Stockton Unified School District’s board of trustees will convene a public forum to discuss the San Joaquin County Civil Grand Jury report released in June. The 46-page report questioned the business practices and ethics of board members and the financial solvency of the district.
A board subcommittee will hold a Town Hall meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4 at the Arthur Coleman Jr. Administration Complex, 56 South Lincoln Street. The forum is scheduled to last two hours.
District officials should expect an interested crowd, including supporters of Fix SUSD, a group of concerned citizens, parents, and SUSD employees. Fix SUSD and others believe there’s a lot to be concerned about.
“My hope is that people get to ask what they want to ask about,” said Harpreet Chima, an organizer of Fix SUSD. “We’re finding a lot of people in this district are worried about the kids’ education.”
SJC Schools Office found credible allegations of fraud
Last month, the Civil Grand Jury released its second-consecutive unfavorable review of Stockton’s largest school district. The report indicates the district faces a $30 million deficit within two fiscal years. Also, it states 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.”
Meanwhile, the San Joaquin County Office of Education found credible allegations of fraud within SUSD. It hired the Financial Crisis & Management Assistance Team (FCMAT) in February to conduct an “extraordinary” audit – one that specifically looks for fraud – of district finances. According to Mike Fine, FCMAT’s chief executive officer, more than 90 percent of the extraordinary audits FCMAT has performed in the past five years made the case for fraud, misappropriation of funds, or other illegal uses of public money.
At the July 26 SUSD board meeting, Interim Superintendent Dr. Francie Baird announced the town hall. The format for the event is not entirely clear, according to Chima, who placed fourth in June’s 9th Congressional District primary with 8 percent of the vote.
“I know Dr. Baird brought up the idea of taking questions for the board, but I don’t know if it’s clear one way or another whether there will be a moderator or not,” Chima said.
About 30 people attended the initial Fix SUSD meeting in June. Now, the group meets weekly. Chima said the group would begin canvassing neighborhoods and using phone banks to advertise its message and the town hall meeting.
“I do think the town hall is a response in large part to the concern that we are showing,” he said.
Four months after John Ramirez Jr. became superintendent of SUSD, the school district hired 209 Times founder Motec Patrick Sanchez at a yearly salary of $136k as “director” of Family Resource Centers. A recent LA Times article reports that district employees raised concerns the position was awarded to fend off harsh criticism from 209 Times. This appointment and Mr. Sanchez’s performance needs to be investigated.
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