As the Sweetwater Union High School District careens toward a possible March 18 teachers strike, Southwestern College Trustee Humberto Peraza called for the immediate resignation or termination of the district’s superintendent, Dr. Ed Brand.
“This superintendent should be fired right away,” said Peraza. “We should not wait and just sit there for his contract to run out (in November)when he’s completely destroyed this district and continues to do damage to it on a daily basis.”
Peraza said he is “disgusted” by Brand’s handling of the negotiations with the district teachers and his use of threats and bullying tactics.
“Ed Brand was supposed to come in to help fix the situation from what was a corrupt regime,” said Peraza. “I don’t know who in this community thought that it could be any worse than what (former superintendent Jesus) Gandara did, but somehow, someway, Ed Brand has found a way to make this situation far worse than it was.”
Community leader Stewart Payne also called for Brand’s immediate resignation saying he has made conditions at the district “unhealthy.”
“(The district) had issues before he came back,” Payne said, “but (Brand) has certainly made conditions and the environment in the district worse.”
After more than a year of unsuccessful negotiations between the district and the Sweetwater Education Association (SEA), the teacher’s union, classroom teachers are gearing up to strike as early as Tuesday. SEA President Roberto Rodriguez said the district is not negotiating in good faith and has not cooperated with state mediators.
“(The district) has been showing up for mediations, they have been here every meeting,” said Rodriguez, “but after four sessions of mediation, we got our first proposal from them at the last session, and it wasn’t a credible proposal from our point of view.”
Peraza, said the situation at SUHSD has gotten out of hand.
“The fact that the leadership of this district has allowed this to come to a point where they are about to strike and leave a lot of kids without an education for who knows how long is unbelievable,” said Peraza.
Rodriguez said striking is not what the teachers want to do, but most have indicated they feel they have no choice.
“Our goal isn’t to strike, it is to settle the contract with the district as soon as possible,” he said. “However, we want to make sure the district understands if they keep dragging their feet the way they have been, our members are ready to take the ultimate action.”
A letter from Brand said it is unlawful for the SEA to threaten a strike while engaged in impasse mediation, but Rodriguez said his claim is not true.
Rodriguez said the SEA filed an unfair labor practice with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) on a contract violation by the district. He said district negotiators changed the amount of money the district contributes toward teacher health benefits.
“We negotiated an agreement last year,” said Rodriguez. “In October, the district unilaterally announced they were going to contribute less money than had been negotiated. By changing the condition of the contract unilaterally, that is a violation of contract.”
District negotiators denied any violations.
Peraza acknowledged that it might seem unusual for a trustee of the community college to call for the resignation of the superintendent of the high school district, but he said he could no longer stand by quietly.
“Sweetwater has a lot of great teachers and dedicated employees, but the place is a train wreck and Brand is driving the train,” he said. “We owe it to the kids in our community to fix this mess and we can’t start to do that until Brand is gone. He needs to leave right now.”