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.”