Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Board discusses LCAP, LCFF; support staff contract approved

By Robert Pierce

At the June 13, 2018 Antioch School Board meeting all five trustees discussed the draft Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and preliminary budget for the 2018-2019 school year. They also approved the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the district and California School Employees Association for non-teaching support staff, and several new district policy items that were voted on as a group. Summary of Tentative Agreement CSEA

The meeting began with official congratulations to the recent high school graduates, and a happy birthday message by the rest of the board to trustee Walter Ruehlig.

There was a single comment from the public by Mary Rocha, who is planning on running for the board in November’s election. She urged the board to reconsider their decision and “if nothing else, slow down” the development of two new charter schools, which the board authorized last month. Rocha cited concerns with budget and documentation as reasons to reconsider.

“I ask you to reconsider, because, in the end, we are going to be affecting our own school system and our own employees,” Rocha said.

Back on the main agenda, district reports were given on both the LCAP and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by Dr. Jason Murphy. 2018-2019 LCAP District Report

According to the official district website, “The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a California funding calculation that recognizes that students with additional academic needs – low-income, English language learner, and foster youth students – need additional financial resources to support their education.”

The district LCAP website

The LCFF provides a per-pupil “base grant”, a “supplemental grant” for every student in one of the target areas and a flat “concentration grant” for districts with more than 55% of their students in one of those three groups. The LCAP, in turn, is a “planning tool” in which the district uses to report how they are going to use that funding, as well as the effectiveness of the programs and services the funding was used on.

Specifically, the LCAP, which AUSD has received funding from since the 2013-2014 school year, has local districts tie their budgets to concrete improvement goals. AUSD’s LCAP for this year currently has six LCAP goals, which according to Murphy were designed to mirror both state priorities and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and include goals such as “Provide effective and enriching learning environments,” “Build inclusive school communities” and “Reduce the achievement gap amongst student groups.”

Murphy brought with him several students and parents from district high schools to comment on their involvement with the process of developing an LCAP. All of them spoke highly of their experiences with the program and expressed a desire for greater student and community member involvement, even at the middle school level.

Trustee Debra Vinson asked how the efficacy of a program is tracked, specifically programs dealing with behavioral justice, and mentioned the district’s current struggles with high suspension, expulsion and absenteeism despite heavy investment in programs such as “Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports”. Vinson also asked how it is determined when and if a program needs to be dropped entirely.

Murphy responded that there is an on-going process of in-depth analysis of each program and service associated with LCAP, a big part of which involves getting community feedback and perspectives from students and parents, and using this data to help shape LCAP goals, mentioning specifically that they are actively working on using grant money to bring in more mental health professionals.

Murphy also explained that they have a vetting process for any vendor they choose to do business with, but for vendors who already passed the vetting and have a contract but are underperforming, information and data on the programs and services that vendor provides are available on the district website so that any staff member or community member can see how well they are working and use the data to have “critical conversations.” For Murphy, getting the LCAP data online, publicly available, was a major goal.

“We thought our theory of action would necessitate that we develop a process that includes all stakeholders,” he stated. “Available on the district website… is the list of all of our stakeholder engagement opportunities.”

Murphy said he strove for more engagement with stakeholders “whether they are students, parents, staff members or even community members” so that they can collaborate directly with the district to improve LCAP goals and processes. Another stated reason for online engagement was so that community members could interact with LCAP even if they were unable to physically attend meetings on it.

Vinson also specifically asked about the potential creation of a Restorative Justice program and a school site Climate Team to tackle issues regarding bullying and student emotional trauma that affect student attendance and classroom behavior; Associate Superintendent Christine Ibarra responded that she currently has a team looking into that issue and considering multiple solutions to it including Restorative Justice.

Ultimately Ruehlig reflected that it was a lot of information to digest, and trustee Diane Gibson-Gray encouraged parents and students to reach out with their ideas.

District reports were also given on the 2018-2019 preliminary budget by several staff, chiefly Associate Superintendent Teresa Santamaria.

Santamaria highlighted that the full implementation of LCFF, the elimination of gap funding, rising expenditures and a potential recession are creating “a huge squeeze for local education authorities.” While revenue assumptions per grade level based off of ADA grants rose about $200, drastic shifts in both federal and local revenue sources as well as rising salary and benefit costs for many employees created said squeeze.

Despite all of that, however, the district only lost $4.2 million this school year compared to a loss of $9.9 million last year, and the district will remain in the black this year as well.

