Families for a Better School Board
Our Students Deserve Better.
Petition to Recall Stockton Unified School District Trustees Maria Mendez and Scot McBrian
In the middle of a public health crisis, four Trustees of the Stockton Unified School Board conspired to force, and then voted to accept, the resignation of Superintendent John Deasy in a secretive emergency meeting on April 21, 2020.
Trustees Kathy Garcia, Maria Mendez, Scot McBrian, and Cecelia Mendez did this during the COVID 19 pandemic in a tele-conference meeting, with virtually no public participation or input, with no explanation of why they were forcing this action, and with no plan on how to run the District during this challenging time.
Superintendent Deasy was in the role for less than two years of a three-year contract. His resignation makes him the seventh Superintendent in 15 years to leave SUSD, and will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars as we head into an economic recession.
Over the course of the campaign to remove Superintendent Deasy, the actions of these four trustees led to the Board violating the Brown Act several times. These trustees also forced the hiring of outside, additional legal counsel to enact their agenda at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the District and then sought to reinstate a former superintendent who was removed from his job under a cloud of scandal. Lastly, and most upsettingly, given that the School Board’s energy has been focused on personal politics rather than on what is best for our young people, the District has fallen behind in planning for how students will return to school amid the pandemic.
Who are Families for a Better School Board and what is their goal?
Families for a Better School Board is a coalition of families, community leaders, and educators who are coming together to make sure that the Stockton Unified School District Board is made up of thoughtful and dedicated trustees who put educational outcomes, health, and safety for students first in their decision making.
What happens when a board member resigns?
When a vacancy occurs from six months to 130 days before a regularly scheduled Board election at which the position is not scheduled to be filled, a special election to fill the position shall be consolidated with the regular election. The person so elected shall take office at the first regularly scheduled Board meeting following the certification of the election and shall serve only until the end of the term of the position which he/she was elected to fill. (Education Code 5093)
Why do we believe that these board members are responsible for the Superintendent’s resignation?
- On February 24 board members hired outside legal counsel, separate from the District legal team, at a great cost to the District.
- On March 10, the board members began meeting in closed sessions to ‘evaluate’ the Superintendent despite giving him a positive review and a raise just months before to reward progress in schools. The Board also reaffirmed its approval of a contract for hundreds of thousands more dollars to keep their extra law firm in place to help them perpetuate their political agenda while the District faces a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall coming out of the pandemic.
- On March 26, they created confusion among parents when they chose not to give emergency authority to the Superintendent and voted against a resolution communicating that schools would remain closed, even though it was mandated by the State. They chose to put their secondary issues ahead of sending a clear message to students and families about what to expect from the School District at a critical time.
- Later, on April 21, during a time where their energy and focus should have been on the health and safety of our children, they maneuvered behind closed doors to force the resignation of the Superintendent and called an emergency meeting, in violation of the Brown Act, to formally accept it. At this meeting, which was held via tele-conference, over 100 public comments were submitted in support of the Superintendent but few were read. Over 1400 citizens signed a petition disavowing the Board’s habit of cycling through Superintendents at a cost to our children… but these pleas were ignored.
- On April 28, shortly after this decision, they attempted to hire a former superintendent who left SUSD under a cloud of scandal as a consultant to them.
- On June 9, an expensive one-year contract was approved for a new interim Superintendent, which will be paid at the same time as the board continues to pay the former Superintendent’s salary through June of 2021.
This is a simple request. Families at a Better School Board has 14 outstanding Public Records Act Requests filed with Stockton Unified School District. They were filed 9/25/20. We were told that the requests would be answered on or about 10/23/20. Crickets. We didn’t hear back about SUSD needing an extension to complete the request or that they were at least providing some documents.
Our requests are to see communications between interim Superintendent Brian Biedermann and Board Trustee Scot McBrian who led the effort to remove Superintendent John Deasy, the creation of the Anthony Silva controlled charter school, while having Trustee Luntao investigated for bogus accusations around the approval of other charter schools.
