Schools chief's style led to friction
Details on Brand's departure emerge
By Linda Lou
October 29, 2006
For years, the San Marcos Unified School District has been known for its
collaborative atmosphere, collegial meetings and low-key elections.
That's one reason why many people were surprised eight weeks ago when a bitterly
divided school board voted 3-2, without any public explanation, to accept the resignation
of Superintendent Ed Brand and buy out his contract for $410,000.
Board members have said only that Brand left for deeply personal reasons, and that his
departure is a confidential personnel matter.
Since then, accounts have emerged of other things not in keeping with San Marcos
Unified's image. They include Brand's ordering the hiring of a teacher, whose husband is
a state education official, even though a panel of elementary school principals in charge
of hiring voted not to offer her a job; a staff party for management aboard a 112-foot
historic yacht; and two outsiders infusing cash into a school board candidate's campaign.
They may help explain why Brand – whose forceful style was formed in the much larger
and more political Sweetwater Union High School District – was a poor fit in the 16,700-
student San Marcos district.
Brand, 52, considered a rising star in county education circles, hung up his cell phone
when contacted for comment about this story and has not returned several messages.
The story of the teacher's hiring has circulated for weeks and was confirmed by two
district administrators, both of whom asked that their names and titles not be used for fear
it could hurt their careers.
The teacher is the wife of Scott Himelstein, who was appointed in June 2005 as the state's
deputy secretary of education by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at a salary of $118,000 a
Lynne Himelstein, 37, was among more than 700 teachers who applied in the
spring for a job as an elementary school teacher in the district. She was not
among a pool of about 125 selected for interviews but was eventually included
anyway in an interview pool, which district officials say is not unusual.
In a process that lasted about a month, three or four candidates at a time were
questioned by a panel of 10 elementary school principals in sessions that lasted about 45
No one has suggested that Himelstein, who has taught for 10 years, was unqualified. She
was named Teacher of the Year in 2004 at Carson Elementary in San Diego and in 2002
at Randall Elementary in the Milpitas Unified School District in Northern California, and
she speaks fluent Vietnamese.
But the panel was not impressed by her interview in mid-May, and voted unanimously not
to hire her.
During a final session about 10 days later, at which the panel was supposed to decide at
which schools the teachers who had been selected would be assigned, Brand walked into
the room and asked if Himelstein was among them. When the answer was no, he
responded, “You will place her,” and walked out.
Himelstein was soon hired as a first-grade teacher at San Elijo Elementary, a new school.
Under district pay ranges, someone with her experience would make $47,077 to $58,843
Although Brand's contract allowed him to hire and fire employees with the school board's
approval, hiring elementary school teachers in San Marcos Unified has required
unanimous approval from the panel, a system the district has used for years.
It was not until about two weeks after the panel's final meeting, aboard a yacht
cruising on San Diego Bay, that the reason for Brand's unusual directive became
On June 6, Brand invited principals and other administrators to a private, late-
afternoon party aboard the High Spirits, which docks near the foot of Broadway.
Administrators from the Sweetwater district, which Brand headed for nearly 11
years before coming to San Marcos, also attended.
Scott Himelstein hosted the party, introducing himself as deputy secretary of
education. He told guests that his wife would soon be joining the San Marcos
district as a teacher.
In an interview this month at his Carlsbad home, Himelstein, 49, said he was
unaware that Brand had intervened on his wife's behalf and had not ask him to.
He said his wife's teaching experience “speaks for itself.”
Himelstein said he knows Brand from serving on the Sweetwater Education
He said that before his wife began applying for jobs, he contacted Brand and the
superintendents of the Carlsbad and Encinitas school districts to ask about the
Himelstein said his wife was moving back to the area after teaching in Sacramento. She
applied to Carlsbad and San Marcos, and both offered her a job, he said.
Lynne Himelstein, who did not respond to messages seeking comment, chose San Elijo
Elementary because it was a new school, her husband said.
