Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Los Medanos College to Celebrate 40th Anniversary with Community Open House and ribbon-cutting for new Student Services Center

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

LMC 40th banner Los Medanos College to Celebrate 40th Anniversary with Community Open House and ribbon cutting for new Student Services Center

Join Los Medanos College (LMC) in celebrating 40 years of serving the communities of East Contra Costa County. The College will be hosting an open house for all ages on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event will include the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the College’s new Student Services Center, tours of the campus; music, dance and dramatic arts performances; workshops on college and career success, and the College’s support programs; the opportunity to see inside many of LMC’s academic departments; planetarium shows; arts and crafts activities; and an opportunity to meet representatives of student clubs and organizations. All ages are welcome to this free community event.

The event is free and a parking permit is not required. The campus is located at 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg.

Activities include:

- campus tours

- workshops on how to get started in college, career pathways,

- opportunities to learn about LMC’s academic programs and athletics

- planetarium shows

- theater performances: scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

- welders in action

- chemistry experiments including gummy bear explosions and making “elephant toothpaste”

- the LMC fire truck used to train firefighters

- Mexican bark paintings and other crafts (especially for kids)

- a mock archeology dig

- dance team performances

- music performances by the faculty, the college’s jazz band, and other music students

- ceramics demonstrations

- blood pressure checks by nursing students

- a chance to make DNA bracelets

- hands-on biology activities

- physics experiments and demos

- information about the college’s Brentwood Center

- American Sign Language (ASL) demonstrations

- open labs for computer science, appliance service technology, math, graphic arts/photography, journalism, English, emergency medical services

The campus will open at 10:00 with activity booths, the library and art gallery. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Student Services Center will take place at 10:30 a.m. Workshops, demonstrations and open departments will begin promptly at 11:00 a.m.

Food will be available for purchase. Two food trucks will offer a wide variety of entrees, the college’s cafeteria will be open, and student clubs will be offering snacks and beverages.

LMC’s new Student Services Building was completed in January 2015 and is home to the many services that students need to facilitate and support their success at the college. This includes services such as Admissions & Records, Financial Aid, Scholarships, Disabled Students Programs & Services, Career Services, Counseling, Equal Opportunity Programs & Services, CARE and CalWORKS, along with the college’s leadership and instructional administration.

Los Medanos College opened its doors in 1974 on a 120-acre site near the boundary between the cities of Pittsburg and Antioch. For 40 years, the college has served the communities of East Contra Costa County, and students from Antioch, Liberty, Mt. Diablo, and Pittsburg Unified School Districts, as well as adults of all ages. Tens of thousands of students have attended Los Medanos College during its many years of service to the community.

The name of the college derives from the 8,000-acre Rancho Los Medanos, which was one of the last land grants made by the Mexican government when California was still a territory of Mexico. Rancho Los Medanos covered almost all of Pittsburg and Antioch, including the current site of the college. Translated into English, the name of the college refers to inland sand dunes or sand hills, which may be a reference to the sandy terrain that characterizes eastern Contra Costa County with its long history of sand mining.

Today Los Medanos College, as one of 112 community colleges with the California Community College System, is a thriving center of higher education activity. The college offers courses leading to transfer credit at senior colleges and universities, general education and major coursework leading to associate degrees, and courses leading to certificates of achievement.

LMC’s educational programs provide cutting-edge, rigorous workforce and advanced education preparation. The College’s efforts are strengthened by regional business and industry support as well as collaboration with K-12, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations. As the leading force in the economic development of eastern Contra Costa County, Los Medanos College offers high-quality instruction supported by the latest technology while still maintaining the personal touch and family orientation for which the college is known. To further meet the needs of local residents and businesses in Brentwood, Discovery Bay and Oakley, the College provides an educational center in Brentwood.

More information about the college’s history and open house can be found at www.losmedanos.edu/openhouse.

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Antioch Schools Trustee Ruehlig offers School Sounding Board meeting for residents, March 5

Sunday, February 22nd, 2015

Antioch residents are invited to a first School Sounding Board session with Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig and Contra Costa Community College Board Trustee Greg Enholm from Ward 5, on Thursday, March 5th at 7 p.m. to the Starbucks at Blue Rock on 4045 Lone Tree Way.

Enjoy coffee and conversation in an informal setting, and ask any questions and share any and all concerns you have about our schools.

Also addressed will be Dual Enrollment of high school students taking community college courses.

They plan on monthly meetings, so to be notified please e-mail walter.ruehlig@gmail.com.

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Antioch School Board members hear about preschool, testing concerns, question expenses and school databases

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

By John Crowder

At the February 11, 2015, meeting of the Antioch School Board members heard from representatives of Kid’s Club Preschool about the importance of early childhood education. They also listened to concerns expressed by one local resident about a new testing program, aligned with the Common Core, and continued to question staff about expenditures. In addition, Board Member Barbara Cowan raised questions about school databases and Board Member Debra Vinson again requested a review of the Antioch school district’s personnel structure.

