Antioch School Board served with middle and high charter school petitions

By Allen Payton

NOTE: My apologies for getting this article posted just, today. I thought it was posted two weeks ago. But, it was a preview article that I had written and posted prior to the meeting. 

Petitions were submitted to the district office for the East Bay Tech Middle School and East Bay Tech High School and the Antioch School Board held public hearings during their meeting on Wednesday, March 14. The board will make their decisions to accept or reject the petitions at their regular meeting on May 9, 2018.

Board Chairman Gary Hack said he acknowledged receipt of the petitions.

According to district staff the public hearings were required by the Education Code as part of the charter petition process. However, the public hearing was an information item only.

Meagan Moilalen, the chief petitioner spoke first.

“I’m excited to bring to the board two world class schools for Antioch,” she said. “The Antioch community and I ask you to approve the charter schools” and to “determine if our petitions meet the 15 conditions. Our charter schools do meet them.”

“We will be an educational powerhouse, not only getting every child through our schools to college, but through college to a 21st century career,” Moilalen continued. “Our model is based in…rigor, relevance and relationships.”

At Clayton Valley Charter, “each year we have 500 students on our wait list and 200 are from Eastern Contra Costa County,” she stated. “We have 600 signatures from parents in Antioch” supporting the petitions. “The mission and the vision of the schools are the same.”

Former Antioch Associate Superintendent Bill Morones, co-petitioner, spoke next giving a brief description of both schools.

“Antioch parents deserve a choice,” he said. “We’re talking about their students’ education. There are two challenges. One is we are preparing students for jobs that no longer exist. The other is once our students graduate high school they’re not graduating college.” The “drop out at 35-40%. We are not educating them adequately prepared for college. Right now, Microsoft has 5,000 available jobs. We are not doing a good job preparing our students for those jobs.”

“We’re talking technology,” Morones continued. “Our school is a public school that is free and has open enrollment. We do not self-select our students. They’re chosen by random lottery.”

“We are a failure-free school,” he explained. “We provide multiple interventions for all of our students. We provide a bridge program in English and math. We provide a free tutoring program for two hours after school. Our teachers will be tutoring our students. On Saturdays we provide tutoring for our students by our teachers. We offer intercession. Our schools essentially never close.”

“Our school is a smaller school,” said Morones. “We will know all students by their name and their needs. We will have a very strong advisory program for our students. We are a non-profit charter school. We strongly believe all parents and students in Antioch deserve a choice.”

Public Comments

Antioch resident Thomas McNell was the first member of the public to speak.

“I’m here as a supporter of all education, public education, private schools and charter schools. I took my son out of public school and put him in a charter school.  Choice is the foundation of charter schools. Recently our chamber of commerce voted to support these charter schools. Please give our children and parents a choice they believe they should have.”

Tricia Campbell spoke against the charter schools.

“I am a Antioch Middle School teacher. I have been teaching in our district for 15 years. I feel very strongly about public schools for children. I feel very strongly that corporate charter schools weaken public schools. The money it will take away from my school…all of these things that have made Antioch Middle School turn around…would be taken away with charter schools. I’m also speaking as a resident. It pretty much decimates communities. If you want a good, strong stable community, you want strong, stable schools. I do have some concerns…about their teachers work after schools, work on Saturdays and holidays.”

Richard Pagano said, “I am the CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce. The Antioch Chamber of Commerce endorses and supports the adoption of the EBT at the district level to ensure oversight and the funding remains local. The business community respects the students, teachers and administrators of the AUSD schools.”

He mentioned the Pathways and Principal for a Day programs the chamber sponsors in the district’s schools.

Kevin King was next saying, “I’m a founding governing board of Clayton Valley Charter shared his experience in getting the charter petition approved and in support of the East Bay Tech charter school petitions.”

Former Antioch teacher Liz Ritchie said, “I respect all of you. I used to work here in Antioch. I spent 10 years here. I taught at Park Middle and at Deer Valley High School as a biology teacher, there. She spoke of the academies, focused programs and pathway programs. It’s not that charter schools take away from the public school environment. It offers an alternative. I would highly recommend, since there are not other tech academies near you…I’m just here for you to look at this form a different perspective.”

Student Sam Kzinski shared  his thoughts stating, “I suggest you remember my name because in a decade or two you’re going to be hearing a lot. I’m a student at Clayton Valley Charter Academy. I was in the Antioch Charter Academy II. When you have the charter environment you have families that get together and it’s quite pleasant.”

“I’m double majoring,” he continued. “I’m taking civil engineering. This summer I plan to take college classes, so I can get even more ahead. I’m also taking a lot of political science classes.”

John Crowder said “I moved to Antioch in 1989. For the last two decades I’ve been involved in education as a tutor, a teacher and a private school administrator. I’ve helped develop a math program. I’ve toured their parent school, Clayton Valley Charter. I’ve spoken to parents, teachers and students. I believe their school.”