The High Spirits yacht, where Himelstein hosted the party, is owned by multimillionaire
businessman William D. Lynch, a member of the San Diego County Regional Airport
Authority board. Lynch is an ally of Brand's and of state Secretary of Education Alan
Bersin, former superintendent of San Diego city schools.
Lynch is also a philanthropist who runs the William D. Lynch Foundation for Children,
which promotes literacy. Scott Himelstein is the foundation's former president.
Although he lives in Rancho Santa Fe, Lynch is playing a role in the upcoming San
Marcos school board election. Recent campaign-disclosure statements show he donated
$6,000 to candidate Cyndy Minnery, five times as much as the next-largest donation –
$1,200 that candidate Beckie Garrett has received from her mother.
In an interview, Lynch said that while he had never spoken to Minnery, one reason he
gave her money is that he expected she would work to get Brand, whom he admires
professionally, rehired in San Marcos.
Some observers have speculated that Brand hand-picked Minnery to run, which she has
denied. Minnery also has denied being committed to rehiring Brand.
On Tuesday, Minnery announced that Assemblyman Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach, had
given her campaign a $6,000 loan. Wyland, vice chairman of the Assembly Education
Committee, is running for the state Senate in the Nov. 7 election.
Wyland said Friday that his endorsement of Minnery has nothing to do with Brand, whom
he has met once or twice. He added that Minnery supports some of his core goals,
including teaching all students to read, write and speak English.
Sharing the cost
The party on the High Spirits started out as a way for Bruce Husson, a former interim
Sweetwater superintendent who is now retired, to thank his colleagues. Husson said he
arranged the party and asked Himelstein to host it.
He said he knew that the Lynch foundation gives discount rates to school districts that
hold such gatherings. The discounted rate was about $50 per person, he said.
Husson said he called Brand, his former boss at the Sweetwater district, to see if he
wanted to do the same thing for his administrators. The yacht can accommodate about
120, and Husson said about 60 people from Sweetwater attended.
He said his share of the cost was paid with donations and $750 out of his pocket, but he
didn't know how Brand paid.
San Marcos Unified officials said no district money was spent on the party. Brand may
have paid for it himself. A notation in his calendar for June 6 reads, “Check to Himelstein.”
Himelstein said no money went through him and that all payments were made to the High
Spirits, which can be chartered for private events.
Trustee Mary Borevitz, who with San Marcos board members Alan Brown and Sharon
Jenkins voted in August to accept Brand's resignation and buy out his contract, said she
was “fully aware of the situation” involving Lynne Himelstein. She declined to say when
she learned of it or whether it played a role in Brand's departure.
Brown, who is not seeking re-election, said he did not learn about it until a month ago. “In
my 25 years as a board member, I have never heard of this happening in San Marcos,”
he said. “If I had heard of it, I would not have tolerated it.”
The district's hiring process gives candidates an equal shot, Brown said, adding that it
was disturbing that someone would just “forget the process.”
Jenkins, who is seeking re-election, said she is aware that an employee was hired outside
the district's usual practices but cannot comment on personnel matters. Trustee Pam
Bancells also refused to comment.
Trustee David Horacek, who lives in San Elijo Hills, said he has met Lynne Himelstein but
couldn't comment about how she was hired. “She seems like a nice lady,” he said. “She's
been a Teacher of the Year twice.”
San Elijo Elementary's principal, Lynda McDonnell, would not comment. Interim
Superintendent Kevin Holt said he is aware that an employee was hired outside the
normal district practices by the former superintendent, but he declined to elaborate.
On Aug. 11, when Schwarzenegger spoke at Carlsbad High School, he singled out Bersin
and Himelstein, who were in the audience, for applause.
In mid-September, at San Elijo Elementary's dedication ceremony, Scott Himelstein
was the featured speaker.
Ed Brand, superintendent
May 18, 2005
By ANNE RILEY-KATZ
New San Marcos
among highest paid
...Edward Brand, who has
served as Sweetwater Union
High School District
superintendent for 11 years,
will replace veteran Larry
Maw as superintendent of the
San Marcos Unified School
District on July 1.
