Tracy Talks: Dr. Brian Stephens
by Anne Marie Fuller
Aug 28, 2014 | 3457 views | 11 11 comments | 48 48 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Brian Stephens is trying to learn more about the district and said the goal 
should be “excellence.”  Anne Marie Fuller/For the Tracy Press
Dr. Brian Stephens is trying to learn more about the district and said the goal should be “excellence.” Anne Marie Fuller/For the Tracy Press
Tracy Talks headed to the school district office this week for a face-to-face chat with the new superintendent of Tracy Unified School District, Dr. Brian Stephens.

TUSD’s top educator comes to us from nearby Turlock, where he spent three years in the position of superintendent of Delhi Unified School District. Originally born in Santa Rosa, Brian Stephens started his career in education with a teaching position in social science in Humboldt County. In addition, Stephens held positions as sports coach, vice principal, principal and assistant superintendent for business.

Stephens is the father of two, has been married for 30 years and has two cats. He says his average work day is already 11 hours.

Q You are stepping into the position of superintendent under the shadow of Dr. Jim Franco, a very well-respected and admired man that has done a lot for this community. What’s it like?

A I certainly recognize that Jim Franco has left a big shadow to fill. I hope, however long I am in the district, when I leave, someone else will have big shoes to fill. I think the focus on relationships and getting along with people is fundamental to the success of school districts and business. I think those are principals that he and I have in common.

Q What is your vision for TUSD?

A I started the position on July first, and I’ve been meeting with people to learn more about the culture of the community and school district. I was having 12 to 15 meetings a day with people, trying to learn about the schools and the town. I am trying to understand what makes up TUSD and what areas we need to focus on. So to say ‘This is where we need to go’ is still early on in the process. Our goal should be excellence.

Q TUSD and the state of California have adopted the Common Core State Standards, a topic that has met with controversy. Do you support Common Core, and what should our students expect from it?

A Common Core is looking at how you apply the skills you have learned. It’s like taking the math skills you have learned and applying them to a real-life problem. So you try to make what you learn applicable to everyday existence. When you and I were in school, we were taught the Pythagorean Theorem: a-squared plus b-squared equals c-squared. Contractors use this all the time. Now, the question in Common Core is to take that theorem and let’s apply it. Years ago, when I built my house and did some of the work myself, I used that theorem. So that was a real-life experience for me. The whole idea to Common Core is to be able to apply the skills that you’ve learned. I support Common Core.

Q There’s a current debate going on about children learning how to write in cursive and if that should be eliminated from being taught in schools. Is cursive outdated in today’s society?

A I think writing in cursive is one of those life skills you need to have. I don’t think cursive is going to go away. Not everybody is technology savvy. It’s one of those things that over time you do, because you will someday have to sign a check or a letter, and cursive is a professional way to do that.

Q Programs and committees that were implemented under Dr. Jim Franco, such as the Anti-Bully Committee — will you continue with them?

A The Anti-Bully Committee just met on Tuesday night. We will keep this committee up and running. Bullying is an ongoing challenge, not just in schools but in society. There really is no place for that kind of behavior. We have to put practices and policies in place that discourage it and try and teach kids how to respond to it. I am very much in support of this committee and their work.

Q What is it that makes you unique?

A I’m very persistent when I get my teeth into something, I stick with it. I do hold myself and others to a high standard. I expect excellence and from myself first. I am also an avid reader and have thousands of books in my home. I’m a huge history buff.

I want to thank Dr. Stephens for sitting down with me. Who’s next at Tracy Talks?

• Anne Marie Fuller is the host of “Helpful Hints with Anne Marie” on Channel 26. Contact her at


Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 03, 2014
Dr. Stephens you need to educate yourself on Common Core. It is not the application of learned knowledge. Students will not be taught, they will be discovering on their own with the guidance of the teacher. There will not be any need for books because everything the Government wants them to learn will be on their tablet. Teacher's will not have to teach.. just monitor their student's discovery.. there isn't any wrong or right answers, so no red ink or grading required.
September 03, 2014
With regard to Common Core, the standards it contains are a lot like the previously existing California standards but with different names. So on that front, for California not a whole lot has changed other than instructions for the teacher to engage in discussions.

