STOCKTON, Calif. — The Stockton Unified School District (SUSD) Board of Trustees has come under fire after a report from a San Joaquin County civil grand jury cites a failure in leadership.
The San Joaquin County grand jury released a 33-page report which they title as “Dissension, Dismay, and Disarray.” The report highlights how the board's poor leadership resulted in a high turnover rate for school superintendents and the board's lacks transparency.
“Before the open session meeting to hire the board attorney on February 24, 2020, the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees did not make the contract available to the 16 public and the minority-voting trustees. This lack of transparency caused anxiety and increased mistrust among the board, the staff, and the public,” the report cited.
Here are three things from the report that stood out:
1). The grand jury expressed concerns over the short tenure of SUSD superintendents in the last 15 years. The turnover rate, which is as high as anywhere in the state of California, is a clear indication that leadership has failed, the report says. Trustee elections nominating superintendents are held every two years with a four-year term. The average length of stay of the five permanent past superintendents was 19 months.
2). A former trustee whose name was redacted said in his letter of resignation he wanted to share “words of caution” to his community. He mentioned that a majority of the board members are taking troubling steps to eliminate transparency by “cut[ing] the public off from its actions and deliberations.” Among many other concerns cited in the report and by the former trustee is the board's disregard of policies and procedures, such as disregarding their appropriate roles. The report said trustees have made inappropriate complaints, especially by trustees against other trustees. Board members have also been accused of using intimidation tactics against staff who refuse to comply with requests.
3. The report also highlighted how SUSD students fair academically. SUSD students have fallen behind academically in math and English. The 2019 census data showed that more than 21% of SUSD residents lived below the poverty line and that 8% were foster youth.
The grand jury acknowledged the many challenges SUSD continue to face and recommended the following:
- By Aug 3, 2021, all SUSD board meetings are held in person and open to the public.
- By Sept. 1, 2021, posting accurate and complete minutes of all SUSD board meetings within 30 days of the meeting. Also by this time, to publicly livestream all board meetings, even after returning to in-person meetings.
- By Oct. 1, 2021, to evaluate and seek public input, and reinstate previous Stockton Unified School District board subcommittees.
Superintendent John Ramirez Jr. said in a statement to ABC10 they're committed to making SUSD one of the top-performing districts in California.
"For decades, SUSD has been underachieving, therefore SUSD needs to make significant improvement so our students can be college, career, and community ready," Ramirez Jr. said.
The SUSD Board of Trustees also released a statement saying they've received the report and are reviewing it.
"The District is working diligently on its formal response to the 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," the Board of Trustees said in a statement.
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