By Nick Goorich and Allen Payton
During public comments at the Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday, November 18th, parent Candi Amigo shared concerns about parents of eighth graders not being aware “there will be non-themed options for eighth graders going into ninth grade.”
“They don’t have to choose an academy,” she continued. “December 11th is the deadline for choosing.”
But, she said she learned the school district was not going to send out notices to parents until January.
“We are not being informed, properly,” Amigo added. “I’m not the only parent who feels this way.”
Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello, in her first meeting in her new role, responded.
“I’ve heard your concerns and will meet with staff in the morning,” she said.
Board President Claire Smith also offered a response.
“Those kids who want to be in the general education pathway…we need to always maintain that,” she stated.
English Language Development
Another parent, Nallely Malaspine, shared her concerns with the English Language Development (ELD) program.
“The whole program needs restructure,” she said to light applause from the many faculty in attendance.
“I’d like to see this program become a priority to the district,” Malaspine continued. “We are in a very big need of bilingual assistance. We don’t have any bilingual teachers.”
“We’re killing these kids’ home language,” she added. “We’re teaching them in just English.”
Smith responded briefly, stating that state law has something to do with the district’s limitations in the area of bilingual education.
Deer Valley High teacher Scott Benedict shared his concerns about the number of students in the special education classrooms, and lack of teachers.
“We feel it’s critical. Some are up in the 22 to 25. It drives a lot of our suspensions and referrals,” he stated to heavy applause.
“We’re using like a 1970’s model for hiring, we wait until April,” he added.
Gill’s paid leave
Lone Tree Elementary Teacher Sarah Nichols wanted to know why Superintendent Dr. Don Gill was placed on paid administrative leave, to strong applause.
“He’s being paid for eight months,” she exclaimed. “Couldn’t the money be used for something else?”
Antioch High French teacher Sara Savacool, Political Chair of Antioch Education Association, the local teachers’ union, joined several teachers in expressing her dissatisfaction with the current state of substitute teaching in the district.
“I’m here to talk about subbing,” she stated. “It’s a mess.”
Savacool made it clear that there are too few substitute teachers available, leaving many overworked.
“There are not enough substitutes in the sub pool,” Savacool continued.
She told the board that many substitutes do not receive sufficient training and therefore make less of an impact than they could and the fact that teachers are substituting in classes, during the day, earning them time off.
“Teachers are using their bank days,” she said. “I have teachers getting a day a week because they’re subbing every day.”
The bank day system, in which teachers can save up time off over the course of a school year and later use them all at once as a vacation, is flawed, said Savacool, as it makes substitute teachers’ job more difficult and stretches the sub pool thin when replacements are called upon for so many days in a row.
She also reminded the board that many subs have difficulty getting their pay on time; pay can be received months after the work has been done, in some cases. “We need to revamp our hiring and training of substitute teachers,” she said. “And the pay is a mess.”
Savacool suggested several best practice strategies that she has seen work well in the past. Having permanent substitute teachers at schools, whom the students and staff know, would increase the effectiveness of the substitute teachers and allow them to make a greater impact.
Smith and the other board members, as well as Anello said they would look into the challenges and work to address each one.
The next Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 9th at which the new Trustee, Fernando Navarro will be sworn in to fill the vacancy left by the resignation in September by Barbara Cowan.