Antioch teachers express disappointment with bargaining process
RAAMP vote postponed
By John Crowder
About a half-dozen Antioch teachers expressed their displeasure with the bargaining process during the comments portion of he March 26th meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board.
Comments made by Lenore Navarro, a second grade teacher at Kimball Elementary School, and a member of the teacher’s bargaining team, were typical.
“On Thursday, March 5, I sat at the negotiating table with your bargaining team for more than four hours, and was dishonored, disappointed, and disrespected because you came to the table with no offer of a salary increase,” she said. “Since June 12, 2013, teachers have witnessed you, the AUSD Board of Education spend enormous amounts of money on employees furthest away from the classroom, those who have minimal contact, if any, with students.”
She then went on to list several positions as examples, including “Directors of Program Improvement, Director of Certificated Human Resources,…Lead Reform Facilitator Coach, a pool of Elementary Vice-Principals,” and others.
Ken Kent, a fifth grade teacher, also at Kimball Elementary, expanded on the comments made by Ms. Navarro. “Our community struggles on many levels, not the least of which is educating its children,” he said. Kent then enumerated specific ways he felt the children of Antioch were being let down. These included increased class sizes, the loss of access to school libraries, combining two grades levels in one room, overlooking unacceptable behaviors, and the hoarding of funds. With respect to the latter issue, he noted that the school district “still has reserve funds of $24 million.”
The next bargaining session between AUSD and the Antioch Education Association, the professional organization and bargaining unit for all the teachers in AUSD, is scheduled for Thursday, April 10th.
On another matter, the vote on whether or not to extend the charter for the RAAMP Charter Academy of Math and Science (RAAMP) for five more years was deferred until April 9th following the emotional testimony of RAAMP parents, supporters, and RAAMP founder Karla Branch.
Critics of RAAMP, most notably the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), have contended that RAAMP should be closed because of low California Academic Performance Index (API) test scores. Scott Holbrook, legal counsel to AUSD, stated that, “[academic achievement]…is the most important factor in determining whether to grant charter renewal.” Supporters of the school, however, contend that the data being reviewed do not give a fair picture of the RAAMP program. According to Branch, “API based on less than 99 test scores is extremely suspect.” She went on to request that the board, “…look at the data in its entirety.”
Parents speaking on behalf of RAAMP were, as on previous occasions addressing the board, very emotional in their appeals.
“Every kid that came to RAAMP has been broken by your school system,” said Sabina Araya. “RAAMP has taken it upon themselves to [help them].”
“My son arrived there very discouraged and when he left, he got his confidence back,” parent Angela Lacy-Roberson told the Board. “He’s in high school now, and he’s doing very well. I owe all of that to RAAMP.”
“RAAMP saved my son,” she exclaimed.
Some of the speakers complained of a lack of support from the district, stating, “You don’t come visit us,” and “You don’t know what we do.” These statements, however, were refuted by Board Member Claire Smith. “We don’t have oversight of you,” she stated. “I don’t recall receiving a single phone call inviting me to anything.”
Gary Hack, Board Vice President, addressed the difficulty of the decision before the Board.
“RAAMP doesn’t have great academic success,” he said, but continued, “Kids who are at RAAMP are there by choice. There are a lot of parents who have kept their kids there because it works for them.”
Smith also noted the conflicting ideas the board was being asked to address.
“I fundamentally believe in a parent’s right to choose,” she said. “What do I weigh more strongly, our parents right to choose, or our oversight responsibility?”
Board Member Diane Gibson-Gray expressed some concern with the data, as presented. Because of this concern, she suggested that the decision on RAAMP be postponed until April 9th, in order to have time to review the data provided at a deeper level. Following a short recess, during which Branch agreed with the postponement with Holbrook, the Board voted unanimously to postpone the decision until the April 9th Board meeting.
Finally, problems with student violence at Dallas Ranch Middle School were once again addressed by Taylor Donaldson, a student at the school. Speaking to the Board, she said that her school was now, “missing three P.E. teachers,” and “I’m afraid our school is turning into a disaster.”
Following her comments, she presented the board with a petition asking them to address the situation at her school. Donaldson proved her tenacity in addressing this issue, as she had spoken about it both at the previous Board meeting, and on Tuesday had addressed similar comments to the Antioch City Council.
Future meetings of the AUSD Board are scheduled for April 9, May 14 and 28 at the AUSD office at 510 G Street.