Antioch School Board extends Anello’s contract on split, 3-2 vote

Superintendent Stephanie Anello

Finalizes LCAP and budget, discusses 53 Consent Items and approves nine new board policies

By Robert Pierce

The June 27 Antioch Unified School District board meeting was a particularly lengthy affair, with agenda items including a massive 53 Consent Items, nine new board policies and final approval of the district’s 2018-2019 Local Control Accountability Plan and budget. Most were approved unanimously. But the board split 3-2 on approving the contract extension for Superintendent Stephanie Anello with Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White and Trustee Debra Vinson voting against.

The greatest amount of time was spent discussing the Consent Items, which went from A to Z, AA to ZZ and finished with AAA. Clarifying questions were asked on several of the items in a process that took about an hour and a half, however only items B, O and GG were voted on separately, with all others passed as a group by a 5-0 vote.

Item B, a tort claim for damages regarding an altercation between two students filed against the district, was pulled by Sawyer-White, who stated that the claim, which involved a minor, should be discussed in closed session before being voted on.

Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray responded that the claim, which the district’s insurance company recommended rejecting to avoid liability, was not an item that was up for discussion as it was based on confidential information and meant for immediate action. Ultimately the motion to reject the claim was approved 4-0, with Sawyer-White electing to abstain, citing the Brown Act.

Item O involved Facility Use Fees charged by the district, an issue that has been a source of contention for a long time. The new fee schedule outlined by the item – seen here – raised some fees and lowered some others and was approved at the previous meeting as part of a group consent item vote, the first change since 2010. However, Vinson requested that it be brought back for further discussion. The fees only apply to large scale or particularly lengthy uses of facilities, or situations in which the user would make money, for example a cookout where the food is sold. “Family use” situations such as a group of friends playing sports on the field Girl Scout troupes holding meetings are not currently charged.

Vinson brought the item back due to “concern” she has for the community and has heard from community members regarding “excessive” facility fees. Vinson also mentioned the Civic Center Act, which allows local education authorities to charge less than recommended fees for facility use, or to not charge a fee at all. Ultimately, Vinson pushed for greater accessibility for community members in the form of lowered fees and mentioned the positive impact it could have on the district’s image, expressing a desire to make sure that the rates were “fair and equitable to the community,” with particular emphasis on the non-profit rate.

As a counterpoint, Anello mentioned that “handing out” facilities could incur serious costs for the district; the main purpose for facility use fees, as outlined in the Civic Center Act, is not to create profit for the district but to help recoup the costs the district pays to operate the facility, such as custodial costs.

During public comments, Kim Scott took the time to thank the board for brining the issue back and requested they find a solution to it quickly.

“We started the process about a year ago,” Scott stated. “Our kids are looking for a resolution, our community… we’re looking for a resolution.”

Despite approving the fee schedule last meeting, the board almost unanimously expressed regret at doing so, with Sawyer-White declaring that she would have never “intentionally” raised fees. Ultimately Trustee Ruehlig requested more research be done and that multiple potential models be presented to the board instead of just one, and the board voted 4-1 to override and reject the fees approved last week, with Gibson-Gray voting nay.

Item GG, pulled by Sawyer-White, was a revision to the salary schedule for the district Superintendent, Associate Superintendent, and Chief Human Resources Officer to bring them in line with a 2.25 percent increase other district staff received recently. Superintendent Anello, however, waived her 2.25 percent raise, a decision praised by several members of the board.

Sawyer-White stated she was “not in agreement for a raise at this time,” but the motion to accept the revisions passed 4-1 with only Sawyer-White voting nay.

For Action Items, the board approved the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan or LCAP and 2018-2019 Budget, both of which were discussed at length in the previous meeting.

Antioch School District 2018-19 budget decreases again, this year by $4.2 million

The LCAP did not change in substance, however the board emphasized that it can be brought back at any time and encouraged parents and other community members to provide feedback.

“It’s not personal,” said Vinson, urging the board to detach themselves emotionally and embrace feedback. “It’s to extend and develop the plan… so that we’re actually improving academic outcomes.”

As far as the budget goes, while the final presentation went into much greater detail on several funds, the raw numbers changed very little – the district still anticipates an ending balance of about $11.7 million and remains weary of a looming potential recession.

Preliminary Budget, presented last meeting          Final 2018-2019 Budget

Anello Contract Extended One Year on 3-2 Vote

The final two action items were one-year extensions to the currently two-year, originally three-year contracts of Chief of Human Resources Officer Jessica Romeo and Superintendent Stephanie Anello. Both extensions were passed 3-2, with Sawyer-White and Vinson voting no, citing not any sort of performance issues but merely a preference of shorter contracts in an economically uncertain time.

The last major items of discussion were nine Board Policies for Second Reading and Action, revised to reflect new state legislation. The policies, minus C and E, were passed as a group with a 5-0 vote, however both C and E later passed 5-0 as well.

Item C dealt to district residency requirements and new legislation preventing the district from asking about a student’s immigration status; Vinson clarified that homeless students can still get into any school district and were unaffected by the new policy. Item E responded to “new legislation requiring districts to educate students about the negative impact of bullying based on actual or perceived immigration status or religious beliefs and customs” as well as other legislation that now “requires staff training with specified components related to bullying prevention and response.”

Revised Board Policy 5111.1 District Residency

Revised Board Policy 5131.2 Bullying

With the district on summer break, the board will not be meeting again until August, with meetings scheduled for August 8 and August 22. Future items requested by the board included increasing the district’s financial reserve percentage, revising the district mission statement and changing the board logo.

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