“Looking at this number, we can definitely say the budget year 18-19 will be positive,” Santamaria stated. However, she explained that in the long term, due to revenue losses and expenditure increases as well as the opening of new charter schools in the area, “there will be a huge impact on our fund balance.”

The full preliminary budget

Santamaria declared that the full budget will be presented at the June 27 meeting and will include more in-depth discussion of “the major components of the budget” as well as “multi-year budget projections” with true budget balance being a huge goal for the future.

In addition to district reports, there were public hearings for both the LCAP and the preliminary budget, despite the public having already had chance to comment; Board President Gary Hack observed that it was a “silly” situation but, required by law. Predictably, both public hearings ended without any comment.

No votes were taken for either item during the meeting. The final adoption is expected to occur at the board’s meeting on June 27.

Employees Association Contract Approved

“Disclosure and Ratification of the Tentative Agreement Between Antioch Unified School District and California School Employees Association for 2017-2018,” was passed 5-0 with little to no discussion by the board, merely accepting the result of a collective bargaining agreement already settled by the district required by law to be publicly disclosed before final confirmation. The settlement included extra pay and benefits and a definitive workweek of five consecutive days Monday through Friday for most employees. The district also commended both sides of the negotiation. The full settlement, ratified 5-0

To view the complete meeting, visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

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Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian School celebrates Class of 2018

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Cornerstone Class of 2018 graduates, faculty and staff celebrate on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

Article & photo by Denise Baquing

Cornerstone Christian School’s graduating Class of 2018 included some top performing students.

Valedictorian Ryan Sierra earned a GPA of 4.14 and will be attending Grand Canyon University where he will major in mechanical engineering.

Salutatorian Michaela Felmann earned a GPA of 3.98 and will be attending Los Medanos College.

Cougar of the Year Jordan Edwards earned a GPA 3.9 and will majoring in computer engineering, also at Grand Canyon University.

Jordan has played three years of varsity basketball and received All League honors in both his junior and senior years. He’s maintained his high grade point average while serving the school in multiple ways, including being elected as President of the Student Government.

Jordan has volunteered at Royal Family Kids Camp where he’s been a counselor to foster kids, and he’s been a part of the youth leadership, at Cornerstone.

Cornerstone Christian School is located at 1745 E. 18th Street in Antioch and serves grades K-12. For more information about the school visit

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Antioch High sends off 300 graduates into the world

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura and Valedictorian Diana Muñoz speak to their classmates on Friday night, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

By Jesus Cano

Not even the strong winds infiltrating Antioch High School’s Class of 2018 graduation could have ruined the milestone celebration for its students.

But that is just one of the adversities the class had to face during their tenure as Panthers.

Something expressed deeply by many of the speakers was how discontent they were about not having a cafeteria throughout high school. In addition to that, during their sophomore year these scholars did not have their home, outdoor multi-purpose athletic facility (Eels Stadium), as it was under renovation.

That foreshadowed what these students were able to receive over time. Principal Louie Rocha pointed out that these students were able to witness the opening of the new library and media center.

But at the end of their high school careers, many of the students felt that walking across the stage was well worth the struggle.

Valedictorian Diana Muñoz and Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura both touched on the subjects about being children of immigrant parents in their speeches, but Gonzalez Ventura additionally spoke about his denial into both Dozier-Libbey and granted admission into one of Deer Valley’s academies.

“The best decision of my life was withdrawing my petition for appeal at Deer Valley,” Gonzalez Ventura said. “I got to create a whole new family here at Antioch.”

This was a smaller class for Antioch, with only 300 graduates, but Rocha saw unity. It was demonstrated by them organizing a rally on the National Walkout day to spread awareness about gun control following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“This class really highlights a strong sense of community,” Rocha said. “I think they’re going to make a difference in the years to come.”

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Antioch High Class of 2018 graduates celebrate.

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Dozier Libbey Medical High graduates 127 in Class of 2018

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

2018 Co-Valedictorian Natalie Tong speaks to her fellow graduates on Friday evening, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

Co-Valedictorian Cinddy Wu Deng addresses her classmates.

By Jesus Cano

Dozier Libbey Medical High School’s graduation illustrated how much of a tight knit community the Antioch campus really is.

As principal Scott Bergerhouse addressed the 2018 Dozier-Libbey graduates, he not only did so as a class, but he mentioned 40 kids individually with the positive aspects they brought to him and the school. He described the smiles students offered him, anecdotes about the daily life of a student at Dozier Libbey, and recognized pitcher Ayanna Sanchez for tossing a perfect game.