Maw is retiring after 13 years,
and the district's Board of
Trustees this week approved a
four-year contract with Brand
that would pay him $232,000 a
year plus health benefits and a
$700 monthly expense and car
The San Marcos Unified
School District has about
15,300 students enrolled in 16
schools and a budget of $102
million, district officials said.
Brand made about $225,000 in
Chula Vista's Sweetwater district,
which has 40,500 students in
grades seven through 12...
Ken Noonan, superintendent
of the Oceanside Unified
School District, makes
$237,000 a year plus heath
benefits, with no car allowance or
stipends. The 21,000-student
district has a budget of $165
"The most important
investment you make as a
district is in a
Janet Bledsoe Lacy, a
district school board
member. "Sometimes you don't
appreciate how much it's worth
until you see how things can go
wrong in other districts. From
test scores to passing bonds, the
entire image of the district can
rest on the superintendent."
Superintendent John Roach
earns $165,000 a year, plus
health benefits and a $400
monthly car allowance. The
yearly budget for the district's 13
schools, with 10,000 students
enrolled, is about $70 million.
Escondido Union School
District Superintendent Mike
Caston earns $195,000 out of
the district's $138 million budget.
The district has about 19,400
elementary and middle school
superintendent of the
32,800-student Poway Unified
School District, makes
$189,000 a year, plus health
benefits and a $1,000 monthly
stipend he collects for 10 months
out of each year. The district has
a budget of $219 million.
Vista Unified School District
Superintendent Dave Cowles
makes $211,000 annually for
overseeing the 24,000-student
district, which has a budget of
Steve Lilly, a Vista trustee... also
noted that superintendent
positions can be high-risk
because administrators are held
responsible for student
performance on tests used to
measure school and district
performance each year...
Bancells said she found it difficult
to compare that district's salary
structure with other districts.
"You really have to compare
apples to apples. You can't just
compare base salary, since
there are a lot of intangibles,"
Bancells said. "It really depends
on what people bring to the
Sweetwater is the county's
second-largest district, and more
than two-thirds of the students
are Latino, district officials said...
Brand also helped raise $2.6
million to help provide
scholarships for students who
couldn't afford to go to college.
"We expect he will meet with Cal
State San Marcos to put
something similar in place for our
students," Bancells said. "It's a
wonderful thing for our students
and their future, and it's just one
of the many things that made him
attractive to the district. He really
stood out and was the perfect
match for our district."
Heavy Irony: this is
what they were
saying when Ed Brand
came to San Marcos
"The most important investment
you make as a district is in a
superintendent," said Janet
Bledsoe Lacy, a longtime
Oceanside district school
board member. "... the entire
image of the district can rest on
September 01, 2006
Brand is out
Ed Brand suddenly resigned
from San Marcos Unified
School District on August 30,
2006. This is almost as surprising
as the fact that they hired him in
the first place. What were they
thinking? He was connected to
well-publicized wrongdoing during
his tenure as superintendent of
Sweetwater Union High School
District, and well-hidden
wrongdoing as part of a
committee that advised SDCOE's
Speaking of SDCOE, Ed Brand's
friend Tom Hassey claims that
SDCOE "board members"
approached Ed Brand and asked
him to apply for the SDCOE
superintendent's job. My guess is
that it was ONE board member
who approached Mr. Brand--Bob
But I could be wrong. The rest of
the board keeps disappointing
me. I think they know Ed Brand
far too well to want to expand his
power at SDCOE. Nothing says
"good old boys' club" like "Ed
Brand." The SDCOE board
seems to want to rein in the wild
boys only slightly.
It seems to me that the SDCOE
board is continuing the illegal and
ineffective policies practiced
during the heyday of good old
boys Ed Brand, Rudy Castruita
and their cronies. Now Randy
Ward is rapidly becoming a crony.
