immediatly.

    You are well aware, Mr. A, of the distinction between the
    EXECUTIVE branch and the LEGISLATIVE. Analogizing
    a school board to the Washington DC power set-up is
    the ultimate Apples-and-Oranges comparison.

  13. Alger says:

    Jim,

    Are you seriously suggesting that it is easier for the President of the United States to make changes in the way Washington operates than it is for the President of the Sweetwater Union High School School Board to make changes in the way that the School District operates?

    Never mind; I am sure you will continue to see and judge Obama, McCann and all other politicians through your partisan-colored glasses.

  14. Thor's Assistant Thor's Assistant says:

    Actually, Sills said nothing of the sort. He said you are comparing apples to oranges. He didn’t bring up the Obama comparison.

  15. South Bay Sunnycrest says:

    I come back and check on my post and see 14 comments (yay!), then I read through and half of them are comparing McCann and Obama (sigh)… I feel more or less like we’re getting off topic.

    I will say however that it is true that McCann sets the agenda as Board President. As the official agenda-setter for the district, he needs to bring up Gandara’s termination for a vote.

    As I spelled out in the post, even if the vote doesn’t succeed, it puts on record those board members (two of whom are up for re-election next year) who voted to keep Gandara in office.

    McCann needs to act swiftly for the main reason I mentioned in the post, be it that Gandara will be vested into CalPERS retirement for life after September.

  16. Alger says:

    Thor’s Assistant,

    Actually, this started when Jim asked why annie j wanted to hold McCann “100% responsible for matters which he largely inherited?” The insinuation being that it wouldn’t be fair to do so. I simply asked (somewhat facetiously) if Jim felt the same way about President Obama.

    It was Jim that started making the comparisons that suggested that it was more difficult for McCann than it is for Obama to make the necessary changes to overcome the problems he inherited. My response(s) to that simply tried to point out the ridiculousness of that assertion.

  17. Spin Zone says:

    The ridiculousness is only in the eye of the interpreter. If a board president sets the agenda, it still takes three votes to carry it through. The POTUS? He can replace executives with two words. That’s a real comparison, as in whether the president in each case has the authority to do something on his own. Now, if you want to compare legislative power, as in five board members to 535 members of congress/senate, that would be ridiculous. Yes, so please do get back on topic.

  18. Alger says:

    How’s this for back on topic:

    If McCann wanted Gandara fired, he would be fired. The other votes are there if he wanted to “call the question.” Even if they weren’t, a leader would understand the power of being able to put items on the agenda or more to the point, the power to refuse to put items on the agenda.

    By the way, The POTUS may be able to fire some (although not the members of Congress whose support he needs to get anything done), but he usually cannot hire without 60% of the Senate confirming.

  19. Thor's Assistant Thor's Assistant says:

    We’d say that’s back on topic, since that was Sunnycrest’s point: Whether McCann has the votes may be a question, but he should set the agenda on the matter and has the power to do so.

