County school board hears Dozier-Libbey independent charter petition

By John Crowder

On Wednesday, May 7th, the Contra Costa County Board of Education heard from members of the teaching staff of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS). The teachers were petitioning the board to convert the campus to a charter school at the beginning of the coming school year. Following their 10 minute power point presentation, representatives of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), which currently operates the school, voiced their arguments against the move. Once both presentations had concluded, members of the public were invited to share their views. Almost one hundred speakers did so, with slightly more comments in favor of the conversion petition.

The public hearing, held at a middle school auditorium in Pleasant Hill in order to accommodate the large number of people interested in the issue, began just after 6:00 p.m. with Board Vice President Daniel Gomes opening the meeting.

Following a brief statement from Bill Clark, Associate Superintendent, Business Services, introducing the matter, Dr. Cynthia Soraoka, a health science teacher at DLMHS, introduced three of her colleagues who presented their case to the Board. The three teachers, Stacey Wickware, Lisa Kingsbury, and Kasey Graham, lead petitioners for the proposed charter school, each highlighted different aspects of the projected benefits of the conversion.

Wickware, a history and ethics teacher, began by detailing some of the benefits their charter proposal would provide to students. These included an ability to expand course offerings in the arts and the establishment of new courses, such as Medical America (a U.S. history course) and Forensic Pathology. One area that she emphasized was an enhanced Special Education program, which would include tailored credit recovery and the hiring of Instructional Aides, including those with the ability to speak Spanish.

Kingsbury, an English teacher, followed Wickware, continuing with the theme of student support. She emphasized summer programs the teachers planned to implement and the ability they would have to “use innovative technology to expand relationships with health care professionals around the world.”

Graham, also an English teacher, finished the presentation with a focus on student life and civic involvement. She discussed the implementation of an intramural sports program and assured the Board that the school would serve the students of Antioch, preemptively addressing two areas, sports and enrollment criteria, in which the petitioners have been repeatedly challenged by AUSD since the conversion proposal was introduced in February.

With the conclusion of the teachers’ remarks, AUSD representatives presented the Board with arguments against the proposed charter. First to speak against the conversion petition was Joy Motts, President of the AUSD school board. Reading a statement she said had been authorized by her peers, she called the charter petition “divisive,” and said the petitioners did not use an inclusive process in creating their proposal. She said the proposal raised “serious concerns,” and was “flawed.” She went on to say that there was “overwhelming opposition” to the proposal, concluding her remarks by stating, “Dozier-Libbey was created by the Antioch community, and belongs to the entire community.”

Motts was followed by Jack O’Connell, a long-time California politician who has served as a state Assemblyman, state Senator, and, most recently, as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction until January, 2011. An internet search finds him listed as a partner with Capitol Advisors Group, LLC, which bills itself as “a team of experts in California politics, education policy and finance, legislative strategy, and public affairs.”

O’Connell said that the original intent of the charter school law was to try and rid schools of over burdensome regulation from Sacramento, and “raise the bar.” He went on to say that [those proposing charter schools] should, “engage and involve all the parents in all the community,” something he believed had not been done by the DLMHS teachers. “I would strongly urge you to not approve this conversion,” he concluded.

Gomes called for public comments at this point, and speakers both for and against the proposal lined up to speak. While there was some crossover, speakers tended to fall into very distinct categories. Most of those speaking in favor of the charter proposal were teachers from DLMHS, parents of students attending the school, and the students themselves. Opposed were employees of AUSD and their relatives, and representatives of two special interest advocacy groups, the NAACP and Parents Connected. Antioch Mayor Wade Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha also spoke in opposition. Both sides had lawyers present and speaking on their behalves.

Those speaking in favor of the charter emphasized the quality of the education they expected under the plan presented by the teachers while complaining that, if left under AUSD control, the academic program at the school would continue to decline. April Padilla, whose stepson attends DLMHS, chided AUSD for “pushing [students] to reach for mediocrity.”

You don’t have to stop at good,” she said, “You can be better, you can be great, you can be exceptional.”

Angela Lacy, another parent, complained that AUSD personnel had the mindset that, “having a darker skin color [was] being treated as a learning disability.” She went on to say that, “They [the independent charter petitioners] will have programs in place to help all students succeed.”

The staff at Dozier-Libbey are simply trying to take something great and turn it into something outstanding,” said Jared Sarinas, a 2012 graduate of DLMHS. Countering an oft-heard point made in opposition to the charter, he said, “The staff have outlined that the students of Antioch will clearly be given attendance priority under the independent charter.”