--from San Diego Education
Daniel Shinoff of Stutz,
Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz
was the lawyer for
Sweetwater Union School
District and its
Superintendent, Ed Brand
Mary Anne Weegar was
the head of categorical
programs for the
Sweetwater Union High
School District until 1999.
Categorical programs are
programs and money
allocated for specific
educational purposes by
both the state and federal
received over $2.5 million
in categorical aid from the
Federal government and
over $4.5 million from the
state of California in fiscal
year 2001. There are
stringent requirements on
how categorical money
can be used and Weegar
attempted to see that the
money was spent
properly. This was not
appreciated by those
above her and her
authority as watchdog
over categorical spending
was slowly eroded. A
computer whiz student
aide who helped Weegar
with her computers
noticed a form in the
Superintendent’s part of
the computer network
called “Reacquiring of
categorical funds” When
it was discovered that
someone had accessed
this part of the network,
Weegar was locked out of
her office, forced to retire,
and the young computer
whiz was accosted in the
parking lot by a well
sociopath and threatened
with denial of graduation.
The young man’s father
was a cop and soon
straightened that out, but
Weegar was out of a job
and soon filed a wrongful
against the District.
The main witnesses
called from the district
were Superintendent Ed
Brand and Chief Financial
Officer Barry Dragon.
Dragon was formerly with
Arthur Anderson and
when he was asked
recently by a concerned
citizen what the
salary was, ($200,000),
since no one else at the
District Office knew, he
reacted as if the
concerned citizen had
threatened to crash a
plane into the District
Office. When reminded
that he and the
public servants and that
their salaries were from
public funds, his venom
and hostility subsided and
he belatedly divulged the
evidently little known fact
that Brand (at $200,000
per year) makes more
than the Governor of
California ($175,000 per
When Brand testified, he
stated that he had a vast
and thorough knowledge
of all of Sweetwater’s
policies and regulations,
but when asked which
policy gave him the
authority to lock Weegar
out of her office, he sat
speechless for over a
minute and never could
come up with any legal
justification for locking out
the 30 year veteran
The District was
eventually found guilty of
wrongful termination and
ordered to pay Weegar
$678,000. When asked to
comment about the
Weegar case at the
August 26th Board
Meeting, Brand stated
that he couldn’t since it
was under appeal and
that they were confident
they would prevail.
However if they appeal,
they will have to pay 10%
annual interest on the
judgement when they
ultimately lose. But its not
their money, so what do
One can’t help but
wonder, how many
teachers could have been
hired with $678,000? How
many classrooms could
have been repaired for
$678,000 dollars? How
many books and supplies
could have been bought
for $678,000. Evil and
injustice always has a
price and the Mary Ann
Weegar case is a good
Sometime in July, a bullet
was fired through Weegar’
s attorney’s office window.
He said the only case that
it could have been related
to was the Weegar case.
Note: Patricia Ludi was
also involved in the
Cozaihr v. CVESD lawsuit.
She testified on
December 4, 2007.
Leecal exposes the yacht party connection of Scott Himelstein
San Diegans 4 Great Schools
Good work, Leecal!
The connection between Scott Himelstein and Ed Brand is significant. It's beginning to
look like this is a conflict between right-wing superintendents and the teachers union. Ed
Brand is one of the most notorious superintendents in the county, and has been closely
connected to the secretive SDCOE-JPA. The JPA allows superintendents to choose the
lawyers they like, and then spends millions in tax dollars protecting those superintendents
in court. The JPA also protects the superintendents from the media by refusing to turn
over documents to the San Diego Union-Tribune and Voice of San Diego. It's all starting
to make sense to me.
I take back what I said about the leaders of SD4GS being well-meaning people. I think
you're right that is a raw power grab.
Sweetwater Union HS District Supe Ed Brand Addresses
Problems with U-T Coverage
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Nov. 3, 2011
On October 29, Sweetwater Union High School District superintendent Ed Brand dressed
down the Union-Tribune.
The district’s website tells it this way: “In an ongoing effort to bring balanced media
coverage, [Brand] met with San Diego Union-Tribune editorial board….” Nine editors and
reporters from the paper were in attendance.