“It will be transformative for Antioch schools,” he stated. “They will provide extended school days. They will be able to cut through the red tape. There is broad community support for East Bay Tech. Please bring forward this award-winning program to Antioch.”

A little girl named Isabella spoke next, saying “I’m in fifth grade. I go to Vista Oaks Charter School in Byron. I don’t think it’s fair that my mom has to drive so far for me to go to school. Don’t you want me to be a success? I promise I won’t let you down.”

Kipp Penovich offered a different perspective, saying “This is business and money. I worked at Clayton Valley for four years. This is not the first time the school has tried to expand. And we all know expansion means more money and market share. When it comes to education the education is taken care of teachers. When it comes to retention, Clayton Valley has a challenge.” He the mentioned that most of the teachers who were there at the beginning of the charter school had left the school.

“The administration as of last year…only one is left, since the beginning,” he continued. “As far as oversight, I would discourage you from approving this.

Richard Asadoorian, a former Contra Costa School Board Member and current board member of Clayton Valley Charter spoke next.

“These two…strongly meet these requirements,” he said. “I strongly urge you to vote in favor of these charters. Keep these two charters within the borders of the Antioch Unified School District and you will keep the oversight and add these two stellar schools to your crown.”

A woman named Julia shared her concerns with the proposed charger school.

“As a community member and taxpayer, I want to ask the school board to not to approve…and not to participate jointly in this crime to steal this hard-earned money, and hand it to wealthy CEO’s and the charter school corporation. You are paid by the taxpayers. I work two or three jobs 16 hours a day. Your job is to make poorer schools better. Not to give the poor people’s taxes to the charter corporation. Private charters should not use public taxpayer money.”

However, the proposed charter school will be a public school and funded with taxpayer funds.

Antioch resident Velma Wilson quoted Michelle Obama, then said “I am a proud parent of a special needs student. What I hear, my son would not be going to that charter school. My son has maintained a 4.0 GPA. He just got a $2,000 scholarship. Don’t tell me what our schools are not doing. They are making an impact. My daughter went through a major injury and bounced back. She carried three AP classes. I am so proud of every educator…they’re doing a bang-up job. I’m mad that someone would come and say otherwise.”

East Bay Tech Charter High School Petition Hearing

The Board then held a public hearing on the East Bay Tech Charter High School petition.

“I want to emphasize it is a public school, non-profit, public benefit,” said Moilalen. “I want to ensure this charter will be a success.”

Our students will walk out of East Bay Tech Academy and walk into a top university then into one of the many unfilled high-tech jobs.

She spoke of “rigor, relevance and relationship.”

“Why East Bay Tech is different?” Moilalen asked and then answered. “No student will fall behind. Technology will assist in monitoring ongoing progress…so students will not fall behind. As you heard charter schools are nimble. We will use flexibility afforded to charter schools. We are bringing a proven model of a high-performing charter school to Antioch. A high-performing college-prep choice.”

Public Comments

Dr. Terry Ramus, a local scientist and business owner was the first member of the public to speak.

“My wife and I have lived here for 27 years,” he said. “We raised three daughters who went through K-12. I speak in strong support of the East Bay Tech Academies. We need to provide more choices for parents to place…students in different school environments. I have toured both the Clayton school and other charter schools in the area. So, I’ve taken the time to learn more about it.”

“I also support Antioch public school,” he said. “So, you can be for charter schools. Let’s be real…we have had a lot of people who have left the community…we all know because they wanted other choices. Some sneak their kids out, now. So, what I am asking you do to is embrace it as another choice. Allow our parents to provide their students another option.”

Joshua Samuel gave an impassioned speech about education in Antioch and its effect on his son.

“I moved to Antioch a little over five years ago to start a high-tech business,” he stated. “I left behind my teenage son, Moses who attends a high-tech school in New York City. He came to live with me. I chose to put him in Deer Valley High and it was a disaster. He went from a top two-percent to a disaster. There is anecdotal evidence of why we need this school, my son Moses. I had to take him out and send him back to the East Coast. He had to leave Antioch. I couldn’t get him into Liberty or Heritage and you guys know why. He barely graduated out there because he fell so far behind. I missed out on raising him as a teenager.”

“Clayton Valley has proven that they can do the job,” Samuel continued. “We, as a community want this…need this…will support this all the way to its fruition.”

Liz Ritchie spoke of the connectedness between the middle school and high school. “I’ve also heard how Rocketship is looking to integrate with these programs,” she said. “It’s not really taken away from but adding to.”

Jennifer Alfonzo also spoke in favor, saying “I’m here tonight to ask you to approve the charter high school in Antioch. I feel like I’m missing out on all the time I have to commute to get my kids to school. I will continue to fight for our kids. Our Antioch families want to come home.”

“Money has been brought up from the other side,” she stated. “Nothing upsets me more when they bring up money when talking about the education of my children. My child is not a dollar sign to me.”