  20. Jesse Esparza says:

    Set an item on the agenda and if it fails where does that leave McCann? Unable to get anything done in the district, including improvements to the schools or admin because he will then be considered the enemy by the Superintendent and Gandara will do anything and everything to stop McCann’s leadership from being effective. On top of that, where is the cause to fire Gandara? I absolutely agree that he should not have been double dipping with the credit card, but he did not violate his contract in doing so – he was using the credit card at the order of the former Board (pre-McCann). Did he violate his contract for throwing his daughter a bridal shower? I highly doubt there is a stipulation in his contract for that. Again, bad judgment, but not against his contract. Your reasons Sunnycrest are all based on Gandara’s bad judgment – if people were fired for bad judgment when they were under contract our state would be broke from lawsuits from all over the place. Let’s discuss each point you made. #1 – you would fire someone simply in order to avoid their PERS vesting? What? Let’s fire everyone then at year 4 who made a bad decision in those first 4 years at one point or another. Heck, let’s remove PERS from Cartmill who still is eligible since he was grandfathered in, lets certainly remove PERS from Cheryl Cox, Rudy Ramirez and Pam Bensoussan as they are the epitome of bad decisions. I could go on and on listing those who don’t deserve their PERS, but you can thank the Unions for making that a reality. #2 – You would fire Gandara because a district employee used a signature on a pretty non-harmful letter (again, don’t get me wrong, he should have gotten permission from the individual – who by the way is not being demoted, she is actually being given a full-time position as an AP). My argument here is that Gandara is not the one who put the signature on the letter (unless you can prove otherwise). So, you would fire Gandara for someone else’s actions? I surely wouldn’t want to be your employee (but I would love to be your employee’s lawyer!!) #3 – Scott Alevy – you would fire Gandara because Scott Alevy is an idiot? I can see where maybe Garcia needs to be blamed for these expenses as he is the one who sent them through for payment, but unless you can prove that Gandara knew each and every expense on those invoices, how is he at fault? #4 – Credit cards – I have already addressed this one – he used the credit cards for the last 4 years or so with the blessing of Ricasa, Lopez, Quinones, Cartmill and Sandoval. #5 – His family??? Really??? While they may not be the Brady Bunch how you can base firing someone, again, on the actions of others? Family or not, Gandara is not in El Paso participating in whatever is going on over there. #6 – Student fees – again, placing blame with Gandara for the actions of coaches within the district. That’s like saying a CEO of a huge company should be fired when one of his managers way down the line is caught embezzling. Remember Sweetwater is the largest secondary school district in the country, and the largest employer in South County. That’s a lot of employees to be on top of at one time, not to mention the number of students and parents to deal with. #7 – The $ tree – I already addressed this as well. Stupid? Yes, violation of his contract? No. #8 – Looking for work elsewhere. This was addressed by the previous board (pre-McCann) and they re-upped his contract anyway. In addition, the previous board took that little requirement out of his current contract, so there is no longer a violation if he does it now. Nice of the PREVIOUS board, huh? #9 – Constant bad press? Well now, there’s a solid reason to fire somebody. Maybe the person leaking the information to the media should be fired for intentionally releasing information that is leading to the bad press. Maybe Nancy Stubbs should be fired for reporting to the media about a personnel issue – that seems pretty much against the rules to me. So should the entire Congress and Senate be fired because of their constant bad press??? #10 – Politics. So, now you are endorsing firing someone simply to save one’s own political career? Wonder where people get the idea that politicians are self-centered???
    Now, seriously, I don’t disagree that Gandara should go, but even if McCann finds a third vote (don’t believe the rumors that a third vote exists), he would still have to find cause to avoid a lawsuit. Unless you are suggesting that it would be okay for McCann to fire Gandara with his other imaginary 2 votes and then end up in a lawsuit with Gandara for unlawful termination of a binding contract resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and time in court, etc. Do you really think there wouldn’t be an uproar with school families and teachers about that?

  21. Erik says:

    One thing I have never really understood (and I guess that is why I am siting outside lobbing blog bombs than siting up at the dias) is why, in situations like this, more elected officials don’t simply tender their resignation and do a Howard Beale in front of the cameras (from the Movie Network refernce for all those why are not Sydney Lumnent fans).

    If you think your superident (or union or mayor or interest group or hostpial administrator) is totally corrupt, you are in the minority and you can not effect meaningful change because the majority blocks you why not use the only power avaliable to you – the bully pulpit? Scream loud. Tell voters they should get mad. Disassociate yourself from an organization that is completely corrupt and missusing taxpayer dollars. Would do much more for taxpayers than siting and pulling a per diem when you feel that the boat is totally off course and going to slam into the rocks.

  22. Jesse Esparza says:

    Erik,
    Maybe good people need to stay in office and not just give up. Maybe the good, honest people need to work with the system they have and not be bullied into doing something in 5 months that needs a bit longer to be dealt with. And McCann does this for a whopping what – $700 a month? I don’t think he is a saint, but he sure is earning his money, which is way more than I can say for the rest of the board.

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