Edgar Osario, past president of the DLMHS Parent/Teacher/Student Association, was particularly critical of AUSD in his remarks. He addressed arguments that AUSD personnel have been making against the proposed charter for the past two months.

AUSD has made some inflammatory remarks,” he stated. “The statement that Dozier-Libbey cherry picks their students and that’s the reason for their success is absolutely false. The district controls the lottery process. I am further offended that it’s implied that minority students leaving Dozier-Libbey are being ‘forced out.’ My Hispanic/Filipino daughter left the school because we left the district, she was not forced out because she couldn’t handle [the] curriculum. Minority enrollment at Dozier-Libbey is 77%, at Deer Valley is 78%, and at Antioch High is 73%. Your numbers just don’t add up.”

People speaking in opposition to the charter were equally fervent in their statements, focusing primarily on what they viewed as a secretive and divisive attempt to, as AUSD Director of Student Support Services Bob Sanchez said, “hijack the school.”

Scott Bergerhouse, appointed in April as principal for the competing “dependent charter school” proposed by AUSD in response to the teachers’ petition, told the board that the independent charter proposal would mean a loss of sports programs for DLMHS students. He went on to say that it would place district employees at risk of losing their jobs.

Other speakers reiterated the themes that the petition was divisive and wasn’t inclusive, one stating that it “violated the spirit of Brown v. Board of Education,” the landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1954 in which the Court declared that separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.

In all, the board listened for about three-and-a-half hours to anyone wanting to speak on the conversion charter issue, then adjourned in order to return to the County Education office to discuss other matters, including the appointment of a fifth board member. The decision they must now make was perhaps best summed up by Jim Bonwell, a parent of a junior at DLMHS, who asked, “Whose vision will better serve the students?” The County School Board is expected to announce their decision within two weeks.

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24 Comments to “County school board hears Dozier-Libbey independent charter petition”

  1. Parent of a dozier Libbey Student says:

    Mr O’Connell’s main complaint is that the teachers did not involve the parents initially, however, he fails to recognize who is actually supporting the independent chater. Yup you guessed correctly the parents and students of Dozier Libbey. Why because these teachers have done an excellent job so far without or little support of AUSD. I only can imagine what we can achieve as an Independent charter.

    Yes, the Independent charter can better serve the students of Antioch! After all this is about the quality of education. Yes, many parents support the move. It appears the only people who oppose this is AUSD and those with ties to AUSD.

  2. […] County school board hears Dozier-Libbey independent charter petition Following their 10 minute power point presentation, representatives of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), which currently operates the school, voiced their arguments against the move. … An internet search finds him listed as a partner with … Read more on Antioch Herald […]

  3. Parent of Charter Students says:

    ‘Scott Bergerhouse…went on to say that it would place district employees at risk of losing their jobs.’

    Independent charter schools don’t have as many regulations. This means they do not need as many administrators, and can fire them and hire more teachers in their place.

    Although teacher unions hate charter schools, administrators hate charter schools more. Good teachers love charter schools as there are more jobs, and you get to work with other good teachers.

    • Dylan Howell says:

      There was a time when unions opposed charter schools but that is no longer the case. For example – Clayton Valley High School is unionized through CTA and my understanding is that the teachers of Dozier Libbey also plan to unionize through CTA. And the local teachers union (AEA) has taken a neutral stance in regards to this petition.
      The employees Mr Bergerhouse was referring to were the classified staff – custodians, secretarial staff, career center technicians, library technicians, etc. The vast majority of these AUSD employees live in Antioch. Which is a bit ironic as one of the complaints put forth by the teachers of Dozier was the lack of support staff provided by the AUSD. Perhaps the petitioners believe they can hire private companies to provide theses services at a lower cost, but I doubt it (having witnessed my own children’s independent charter school fail to do so) and in any case, it seems a shame to take those jobs away from people who live in Antioch.

      • Bill says:

        Improving educational opportunities, increasing educational results and creating safer educational environments should be the priority of AUSD, not job security.

        • Lori B says:

          Agreed, Bill! AUSD, its superintendent, administrators and staff, need to remember that the reason they even have jobs is to serve the students of Antioch and it is their duty to provide the best education experience possible. When they fail to do so, then it’s time that things change. And change they must!

