Money issues dominate Antioch School Board meeting
By John Crowder
“Show me the money” could have been the theme for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) School Board meeting held on Wednesday, June 11 at the School Services Building.
Early in the meeting, a presentation was made by District personnel regarding the development of AUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The development of an LCAP is a requirement of all Local Education Agencies (LEA’s), including AUSD, under the latest methodology used by the state of California in determining school funding. Its purpose is to describe how a school district plans to meet “annual goals for all pupils.” Further, all LEA’s are required to “obtain parent and public input in developing, revising, and updating LCAP’s.” In other words, it is supposed to allow parents and the public a say in how education funding is spent.
Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business and Operations for AUSD, made a presentation to the Board regarding the AUSD LCAP budget. Included in his presentation were a list of services currently provided by AUSD, including such things as counseling, additional student support for special education, instructional and bilingual aides, and numerous other items.
Several citizens spoke about the LCAP process during the public comments portion of the meeting. First to speak on the subject was Yuritzy Gomez, Community Organizer with the group Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO). The organization bills itself as “a multiracial, multigenerational, interfaith federation committed to building civic engagement and increasing public participation by those most affected by injustice and inequity in Contra Costa County.”
“Let us, community members, work with you,” Gomez said to the board, with respect to developing the LCAP.
Later in the meeting, she stated that she had provided a “Community LCAP” plan to AUSD via email earlier in the day. Several other community leaders, including representatives of the Education Trust-West, NAACP, Parents Connected, and RAAMP all spoke in favor of incorporating ideas from the Community LCAP in the AUSD LCAP.
Some of the Board members seemed to be taken aback by the public comments regarding the LCAP process.
Board member Diane Gibson-Gray asked why, based on the public comments, it appeared that AUSD and community members were separated on the process. Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, responded that the two plans were “not that far apart,” and that she had spoken with Gomez about the matter earlier in the day. In later remarks, she noted that the district had held 27 meetings and spoken with approximately 1000 parents, students, and community members about the process.
“We are committed to including as many of these recommendations as possible in our LCAP,” Anello stated.
A request to fund instrumental music in Antioch schools was also made during the public comments. Betty Lawrence, a former instrumental music teacher at AUSD and founder of the Antioch Strolling Strings, along with three others, all stressed the importance of music in providing a quality education.
Another issue that generated some controversy, even among Board members, was the adoption of two math programs for the local high schools, College Preparatory Math (CPM) and Big Ideas by Houghton Mifflin.
Julie Young, a mother of a student at Deer Valley High School, spoke in opposition to the adoption of the CPM books. Quoting directly from research studies conducted by college and high school mathematicians, she told the board that CPM was known to follow a “guess and check” method that, according to one author, produced “mathematical morons.” She derided the program as one that had been tried before, and had horribly failed. Her daughter, Megan Young, a former AUSD student, also spoke, reading a statement given to her by Deanna Donaldson, the parent of a Deer Valley High School student.
“Kids do the teaching, not the teachers,” she said.
Mrs. Young and her daughter were supported in their assessment of the program by board member Claire Smith. Even so, after Board Vice President Gary Hack received assurances from Anello that Antioch’s math teachers had vetted the curriculum, it was approved by a majority of the board.
The next board meeting, a special meeting dealing with the LCAP process, will take place beginning at 6:00 p.m. on June 18th. The next regularly scheduled board meeting will take place on June 25th at 7:00 p.m. Both meetings are slated to take place at the School Services Building, 510 G Street.