Pretty much the ENTIRE objection to them is that this is being run out of Washington DC with centralized database facilities to track your kids, all brought to you by the same folks who are currently so successful at our southern borders and in Iraq.

Wrt salaries and pensions of the supes, can anyone do the math here: we're currently paying not only Stephens' salary, but also Franco's pension. So now we're paying for two superintendents that I know of, and all the previous ones that are still alive. The money to pay these folks is coming from a well that's going dry, as pension fund returns have fallen far below targets since 2007 and no change in sight. Educators in Illinois have recently had their pensions cut because of this. (
September 04, 2014
Dr Franco retired, which means he is collecting his pension from CalSTRS, not the district.

However, if I recall correctly, both he and Dr. Larick receive lifetime medical benefits which is a district expense. That is likely $25,000 /yr EACH. It's all in the Board Agendas folks - read them!
September 04, 2014
Point of Order, I left out a few things that are worth bringing up in this context.

You are correct about educator pensions getting paid out of CalSTRS. But who pays into that fund? what happens when there is a known shortfall in that fund? Who has to make that up?

Money in the pensions come from four sources:

State (contributes about 5% of employee pay to the fund)

Educators (8 percent of pay)

School districts (8 % of pay)

Investment profits from money in the pension fund (contributes the balance needed to fund all pensions, if all goes well)

When there is a shortfall, it normally comes as a result of Investments not going as planned. If that number tanks and you have a serious shortfall, as is the case since 2007, you must close the shortfall by increasing contributions from one or more of the other money sources: state, employee, or employer.

Given normal politics, it is usually the employer (school district) that bears the brunt of these types of increases. The larger the shortfall, the more the district has to pay. It doesn't help when the employer has cash flow problems at the same time--something that has helped drive many California cities toward bankruptcy, including Stockton, San Bernadino, Fresno, Atwater... (see
September 04, 2014
btw, one difference between educator CalSTRS pensions and the pension fund for all other public employees (CalPERS) is that CalSTRS doesn't set contribution rates charged to employer school districts, whereas CalPERS *does* have that power, and does use it, which has led the cities I mentioned toward bankruptcy.

I didn't want to leave the impression that educators and CalSTRS had any responsibility for the municipal bankruptcies. That would be CalPERS, and that is why CalPERS is heavily involved in the bankruptcy proceedings of the cities.
August 30, 2014
It's not a "shadow" of Franco to be filled, it's a 2 or 3 year Void of Leadership. Franco should of been ousted when his health prevented him from being the strong, steadfast Leader he once was.

Dr. Stephens: just make your Managers manage, let the Teachers teach and every other employee will follow.

There are strong contracts in place that simply need to be adhered to- or the employee is gone. TUSD has really had a problem admitting that they hired or moved up someone who doesn't work well in the organization. Well, you can't get them ALL right! When ANYONE, at whatever level, fails to earn their nice wages, let them go! Whether they came from within or not. Maybe they have been promoted out of their league. (The Peter Principle)

I wish you well, and welcome you!
September 01, 2014
It is MORE than a 2 or 3 year void and HE was one employee that was promoted from within with very little knowledge of that position. I also deem that the TUSD board is to blame for not monitoring the time to retire him much sooner.

Dr. Stephens: Accountability and integrity is what has been lacking in our district especially in the last 10 years and your leadership will move us in the right direction. You answered it on the last question, it starts at the top.

It is very wise of you to hire employees you've worked with in the past that have proper knowledge, experience, credentials and, more importantly, trust, to our district where there is NO trust!

You're doing a magnificent job and producing many happy employees.

God bless you and your family.
September 03, 2014
What a cruel and disrespectful person you are Wesson. Dr. Franco was a good man and did good things for this district. I hope you face the same level of scrutiny and disrespect in your job some day.
September 03, 2014
WBW: At least I didn't refer to him in the past tense!

I absolutely expect to held to a high level of scrutiny when I am paid an incredibly high wage. ($150k ) paid by taxpayers, not profits.

And when I could not longer complete the tasks that I am contracted to do, I will resign with dignity.
September 03, 2014
I think you're low on Franco's ending salary. He was making more like 200k with all his perks.

Couldn't agree more that the Board should have seen that he was not fit for service much earlier...
August 28, 2014
"I think those are principals that he and I have in common.”

Should be: “principles”

Hopefully, this is a press error rather than a superintendent’s error.

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