“I wanted to recognize as many people as I can, because that’s how much they mean to me.” Bergerhouse said. “It all about the kids, it’s all about their accomplishments and what they do.”

He has been able to watch this class grow, since when he took over the helm as principal, they were just freshman.

This class of 2018 saw 127 seniors walks the stage. This was one of the smallest classes in recent memory according to the principal. Bergerhouse added that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that it’s because many students ended up switching districts.

This year, Dozier Libbey had co-Valedictorians, in Natalie Tong and Cinddy Wu Deng. While they shared similarities in grade point average, they mentioned commonly how attending a close community like Dozier Libbey served as an advantage.

“Even if we don’t talk to everyone, we can always be there for each other.” Tong said.

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Dozier-Libbey graduates cheer on their classmates.

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Deer Valley High graduates Class of 2018

Friday, June 8th, 2018

The Deer Valley High School graduating class of 2018. Photo by Robbie Pierce.

By Robbie Pierce

The students of Deer Valley High School, faculty, friends and family packed into Wolverine Stadium on the hot, humid evening of Thursday, June 8 for a graduation and commencement ceremony filled with themes of both congratulations and opportunities for their accomplishments.

Deer Valley teacher Robert Hubbard oversaw the event as Master of Ceremonies, and music was provided by the school band conducted by Larry Widener and the school Divine Voices choir led by Teacher of the Year Michelle Stark. After the students walked onto the field to the tune of the traditional graduation march and stood for the Presentation of Colors by Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps J.M. Jones and national anthem sung by the choir, Salutatorian Michelle Yin seated the class.

Principal Kenneth Gardner welcomed the class and audience to the ceremony, stating “there’s no other place I’d rather be in the world” than Deer Valley for the graduation.

“This class has been an amazing class… the knowledge that they’ve learned in academies and in classes will serve the rest of their life,” said Gardner.

Gardner, who retired this year, cried with joy during his speech. “It’s been an amazing ride,” he said.

Antioch Unified School District Board President Gary Hack gave the opening remarks, heartily congratulating the students but also urging them to “go upstream against the heard” and “do what you think is right, important and proper,” reminding them that while their graduation is no small feat, it marks the start of their life’s journey, not the end. Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White, trustees Debra Vinson and Diane Gibson-Gray, Superintendent Stephanie Anello and several District and City Officials were also in attendance as “Distinguished Guests.”

The commencement speakers for the class were Senior Class President TiaErykah Gregory and Valedictorian Rameez Mughal.

“Personally, I’d like to congratulate each and every one of you,” Gregory beamed. Throughout her speech, she stressed that students take every opportunity ahead of them whether their next step is college, career, military or a gap year and encouraging them to find their “passion.”

“Everyone has one,” said Gregory. “The only one that can keep you from a new experience of memory, is you.”

She also, somberly acknowledged that the assembled students would probably never be together again as a single unit, but celebrated the fact that before they all go their separate ways, they could be together “one last time” for their commencement.

“Congratulations, class of 2018,” she said. “We did it.”

For his speech, Mughal took a second to thank the faculty for “making our education possible,” giving special note to the retiring Gardner. He also offered encouragement to his peers while admiring the “effort” he had seen over the past four years and pushing everyone to seek out new opportunities.

“Wherever life takes you, I hope you bring that same effort with you,” Mughal said.”

Mughal also, in what he humorously referred to as “meta commentary,” discussed his initial inability to find an interesting anecdote to finish off his speech with, but how that led to a philosophic revelation for him and advising the class, “if you lack a story, write your own.”

After a musical performance of “A Blessing,” Gardner formally presented the Class of 2018 to Superintendent Anello, who accepted the class and formally certified that all present had passed graduation requirements. “Imagine” by John Lennon was performed before diplomas were presented at long last to the eager graduates by the AUSD Governing Board and DVHS faculty members Maria McClain and Allison Weihe.

The commencement lasted around an hour and a half and completed with Gregory leading the class in a traditional tassel turning ceremony, the presentation of a tassel to Gardner as a retirement gift, a few brief closing remarks by Hubbard and a recessional by the band as students and their families slowly filed out of the stadium and into the next chapters of their lives.



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Mary Allan Fellows Award recipients announced

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Fourteen teachers have been chosen by the Antioch Schools Education Foundation (ASEF) as this year’s Mary Allan Fellows Award winners.

In its 11th year, the ASEF honors educators from the Antioch Unified School District.

