Back dropped by heavy criticism, light mocking and even a “Call Me Maybe” parody from the audience, the Sweetwater Unified High School district approved a lucrative new contract for interim superintendent Dr. Ed Brand.
The 3-2 vote to bring Brand into the district on a more permanent basis was taken shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. Board President Pearl Quinones and board member Bertha Lopez voted against the proposal.
The closed-session portion of the meeting, when details of Brand’s new contract were hammered out, began around 6 p.m. Monday.
Community members packed the Administration Center on Fifth Ave. in Chula Vista, chanting “Shame on you, shame on you,” at the board into the wee hours of the morning, according to a UStream video posted by the The Star News.
Brand rejoined the district last summer when the board ousted former Sweetwater boss Dr. Jesus Gandara.
Gandara has pleaded not guilty to felony bribery and perjury charges for allegedly participating in a pay-to-play scheme when awarding construction contracts.
Brand first served the district from 1995 to 2005. When he came back as Gandara’s replacement, he began receiving a $20,000 a month payment awarded under a questionable consulting contract. He received that money on top of a $118,000 a year pension from his previous employment.
Questions about whether he has been acting as a consultant or a district employee during the last year has attracted attention from state pension regulators.
Community members, parents and teachers are unhappy with what they say is the district’s continued lack of transparency under Brand’s second tenure, among other problems.
“Why are we considering hiring the person that failed to comply with the Ed Code, that fails to be accountable ensuring student academic achievement, and the physical, mental and emotional well-being of the students?” one public commenter asked prior to the closed-session portion of the meeting.
The two-year contract includes $250,000 a year in base pay, $750 a month car allowance, health and welfare benefits until Brand is eligible for Medicare, 28 paid vacation days and a full buy-out severance package if the board decides to terminate him before his contract is up.
“Whether it’s President Obama, Governor Romney, Governor Brown’s proposals or even last night with the NFL officials, controversy seems to be everywhere. It’s a sign of the times,” Brand said of the raucous meeting over his contract. “As a leader, I believe your principles always need to remain constant and mine have always been putting students first, having fiscal stability for the district and pulling the rope together – what I call teamwork.”
He added: “It’s obvious from last night’s event that we have to work on the latter. I believe we’ll be successful because we have a talented team in place, and I look forward to the opportunity of working with the board for the betterment of student achievement.”