Guest Column: Dozier-Libbey Medical Teachers Appeal Charter Conversion Petition to State Board

By Jeff Weber

Yesterday, [Wednesday, July 30, 2014] teachers from Antioch’s Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS) filed an appeal to the California State Board of Education following the denial of their petition to convert their school to an independent public charter school last May by the Contra Costa County Board of Education.  The 351-page appeal rebuts each point made in the county board’s report for denial, and highlights significant improvements that will be made possible for Dozier-Libbey students when the school is under independent community governance.

Although Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Superintendent Donald Gill publicly stated his desire to find “common ground” with the Dozier-Libbey community following the county decision, teachers involved in the discussions with AUSD leadership in June found his intentions to be insincere.  Teachers cited several factors that doomed any meaningful agreement with AUSD that would benefit Dozier-Libbey students:

-Parents, community members, and many DLMHS faculty and staff were not invited to the negotiations;

-AUSD removed faculty and parents from the planning process for the 2014-15 school year, in violation of normal Ed Code practice;

-AUSD replaced the principal of DLMHS without justifiable cause or input from the school community;

-AUSD leadership stated their refusal to begin planning for the 2014-15 Dozier-Libbey school year until teachers signed an agreement to abandon their charter appeal (the teachers refused);

-AUSD consistently used existing successful student programs as bargaining chips to try to force teachers to abandon their charter appeal;

-Strong recommendations were provided by legal counsel to reject AUSD’s final “take-it-or-leave-it” offer.

In general, an overwhelming number of Dozier-Libbey teachers and parents expressed a lack of confidence in AUSD leadership, and fundamental disagreement with AUSD priorities.

The removal of Nancie Castro as an AUSD administrator provided the clearest indication of the district’s insincerity in promoting improved academic success in its schools.  Ms. Castro has served as the principal of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School since its inception, and has earned the school numerous honors and national recognition.  She has been arguably Antioch’s most successful administrator by any measure.  Yet the AUSD school board opted to not only remove Ms. Castro from her Dozier-Libbey position, but bar her from holding any administrative position in the district.

Ms. Castro was also instructed by district leadership not to engage in any course planning for the 2014-15 year, with those responsibilities ostensibly relegated to newly assigned principal Scott Bergerhouse.  However, many teachers are only now learning of their teaching assignments that will begin in less than two weeks.  Certain critical courses such as the scaffolded “Medical Math” have been eliminated due to planning failures, leaving concerns that next year’s students will suffer from a loss of targeted interventions, particularly in math skills. 

Many observers suspect that the Contra Costa County Board of Education was swayed by AUSD threats of litigation rather than any meaningful evidence that the charter would fail to provide a sound educational program for its students.  The State Board of Education is expected to review the petition in line with California law, and therefore approve the charter based on its merits and proven potential for providing a successful alternative public educational program for Antioch students.

Public consideration of Dozier-Libbey’s future governance began last February when the vast majority of the school’s faculty signed a petition filed with AUSD, in accordance with the charter schools section of the California Education Code, to convert their school to a public charter.  According to the petition, the school would be managed by its own governing board made up of parents and community members, independent of AUSD’s board of trustees.  The teachers’ 121-page petition presented a strong case for significantly improving academic programs and fiscal management at this respected pathway school, however AUSD subsequently denied the petition and pressured the county board of education through threat of litigation to likewise deny the first appeal.  AUSD leadership attempted to thwart the teachers’ petition early on by filing its own petition to convert DLMHS to a “dependent” charter school, however this effort has been twice blocked by the California Superior Court.  Teachers are now exercising their right to appeal their own charter conversion to the state board.  The appeal is expected to be reviewed in the late fall.

Updates regarding the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School independent charter process are available at DozierLibbeyCharter.com and www.Facebook.com/dozierlibbey.

Weber is a teacher at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School.

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8 Comments to “Guest Column: Dozier-Libbey Medical Teachers Appeal Charter Conversion Petition to State Board”

  1. Julio says:

    It seems the district is planning to fail to teach our children. They need to keep their hands of Dozier Libbey and move Scott Bergerhouse. Should have let him go when he failed at Deer Valley.

    Continue on your course Ladies and Gentlemen! You are winners!

    • Sad parent says:

      It saddens me to see the dirty politics the AUSD board and superintendent have employed in this matter, not caring about what is best for the students. Mrs. Castro gave everything for that school and was constantly looking for ways to help the students be even more successful and yet they wanted to get rid of her due to their hurt egos.

      That school DLMHS, was great because of the staff despite the lack of support from the district. It will take special treatment and lots of support by the district for another principal to achieve a tenth of what Nancie Castro and the dedicated teachers achieved.

      DLMHS deserves better! Teachers please do not give up, clearer heads will prevail at the state level.

  2. Concerned parent says:

    I cannot believe this matter is still going on. I am a parent of a student attending Dozier. I personally did not like that meetings,proposals,and so forth were done behind my back. Maybe some parents that were close to the teachers were aware, but many of us parents were NOT informed and they did not ask us what WE thought about the future of our children. That made me wary of of this charter school idea! I question what hidden agenda they must have especially since the state has been given a large sum of money for education which seems up for grabs by everybody!