  4. Ann O'Nim says:

    Even though the Superior Court has ruled in favor of the Dozier-Libbey teachers, the AUSD is working overtime to continue to oppose change.
    I am confident that the CC County Board will see that the parents and community do support the teachers and approve the independent charter petition.
    How much money did the AUSD pay Jack O’Connell from Capitol Advisors to make a cameo appearance? To what lengths will they go to oppose change?
    The district believes “if it isn’t broken why fix it”. The students and parents are smart and believe that you can make a good school better.
    I urge the County Board of Education to approve the independent charter and allow Dozier-Libbey the same opportunity that was given to Clayton Valley Charter High!

    • Jeffrey Hall-Cottrell says:

      The only thing the Judge sided with was that the district did not follow proper protocol when it came to their petition for a conversion charter. And that was all.

      I support the AUSD in their opposing the Independent Charter. A Conversion Charter is when a school is doing poorly. Dozier-Libbey is not doing poorly.

      I am a parent of a Dozier-Libbey Student and if these teachers win the right to be an Independent Charter, she will no longer attend. You all want a Charter school start your own. You don’t get to take a school that WE paid for.

      I will fight this until the fat lady sings.

      • Reginald Jamal Brown says:

        Hello Jeffrey,

        Your statement says it all, “…the district did not follow proper protocol”

        That is exactly the type of district your daughter is attending. I hope you think twice about taking her out of Dozier, for her educational sake.

        Furthermore, I ALSO paid for the school and so did everyone else who pays RE taxes. What makes you believe your opinion is better than mine? or better than anyone else’s for that matter?

      • Bill says:

        We should all want better education for all the students.

        I know of no parents threatening to pull their kids out of DLMHS if the charter DOESN’T go through.

        In any event, we admire a person with principle.

        We are all looking forward to your fight in getting the schools under the AUSD that are NOT doing well in to charter programs.

        • Lori B says:

          Jeffrey,
          My taxes also pay for Dozier-Libbey and the other schools in Antioch. My taxes also pay the salaries of the superintendent and administrators that have failed to do their job in educating our children. When, not if, Dozier-Libbey is granted it’s independent charter, the school facility will remain in Antioch and serve Antioch students, so nothing is being taken from the Antioch community. It’s care is merely being entrusted to a charter executive board comprised of Antioch parents and Antioch community members. I’m warming up my singing voice…

      • Ann O'Nim says:

        Jeffrey,
        You seem to have some misunderstanding about charter schools. The AUSD cannot do a conversion charter because they don’t have current teachers who signed their petition. To start a new charter, they would have to rename the school, start over for everything including the lottery and still they might not be able to do it. When the teachers succeed with their Independent Charter, the only thing that changes is the governing board, which will still be parents and community members. The lottery will stay the same. The school does not move locations and will still be accessible to the same students as under the current configuration. One significant difference will be that the teachers will have a better chance of implementing new programs that the AUSD previously resisted since they like a one size fits all approach to education. Conversion charters are not only for schools which are performing poorly. These days, conversion charters can be for good schools that seek greatness. Instead of digging in to your position, I suggest you ask more questions, do more research and then make an informed decision about which school you want your child to attend.
        Ann.

  5. Dozier Libbey parent says:

    The break down of the speakers says it all. The community DOES support the teacher’s proposed charter, and parents want the best education for their children. One has to ask why the AUSD wouldn’t want the same.

  6. Nicole says:

    I am a parent of a Dozier-Libbey student and I support the Independent Charter as do many parents within the AUSD boundaries. I support the charter proposal because it means a better education for all the children who attend this school. While I was well aware of the “Sweet 16″ programs that the teachers plan to implement, I was still “wowed” by what I saw in the teacher’s presentations Wednesday night. Our children deserve a great education and converting this school to one that is independent of the District will mean that teachers can implement new programs and get them in place quickly.

  7. Dale Backlund says:

    Well written article and factual about the speakers and interests of the speakers. I agree with the prior comment about how much was paid to Jack O’Connell to speak at the hearing?

    I support the independent charter and I urge the County Board of Education to do the same.

  8. Citizen says:

    AUSD continues to make it clear that the teachers are doing what is best for the school and their students. They have shown the community their true colors by attempting to skirt the law, confuse the parents & students, and blatently lie to the public. One accusation they keep bringing up is that the teachers did this secretive with no community input. It is now very clear to me that they HAD to do it that way or the district would have dismantled the school before the teachers even got this going. The teachers have played smart from the beginning and have taken the high road throughout this process. I hope the county board sees through all the district’s baloney and recognizes that Dozier will thrive once out from under them.