We also want to see what is transpiring between interim Superintendent Biedermann and consultant John Ramirez Jr., the Silva associate, who left his prior job under a cloud of scandal for sexual harassment and misuse of that school district’s funds.
While SUSD ignores us, a group of concerned families, they provide documents to the 209Times to create bogus news stories, as seen in the text below from Maria Mendez.
Please write SUSD before the 10/27 Board meeting and tell them the public has a right to know how business is being conducted behind the scenes by Trustee McBrian and with consultant John Ramirez Jr. Tell them the corruption needs to end. And please remind your friends and family to sign the recall petition to remove McBrian and Maria Mendez from the trustee positions. Remind them to research who are the best candidates when voting for trustee positions.
Send your comments here. Listen to the SUSD Board of Trustees meeting 10/27/20.
Meeting phone number: 1-415-655-0060
Access code: 696-737-091
When prompted for a PIN, just press the # key
Members of the public can submit Public Comments by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scot McBrian’s game of controlling the Superintendent position for SUSD is beyond disturbing. It’s enough to remove him from the Board of Trustees. In the days leading up to Superintendent Deasy’s resignation last spring, Scot McBrian was leading the board behind-the-scenes to force Deasy from office. A whistleblower has shared with us a text message exchange with Trustee Cecilia Mendez. The message reveals how McBrian was in communication with Cecilia Mendez as the message for removing Deasy. It also reveals that McBrian was no fan of Brian Biedermann who had been promoted to principal under Deasy.
But, after McBrian failed to execute Anthony Silva’s directive to install Jack McLaughlin as the new head of SUSD, Biedermann became the chosen replacement.
Yesterday, Families for a Better School Board received a new message from a third SUSD whistleblower telling us that Trustee McBrian provided interim Superintendent Biederman with the questions for his interview so that he would be given the interim Superintendent position.
Tired of the Brown Act violations? The political gamesmanship? The desire to work on everything except what is best for students? Sign the petition at betterschoolboard.com to remove Scot McBrian from the SUSD Board of Trustees. Register to vote. Study which candidates are tied to McBrian and vote for the best candidate in your district.
Former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva’s Behind-the-Scenes Control of Stockton Unified School District Trustees Maria Mendez, Scot McBrian, Cecilia Mendez, and Kathy Garcia and Takeover of a Stockton Area Charter School
For Immediate Release: 9/11/20
Contact: Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Families for a Better School Board, 209.479.2053 email@example.com
Stockton, CA – Research of public documents completed by Families for a Better School Board has found that former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, who formally was sentenced to one felony conflict-of-interest charge in 2019 for directing public funds to the Kids Club of Stockton and who pleaded no contest for providing alcohol to a minor, is involved in behind the scenes management of a nonprofit organization claiming to control Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School. (See attached timeline of activities.)
In November, 2019 Maria Mendez forwarded a petition for Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School to the Superintendent of schools. The petition then moved forward for review by staff, and, despite staff recommendations against approving the charter, was approved by the Board of Trustees in January 2020. At the time of approval, Fostering Minds, Inc was registered as the non-profit operator of the school under the leadership of Manuel Casillas. (All of this information is available to the public in the School Board’s documentation from their meeting on January 7, 2020)
Neither the Board, nor SUSD staff indicated any knowledge of Anthony Silva’s involvement in the effort, and the public was certainly not made aware of any connection between Anthony Silva and the charter school.
One week after the charter was approved, on January 14th, Anthony Silva and his associate Sharon Simas, who was also indicted with Anthony Silva for involvement in their Kids Club scheme but found innocent of the conflict of interest charge, filed paperwork to create a separate nonprofit named Vision Quest Career Pathways, that was not authorized by the district as the non-profit entity to run the school, despite the similar name.
Silva and his associates listed in the nonprofit filing used an address across the street from the school as the location of the new nonprofit for the school. They are now involved in a lawsuit with Manuel Casillas, the head of Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School over a dispute as to who controls the school’s finances and charter, even though the non-profit organization overseeing a charter school can only be reassigned legally when a material revision is made to the original petition approved by the District board. The non-profit Fostering Minds, Inc., run by Manual Casillas is officially still the non-profit organization charged with running the school.
