OP-ED: Antioch School District won’t win back parent trust by avoiding hard truths

by Sandra Torres

There has been a lot of talk about funding for education lately, and very little attention paid to student performance. I’m a parent. And I love the public school my daughter attends in Antioch. But our elected officials don’t seem to care that my second grader started this year reading at a Kindergarten level and is now reading like a third grader. They don’t seem remotely interested to learn about what our school is doing right. They just want to talk about money.

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) is facing a $4M budget deficit. At a recent board meeting, the AUSD leadership pinned the reason for its deficit on charter school enrollment. “It’s not scapegoating, it’s math — that’s how we get our revenues,” Superintendent Stephanie Anello stated.

Actually, if you do the math, it is scapegoating.

AUSD has been steadily losing students for years. Each student that chooses another educational option means that money goes with them. But Antioch students aren’t fleeing to charter schools.

Student enrollment in Antioch District schools is down by nearly 2,000 students since 2010 – from 19,081 to 17,232 students last school year. Over that same time, charter school enrollment in Antioch has consistently hovered between 400 – 500 students.

It’s no secret that Antioch families are transferring their kids to other school districts. In nearby Pittsburg Unified, student enrollment has increased by over 1,500 since 2010. Antioch families are also increasingly choosing private schools and electing to homeschool their children.

I am one of those parents who chose a different public school for my daughter. I chose Rocketship Delta Prep. And it was the best choice I have ever made.

I think it’s time for District leadership to take an honest look at why parents like me refuse to send their kids to AUSD schools.

Only about one in three AUSD students are meeting grade level standards in English, and less than one in five students are meeting math standards. Among low-income students, which accounts for 67% of AUSD enrollment, only one in four students are proficient in English and only one in seven are on track in math. Three AUSD elementary schools are listed among the worst 5% of all schools in the entire state.

Despite these glaring challenges, AUSD leadership is bizarrely wasting their time and taxpayer dollars on attorneys trying to invent a case to shut down my daughter’s school. Rocketship Delta Prep just opened this school year. We love our school.  If you came to one of three recent AUSD board meetings, you’d see over 300 Rocketship parents, including myself, asking AUSD leadership to show our kids, our school, and our community the respect we deserve.

When’s the last time you heard about hundreds of parents from an underserved community attend a school boarding meeting to demonstrate their love and support for their school? As AUSD board member Mary Rocha remarked during the April 10th school board meeting “I wish we had this parent support and spirit at our schools.”

If AUSD wants this kind of parent support, leadership needs to start confronting the real problems facing our students and our community. The AUSD board has held 16 public board meetings this school year and only one single agenda item has addressed the serious problems facing the District like poor academic performance, the racial achievement gap, chronic absenteeism, discriminatory discipline, or college and career readiness.

I hope to see the board start addressing these real issues at their next meeting. Honest discussion and progress on any one of these issues might help AUSD start winning back the trust of Antioch families.

Torres is a parent of a student attending Rocketship Delta Prep charter school in Antioch.

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One Comment to “OP-ED: Antioch School District won’t win back parent trust by avoiding hard truths”

  1. […] and rising deficits, writes Sandra Torres in the Antioch Herald. For years, parents have been leaving low-performing district schools for neighboring districts, private schools and homeschooling, she writes. Charter enrollment has […]

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