Watchdog: Thoughts on Antioch School Board’s actions and November election
Voters in Antioch will soon be asked to fill two Antioch Unified School District board seats in addition to two city council seats. Vote by mail ballots will be sent out beginning October 6th for the November 4th election.
Candidates for the school board are Walter Ruehlig, former board member, Debra Vinson, who previously ran for the board and lost, incumbents Joy Motts and Gary A. Hack, former president of the Antioch teacher’s union. Since I’ve been opposed to a number of board actions, incumbents won’t get my vote.
First is the board’s continuing opposition to the highly rated Dozier-Libby Medical High School becoming an independent charter school although a state appellate court panel upheld a Contra Costa Superior Court judge’s decision stopping the district from making Dozier Libbey a district run charter school. The board has now appealing the decision at the state level.
Second is that in December, Joy Motts, Board President, put discussion of the anti-Prop. 13 resolution by Evolve-ca, an activist group attempting to persuade local boards and councils to support removing Prop. 13 protections for business property on the agenda. Fortunately no action was taken after a presentation of correct information from the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association informing the board that the percentage paid by homeowners has declined not increased since the passage of Prop. 13.
Last, but not least, are the two bond measures the board previously saddled non-Mello Roos homeowners with and their more recent resolution to levy a special tax for the district for fiscal year 2014-15. That’s because, as Superintendent Gill recently commented “since residents recently voted to renovate Antioch High we’re looking at renovating other schools.” What schools?
The $61.6 million ballot measure that passed in 2008 was to make facilities improvements at Belshaw, Fremont, Kimball, Marsh, Mission, Muir, Sutter and Turner elementary schools, Antioch and Park middle schools, Antioch Live Oak and Prospect High schools. The 2012 ballot measure was to renovate Antioch High School.
It’s my guess the board’s ultimate decision not to put a parcel tax on this year’s November ballot was due to the City’s Business License Tax Measure O.
In July the district, who will receive nearly $9.4 million this year in supplemental funds because more than 55% of students are low income, English learners or foster youth, approved a $157.2 million spending plan. The school board also ratified salary and health benefit adjustments which increased compensation for members of all three labor groups by about $3.5 million.
This month, during two recent closed meetings, the board discussed asking Superintendent Donald Gill, who negotiates for himself and was being wooed by the Newark School District, to stay, offering him a salary increase and asking him to finish important district projects. (Topic was to come before the public during a regular board meeting on August 27th.)
Projects include turning Dozier Libbey into a district-wide charter and making progress on its African-American Male Achievement Initiative. Ironically the district did have a RAAMP (Raising Academic Achievement Multicultural Program) academy which opened in 2009 but the California Charter Schools Association called for its closure in April 2014 due to low standardized test scores.
NOTE: From 2004 to 2012 AUSD enrollment fell from about 21,000 to 18,500 According to the district, enrollment as of last October was 17,900.