The address for the new nonprofit is the site of Anthony Silva’s youth recreation business Indoor Adventures. In addition, Silva’s attorney, Douglas Srulowitz has an office located in the same building as Visions Quest and Career Pathways Charter School and is representing Trustee Cecilia Mendez in an unrelated lawsuit against SUSD for an alleged incident involving the leaking of her personal information to the 209 Times by an unidentified source on social media.
In addition to these activities, in June, 2020, Trustees Maria Mendez and Kathy Garcia brought forward a contract for John Ramirez Jr. as an equity consultant to assist with the professional development of interim Superintendent Brian Biedermann John Ramirez Jr., who has also been collaborating with Anthony Silva in managing their non-profit, left his last superintendent position under a cloud of scandal for misusing a district credit card and for sexual harassment. A short time thereafter, Trustees Maria Mendez, Kathy Garcia, Cecilia Mendez, and Scot McBrian, along with the local Facebook page 209 Times, began targeting other trustees for investigation for trumped up conflict of interest charges around charter school management, suggestive of a distraction campaign to hide from the public what is unfolding with Silva’s attempted takeover of Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School.
In addition, text messages were provided to Families for a Better School Board from a whistleblower indicating that Anthony Silva is in regular contact with Trustees Scot McBrian and Cecilia Mendez. Silva appears to be also working with the local Facebook site 209 Times to create outsized influence on SUSD Trustees Maria Mendez, Scot McBrian, Kathy Garcia, and Cecilia Mendez.
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, spokesperson for Families for a Better School Board, commented:
“Parents, parent groups, and educational policy thinkers have different opinions on charter schools, the need for district police, budgeting, and policy decisions. Such discussions, votes, and policy decisions are part of a vibrant democracy and suggest a healthy interest by the community in school district operations.
“What is not good for the district is stealth forces exercising an outsized influence on decision making for personal financial gain and political gamesmanship. The willingness of these four Trustees to collaborate with Silva and in coordination with the 209 Times does nothing to help kids and families during the Covid pandemic.
“District funds are being misspent as a result of Silva’s political influence and coordination of 209 Times actions against SUSD trustees. Maria Mendez and Scot McBrian need to come clean about what they know in regard to Silva’s nonprofit, the creation of the charter school as a shell, and the hiring of John Ramirez Jr. Then, they need to resign for abusing the public’s trust in their roles as SUSD trustees.”
Timeline of Events for Anthony Silva’s Involvement with the Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School, and the Stockton Unified School Board.
Research of public documents completed by Families for a Better School Board has found that former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, who formally was sentenced to one felony conflict-of-interest charge in 2019 for directing public funds to the Kids Club of Stockton and who pleaded no contest for providing alcohol to a minor, is involved in behind the scenes management of a nonprofit organization claiming to control Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School.
In November, 2019 Maria Mendez forwarded a petition for Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter School to the Superintendent of schools. The petition then moved forward for review by staff, and, despite staff recommendations against approving the charter, was approved by the Board of Trustees in January 2020. At the time of approval, Fostering Minds, Inc was registered as the non-profit operator of the school under the leadership of Manuel Casillas. (All of this information is available to the public in the School Board’s documentation from their meeting on January 7, 2020). See a timeline below for more details:
November 7, 2019 – Petition for charter school ‘Vision Quest & Career Pathways’ is submitted to SUSD leadership. (Maria Mendez forwards petition to John Deasy and Lange Luntao according to publicly available District document)
- The approved organization to run Vision Quest and Career Pathways was the nonprofit ‘Fostering Minds, Inc’ https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/susd/Board.nsf/files/BKDS2T7093A7/$file/Appendices%20to%20the%20Petition%20for%20Vision%20Quest%20%20Career%20Pathways%20Nov%202019.pdf
December 13, 2019 – Vision Quest and Career Pathways Charter hearing is held.
