Town hall shows Sloan support

A “town hall” meeting billed as a chance to talk about the future of Chico schools ended up focusing on the matter of Marsh Junior High School and its ousted principal, Jeff Sloan.

The Chico Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 4-1 on May 6 to reassign Sloan to another administrative position after weighing accusations that he wrongly used student body funds to buy such things as staff lounge furniture and parent appreciation lunches that didn’t directly benefit the students. None of the money is missing, and ASB adviser Lisa Reynolds has repeatedly pointed out that student leaders approved all purchases.

At the meeting, held Monday, May 24, at the Masonic Family Center on East Avenue, speakers urged community members to replace Trustees Rick Anderson and Steve O’Bryan, who are up for re-election in November. They said that Superintendent Scott Brown prefers mediocrity over innovation and should also go.

Butte County Supervisor Curt Josiassen, who represents the Gridley-Richvale area but bought a house in the Marsh boundaries so his daughter could go to school there, said trustees need to be challenged. “You folks deserve better than what you’ve gotten.”

Reynolds said that once-content teachers, feeling “undermined and targeted,” are now considering leaving the district. “This isn’t about Jeff Sloan anymore,” she said.

“Any attack on Jeff is an attack on all of us,” teacher Mark Wilson said. “They cited our demographics [whiter than Marsh’s feeder schools] as if we hand-picked our students. We don’t control our demographics.”

Wilson and others blamed the media for alternately sensationalizing the issue and leaving out “the facts.” They said one of the things omitted from news reports is what prompted Brown to go after Sloan in the first place.

Marsh teacher Gary Janosz said it started with Marsh’s successful attempt last year to take its own school portraits rather than go with corporate photographers Lifetouch. “He’s been mad ever since then,” Janosz said.

Quoting from a career history that was outlined in an August 2000 News & Review profile of Brown, event organizer Dan Irving related in verse how Brown was forbidden to use a Castaic district credit card after illegally making personal charges he intended to repay later. The incident prompted the ordering of an audit, which was never completed. Also, boards in Castaic and Martinez hired mediators after trustees became split over Brown.

Susan Minasian, a Marsh parent who has been volunteering as Sloan’s lawyer, wondered why Brown didn’t simply reassign the principal—something that’s within his power—rather than put the board in an “adversarial position.”

The meeting was less emotional than past Marsh airings, with the audience asked not to display signs and to respect alternate views.

Scott Huber was the only trustee to attend. He said he hopes community members stay involved in Chico schools, “not just when there’s a special subject.”

The meeting’s organizers have set up a Web site,, to spread the word about future events and air concerns about the district.