Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dianna Carberry in the news again; this time she claims to be the victim of Sweetwater Superintendent Jesus Gandara

Photo: Dianna and Ed Carberry. Dianna fired a coach for reporting that her husband Ed told a student to use a substance. The student developed kidney failure.

It seems that the same people keep popping up in story after story about problems in schools. Dianna Carberry is one of the familiar names. She is the principal who fired coach James "Ted" Carter in Escondido because he had reported to his superiors that coach Ed Carberry, Dianna's husband, advised a student to take a substance. The student was later hospitalized with kidney failure. Carberry should have been fired by Escondido, instead, she left without being fired.

It is not surprising to me that she was hired in Sweetwater; the district has never shown much fondness for ethics, but it is amazing to me that employees would be protesting her demotion. What is surprising is that Carberry is now claiming to be a victim, and that employees of Sweetwater are rallying around her. It does seem, however, that employees are not terribly enthusiastic about Carberry; it's really Karen Janney that they like. Apparently they decided that it made their argument stronger to have two demotions to protest, but I think it's unwise to use Carberry as their poster child.

Another of the familiar names is Jaime Mercado. Perhaps this story should be called Jaime Mercado gets the last laugh.

Sweetwater's Miracle Worker Turned Lightning Rod
Voice of San Diego
June 21, 2009

Jesus Gandara was described as a miracle worker when Sweetwater Union High School District, the largest high school district in the state, hired him as its leader nearly three years ago...

But now, as he nears the end of his third year overseeing a district that encompasses the middle and high schools from National City to San Ysidro, Gandara is in the crosshairs of a campaign to unseat him. Four labor unions from teachers to custodians have joined forces, gathering signatures for a petition that argues that he "neither welcomes nor respects input" and "relies on intimidation to gain consent."

...And unions are not the only ones angry: Many principals and middle managers were stunned by his decision to demote two of his highest ranking employees in March.

The school board has largely stayed out of the fray after a member highly critical of Gandara, Jaime Mercado, lost his re-election bid last fall.

[Maura Larkins' comment: It appears that things have not improved at Sweetwater since Bertha Lopez replaced Jaime Mercado.]

...School district leaders are hopeful that the recent election of a new teachers' union president, Alex Anguiano, will cool the furor: Spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said that Anguiano has a better relationship with Gandara, who said that when the old President Sam Lucero was voted out, "he got his vote of no confidence -- and his was louder than mine."

But several sources within the union said that the vote indicated a push for "a wartime president" who will continue their fight, not call it off. Employees charge that the uproar is not about proposed salary cuts or layoffs, which have been canceled as Sweetwater found other ways to cut $11.6 million from its $348 million budget, but about Gandara himself.

One union leader remembered Gandara visiting her after she complained to the school board about a computer system.

"He yelled at me. Just chewed me out. '...You have an issue, you bring it to me.' He was yelling and waving his finger in front of my nose," said Julie Hitchcock, president of the Sweetwater Counseling and Guidance Association...

[Maura Larkins' comment: I'll bet he didn't yell as loud or as long as CVESD Assistant Superintendent Richard Werlin used to yell. But a very close colleague of SEA President Alex Anguiano from Chula Vista Educators (Jim Groth) and current SUHSD trustee Bertha Lopez supported Rick Werlin's questionable tactics. Rick Werlin yelled so viciously at one principal that the man had a heart attack right then and there in his own office. Sometimes I wonder if the teachers union really cares about all employees, or only acts when union leaders get offended. My recommendation to SUHSD trustees: next time, promote someone from within the district.]

...But a chorus of complaints focuses on Gandara's attitude toward employees. They are not confined to unions: Numerous employees in management positions declined to be quoted for this story, saying they feared for their jobs. A retiree has become their spokeswoman.

The demotions "were the tipping point," said Mary Anne Stro, who retired as a principal eight years ago. "If they can do this to Karen and Dianna, they can do anything to anybody."

[Maura Larkins comment: Why are all these people acting as if this is something new? What about Superintendent Ed Brand firing Mary Anne Weegar? Making an issue out of the demotion of Dianna Carberry is an odd thing for pro-employee groups to do.]

Stro was referring to the demotions of Karen Janney and Dianna Carberry, two assistant superintendents who lost their jobs after declining lesser positions in the school district. Demoting Janney, in particular, has inspired outrage from longtime employees who praised her as a competent and caring leader, citing the lofty awards she received and local projects she helped to complete...

Reasons for the demotions are unclear. While Sweetwater schools learned they had much room to improve in a critical report from the County Office of Education, the report was not shared with Gandara and other staff until weeks after Janney and Carberry were demoted. Janney's department was ranked highly in an internal survey last year of how managers felt about Sweetwater departments and their timeliness, communication and quality; Carberry was in the middle of the pack.

Board President Jim Cartmill said that decisions about the top personnel must be left to Gandara.

"We can't keep a superintendent accountable for results unless he or she is allowed to hire who they want," he said...

Business became [Gandara's] focus in Sweetwater, where he names the dysfunctional computer system that Hitchcock complained about as one challenge, along with dropping enrollment, budget woes and its $644 million facilities bond. Though most of the bond projects are in their infancy, Gandara prides himself on roughly $10 million in savings from three large projects where bids came in below estimates...

Critics and supporters of Gandara alike say he has largely left the educational side of schools, curriculum and instruction, to his subordinates. He now says that was a mistake and he will get involved. A County Office of Education study of Sweetwater schools that recently found that strategies to help lagging students were inconsistent, though annual test scores show improvement in Sweetwater over time...

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