Kipp Penovich then spoke of the school’s governance, that the board will be appointed, and not locally controlled.

“In addition, when it comes to some money issues, well board members there is no restriction that they have to be local,” he said and then gave the example of Richard Asadoorian who lives in Oregon. This is about business, this is about money and this is about control.”

Student Clarissa Wilson spoke of her experience at Antioch High School where she has maintained over a 4.0.

“I am a student…who will be graduating with a full-ride scholarship. Antioch High has the oldest history of alumni who return as teachers. That says a lot.”

Sarah Savacol a teacher at Antioch High School said, “Charters. There are two kinds. For-profit and the not-for-profit, community organized type. We have one in Antioch. They are totally non-profit and they are a great addition to our Antioch Unified School District.”

“I can’t sleep if I don’t tell you for-profit charters, if you invite in a for-profit charter that is corrupt,” she stated. “Please ask the hard questions. Follow the money. Who is their CMO. Is there a millionaire behind it? I’m shocked. I’m embarrassed that someone runs one school and makes a ridiculous amount of money.”

Tammy Carr spoke against the charter petition, saying “I’m the Pittsburg Education Association President. Walter Ruehlig is one of my members. I’m here to speak in favor of public education. Education not profits should be the concern.”

Robert Strickler – Antioch teacher’s union representative said “I’m giving you an article, a report that came out less than two weeks ago, entitled ‘Fraud and waste in California charter schools.’ That’s your homework for the next two weeks.”

He spoke of a $6 billion investment in charter schools. “Most districts aren’t given adequate funding for oversight of charter schools,” Strickler stated. “An untold amount of public funding is being lost each year. Total fraud has reached over $149 million. Find out how much one person is making to run one school in the entire state.”

Kenneth Kent, a fifth-grade teacher at Kimball Elementary, said “Last time we had a corporate charter come into Antioch…we expressed grave reservations. But we pushed it through anyways. If there are reservations, vote ‘no’ until you’re fully satisfied.”

The woman named Julia spoke again, also against the high school charter petition.

“A charter is actually moving backward,” she said. “We’ve had centuries of that. Private charter schools are attacking the very existence of public schools. What do you do when your children are under attack? As a mother you protect. There are many studies that show charter schools hurt public schools. They wouldn’t be here begging for your vote. They’d be talking to wealthy people at Hilton Hotel. They are not public. They are private. If I want you to build me a school you would say ‘no.’ Put out their own money. Have some kind of consciousness.”

Velma Wilson also spoke against the charter petition.

“This is the same charter institution that came to take Dozier-Libbey from us, she said. “Now Dozier-Libbey has become one of the distinguished schools. So, clap it up. We must be doing something right.”

Willie Mims, a representative of the East County NAACP and Pittsburg Black Families Association said, “I will tell you this, if I were to offer you my opinion I would get in trouble with my organization. With the charter petition, they said there are 600 parents who have signed their petition. That should be of grave concern to you. What would make 600 parents sign a petition? So, you need to think about that. I heard folks talk about transparency and fraud. Follow the money. You need to follow the money in this school district. I don’t see too much transparency within the Antioch Unified School District. So, when you start throwing stones you need to look within.”

Hack then closed the public hearing.

The board will take up both petitions for votes at their meeting on May 9.

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3 Comments to “Antioch School Board served with middle and high charter school petitions”

  1. Julio says:

    Why do they have a board member who lives in Oregon and has for two years? Not exactly in their sphere of influence.

  2. Thomas McNell says:

    I am a strong supporter of the East Bay Tech Academy Charter applications for a high performing Middle School and High School. Antioch residents deserve local schools to which they would choose to send their children. Parents are already exercising their choice for better education alternatives by home schooling their children, enrolling them in private education, and transferring their children to schools in neighboring cities, placing a time and often a financial burden on families. This is evident by the declining enrollment in the AUSD in the face of a marked increase in the population of school aged children.

    As a longtime resident, I have sadly seen many great families with school aged children move out of town primarily to get their children into higher performing school districts. The current state of our schools is also a deterrent to Antioch attracting new residents and businesses who want good schools for their employees. Ask any Realtor how important schools are to anyone who is looking to relocate.
    The nationally recognized model for the East Bay Tech Academies has taken Clayton Valley High School from a poor performing school to one of the best in the state. 52% of their students were proficient in Math in 2016 versus only 15% at Antioch High School and 32% at Deer Valley High School. Which school would you choose to send your children to if you had a choice? The opponents of these schools never argue on the performance numbers because the facts are indisputable.

    I am a strong supporter of all public schools. The proposed East Bay Tech Academies are free public charter schools. As I support this choice for Antioch, I and all the supporters of this effort also support improvement at our current AUSD schools. In the meantime, we need high performing schools now so that our current students have the choices they deserve.

  3. Thomas McNell says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words…

    https://imgur.com/a/x9lEt

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