September 24 2021 03:30 pm

‘Watching your parents fighting in public’: Grand jury slams Stockton Unified School District board

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10:30 a.m.

The Stockton Unified School District’s Board of Trustees president and Superintendent John Ramirez Jr. released statements regarding the report released by a San Joaquin County grand jury.

The Board of Trustees of the Stockton Unified School District is working diligently on its formal response to the Civil Grand Jury Report, and the plan is for the Board to discuss the report in Open Session at the Special Board Meeting on July 30, 2021, and to approve its public response to the report at that time.

I feel confident we will make great strides with Superintendent John Ramirez Jr. as our leader.  Mr. Ramirez Jr. is bilingual, bicultural, Harvard educated and has a proven track record for student achievement.  He led a former district out of state receivership to becoming one of the highest Title1 performing districts in the state.  We have a goal to graduate every student college, career and community ready.

Cecilia Mendez, Stockton Unified School District, Board of Trustees President

We hold students as our number one priority.   I am committed to serving the students of SUSD.  I have more than 25 years of experience in education and I am an advocate for equity and student achievement. 

We want to be transparent with [the] community and have begun offering board meetings in Spanish as well as English. 70% of our student population is Latino. We are working on translating our meetings in other languages as well to serve our diverse community.

For decades SUSD has been underachieving, therefore SUSD needs to make significant improvement so our students can be college, career, and community ready.

I am committed to making SUSD as one of the top performing Districts in the state.

John Ramirez Jr., Stockton Unified School District Superintendent

Original story below:

STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — The Stockton Unified School District’s lack of a long-serving superintendent is due to the Board of Trustee’s “dysfunction”, according to a report released by a San Joaquin County grand jury. 

School districts that have a highly diverse student body and are in poor areas usually have a higher rate of superintendent turnover, according to the report. 

But SUSD’s turnover rate is being caused by another issue. The grand jury reports, “A major contributing factor to Stockton Unified School District’s high superintendent turnover is a history of school board dysfunction.”

SUSD has one of the highest turnover rates in the state and has had 13 superintendents since 2005, the report said. The grand jury says constant turnover can affect a district’s ability to make positive changes and help students. 

The lack of a stable superintendent can also cause issues among the board, according to the report. 

“The frequent turnover of superintendents makes it easier for board members to act inappropriately and at times to exceed the limits of their authority,” the grand jury said. 

Board meetings have even been described as “watching your parents fighting in public.” Residents who regularly attend meetings say it is the “most chaotic they have ever witnessed,” the report says. 

“The tone is so … it’s ear piercing, if I could explain it in any words,” said parent Sofia Colon. “It’s hard to listen to and I listen to it here at home, and often my husband will say, ‘Can you just turn that off?’ like he can’t even stand it. It makes you anxious to hear that conversation.”

On Feb. 10, 2021, the student representative resigned, citing the board’s behavior as their reason. 

Good morning. I’m sorry to report that I will be resigning from my position on the SUSD School Board. I was looking forward to a productive time in office. This decision was not made because of one incident, but because of a plethora of mistreatment to students, parents, teachers, and trustees. Not only are Robert’s Rules of Order being disregarded, but it is also my belief that this board is negatively impacting our schools.

I ask that in future meetings, members take the time to show respect and kindness when choosing their words. Many members of the board fail to be positive role models for our students.

I wish members of all affiliations luck in their endeavors to make SUSD the district that it deserves to be…

Student Representative

According to the grand jury, governance training workshops have had little to no effect on the board. 

“As a group, the trustees have participated in many workshops, usually facilitated by the California School Board Association. Despite participating in this training, board members continue to violate governance norms and misuse their leadership positions,” the report said.

The grand jury also says the board has an issue with transparency, following agreed-upon bylaws and filing “frivolous complaints” against each other. 

The report additionally mentions that the board did not follow its agreed-upon process when it hired the current superintendent, John Ramirez Jr.

Several recommendations were made to the board but the grand jury stressed that the most important issue is the district’s inability to hold a stable superintendent. 

“The district has an opportunity to reset. A new superintendent is now in place, and the district can, if it chooses, put aside petty differences,” the grand jury said. 

When asked about the report, Ramirez Jr. said, “I have no reaction. They’re a civil grand jury so, I don’t think they’re any educational experts or lawyers on that, judges. So, they’re providing an opinion. Our board will be responding to that in an open meeting.” 

“I am not moving forwards or backwards from anything the grand jury has to say. If the grand jury had anything to bring, they would be here and there would be indictments. That’s what I would have to react to,” he continued. 

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