    Leave something that works alone and it was on a course that was touted as being successful already. Concentrate on making what we already have better! Do not put more obstacles and have things up in the air for the new school year-this alone will make the kids suffer as they do not know who will be teaching,if it will be the same classes,won’t know if they can play in sports affecting their college and scholarship chances,etc.You are doing more harm than good and it has turned ugly on all sides!This harms the kids and pits the kids and parents against each other, instead of uniting them and focusing on their education.

    TEACHERS-leave it alone and focus on your jobs in making it better with what we have(you have done it for years here) and if you cannot,then look elsewhere for a job,so it doesn’t affect your own teaching because of your biases.I cannot believe how stressed my child is because of all of this because of the unknown,students against each other and so forth-you are creating a stressful environment for the kids and thinking of yourselves. I was going to take my child out of the school,but what are the alternatives!? Then I thought this was resolved so I let my student stay and now,it is stressing me all over again as to what I should do! Only the vocal parents may have been heard on your side,and many of us were upset but not as vocal,b ut there are many of us who are upset!

  3. DAPA Class of 2012 Mom says:

    I am having dejavu, all over again. Nancie Castro and Jason Miller launched two pathway high schools in Fall 2008. Delta Academy for the Performing Arts (DAPA) was the village that raised my child and the success story for so many other children in the Antioch community. It was closed after gaining accredidation and acclaim for its diverisity. It was relocated and reduced to a “program” on Deer Valley HS campus. The way AUSD pulled the support was decisions in closed-door meetings.

  4. We knew the AUSD would not receive approval from Sacramento Superior Court, for DLMHS to be dependent, but it is GREAT TO SEE IT IN THE NEWS! MR BURGERHOUSE IS NOT QUALIFIED TO BE THE PRICIPAL FOR DLMHS. You can ask the staff and parents from Carmon Dragon Elementary. He did not stop the violence that the children and staff endured. State test scores were also low with Mr Burgerhouse as principal. When we the parents were wanting DLMHS to be independent, Mr Burgerhouse said, over and over he would fix the problems that our school has. DLMHS IS A OUTSTANDING HIGH SCHOOL, WHAT ON EARTH WOULD HE FIX? The only thing we needed was a Vice Principal, a full time librarian and now other medical curriculum that the school wanted was to achieve even higher goals and unfortunately, Scott Burgerhouse will only lower our schools curriculum!
    AUSD MADE A VERY BIG MISTAKE IN REMOVING PRINCIPAL NANCEY CASTRO!!!THIS WILL ONLY FURTHER HURT SCOTT BURGERHOUSE’S REPUTATION AS A PRINCIPAL.

    IT WILL TAKE TIME, BUT SACRAMENTO SUPERIOR COURT, WILL OVER TURN THE APPEAL AND DOZIER LIBBEY MEDICAL HIGH SCHOOL WILL BECOME A INDEPENDENT CHARTER DOZIER LIBBEY MEDICAL HIGH SCHOOL AND PRINCIPAL NANCEY CASTRO WILL BE BACK WITH US!! Prayers to ALL that are involved!!
    It is wrong to eliminated medical math! A lot of student need and want that class! It’s not fair for our children to have a choice to take the medical math! The math teachers that my son has, had some difficulty with class and the teacher will stay after school to help a child that does not understand the math. Jeanne stuart-Chilcote

    WE WANT PRINCIPAL NANCEY CASTRO BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I would appreciate if the Sacramento Superior Court would push our court date, so we can become independent and not have AUSD hurt the students that want the same curriculum, that Principal Nancey Castro and our teachers have executed.

    • Concerned parent says:

      I have had 2 children graduate from Deer Valley,one in Dozier Libbey currently and one in elementary school. So I have had about 27 years of experience with the AUSD system. I have also two children who are teachers in other districts-one is at a school with the highest API in California and one of the top schools in the nation. So I have seen quite a lot over the years and have witnessed the decline of Antioch schools and often dismal scores. However, I cannot necessarily attribute this to the teachers or the principal which is often unfair. It is often a reflection of the student body which has changed as well,with students coming from ESL homes,lower socioeconomic status and many other factors.

      I personally have seen Scott Bergerhouse at work when I had children at Deer Valley and I support him. If he does falter or have any problems,believe me I will be the first one at his office,but I think he will do a fine job. I think we should give him a fair chance and make him feel welcome,instead of resorting to gossip and fear tactics to create more obstacles. I think that is childish. I do agree that the removal of Nancy Castro was uncalled for, as she did a fine job as well and I do not agree with AUSD in playing politics,but you cannot blame Mr.Bergerhouse for that.

