May 6, 2005

Sweetwater Superintendent might leave District

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

Dr. Ed Brand, who has been superintendent of the Sweetwater Union High School District for the past 11 years, might become the next superintendent at San Marcos Unified School District.

San Marcos officials have said Brand was selected from among 19 candidates because of his leadership record in education. Brand’s hiring is not yet final, however.

As this issue went to press, San Marcos four board members were visiting Sweetwater to meet with district officials to discuss Brand’s resume.

Brand’s office said this week he will comment on this issue until after that visit.

Although Brand hasn’t made a decision yet, there have been rumors that he has been looking for new job for some time.

Brand lives in Escondido, near San Marcos, which will make it easier for him to commute to work.

La Prensa San Diego interviewed Sweetwater Board President Jim Cartmill and trustee Jaime Mercado to get their reaction.

Cartmill, who’s been on the board for 15 years, said Brand has brought national recognition to the district and that his work at Sweetwater has had a positive impact.

“I believe Dr. Brand has made a visible difference in our District,” he said. “Without a doubt, he will leave a good legacy for students.”

Cartmill said that Brand told him about his decision to apply for the San Marcos position before Brand announced it on Monday, May 2.

“He felt it was time for a new set of eyes to create a new vision for Sweetwater,” said Cartmill, who along with trustee Arleen Ricasa has supported Brand recommendations to the board.

Brand hasn’t always had the support of the majority of board members, though.

Members Jaime Mercado, who was elected last November, Board vice-president Pearl Quiñones, and Greg Sandoval, have voted against Brand’s proposal for a district-wide yearbook contract.

More recently, the three voted against a recommendation from Brand to allocate $105,000 to create a counseling office at San Diego State University for Sweetwater students graduating from the Compact for Success, a partnership between the Sweetwater Union High School District and San Diego State University where Sweetwater students are guaranteed admission to SDSU if they meet several educational requirements starting in the seventh grade.

Cartmill said he doesn’t think the board is divided.

“Most of the time we are together. It is only in major issues we have had our different points of view,” he said.

Mercado, a former Sweet-water principal who has been a vocal critic of some of Brand’s policies throughout the years, said he didn’t want to get into past issues.

“I wish him and his family well. I’m sure his family is happy that he’ll be closer to home,” Mercado said.

For Cartmill, if Brand does decide to take the San Marcos job, it will be a great loss for Sweetwater.

“The District, the students, and the community will be losing out if he leaves,” Cartmill said. “He always thought me that relationships are important; that it is important to create a vision and follow through with action.”

And Brand has had many accomplishments during his tenure at Sweetwater.

When he was appointed superintendent in 1995, after John Rindone was fired by the board, Brand brought stability to a district that was facing a recall of some of its board members.

Brand’s most important accomplishment at Sweet-water is the Compact for Success, which gurantees admission to SDSU for Sweetwater graduates who have passed state university prep courses, have taken the SATs, and have earned a 3.0 GPA.

Some of Brand’s supporters have said the Compact for Success played a major role in Brand being selected as National Superintendent of the Year in 2004.

Cartmill said it will be difficult to find a candidate of Brand’s caliber, but that Sweet-water will select the best candidate.

“I think we will need to do a nation-wide search, bringing in all stake-holders: Parents, teachers, students. Ask them: ‘What type of profile do we want in our next leader?,’” he said.

Mercado, who’s considered a champion for student rights, said the next Sweetwater superintendent has to be student-oriented.

“Specifically I’m looking for a person who is an expert in curriculum and instruction. We’re a school district that needs improvement in those areas, so we need a good curriculum and instruction leader,” Mercado said.

“We need to have a responsible educational leader who’s also responsive to the community’s needs. We need a person in touch with the community, someone who is very student-oriented, someone who is sensitive to the needs of students.”

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