  9. Concerned citizen says:

    I continue to be outraged at the amount of money the district is spending on lawyers and the time district administration is focused on their illegal dependent charter when they should be spending this time and money fixing the many other problems in AUSD. The actions of the district are underhanded, mean and aggressive. They should be following the character traits that we try to teach our kids. They are horrible role models for our kids. Even though the judge ruled their dependent charter illegal, they are still spending more public money on lawyers to continue this losing fight, and they still have signs up and website. How arrogant they must be to think they can ignore court orders! I hope there is a complete change in top level district administration and board members immediately. The community should speak out at board meetings about their behavior! I just hope and pray that the county board sees the opportunity for Antioch citizens to have an alternative choice for their children’s schooling in the independent charter, which would be a a community school. That is what charter schools are meant to provide!

  10. Rochelle says:

    The AUSD clearly continues to spend an exorbitant amount of money on stopping the independent charter. If they had put half as much effort in the others schools in the district as they are here, perhaps the other schools would have their violence issues addressed. They need to be transparent in how much they spent thus far including the cameo by O’Connell. Antioch Voters: Keep in mind that the Antioch School Board were also the ones who approved the dependent (illegally formed) charter giving way to these expenditures. They all must be voted out as soon as possible (two are up this November) We fully support the independent charter because it will benefit the children who SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE MAIN FOCUS!! Many parents of dozier students including myself are outraged at the AUSD behavior and everyone can see their underhanded, arrogant, and disgusting ways. Their leadership must go.

    We support the teachers of Dozier Libbey and the Independent Charter.

  11. silvia says:

    after being at last week’s meeting, there is no doubt in my mind I have made the right decision in the best interest and future of our kids. AUSD is clearly a dysfunctional misleading group of members that want nothing more than to just take away the school from the teachers out of spite. Not once did they speak about what’s in the best interest of the kids, but instead talk about how it will affect the community, well excuse me AUSD we are the community and I am all for Dozier Libbey Independent Charter because I do care about the education of the kids and so do the teachers! Stop the harassment now! Move on to bigger and better problems you have in the ENTIRE district. I’m so disgusted with out district!

  12. Reginald Jamal Brown says:

    AUSD trembling in their boots because if Dozier succeeds in their mission, they will set the precedence on how a school should be ran. Things like focusing on academics and helping students become active functioning and producers of society instead of lofty dreams of becoming the next football player.

    AUSD is trying so hard to praise mediocrity. They believe that as long as all of our students are uneducated and stupid, then it is normal so no one can blame the AUSD school system. Educated smart graduates from Dozier will exponentially make AUSD look very bad. Lol

  13. Rafael Parent of DLMHS Student says:

    I attended the board meeting and kept hearing over and over. “If it aint broke don’t fix it”. I support the independent charter conversion of DLMHS. All the arguments that the AUSD makes are not true and no data supports them. If you look at the California Board of Education Website you can research all the API scores for all the district schools. There is one clear and attainable statistic that you will find almost all schools in the AUSD are failing API scores are low. Yes DLMHS scores are high and teachers at DLMHS are doing an outstanding job at keeping the scores high. You will see that during 2010-2013 there was a dip in the API score of DLMHS and you can see that the numbers of students increased but the teachers have started to bring up the scores again with the higher student class and higher teacher to student ratio. If you look at the three high schools DLMHS API 811, Antioch High API 669, and Deervalley HS API 734. All but one met te California State board of Education criteria DLMHS. Now ask yourselves if its not broke dont fix it? Well I as a parent with students in the AUSD am not going to sit and watch it break like the other schools in this district. What do you think will happen next if this Independent charter is not approved? The AUSD will fire all teachers at the DLMHS and just wait mark my words you will see the trend we are seeing daily from the Schools in AUSD we will be just like the rest low API scores and no inovation, no academic excellence. So Parents of Antioch what do you want, do you want to wait till it is broke or fix the real reason for the Independent Charter break away from the AUSD and shoot for the stars. I think our kids deserve it, don’t you. Now understand that AUSD gets money from the state because the DLMHS high API scores, why do you think they are fighting so hard to keep it under there control. They need to get there salaries paid and yet how much of the money the state gives to AUSD goes to DLMHS, not much. Remember parents of Antioch community do your homework and lets give our kids a chance.

  14. Julio says:

    I support the charter school, it is a wonderful option for the students. I have experience with charters and the crap the school dist tosses around. I would not believe one word from Mr. gill or Mr. Bergerhouse. Some people should clean their own houses first.

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