Photo: The Stockton Unified Board of Education will take up the issue of the resignation agreement given to former superintendent John Ramirez Jr. (FILE PHOTO)
The Stockton Unified Board of Education will vote this week whether to publicly “reaffirm” its previous approval of a resignation agreement between the district and former Superintendent John Ramirez Jr.
The move comes after Troy Brown, San Joaquin County Superintendent of Schools, wrote a letter last month informing the district that the agreement’s approval was done illegally, and its governing board needed to “cure and correct” any violations.
Trustees allegedly violated California’s Brown Act, a state law requiring government meetings and decision-making be open to the public, when it approved Ramirez’s “resignation and transition agreement” during closed session at a special meeting June 9.
Though, there seems to be disagreement between Stockton Unified and the county over whether Ramirez’s resignation agreement also included a new employment contract.
The board has scheduled a public vote at its meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at SUSD headquarters to reapprove and clarify its previous actions surrounding Ramirez’s resignation, according to the meeting’s agenda. But the agenda item also contests Brown’s assessment of trustees’ prior actions.
“While the District does not agree that there was a violation of the Brown Act, it is nevertheless recommended that the Board reaffirm its approval of the Agreement,” according to agenda documents.
State law stipulates that a legislative body cannot call a special meeting regarding “salaries, salary schedule, or compensation in the form of fringe benefits” for any “local agency executive” — such as a public school district superintendent — and that the public must be given a summary of any recommendations regarding pay and benefits at an open meeting before final action or approval can take place.
The agreement between the district and Ramirez both accepted Ramirez’s resignation while also declaring him “Superintendent Emeritus” for a period of one year, starting July 1 and ending June 30, 2023. Ramirez was also guaranteed “the same salary and benefits that he received as Superintendent, except without a travel stipend and without vacation days.”
As superintendent emeritus, the agreement says Ramirez would report “directly to the Board, providing transition assistance to SUSD, with duties to be assigned by the Board President.” The agreement doesn’t specify nor give any examples of what those duties might be or include.
Ramirez also agreed to release Stockton Unified from any grievances and claims, as well as refrain from disparaging the district.
Trustees approved the agreement during a closed-session special meeting in June, and the agenda does not mention Ramirez directly. Though a single, closed session agenda item is described as “Discipline/Dismissal/Release.”
“The Stockton Unified School District Governing Board violated important public rights when it took this illegal action,” Brown wrote in the letter, which was addressed to district trustees and Stockton Unified interim Superintendent Traci Miller.
Ramirez resigned his post in June after a little more than a year into his three-year contract after being officially hired as Stockton Unified School District superintendent. He served as the district’s interim superintendent for three months prior to his permanent hiring for the position in May 2021.
At the time of his departure, a district spokesperson said Ramirez was stepping down to “care for his elderly parents.”
Agenda documents say that Ramirez’s “Emeritus Superintendent” status “is reflective of his resignation and not of an employment position, and that the compensation under the Agreement is severance, not salary for services rendered.”
District spokesperson Melinda Meza has also previously said that Ramirez “is not on any Stockton Unified campus or building.”
But the “resignation and transition agreement” approved by trustees in June seems to indicate that Ramirez was still considered a Stockton Unified employee. For example, the agreement refers to Ramirez’s employment as “Superintendent Emeritus” and says that in this new position, he would be “providing transition assistance to SUSD, with duties to be assigned by the Board President.”
Trustees did not comply with these regulations when they approved Ramirez’s resignation agreement at the time, Brown wrote.
“To correct this, the Governing Board must rescind the action taken at its June 9 special meeting, and if they so choose, properly take the intended action at a regular board meeting,” Brown said in a statement to Stocktonia News Service.
San Joaquin District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar also wrote to the Stockton Unified governing board and its trustees last week acknowledging it had received a copy of Brown’s letter and that a preliminary investigation had been opened into the board’s actions “to explore appropriate remedies and courses of action.”
These actions include both criminal and civil remedies under current California law, Verber Salazar said.
“(This) office will monitor the actions taken by your board over the next 30 days to cure and correct the alleged violations,” Verber Salazar said.
Stocktonia will be livestreaming Tuesday’s SUSD trustees meeting on Facebook.