Sweetwater continues to make headlines even though former superintendent Jesus
Gandara is gone. Brand gave the assembled news team examples of what he perceives
as biased coverage of recent incidents. Each lesson ended with: “Now, in my mind the
story should have been about…”
Brand also objected to articles generated by anonymous tipsters and excessive public
record requests. He stated that, as a result of the media’s focus, policy was being driven
One story Brand criticized dealt with Proposition O, a $644 construction bond. Although
proposition language limits bond money use to construction, the U-T reported that
Sweetwater borrowed from the account for general fund purposes. Brand asserted that
many districts did the same.
Brand later floated the idea of a new bond for a “cradle-to-the-grave” educational system:
“We’re gonna be asking as we think about another bond, ‘Will the residents support us
building our own university?’” Brand calls this idea “Sweetwater U.”
U-T editor Jeff Light asked Brand: “What could we do (a) to meet our obligation to ask our
questions and not take things at face value? and, (b), create a climate where the
achievement inside schools is supported?”
The Sweetwater School Board Hits the Canvas Again
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Oct. 19, 2011
"The honeymoon might be over,” acknowledged Dr. Edward Brand, interim superintendent
for Sweetwater Union High School District. Knee-deep in scandal, the Sweetwater school
board on June 21 fired Superintendent Jesus Gandara. On June 22, Brand stepped into
Gandara’s shoes, but people are already asking if the shoes fit too well.
“Sweetwater is in my DNA,” Brand said in an early September interview. Brand served as
Sweetwater’s superintendent from 1995 to 2005. His return was welcomed by many.
Community activists were so pleased to be rid of Gandara, and so eager to see
Sweetwater get back on its feet, they agreed to stop sharing scandals with the press. The
truce ended on August 29.
The trigger was an incident at the school board’s workshop on teamwork. According to
community activist Fran Brinkman, the combative board had been shouting over one
another, and board president John McCann had been known to shut off the microphone
of boardmember Bertha López. The workshop meeting began in the boardroom, but after
15 minutes, Brand announced a break. Later, it was discovered that Brand had
reconvened the meeting in a back room — without the public.
Community activist Kathleen Cheers said she was “livid.” According to Cheers, she and
Brinkman sat in the boardroom for over an hour waiting for the workshop to resume.
Activist Fran Brinkman believes a back-room meeting called by Brand was illegal.
Activist Fran Brinkman believes ...
Brinkman said that no one advised them that it had reconvened elsewhere. She said that
a Brown Act violation has been filed against the district.
In the September interview, Brand said he had no intention of excluding the audience. His
perspective was, “We wanted to do a workshop about teamwork. It wasn’t about making
policy. We did a 15-minute overview in open session, and then we went from the
boardroom to this back room because we were going to lay out charts. I had instructed
our staff that if anybody [from the audience] wanted to observe, then they could be invited
back. Somehow, that didn’t get communicated to the three or four people who showed up
for the meeting.”
Brand admitted, however, that he really didn’t want the public to attend the teamwork
powwow “because then the workshop discussion would not be as frank.”
Both Cheers and Brinkman had informed Brand of their desire to attend the workshop.
Before it commenced, Cheers stated during public comment that she was looking forward
to seeing the board “interact.”
Brinkman said she’d told Brand in a phone conversation the previous day, “I definitely
want to be in attendance at the workshop.”
Brand remembered the phone conversation differently. “I don’t recall that she said, ‘I
definitely want to be in there.’ What I heard her say was, ‘I’m definitely coming to the board
workshop.’” Brand said no Brown Act violation occurred because policy was not discussed
at the workshop.
At the school-board meeting the next evening, August 30, Brinkman told the board, “I
thought Brand was the real deal. I am deeply disappointed.”
It’s no accident that the board was having a workshop on teamwork. In order to solve the
district’s problems, Brand needs a cohesive board. Rumors have circulated that Brand will
walk if he doesn’t get cooperation.
