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SUSD superintendent search delayed; board removes item from Oct. 11 agenda

Stockton Unified School District interim superintendent Dr. Traci E Miller, left, board president Cecilia Mendez, board members Ray Zulueta and Scot McBrian attend a town hall meeting about the critical grand jury report at the SUSD headquarters in downtown Stockton.
Stockton Unified School District interim superintendent Dr. Traci E Miller, left, board president Cecilia Mendez, board members Ray Zulueta and Scot McBrian attend a town hall meeting about the critical grand jury report at the SUSD headquarters in downtown Stockton.

The search for the 14th Stockton Unified School District Superintendent in 17 years has been delayed.

At the Oct. 11 Board of Trustee's meeting, the plan to hear from three superintendent search firms vying to earn a contract to lead the search was removed from the agenda on a motion by Trustee Ray Zulueta. An explanation was not publicly given.

On Wednesday, there was no timetable as to when the discussion on superintendent search firms would return before the board.

The search firms were: Hazard Young Attea Associates (HYA) at 20% of the selected superintendent's first year compensation with additional optional costs for services including community engagement and background checks, Leadership Associates at a flat fee of $27,500 and McPherson & Jacobson, LLC for a fee not to exceed $43,900.

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The move comes less than a month before the November elections, when four board seats, a majority, will be up for grabs.

Leadership Associates, the search firm offering the lowest cost for services, includes a timeline to approve the new superintendent’s contract by mid-December, all but ensuring that the current board will place the next superintendent at Stockton Unified whether they are reelected or not. The firm’s alternative timeline spends through February 2023 engaging with the community before superintendent applications are due, leaving the newly elected board with the responsibility to select the next superintendent.

The San Joaquin County Grand Jury grilled the Stockton Unified board in 2021 for being the reason for the district’s “revolving door” of superintendents. The report found that the board had failed as district leaders and would likely continue to do so. A subsequent 2022 grand jury report doubled down on board and district failures.

John Ramirez Jr. has resigned after a little more than a year as Stockton Unified superintendent.
John Ramirez Jr. has resigned after a little more than a year as Stockton Unified superintendent.

Since 2017, SUSD has had six interim, acting or full superintendents.

Former superintendent John Ramirez Jr. resigned in June, citing he needed to take care of his elderly parents. In August, Ramirez was arrested on DUI charges after showing a blood alcohol level of 0.225%.

Ramirez’s separation agreement with Stockton Unified was also the subject of a recent feud between the board and County Superintendent of Schools Troy Brown, who argued the board had illegally violated the Brown Act when approving Ramirez’s separation deal in closed session. Brown argued that the deal was one of employment — full salary and benefits at $285,000 for a year. Stockton Unified attorney Dr. Jack Lipton disagreed, despite the agreement describing Ramirez’s “superintendent emeritus” position as “employment.”

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Dr. Traci Miller, a 25-year veteran with the district and founding principal at Health Careers Academy, has served as interim superintendent since August; Assistant Superintendent Dr. Francine Baird turned down the interim role.

Stockton Unified School District interim superintendent Traci E. Miller hands out backpacks at a free giveaway event sponsored by the Sierra Vista Residents Council in south Stockton on Tuesday, August 30, 2022. About 100 backpacks and school supplies of pens, paper and folders, were donated by United Way, the mayor's office and the Housing Authority of San Joaquin County.

“I am honored to serve in the interim role of superintendent,” Miller said, “and I would be honored to be considered for the permanent superintendent role.”

Record reporter Ben Irwin covers Stockton and San Joaquin County government. He can be reached at birwin@recordnet.com or on Twitter @B1rwin. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at recordnet.com/subscribenow

This article originally appeared on The Record: SUSD superintendent search delayed after item removed at Oct. 11 meeting