These year’s Fellows recipients are Jennifer Carrigan, Sutter Elementary School; Stevi Grimm, Antioch High School; Mark Libbey, Dozier-Libbey Medical High School; and Michelle Stark, Deer Valley High School. Stark is also the AUSD Teacher of the Year.

The 2018 finalists are Samantha Helton, Park Middle School; Lisa Henley, Grant Elementary School; Debbie Karp, Park Middle School; Katy Kelley, Grant Elementary School; and Heather McGovern, Orchard Park K-8 School. And, semifinalists are Megan Cain, Fremont Elementary School; Steven Kestner, Sutter Elementary School; Darrin Neutz, Dallas Ranch Middle School; Alvin Sandford, Jack London Elementary School; and Kathe Saylor, Park Middle School.

Allan, a retired educator and 2001 California Teacher of the Year recipient, said ASEF’s primary purpose is to celebrate teachers.

“We want to place a focus on what excellent teachers do and how and where we can best support them. Teachers are generally nominated by a colleague, administrator, parent or student whose lives have been touched by their expertise.”

She added there was a “strong group of contenders proving a challenge for the selection team. It was a rigorous and daunting process. Each teacher who was nominated brought unique personal qualities, creative teaching methods to his or her classroom, and outreach into the community.

“The ASEF board members who visited the nominated teachers were very impressed with the quality of teaching they observed and the teachers’ commitment to their students and the profession,” said Allan. “We witnessed exceptional group work, teachers engaging students with higher-level thinking questions; students making connections between what they were doing and real-life; and students using the content language while articulating their ideas. All these teachers beautifully represented the fine quality of teaching that is happening throughout the AUSD.”

Hosted by the ASEF, these educators will be honored during the Mary Allan Fellows Award dinner on Sept. 18 at the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center.

This year’s guest speaker is Stan Murphy, the 2005 California Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year. Murphy, a Cal grad, taught for 46 years.

For more info and tickets to the event, visit


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Letters: Former Antioch Mayor and School Board Member Rocha wants reconsideration of approval for East Bay Tech charter academies

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Dear Editor:

At the Antioch Unified School Board of Education meeting held on May 9th, against the advice of staff and legal counsel, AUSD Board Members Crystal Sawyer-White, Debra Vinson, and Walter Ruehlig voted to approve East Bay Tech High School Charter (EBTHS) and East Bay Tech Middle School Charter (EBTMS) with the following conditions: “Delegate the Superintendent to negotiate the MOU that addresses the Findings of Facts included in Resolution No. 2017-18-9, including the revised budget, SPED and operations, by June 18th”.  Despite legal counsel concerns and Board Member Gibson-Gray pointing out that there was nothing in the motion to deny the charter if they did not meet the conditions the approval still stands. The motion was passed 3-2, with Hack and Gibson-Gray voting against it.

The EBTHS and EBTMS Charters are based on the Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) which has recently made headlines, “Contra Costa County Office of Education To Conduct Forensic Financial Audit of Clayton Charter High School After Sudden Departure of Administrators” (Claycord May 17, 2018).

One of the lead petitioners, Meagan Moilanen, is currently on staff of CVCHS and during the May 9th meeting spoke glowingly about the successes at CVCHS and they would be bringing that success model to the Antioch Charters.  This is very concerning and until the investigation is completed, Antioch Unified School District needs to put a stop to both charters.

Unfortunately, only AUSD Board Members who voted to approve the charters may request that the item be brought back to the board for discussion or a revote. For the sake of our students and community, I feel that action needs to be taken quickly.

Please contact the AUSD Board Members below to encourage them to reconsider their vote while the Contra Costa County Office of Education conducts a Forensic Financial Audit of CVCHS and the actions of their Administrators and Board Members.

Thank you.

Mary Helen Rocha

Past AUSD Trustee, Antioch Mayor and City Council Member

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Antioch School Board to hold special meeting on Monday for Superintendent’s annual evaluation

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

The Antioch School Board Trustees and Superintendent Stephanie Anello at the board meeting on May 16, 2018. Screenshot from the district’s YouTube Channel

The Antioch School Board will hold another special meeting for the annual evaluation process of Superintendent Stephanie Anello on Monday, May 21. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with public comments followed by the closed session discussion, since it is a personnel matter.

The meeting will be held in the Board Room at the district offices at 510 G Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown. The public portion of the meeting can be viewed on the district’s YouTube Channel. To view the agenda for the meeting, click here.

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