During the September interview, Brand responded to a question about the rumor. “Well, it’
s like this, so the board asked me to help resolve some of these issues. Like any
administrator, you try to bring forward ideas and recommendations, and the belief is that
the majority of the time the board is going to adopt them.… If it ever gets to the point that
they stop accepting my recommendations, then the good news from my perspective is, I
have the wherewithal to say, ‘Thanks, it’s been fun.’ Now, do I want to do that? Heck, no, I
love this place.”
Events at the August 30 board meeting suggest that the lessons on teamwork didn’t take.
Issues from Gandara’s regime still fester, particularly his handsome severance package.
Had Gandara been fired for cause — anything from fraud to moral turpitude — the district
would not have been obliged to pay his salary from June to September, nor his retirement.
In the months before his departure, newspaper articles recounted the scandals, such as
Gandara’s alleged abuse of his credit card or the invitations sent to employees of
construction companies with district contracts to hang money on his daughter’s money
tree at her bridal shower. The district attorney’s office is investigating numerous
Until the day Gandara was ousted, boardmember López alone had called for him to be put
on leave. On August 30, López went renegade again. She expressed concern that, during
the board’s deliberations on Gandara, board president McCann withheld a pertinent legal
She told the packed boardroom, “I would like to request, in view of the fact that written
information was withheld from me regarding the separation agreement with Dr. Gandara,
and therefore not allowing me to make an informed decision…that all of the documents
regarding Dr. Gandara’s separation agreement be sent to the attorney general for closer
Fran Brinkman had the same concerns. Last week, she filed a complaint against McCann
with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, alleging, “Mr. McCann protected Dr.
Gandara from accountability…and withheld information to manipulate Board approval for
a lucrative severance package he negotiated at tremendous taxpayer cost.”
Asked if he had seen the alleged attorney letter advising the board that Gandara could be
fired for cause, Brand said, “Whether or not there were legal opinions out there, it’s a
closed-session item, can’t be discussed. It’s a violation of the Brown Act to take something
that’s discussed in closed session and have it made public.… I can neither confirm nor
deny that there is [a letter].”
When asked if morale is low because of the district’s ongoing problems, Brand answered,
“I know that the controversial items in the district don’t help people to feel good about
themselves, but the way I look at it…Muhammad Ali got hit in the face a couple of times,
but they still call him the champ. In my mind, we’re gonna get our swagger back.”
Ed Brand talks about his memory problem, and his desire for compliments
Sweetwater Union HS District Board Meeting Skips
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
June 13, 2012
The Sweetwater Union High School District board is beleaguered. Two trustees, Arlie
Ricasa and Pearl Quiñones, and former superintendent Jesus Gandara are under
indictment. Two additional boardmembers, John McCann and Jim Cartmill, are the
subjects of a recall. And the district is financially floundering.
Yet, it appears the district board is attempting to limit or curtail public input.
For most of the past year, public comment has been held at the beginning of the board
meetings; this allows parents, students, and district employees to go home after they
have addressed the board with their concerns. As the district came under increasing
criticism, the board moved public comment to the end of the meeting.
On June 11, the board took it one step further. When the time arrived for public
comment, board president Pearl Quiñones ended the meeting. “This meeting is
recessed,” she announced, offering no further information. Members of the public who
still wished to speak were confused. Alex Anguiano, president of the Sweetwater
Education Association, took the microphone and asked, “Is the break for ten minutes?”
The board did not return.
In a June 12 interview, Peter Scheer, an attorney and executive director for the
California First Amendment Coalition, commented, “The Brown Act requires public
comment at all board meetings.” Scheer said it’s possible you might have to adjourn
suddenly if a member were ill, but he expressed surprise that the board chose to
"recess." “In order to resume the meeting,” Sheer said, “the district has to give notice
and post the agenda all over again.”
