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A Sweetwater school board member wants to hold a discussion behind closed doors on Superintendent Jesus Gandara’s behavior, a possible first step toward putting him on leave.

In the wake of a series of Union-Tribune stories, Bertha Lopez wrote in an email Monday to the Sweetwater Union High School District board that she wished to “give the board the opportunity to discuss the recent activities of Dr. Gandara in regards to his credit card expenditures, travel expenses, and the hiring of two public relations firms through the district’s law firm.”

She pointedly mentioned in her email that she had previously requested to put Gandara on administrative leave. Lopez said in a Tuesday interview that she never got a response to that request.

“I want to talk about putting him on administrative leave, definitely,” Lopez said. She said doing so would give Sweetwater a chance to do a more extensive review of issues.

The Sweetwater Union High School District, which includes middle and high schools from National City to San Ysidro, has been repeatedly in the news this spring. The newspaper revealed that Gandara, who has a monthly allowance to cover meals, was using his school district credit card to pick up the tab, largely for meals with board members.

Sweetwater canceled the credit card. The newspaper also reported that a public relations consultant hired by the school district was seemingly billing Sweetwater for phantom meetings.

Gandara said he knew little about the PR work, but the U-T later found an invoice showing it was done “per superintendent’s direction.” Two school board members said they knew nothing about two public relations firms who were working under its law firm.

Lopez addressed the email specifically to John McCann, the board president. Under Sweetwater policy, the school board president decides jointly with the superintendent whether a proposed agenda item falls under the school board jurisdiction or not.

“John, we as community leaders should protect the district’s reputation and integrity. Please join me in this effort,” Lopez wrote.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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