January 7, 2020 – Despite District internal analysis that “The Review Committee finds that this Charter presents significant risks to the District and does not meet the minimum adequate threshold required for charter school operation.” The Stockton Unified School Board approves ‘Vision Quest and Career Pathway Charter Petition to Establish the Vision Quest Charter School’
- According to sources, board members all approve the charter petition, despite recommendations to the contrary by SUSD staff because Superintendent Deasy was attempting to build community with Board Trustees Mendez, Garcia, Mendez, and McBrian who favored the school. However, the public, SUSD staff, and several trustees were not aware of Anthony Silva’s involvement behind the scenes with the creation of the school.
- Indication of reservations by some Board members can be found in the failed resolution put forward by Trustee Luntao that asks: “to approve the charter petition with the condition that the amended changes be addressed, reconciled or resolved.”
January 14, 2020 – Anthony Silva files non-profit with State of California called ‘Vision Quest Career Pathways’
February 13, 2020 – Anthony Silva’s associates, including Sharon Simas who was indicted with Silva due to involvement with ‘Stockton Kids Club,’ are registered with State of CA as non-profit.
August 7, 2020 – Anthony Silva and Sharon Simas and others at non-profit file lawsuit against Manual Casillas, in what appears to be a legal attempt to take over the charter school without consulting District authorities.
- Lawsuit Documentation Available here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JSAkYJGzjzyUgNM7TL3Q_PSYd-VxzepX/view?usp=sharing
August 23, 2020 – Updated documentation is provided to the State, with Anthony Silva replacing Manual Casillas as the ‘Agent for Service of Process’
September 2, 2020 – According to sources, Manual Casillas files charges against Anthony Silva with local authorities. These charges have not yet been made public, but were disclosed to Families for a Better School board by a local whistleblower.
September 11, 2020 – The case Silva has brought that attempts to use a legal strategy to wrest control of the school from Casillas will go to court on September 9/11/20 in San Joaquin County
- This despite the fact that there has been no public revision of the terms granted to the charter by the Stockton Unified School Board.
- The attorney representing Anthony Silva and Sharon Simas (Douglas Srulowitz) is housed in the same building as Visions Quest Career Pathways, and is located across the street from Silva’s youth activity complex. The leases and offices were set up by an associate of Silva’s.
- Douglas Srulowitz is representing Trustee Cecilia Mendez in a lawsuit against SUSD for an alleged incident involving the 209 Times — also involved in activities controlling Trustees Mendez, Garcia, Mendez and McBrian. Reports from Vision Quest Career Pathways on September 10, 2020 indicate that Kathy Garcia is visiting Srulowitz’s office as well.
Background: Anthony Silva is the former Mayor of Stockton, California. In 2016, Silva was defeated by then Councilman Michael Tubbs, and left office under a cloud of scandal and legal charges. In January of 2020, evidence shows that Silva, along with allies at the site ‘209 Times’ https://209times.com/, began to control and coordinate with a bare majority of the Stockton USD School Board to influence decisions in the political and financial interests of Former Mayor Silva and a number of his political allies.
- Anthony Silva is influencing the majority of the Stockton School Board for political and financial gain.
- Silva has worked with the board to pass a charter school petition he was involved with, force the resignation of a superintendent, attempt to hire a former Superintendent who served while Silva was on the board, and hire a ‘Equity consultant’ when the attempt to hire his chosen Superintendent failed.
- Anthony Silva is a registered agent of a non-profit with the same name as the ‘Vision Quest & Career Pathways’ charter school approved by the school board in January 2020, and has shown intent to profit off of the local charter school in a manner consistent with previous charges filed against him during his involvement with the Stockton Kids Club
General Timeline for SUSD Board Activities Related to Silva:
February 24, 2020 – board members hired outside legal counsel, law-firm Burke, Williams, & Sorenson, with approval of just 4 board members, and no public viewing of resolution or contract in advance of the meeting at a great cost to the District.
On March 10, 2020 – board members began meeting in closed sessions to ‘evaluate’ the Superintendent despite giving him a positive review and a raise just months before to reward progress in schools. The Board also reaffirmed its approval of a contract for hundreds of thousands more dollars to keep their extra law firm in place to help them perpetuate their political agenda while the District faces a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall coming out of the pandemic.