      If all the school wanted was a vice principal,and full time secretaries and so forth,then why was it necessary to change it to a charter school?! I DID attend the many meetings,and heard all the explanations,but it did not seem such a dire circumstance that the change was needed. It would be different if the school was failing,but this is a solid school. Still not the best I agree, considering the test scores to many of the schools in the more affluent areas, and still has a way to go. It is just better than schools in this area and a unique concept.

      As for medical math being eliminated,if I understand you correctly, the teachers were not comfortable teaching medical math? Well, then maybe it is not something that should be taught unless the teachers have mastery of the subject. I personally have medical math knowledge because I am an RN, and it will be something that students will have to take again if they want to go into the medical field. So I am fine with the basic math curriculum to prepare them for a university. Coming from a family of 13 doctors and 3 nurses,these students will have to take all of these classes again and know that none of my family members had taken high school medical math to prepare them,so they will do fine. It really is not that difficult at all. It will be nice if they have that choice,but not a critical element-I would focus more on the science classes more so which will give them that hedge.

      And personally,the math teacher that my child had and I know that other children had,was not good at all teaching just the basic math classes. I was disappointed to find that,since Dozier was touted as an excellent school. You will notice math scores are not that great! In fact, many parents had to supplement with tutoring classes, and other avenues to help their student!!! So I just wish they get better math teachers who focus on teaching and not telling stories unrelated to math! Many parents have spoken to the principal about this matter and still nothing was done to get a better teacher or stop the stories completely!

      I think it is a complete disregard for the children of Dozier to implement a change once the school year has started. I question the agenda of these parents who are on the bandwagon so emphatically-what are you going to gain with an upheaval in the middle of a school year once it is all sorted out?! Do you want your children to be in a challenging or hostile environment where kids are pitted against each other? There are many outspoken kids and parents for the cause,YET many other students who are like my shy child who feel uncomfortable with their antics and boisterous calls for change.They keep quiet. This environment is setting up a BULLYING situation in the making. I used to hate papers being shoved into my open car window and I did not like that tactic in the parking lot as I picked up my daughter and was driving at the time and had to watch out for the children who would cross in front of me to get to their cars,etc-dangerous! So it was better when they took it outside the parking lot at least-but again this is like shoving it down our throats when there are many of us parents AND students who were fine with the school as it was. You can always IMPROVE a school without changing it to a charter school-and Dozier can still use improvements.

      Just don’t make it sound like all parents are onboard and against the evil AUSD,because that is NOT the situation at all. And personally, I think both sides are acting like the children here and bullies at that-so what are WE showing the children!? I think we need to meet at the table and calmly sort this out and meet the requests of the teachers without resorting to causing upheaval in our student’s lives. Like at the meeting when it came to sports,for instance, everything was up in the air, they could not guarantee this sports year and there was talk about maybe combining with other smaller schools,etc. All the explanations showed that they are NOT prepared and that was just one aspect. Taking on running a charter school is no easy task even though you have a mentor,but if you cannot even figure out one simple aspect,how are you going to run the school without running it to the ground?! There are schools that have closed down after becoming independent-why take that chance and ruin a good thing we do have in the city of Antioch?! I think it is more prudent to take the safe and cautious road and change what needs to be changed,yet be under the umbrella of a school district for funding those changes.Like if you have a wound on your foot,you treat it and take care of it,BUT you don’t amputate it right away-it is like you are taking extreme measures where none is warranted!

      Anyway,that is my take on it! And if you see how upset the replies are here and at the meetings,don’t tell me it is not a hostile environment being created on campus which ultimately hurts the children and pits them against one another with maybe one side being more vocal and being the bully! I only speak out now, because I see children scared to say anything and don;t want to cause any problems and they just listen quietly,BUT they should have a voice too! You are just further contributing to the break up of this school and will destroy it,where the children should be focused on academics without more obstacles and at least have a little fun-but who can concentrate and have any fun if the environment is tainted with student/parent/school hostility and maybe teachers who are upset now because they did not get what they wanted which may reflect on their teaching whether they think so or not.If they are unhappy,it may! Think of it when you are upset at work-it may affect your performance,even though you try not to! So give it up and leave it alone and let the children in peace to be kids and study and prepare for a university-they don’t need more worries!

  5. Jeffrey Hall-Cottrell says:

    I as a parent of a now junior student at Dozier-Libbey, am very saddened by this. I will, along with many other parents, fight this “Charter”.
    I will not get the into name calling or personal attacks, but I am beyond angry. Now, because we have people who don’t like what they perceive as the district not “working” with them, my daughter has to come to school in a hostile environment. And don’t think for one second it isn’t going to be hostile.
    Scott Bergerhouse will do a wonderful job and as a parent and a member of the Dozier-Libbey PTSA, has my full support.

  6. Dozier Libbey parent says:

    Thank you teachers for fighting to give our children the best education possible. Shame on you, AUSD! Removing Nancie Castro shows how little you care for your own students. She has done an amazing job leading Dozier Libbey to become a nationally ranked school. And this is how you treat her? I completely support our teachers, Nancie Castro, and the independent Charter petition.

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