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. Following best hiring procedures, abandoning unreasonable complaint and censure practices, adhering to appropriate trustee roles, and maximizing public involvement would greatly increase the SUSD Board’s ability to eliminate the disarray.
The 2020-2021 Grand Jury investigated the Stockton Unified School District Board of Trustees (SUSD). The need for stable, quality leadership is essential for improving student achievement, especially in a high-poverty district like SUSD. Research clearly shows that the primary factor needed to accomplish this crucial task is an effective school board. The Grand Jury found that there is widespread concern about the short tenure of SUSD superintendents, especially in the last 15 years. This turnover, which is as high as anywhere in California, is a foremost indication that the trustees have failed, and continue to fail, to effectively lead the district.
Other issues found to be of serious concern:
- Disregard of policies and procedures, especially regarding hiring,
- Trustee behavior, especially during meetings,
- Student trustee resignation letter submitted after citing unprofessional trustee behavior,
- Inappropriate complaints, especially by trustees against other trustees, and
- Deficient transparency, making it difficult for the public to understand what is taking place.
The Grand Jury recommended that the Board:
- Publicly and officially affirm their commitment to follow their agreed-upon process for recruitment and hiring of a superintendent,
- Hire consultants to provide Brown Act and governance training for the Board,
Publicly livestream all board meetings, even after returning to in-person meetings, and
- No longer accept or investigate complaints initiated by trustees against other trustees.
SUSD Board of Trustee
While Stockton Unified disagreed with many of the findings and recommendations, they agreed to:
- Hold training sessions for the board, covering the Brown Act and school governance,
- Schedule a board retreat,
- Make meetings available in real-time even while being held remotely, and
- Appoint a new student trustee by October 26, 2021