Sunday, March 23, 2014

Southwestern College trustee Humberto Peraza calls for Sweetwater Superintendent Ed Brand to resign

Humberto Peraza

Several years ago I tried, with no luck, to interest Humberto Peraza in the problem of school corruption and dysfunction. I presented evidence of wrongdoing by Bertha Lopez and her fellow trustees at Chula Vista Elementary School District. It sure took a lot to get Peraza to speak up. He waited until Bonnie Dumanis indicted fifteen school officials and their associates. In fairness, I must admit that Peraza was very polite and respectful to me. Perhaps he would have done more if his boss at the time, Bob Filner, had given him the go ahead. But Peraza shouldn't pretend that Brand's sins are of recent vintage. Ed Brand was behaving badly long before Jesus Gandara came to town. I assume Peraza doesn't want to talk about that because too many powerful people might get unwanted attention if officials started taking an interest in what was going on at Sweetwater and other districts BEFORE all those famous dinners with contractors took place. For the record, the corruption I was talking about was directly harming students. It was not just about squeezing a few meals out of contractors.

Trustee Peraza calls for resignation of SUHSD chief Ed Brand
Written by: Jaime Pronoble / News Editor
Southwestern Sun

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.

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.”

Southwestern College Elections 2012
October 20, 2012
Southwestern Sun
Compiled by: Albert Fulcher, Thomas Baker, Angelica Rodriguez, Amparo Mendoza, Serina Duarte, Enrique Raymundo

Governing Board Vice President Humberto Peraza was appointed last August during a time of turmoil and controversy. He said he decided to run for election to the board to continue his work to reform SWC and clean up the college’s reputation following the “pay for play” scandal that led to numerous felony charges against former college administrators and board members. He is a small business owner, and formerly policy director for San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, regional director for Senator Barbara Boxer and district chief of staff to Congressman Bob Filner.

Married with two young boys, Peraza said he has coached soccer, football and Little League baseball. His wife is also a professional.

“We are a family that is constantly on the move,” he said. “That is a full-time job in itself. My parents, my aunts and my wife’s parents all live here so our family is a South Bay family. This is our home and I want to make sure that the education is good for our kids.”

Peraza said he brings experience and knowledge of the community to the college and this has fueled his efforts to reform old policies and demand transparency.

“Ultimately, I want to do something that leaves something for our children,” he said. “I am running so that the board stays on the right track. It has pushed in the right direction and hired a new superintendent. We have done more things in one year than most boards and governmental entities have done in three or four. You have instructional, ethics and campaign reform. We started the community benefits agreement. Countless things in between are happening and have been accomplished.”

Peraza said community members still have concerns about accreditation, Proposition R and past corruption. He said the current board majority is reforming the college and that “house cleaning” continues. “(The previous) board has been completely wiped out,” he said. “There is a new superintendent in town and she wiped out the (corrupt) staff. We continue to push and create reforms.”

Peraza said it takes people of courage to stand in the face of adversity.

“I have enjoyed working with this board and the superintendent to continue changes,” he said. “It has been my honor and I would consider myself lucky if I can continue to do it for four more years. We are still in the tunnel but we can see the light at the end. Perception is important. Doing the right thing, being a transparent, open government creates trust on campus in the community. I am running to continue to make those reforms, see that finished and see Southwestern College become the shining example for the rest of the region.”

Peraza said budget is the biggest challenge today and if Proposition 30 fails SWC faces “devastating” cuts to classes and programs.

“My hope is if that Prop 30 passes, that gives us a little more flexibility to stay within the budget, to be able to handle the services for the people and the students that we service right now,” he said. “That is important to make sure that we can actually educate people and that we have the faculty, staff, teachers and counselors. I don’t think anyone can come up with a sweeping solution and if they say they can, they are lying to you. If someone has a solution for a $10 million budget cut, I would love to hear it. I think that our solutions have to be looked at long term.”

Peraza said he has advocated for revenue generation as an alternative to constant cutting. He said the stadium is an example of an underutilized college resource and could generate revenue hosting local and international professional soccer, rugby and concerts.

“I have heard from experienced educators that up to 25 community colleges will close and cease to exist if the tax initiative does not pass and that is a very scary thought,” he said. “Things (in California are) getting worse and worse.”

Peraza said Senate Bill 1456, based on the Student Success Task Force Recommendations, has good ideas but is also troubling. Passed last month, the legislation narrows the mission of community colleges to transfer and certificate attainment. It will require all incoming freshmen to declare majors and have an educational plan aimed to get them through community college in two years instead of the current average of four.

“The whole thing about having people coming in and deciding what their major is going to be and turning it into almost like a factory, you are in and out in two years, not everybody works that way,” he said. “There are many students that do not know what they want and they come to community college for exactly that reason.”

Working students have it much tougher these days, Peraza said, and cannot take as many classes as the new legislation will require.

“Some will be left out in the cold and that is my biggest concern,” he said. “Not everybody is the same. It cannot be this cookie cutter ideal that everybody fits into this one box. It doesn’t work that way.”

Speech and press freedom are essential, Peraza said. He pledged to always fight for First Amendment rights for all while he is on the board.

“Student reporters (in colleges have) freedom of the press,” he said. “To me, the free press is untouchable. It should not be impacted in any way or influenced by anyone on this campus, including myself, and the administration. There should never be a time, like the (past) administration that tried to block printing of the newspaper just because they do not like what you write.”

Peraza said he is working to introduce a local hiring process that helps veteran and disabled-owned companies.

“One of the reasons is to ensure that local people get (college construction) jobs,” he said. “People that are paying for those bonds should be the ones (who benefit). If we can do that we can revitalize our local economy rather than money going somewhere else.”

Peraza said he is able to make tough decisions.

“We need the people with the most courage,” he said. “I am not worried about where else I am going to go, or where I am going to be. I am here to make sure that students get educated when there are cuts. What is the most important thing on this campus? Educating students, period.”

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