Stocktonia Staff Reports
For the second consecutive year, the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury has determined that administrators, staff, and the Board of Trustees of Stockton Unified School District continue to conduct poor business practices, lack public transparency and risk the district’s financial solvency.
The Grand Jury released its scathing 46-page report on Friday after a months-long investigation. Jurors conducted more than 30 interviews with current and former SUSD personnel. And they reviewed numerous relevant documents, including the report from the state Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team’s “Extraordinary Audit.”
The biggest concern: SUSD is “headed toward at least a $30 million deficit by `the fiscal year 2024-2025.” And if the current management practices continue, that deficit will “likely escalate.”
The Grand Jury also found that elected board members have demonstrated conflicts of interest, a lack of readiness for key votes, and the inability to remember important financial decisions. In addition, SUSD did not “fully comply with a subpoena for minutes and recordings.”
Staff members provided incomplete data and accounting for key financial reports throughout the last year. The San Joaquin County Office of Education, which oversees all public district finances in the county, returned one such report for being “dramatically incomplete.”
Lack of CBO hurts the district
The report states that SUSD has had trouble hiring a qualified business manager to lead the department and navigate the various financial mechanisms.
Plus, the district eliminated its Grants Development Office during a 2021 reorganization, costing it potentially millions of dollars in lost funding opportunities. “Currently no single individual or department staff oversees SUSD’s grant process,” the report states.
The Grand Jury report also notes that SUSD Board members often do not perform their “Duty of Care” responsibilities. This means they do not make official decisions that a “reasonably prudent person would for themselves.”
Examples include hiring contractors that scored the lowest on district bid procedures, producing a lack of information on numerous agenda items, and hiding the approval of contracts worth millions through consent votes. The consent agenda is a part of every public meeting where the board votes on numerous items simultaneously and often lacks discussion.
The Grand Jury found 26 infractions and made an equivalent number of recommendations to the district. SUSD has 90 days to file a response to all findings and recommendations with the presiding judge of the San Joaquin County Superior Court.
District and County Office offer responses
The San Joaquin County Office of Education released a statement on the situation to television station ABC10. The statement said officials were reviewing the Grand Jury findings and are committed to their role of supporting the county’s 14 school districts.
“The SJCOE is currently reviewing the findings in the Grand Jury report concerning Stockton Unified School District that was released today,” the statement says in part. “The SJCOE can confirm that it has contracted with the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) in order to conduct a comprehensive review of the school district. The San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools initiated the AB139 Extraordinary Audit earlier this year.”
SUSD also released a statement to ABC10.
“The Stockton Unified School District received the Civil Grand Jury Report. Administrators and the School Board will review it closely,” the statement states. “We realize the Civil Grand Jury is made up of community members and we take it seriously. We want to be transparent as we keep students as our top priority.”
SUSD is the county’s oldest school district. It employs more than 3,000 full-time staff at 54 school sites within the city’s limits. According to the report, its annual budget is $585 million.
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