Sweetwater Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Edward M. Brand vowed today to keep the district focused on maximizing student achievement, even while acknowledging the serious concerns and challenges raised by the ongoing investigation of elected district officials.
"Education is job one," Brand said at a district news conference. "Our responsibility as educators and as staff and employees is to help our kids be successful. So my message to everyone is we're going to get this ship back on track, we're going to get it focused on the main thing, which is student achievement.
"At the end of the day that's my goal, that's my purpose and that's the only reason I came back," he said.
Brand held a press conference shortly after the San Diego District Attorney announced she will pursue charges against the former superintendent, one former and two current board members.
"Effective immediately we are suspending all activities conducted by SGI, the program and construction management firm overseeing Proposition O," Brand said. "While I'm not passing judgment on SGI or its team, I believe, we need to be completely satisfied that there's been nothing inappropriate done in the past or on current projects."
The first phase of construction under voter approved prop O allocated $187 million for new construction and modernization to nine of the oldest campuses in the district. That work is more than 90 percent finished. Completion of the remaining projects will be overseen by district personnel with assistance from the San Diego County Office of Education.
Sweetwater is taking steps to prevent any further improprieties by reviewing the code of ethics mandated by the California School Boards Association with the board as well as all employees. "We will also continue to provide ongoing training for our staff about conflict of interest rules," Brand said.
In addition to suspending SGI from conducting any further work for the district, Sweetwater has also suspended the former district counsel, GCR Legal, from representing the district in any legal matters. Under new guidelines, any attorneys working for the district must sign a 41-page retainer prohibiting them from contributing funds to Sweetwater school board candidates.
It is unclear as to whether the district may incur any responsibility for covering legal costs of defending the current or former officials involved.
"Currently, we have not authorized any defense for current or former board members or for the previous superintendent," Brand said. "However, we are doing a legal analysis to see what our requirements would be. At this time, we have not authorized any funds for (their defense)."
Brand also said that he would defer the negotiation of a long-term contract with the district, but emphasized he remains committed to serving as superintendent.