On March 26, 2020 – 4 board members create confusion among parents when they chose not to give emergency authority to the Superintendent and voted against a resolution communicating that schools would remain closed, even though it was mandated by the State. They chose to put their secondary issues ahead of sending a clear message to students and families about what to expect from the School District at a critical time.
Later, on April 21, 2020 – during a time where their energy and focus should have been on the health and safety of our children, they maneuvered behind closed doors to force the resignation of the Superintendent and called an emergency meeting, in violation of the Brown Act, to formally accept it. At this meeting, which was held via tele-conference, over 100 public comments were submitted in support of the Superintendent but few were read. Over 1400 citizens signed a petition disavowing the Board’s habit of cycling through Superintendents at a cost to our children… but these pleas were ignored.
On April 28, 2020 – shortly after this decision, they attempted to hire a former superintendent who left SUSD under a cloud of scandal as a consultant to them.
On June 9, 2020 an expensive one-year contract was approved for a new interim Superintendent, which will be paid at the same time as the board continues to pay the former Superintendent’s salary through June of 2021.
On June 12, 2020 following the interim superintendent’s contract a consultant contract was put forward by Maria Mendez and Kathy Garcia to hire John Ramirez Jr., former superintendent from Alisal School District near Salinas.
In his past position as a school superintendent, he was investigated for sexual harassment of an employee and misuse of the district credit card. His conduct even made national news. This Des Moines Register article describes the problems with his tenure with the Alisal School District:
He also drew the public spotlight on himself in the admitted personal use of district credit cards and a sexual harassment complaint filed by a former district employee.
John Ramirez Jr. is an associate of Anthony Silva’s and was put forward as the consultant to the interim superintendent by Trustees Maria Mendez and Kathy Garcia at Silva’s urging.
Extended Timeline With links to Stockton Record Articles:
March – Four Board Members vote to not officially suspend classes at the outset of the pandemic, despite State and County Orders to do so.
- Stockton Unified School Board, confused by resolution language ‘rejecting’ suspension of classes, to schedule new vote
April – Board accepts resignation of John Deasy despite public opposition (with no discussion or explanation), in the middle of the pandemic on a tele-conference call, with over a year left on his contract.
- SUSD board calls special meeting for ‘personnel matter’
- Community left with questions after Deasy’s abrupt resignation
May – Same Group of Board Members attempts to hire Jack Mclaughlin, former Superintendent who resigned in disgrace in Stockton, to interim position. Eventually withdraws name do to continuous public outcry.
- Stockton Unified board delays decision on McLaughlin’s firm at contentious meeting
- McLaughlin Withdraws from SUSD Consideration
Late May & June – Board finally compromises and hires local former principal Brian Biederman as Superintendent. What is not noted at the time, is that a man named John Ramirez Jr. is hired as an equity consultant to Biederman at Board’s direction.
- Biedermann tapped as Stockton Unified’s interim superintendent
- Biedermann jumps into deep end as SUSD interim superintendent
July – Recall Effort Launched against Two SUSD Trustees involved in forced Resignation of Superintendent Deasy
August – Mendez and McBrian target Trustee Luntao with ‘investigation’ into former work with Aspire charter schools, with unsubstantiated conflict of interest claims (they do this in coordination with a local blog run by allies of former mayor Anthony Silva, in an attempt to distract from recall campaign). They proceed with this, despite the fact that the board voted 7-0 to approve the charter on the vote in question (making the alleged vote by Luntao inconsequential at the time). The 4 board members vote to approve funding for this investigation, and spend significant board meeting time on it, in the weeks leading up to school reopening with very little communication about the district’s plan to reopen schools.
- SUSD board approves investigation into possible conflict of interest by trustee
- SUSD interim superintendent urges board to come together
5 hours of audio from the most recent meeting:
- August 25, 2020 SUSD Board Meeting Audio Recording: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/87032252087032332