After interviewing each candidate for an hour on Tuesday, Douglas County School Board trustees offered the superintendent's position to John Ramirez Jr. in a 4-3 vote despite public opposition.
Trustees David Burns, Katherine Dickerson, Susan Jansen and Doug Englekirk voted for Ramirez.
“Thank you, I appreciate the process,” said Ramirez. “I got to meet and speak with lot of people and answered a lot of questions. I appreciate the directness of the questions very much. I think it put me in a position where I think I could be very transparent about everything so thank you all for that and I’m looking forward to more.”
A survey provided at the Meet and Greet prior to Tuesday’s meeting, revealed that Dennis Holmes was the favored choice from the public with a rating of 4.40, while Ramirez rated at 1.65. At least 100 taxpayers, constituents, parents, students, teachers, staff and some school board members attended the Meet and Greet.
“I’ve observed that you take public comment, but you don’t listen to it,” said former Douglas High School teacher Gaye Tyndall at Tuesday’s meeting.
Much of the public comment to the trustees during Tuesday’s meeting before they selected a candidate, was about how fast they were pushing the search for a superintendent.
“I come before you tonight as a concerned citizen, eager to understand the process and reasoning in regard to the superintendent appointment, “said Douglas County resident Marianne McNeal. “One candidate with a record and an individual nearing retirement, these choices raise questions about the long-term vision and stability for our schools and why now, rather than waiting. The future of our children’s education is a paramount concern for all of us here. We seek clarity, transparency and assurance that every decision may be in the best interest of our students.”
Trustees Carey Kangas, Yvonne Wagstaff and Vice President Linda Gilkerson urged the need to extend the search.
“I’m scared what our community is going to do if we hire Ramirez,” said Gilkerson. “We have teachers who have said they are going to leave. There was sheet of paper provided, a survey, and it’s very clear what the people want. You are showing complete disregard to these people.”
Ramirez was the superintendent at Stockton Unified in Stockton, Calif., from February 2021 to March 2023. On his application, he said he resigned with a district buyout, but according to an article in the Stockton Record he was terminated from the position Feb. 28, 2022.
He was the executive vice president of the Foundation for Hispanic Education from July 2016 to July 2018 at the National Hispanic University in San Jose, Calif. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of Alisal Union School District in Salinas, Calif., from March 2010 to July 2016. He obtained a masters of education in human development and psychology from Harvard University, a bachelors in history at Santa Clara University, and he received administration service credentials in school administration and pupil personnel service credentials in school counseling from the San Jose State University.
Speakers expressed concern about the allegations brought forward about Ramirez including a DUI that occurred Jan. 5, 2022, which according to the County of San Joaquin Superior Court, he was sentenced on June 7, 2023 to three years of probation.
On his application for the superintendent position with the Douglas County School District, under the question “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense other than a minor traffic violation” he answered “no.”
When asked about why he marked no on the application, he said it was an oversight.
“I have to face the realities with the job that I do,” said Ramirez. “I’m not afraid to take on issues, I think being inclusive and the processes are very important, but sometimes tough decisions have to be made. I cannot deny that DUI, and I can’t say it's justified. I can own it and I will always own it.”
It took another hour for the board to discuss and decide on a candidate.
“It feels to me that experience wise and articulating ideas and how to move forward, they were miles apart,” said Dickerson. “Personally, I think Ramirez had a lot to offer in education, 10 years as superintendent, and turning that school around until that was a title one and ended up being the best in the state. That’s kind of impressive in a short amount of time and Mr. Holmes didn’t have remotely close to that.”
Gilkerson said she wanted to make note of some of the public comment received.
“I think it’s important that we do listen to our public as well as our own gut,” she said. “We are getting ready to choose someone for the top within our district. I feel that in doing this, our children and our teachers deserve the absolute best of the best.”
Gilkerson said in the scoring of the candidates by the board, there were two out of nine candidates within an 80 percent ranking and the rest ranked below that.
“I asked myself, are we settling for OK,” said Gilkerson. “We heard from many people even the young lady that was here, our sophomore that this should be a very competitive process. I feel that we need to have a little bit of a wider pool. Again, we owe it to our teachers, our students and our community.”
Gilkerson made a motion to adjourn the meeting and revisit the search and process for hiring a new Superintendent during the next school board meeting on Feb. 13. Trustee Wagstaff seconded the motion and asked Interim Superintendent Jeannie Dwyer if she was willing to remain in the “hot seat” until a good candidate was brought forward.
“I am committed to Douglas County School District, I love where I work, love the people I work with; I have an amazing team,” said Dwyer. “I wish we still had Keith Lewis, honestly, and I wish we still had Joe Girdner, Adam Dedmon and Mark Rhodes. This is hard, but I think we need to get back to what is right for kids and I think we maybe made some missteps, not on purpose but because we didn’t know what we were doing. But I can stay here and do this, do what is right for our school, for our community and our students. And I think I can do this, I’m good, I’m tough.”
The motion was opposed by Burns, Dickerson, Englekirk and Jansen and was followed by a motion made by Dickerson to hire Ramirez as superintendent. Which passed 4 to 3.
The Board will discuss and create a negotiating contract for Ramirez which will be brought before the board during the Feb. 13 school board meeting.