Guest Commentary: Ruehlig writes of Antioch’s positives, challenges
I enjoyed Allen Payton’s vision for 2017. We need imaginative thinking and bold ideas to shake off stagnation.
The New Year brings new visions. With the imminent opening of a widened Highway 4 and the not too distant inauguration of the Hillcrest e-BART Antioch sits on a crossroads of promise. We all hope that it might depart its’ media image as a kicking post of bad news and instead fulfill its promise of a ‘destination’ city.
As a child I had the privilege of growing up in such a town, Great Neck, Long Island, a town depicted in Fitzgerald’s ‘Great Gatsby’. Though we lived on the modest side of town, nevertheless, we would periodically open the door of our small Tudor to find a stranger’s note asking us to kindly call them should we ever decide to move. The town was that desirable, principally because it was rated in the top ten school districts nation-wide. Case in point; my German teacher spoke nine languages and would quote from memory long passages from Goethe.
Today, we all know that the two main drivers of real estate prices are safety and the quality of local public education. At this point what Antioch needs to boost its’ profile is more targeted housing that appeals along the Trilogy senior homes model; or the Blackhawk estates that bring in the wealthy and influential. That crowd brings disposable income, businesses and, crucially, voice. This is needed in a town long the butt of media ridicule and the long standing step-child of County government attention.
Antioch is poised as it has some substantial building blocks in place. How many towns can boast the likes of the former Humphrey’s Restaurant and an elegantly restored El Campanil Theatre sitting on the Delta? How many are recipients of the Delta breeze? Who else can count the service of AMTRAK and over two dozen parks? These include a magnificent swimming and fishing reservoir and Black Diamond Mines.
How many other places have their version of a Miracle Mile, with a medical office complex, hilltop church, community center, library (one of two in town) and swim park? And here’s one we oft forget; how many towns can claim as many un-chopped hills and not boxed, but curving, undulating streets that make neighborhoods and driving interesting.
Yes, Antioch has its pressing problems of safety, jobs, downtown revival and, yes, an academic achievement gap. There is, though, much that we can be grateful for, plenty we can build on.
We have a corps of talented and dedicated public school teachers; a cutting edge network of ten career themed academies, including the award-winning Dozier-Libbey Medical High School and law, engineering and green energy programs, to name a few; a vibrant independent learning program; terrific choice with Montessori and now Rocketship, a recently approved third charter school; and a rich tradition of Christian schools like Cornerstone, Holy Rosary, Golden Hills and Seventh Day Adventist.
Granted, too often we have a two tier system of educational proficiency haves and have-nots. My son, Joshua, as example, prospered at Deer Valley High taking Advanced Placement classes where there he experienced seeing few discipline distractions or time-consuming struggling students. He went on to Cal Poly at San Luis Obispo and within three days of graduating college got a job as an environmental engineer.
Others, though, get left behind; too often children of color or students that are homeless, latchkey, transient, special needs or English language learner. Distressingly, only 19% of our students score proficient in math. That, simply, is not tolerable. We need to solve this puzzle of bringing along all kids. That calls for bold action by school administrators instituting aggressive interventions like the after-school individualized Math Intensive program that has had such success building fundamentals.
Fact is, once you fall behind it gets harder and harder to catch up. Since nobody wishes to be labeled a failure kids pretend they don’t care and act out. Cutting class, looking tough, being defiant all speak to frustration. You can’t do algebra when you don’t know your multiplication tables or how to do long division.
This, then, also calls for help from the parents staying in the loop. Education, after all, is a three legged stool– students, teachers and parents all working together, communicating and supporting and encouraging. Televised meetings could also help keep people on board.
My New Year goal is that one day we can all open our doors and see a note asking for us to call should we decide to move. For that to happen, It takes the will to change. With resolve we can become that destination city where we number more reasons to stay in Antioch than to go.
President, Antioch School Board