At the June 11 meeting, Maty Adato sought to place a $750 campaign contribution
limitation for trustees on the agenda. In accordance with district bylaws, Adato said she
mailed her proposal to interim superintendent Ed Brand in advance. She also copied
the trustees, the media, and Chula Vista mayor Cheryl Cox. Brand, who is charged with
creating the agenda, said he did not “recall” receiving the notice, though Cox and many
others did. Nevertheless, Adato’s resolution was not placed on the agenda.
The board did accomplish something: they passed a revised bylaw that disallows the
public from agendizing an issue that has been considered during the preceding 12
months (only boardmember Bertha Lopez voted against it). So, because the board
refused to limit campaign contributions in December 2011, the issue cannot be revisited
until after the November election.
The day after the meeting, on June 12, Adato wrote superintendent Brand, asking for
an explanation. She shared his reply with the Reader:
“I did not recall this email which I thank you for resending.... I believe
organizations must make difficult decisions but when they are made they should
be carried out. Your request [to reagendize the $750 campaign donation limit]
falls under the latest policy the board approved last night. If all we do is rehash
the past and 2nd guess decisions nothing gets done. I am disappointed that you
feel the way you do but do not apologize for bringing the items forward for action.
… I have yet to hear from you about one thing the district is doing right which
demonstrates a more fundamental issue…. Lee Iacoca said it best, Lead follow or
get out of the way…. All the best, Ed”
Sweetwater Schools Chief Walks Away Before Q&A on Dirt
By Susan Luzzaro
San Diego Reader
Aug. 19, 2012
The dirt pile on Southwest High School’s athletic field will be gone by Monday, August 20,
but the mound of questions raised about the Sweetwater Union High School District’s
leadership remains undiminished.
On Friday, August 17, the district called a press conference on the football field at
Southwest. The point of the conference was to address the 10,000 tons of
potentially toxic dirt dumped on the campus in the spring of 2010.
In June 2012, 10News reported records showing that “Out of 14 samples, 10 show
elevated levels of lead, pesticides — including DDT — or petroleum
hydrocarbons linked to underground gasoline storage tanks.”
On August 17, the district reported the levels of pesticides and lead were too low to pose
a threat to students or residential neighbors. Meanwhile, Southwest students have not
had access to their athletic facilities for over a year because of the dirt pile.
Although interim superintendent Ed Brand initially addressed the media gathering, as
soon as the question-and-answer period began, Brand walked off the field, leaving the
new director of grants and communications, the new facilities director, and the new school
principal to respond.
The good news is that the dirt will be gone and the students will be able to use
the entirety of their track and football field. The bad news is that it’s costing the
district half a million dollars to take the dirt away unless the district can find a way to
claim it through an insurance policy.
The dirt originated from a Logan Avenue and 43rd Street reconfiguration project.
According to Southland Paving Inc’s website, it is a $3,959,595.50 project, contracted by
the City of San Diego. Southland Paving was invited to dump the dirt at Southwest High by
a former coach and authorized by a former principal. According to the district, neither of
those two people are employed by the district any longer.
However, up until recently, former Southwest High principal Maria Armstrong, who
allegedly authorized the dirt to be dumped, was listed as a founding board member of
Sweetwater’s new Stephen W. Hawking’s charter school.
A contradiction in the district’s press conference information and district board meeting
documents also exists. Was the dirt tested prior to being moved from Logan Avenue to
Southwest High? At the press conference, chief facilities executive Thomas Calhoun said
the dirt was tested shortly before it was moved.
However, on the March 2012 school-board agenda, interim superintendent Brand
recommended that the district receive an emergency waiver to avoid having to bid for
contracts to remove the soil. The justification, according to agenda minutes, was “the
Southwest High School administration had an enormous amount of untested soil placed
on the edge of the football field....”
|San Diego Education Report
The reason is more likely that Ed Brand is a longtime crony of SDCOE risk management
director Diane Crosier, Tom Anthony, and other players in the Southern California
Even after being pushed out of San Marcos Unified School District, Sweetwater Union
High School District was happy to have him back. Why? Certainly not for his reputation
for avoiding conflicts of interest.