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Stockton Unified Holds Contentious Meeting on Superintendent Contract, Trustee Censures

February 9, 2021 at 8:56 pm

The Stockton Unified Board of Education held its regular meeting on Tuesday, featuring several contested items, including a contract for the new interim superintendent and censure resolutions for two trustees. At times, the meeting devolved into chaos, with trustees shouting over one another and making defiant comments.

The board approved a one-year contract for John Ramirez Jr. as the district’s new interim superintendent. He will begin on February 26, replacing Brian Biedermann, who stepped down for health reasons.

The agreement also terminated a contract that Ramirez had with the district as an education consultant. The board voted 5-2 to approve the contract, with Trustees AngelAnn Flores and Candelaria Vargas dissenting.

Ramirez was formerly the superintendent in Alisal Union School District in Salinas from 2010 to 2016. He began after the district was taken over for academic failure and oversaw its return to local control. He also saw significant improvements in test scores during his time.

However, Ramirez’s record is not completely spotless. In 2013, he was found to have misused district credit cards, including for restaurant meals and holiday purchases. (He later repaid Alisal for what he had spent). The following year, he was accused of sexual harassment by two female district employees.

The Stockton Unified superintendent position has unusually high turnover; Biedermann had only been in the position since June. The previous superintendent, John Deasy, lasted for less than two years before resigning in May 2020.

The board also voted to censure Vargas and Flores. The two nearly-identical resolutions state that the trustees violated the board’s code of ethics through “continues [sic] harassment in open session, closed session, social media, and in public”.

The board voted 5-2 to approve both censures, with Vargas and Flores dissenting on each. Both said that the resolutions did not cite any specific comments or dates in which they broke the board’s code of ethics, unlike with previous censures.

Trustee Scot McBrian claimed during discussion that the post-board meeting Facebook livestreams of Flores and Vargas were grounds for censure. However, Flores pointed to a law passed last year that allows local officials to engage in conversations online to answer questions or engage with the public, provided that they are not a majority of their public board or body.