Letters: Founder of Antioch’s East Bay Tech Academy charter middle school offers other side of story

Dear Editor:

For those who may not know me, let me introduce myself. I’m Jareem Gunter, an Antioch parent and the leader of the East Bay Tech Academy middle school. (We call it Tech Antioch for short.) Antioch is my home. My mother worked at Live Oak High School in the Antioch Unified School District for over 20 years until she retired last year. I was part of the opening class at Deer Valley High School, my alma mater. Now, a father with two young children, I was excited for my family to buy a home and set up roots back in Antioch.

Efforts to open Tech Antioch have raised questions about the connection between our school and Clayton Valley Charter High School. Since these concerns were first raised in the spring, numerous steps were taken to ensure Tech Antioch is completely separate from Clayton Valley. Our board was formed and includes experienced leaders in the charter school sector and a local Antioch resident, Fernando Navarro. I was named the school leader. And, we entered into a legal agreement with Clayton Valley creating a clear separation while also establishing a plan to reimburse Clayton Valley for the original investment it made into the school.

To be clear: I have no ties to Clayton Valley. Our board has no ties to Clayton Valley, my ties are to Antioch and Antioch public schools.  All my life I have attend public school, and care deeply about public school education.

We as a community, need to be honest. We need to look at the outcomes of Antioch schools and ask ourselves: Is this good enough? Last year, nearly 69 percent of students didn’t meet state English standards and 81 percent failed to meet math standards. While 80 percent of our students graduate high school, only 35 percent of those students are prepared for college. That means about two out of every three graduates leave with a diploma but not the skills they need for success if they want to pursue a career that requires a college degree. What we’re doing is not working for most children.

We are leaving too many children behind. All our children deserve and can be successful if we provide them the right opportunities. As a charter school, we can bring new ideas to our community. Our world is continually changing. We need to invest in new methods and ideas within our educational offerings.

Tech Antioch can provide an opportunity for innovation in our community and help our public schools become better. In other communities–such as Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Houston and San Diego–forward-thinking leaders have focused on what children need and incorporated charter schools into their solution.

We need to spend time focused on what children in our community need. They need the right opportunities, and that can include giving them another public school option through Tech Antioch.

As a community, our current approach is not working for too many children. Our traditional school options are allowing too many children to graduate without being prepared for life. We need to try something new. My vision for Tech Antioch is to be another option for those children. Parents need to have access to another public school choice for their children. Providing our families with more opportunities for their children will only improve our district.

I want to work with the district to give children a choice. And, I want to work with other school leaders. Let’s work together to redefine how we support our children. Together, we can raise the expectations for our children and ensure they are positioned to achieve whatever dreams they have.

We can only work together if we stop political posturing and start having actual conversations. I ask that you honestly consider what our children need and welcome a partnership with our school.

Jareem Gunter, Founder/Director, East Bay Tech Academy

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4 Comments to “Letters: Founder of Antioch’s East Bay Tech Academy charter middle school offers other side of story”

  1. Marty Fernandez says:

    What is
    this mans back ground? I have supported Rocketship and the Tech schools from the beginning but I know nothing about all the new folks except Mr Navarro.

  2. Kenny Turnage says:

    First I want to say I applaud your effort. Anybody willing to work to try and change something is worth listening to. I do have concern with a few items that are stated. Antioch Unified is not leaving anybody behind in my opinion. All the resources are there for a child to not only be prepared but to excel upon leaving Antioch Unified School district. I have a Child that is a Junior at Deer Valley and one that is a Freshman. I could not be happier with the resources and curriculum that is provided through the Law and Justice Pathway. A child’s education is not solely the responsibility of the school district. The Parent as well as the student have to buy into to what is being done. It’s not the School District leaving kids behind, it is the individual student and their at home leadership that is failing the School District.

  3. Marty Fernandez says:

    Parenting has lacked in this world many years. Antioch is no different. I agree with Ken, until parents become involved in school and family we are the losers.

  4. Tom McNell says:

    I am a strong supporter of all public schools. The proposed East Bay Tech Academies approved by the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board earlier this year are free, public, charter schools. All of us who worked on bringing this choice to Antioch also support improvement at our current AUSD schools. Even so, we need high performing schools now so that our current students have the chance for success that they deserve.

    As a longtime resident, it has saddened me to see many great families with school-aged children move out of town, primarily to get their children into higher performing school districts. I agree with the comment posted by Ken Turnage that it is possible to get a great education in Antioch. My children had some outstanding teachers. However, at the same time, the great majority of children attending the AUSD perform below grade level and are not meeting State Standards in either math or English. This can’t all be a result of bad parenting. After all, where high quality charter schools are established in a community, most of the same children who were failing begin to excel.

    The nationally recognized model that the East Bay Tech Academies is offering Antioch families has taken a school in a neighboring community 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 these facts are indisputable.

    In fact, almost all of the opposition to charter schools comes from the teacher’s unions. Ironically, I know of many teachers and politicians who send their own children to charter and private schools, while fighting to prevent school choice for others. Parents at the local middle schools signed the East Bay Tech Academies petitions at an astonishing rate. Eight out of ten parents that I spoke with signed immediately when presented with the petition. Parents clearly support choice.

    The unfounded fear is that these charter schools will hurt the district by attracting children from the district schools. The reality is that parents and students have already left the district in droves because they want options. The AUSD student population has declined by over five thousand students from twelve years ago when my children were in the AUSD schools. At the same time, the population of Antioch has risen by over 20%. The student population should have increased significantly over this same period. Performance numbers, not charter schools, are the threat to the AUSD.

    I want to thank the AUSD Board of Education for challenging the status quo in order to give the parents and students of Antioch more options.

    The American Dream is a set of ideals which includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility. Education remains the best tool for achieving this dream. As a community we should support multiple venues for our children to succeed, including charter schools.

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