A Loss of Confidence at SUHSD
The most important characteristic of leadership is the inspiration of confidence. When the employees and the community no longer have confidence in the leadership of a local authority, his or her ability to lead is diminished. This is what has happened at the Sweetwater Union High School District. The community no longer has confidence in the leadership of its superintendent, Jesus Gandara. Once confidence is gone, there is no getting it back.
At Sweetwater Unified High School District, the writing has been on the wall for quite some time. As the contract of Jesus Gandara is coming to an end, many assume that his contract will not be renewed.
The litany of problems, issues, and ethical questions surrounding the superintendent has grown, seemingly, on a daily basis over the past couple of months. Initially, we took the position that judgment of the Superintendent should consider the marked improvement of test scores at the district and the overall management of faculty and staff in light of budget cuts.
But as issues have mounted, it has become obvious that the effectiveness of Gandara as a Superintendent is over.
Recently, the District Attorney’s office has opened an investigation into questionable spending on a “consultant” by the district. We, along with members of the South Bay community, are bracing ourselves to hear more disappointing and controversial news from this investigation.
It is now painfully obvious that the district is out of control. The revelation by the Union Tribune’s investigation into the grade fixing at Castle Park High School eroded the one sustaining positive thread of the Gandra tenure – academic achievement. The grade fixing could be an isolated incident, or is there more to this story? Either way, even one incident of grade fixing is totally unacceptable. Further, the Federal government has discovered the District’s $352,000 overcharge of school lunches and is demanding payback.
There is now a total lack of confidence in the Superintendent Jesus Gandara which has destroyed his ability to be an effective leader. More importantly, the community has lost all confidence in his leadership.
The only real issue then is whether the district digs deep into its pockets to buy out the remainder of Gandara’s contract while launching a search for a new leader. Buying out a contract seems to be expensive and impractical during a budget crisis. But given the seriousness of his missteps, removing Gandara seems to be a prudent choice.
It is time for the Sweetwater Union High School District board of directors to live up to their responsibility to the community. The board of directors has enough reason to fire Gandara for cause. At this point in time they don’t need the DA’s investigation to tell them what they already know. Or, if need be they should put Gandara on leave while they search for a new superintendent who can restore trust in the district. To do any less would be a failure of the school board to act decisively and prudently.