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.