Four representatives of Kid’s Club Preschool, located at 800 Gary Avenue in Antioch, addressed the board. According to their website, the preschool, “serves children that have been identified by the State of California as being low-income/at risk.”

The speakers said that, in addition to working with up to 300 children, the school facilitates monthly parent education meetings. Each of the four speakers touted the benefits of early childhood education and invited board members to take a tour of the school.

Following the meeting, Mark Mokski, Executive Director of Kid’s Club Preschool, elaborated on the comments he and his staff made.

Numerous nationally accepted research studies indicate that a child that has attended a high-quality preschool program is more likely to hold a job, will commit fewer crimes, and is more likely to graduate from high school,” he said. “Increased academic performance becomes evident with higher achievement on various intellectual and language tests during the early childhood years, on school achievement tests in both elementary and middle school, and on literacy tests later in life. Overall, a high-quality preschool program provides the foundation for success later in life with a return of between $7 and $16 for every dollar spent on preschool.”

Parent Julie Young, who frequently speaks against the implementation of Common Core at school board meetings, discussed her recent attendance at a “parent training night” that took place at Black Diamond Middle School. The presentation had been given by Essence Phillips, Director of Educational Services for the district, and provided parents with information about the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test being given to students this year.

Young complained that, among other things, the testing, mostly done on computers, may take more than eleven hours to complete, and that it is predicted that 62% of those taking the test will fail. She went on to say that the test has no reliability, will allow for no reasonable conclusions to be drawn from it, and that it will be very costly to implement. She suggested that parents opt out of the test.

As they have done in recent meetings, board members continued to question district staff regarding expenditures, in this case those listed in a Purchase Order Report. They asked for explanations about money being spent on a crossing guard study, about a penalty fee assessed by a county health agency, about expenses incurred for equipment rentals, and the number of tutoring agencies the district employs. Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent – Business and Operations, responded to each of the questions raised by board members.

At the end of the meeting, when it came time for board members to discuss future agenda items, Cowan stated that she had been hearing concerns expressed by parents regarding school database websites. She said that parents had complained of inaccurate data on two websites utilized by the district, and wondered about the compatibility of the two systems.

Superintendent Dr. Donald Gill, told the board that he would ensure that his staff investigated the matter and that staff would provide them with information regarding their findings.

Finally, Vinson asked to take a look at the personnel structure for the district, saying it was related to the Local Control Accountability Plan.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Antioch School Board takes place on February 25. Meetings are held at the school district office, located at 510 G Street, and typically begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Antioch’s Jack London Elementary receives $5,000 Lowe’s grant

Monday, February 9th, 2015
Lowes grant check 1024x539 Antiochs Jack London Elementary receives $5,000 Lowes grant

From left: Cara Sawyer, Principal Dolores Williams, Vice Principal Laura Casdia (Vice Principal) and Charlene Vera, secretary at Jack London Elementary School in Antioch, show the check for $5,000 from Lowe’s.

Money Donated for Electronic Reader Board

Jack London Elementary School has received a $5,000 Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant for an Electronic Reader Board.

Lowe’s has awarded Jack London Elementary funding for an Electric Reader Board. Our grant application was based on the goal of improving parent and student communication at Jack London Elementary. We look forward to sharing the Reader Board with the Antioch community.

Lowes Toolbox 300x117 Antiochs Jack London Elementary receives $5,000 Lowes grantBy awarding Jack London Elementary School the Toolbox for Education grant, Lowes has provided Jack London Elementary the opportunity to focus more on an important aspect of school, parent interaction. Now we can better reach out to our parents and inform them of the various events and student successes at Jack London Elementary School. We expect this project will be completed by August 2015.

Our school and community will greatly benefit from this grant. We wish to thank our friends at Lowe’s for generously supporting this important project,” said Dolores Williams, the principal of Jack London Elementary School.

All K-12 public schools in the United States are eligible for the Toolbox for Education program.  More information is available at www.ToolboxforEducation.com.

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Antioch School Trustees learn of approaches to student safety, discuss Common Core

Friday, January 30th, 2015

By John Crowder

The January 21, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board included two administrative appointments, a presentation by representatives of the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s (DA’s) Office, a review of financial statements, and the adoption of a new, Common Core, language curriculum for grades six through 12.

Early in the meeting, board President Claire Smith announced that, in closed session, the board had appointed Jason Murphy to the position of Director of Educational Services. He had previously been a Vice Principal at Antioch High School. She also announced that Joe Horacek had been appointed to the position of Vice Principal at Dozier Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS). With this latter appointment, the board addressed one of the key concerns expressed by the teaching staff at DLMHS a year ago, when a majority of them had put forward a proposal to convert to a charter school in order to address, among other issues, what they considered a lack of sufficient administrative personnel at the site.

After hearing Superintendent Donald Gill speak about an Emergency Preparedness Simulation, conducted at the District Office, and hearing Student Delegate Reports, the board listened to a presentation from the DA’s office. Assistant District Attorney Laura Delehunt, along with probation officers LaTasha Jones and A.J. Lawrence, spoke about current programs their office provides to AUSD at no charge to the district. They explained how they work with students on issues of drug awareness, gang violence, attendance, and truancy. They noted that cyberbullying is increasingly a topic of conversation with the students.

Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent, Business and Operations, along with Mia Cancio, Director, Fiscal Services, and a representative from Crowe Horwath, LLP, AUSD’s auditors, discussed the district’s financial condition. The auditor’s report said that spending related to both Measure B and Measure C bonds had been done in accordance with requirements. Forrester also discussed the district’s revenue situation, noting, among other things, that the number of students attending AUSD schools continues to decline, and that, over the course of a fiscal year, the amount of money the state projects it will be providing to the district can vary by millions of dollars.

Later in the meeting, the adoption of new language arts textbooks for grades 6-12, a Common Core curriculum, was considered by the board. Antioch resident Julie Young, who frequently speaks in opposition to Common Core, voiced concern about the amount of money that was to be spent, about $1.2 million, on the textbooks. Young said that the district had only recently purchased language arts textbooks, and questioned the cost of now doing so again. She also expressed concern about whether or not the requirements for informing the public about their right to review the books had been properly carried out.

When it came time for board member comments, Smith, who has, over the past year, questioned the reduction in literary content in textbooks purchased by the district, once again voiced her concerns. Saying that the books, “don’t meet my expectations,” she complained that [the curriculum] “doesn’t meet the needs of our students for literature.”

In an email exchange following the meeting, Smith explained her concerns in more detail. “Several years ago I was able to chat with a university professor of English,” she said. “I have spoken to several others since that time. The one thing they all said they wished that k-12 schools would do is have students read and be educated in the classics of literature. When I review books for our students, I keep that thought in mind. Are we really preparing them for community college or university when we choose a series of books.”

Board Trustees Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig also expressed “reservations” about the proposed purchase, but for different reasons.

Vinson, in an email exchange clarifying her remarks, said, “I was not in opposition of the books. I was concerned that the parents had not received adequate notice so that they could review the books. It is not clear since no other parents came forth. I voted in favor of the books because the teachers like the books and feel confident that they can teach with them.”

Ruehlig, also in an email exchange, said that he had concerns that were similar to those expressed by Smith. Referring to the new federal standards for teaching English, he said, “The jury is obviously out on Common Core, but if New York, ahead of other states on implementation, is any indication, caution is necessary. To date, some 50% of New Yorkers disagree with the Common Core roll-out.

With America ranking 27th on international student testing, we can’t just sit and do nothing. Unarguably, rigorous and consistent standards are needed. Furthermore, the push toward critical thinking skills is a good thing.

There is, though, a fear of a runaway train repeat of No Child Left Behind, with common sense losing out, and top-heavy becoming the norm. We don’t benefit by a dogmatic entrenched elite and the publishing industry dictating material.

There is a reason why the classics of literature are defined as such. As timeless art, they cannot be accused of being messengers of current political currency. We need, then, to be balanced in keeping them as integral, for they have withstood the test of time for good reason.

I also fear that the direction toward facilitated discussion, though holding merit, might get unbridled and excessively time-draining. This is especially true in math, where there is long-standing evidence supporting the learning value of continued practice, memorization of basic math facts, and the mastery of algorithms.

Haven’t we seen the effects of stress and of imbalanced measures of competency fed by high-stakes testing? For good measure, throw into the mix the number of disgruntled teachers who will fight this mandate. Then add the expense we face as AUSD recently bought $1.2 million in new books.

I realize, though, that Common Core is the reality in California. It is futile to deny that fact. Certainly, we don’t want to ignore the positives of consistent standards and the goal of workplace readiness.

Nevertheless, we must be vigilant in the delivery of this program and not repeat the mistakes of the past. If we don’t continually question, we will find ourselves, years from now, back at square one, 27th, or worse, in international scores. That doesn’t cut it.”

Board Trustee Cowan, though, expressed an opposing view during board deliberation. “Common Core is high-level thinking,” she said. “It is really what we need, it is in-depth thinking.”

Also in a later email, Cowan said, “After 39 years serving as a teacher and administrator, I have observed the progression of the implementation of curriculum and instruction. At the beginning of my career there was virtually no consistency in the delivery of content and concepts throughout the grade levels and subject areas. Then basic standards were developed that required all students receive and master these standards. Now our state, along with the majority of our nation, has implemented and required an in depth, comprehensive, and rigorous pedagogy for all students. It also requires that students think critically and creatively, which will better prepare them for college, the workforce, and to be more competitive nationally and internationally.”

Cowan continued, “This evolvement has arrived over the decades. The ‘Common Core’ is not at all common. It consists of standards and standards demand accountability. Common Core compares favorably to the standards of International Baccalaureate which are utilized by the most prestigious and successful international and national schools. Common Core is a great equalizer in that all students regardless of background can succeed.”

In spite of the debate regarding the materials, and reservations expressed, the board none-the-less voted in favor of the new curriculum, on a 4-1 vote, with only Smith voting against.

The next regular board meeting is scheduled for February 11. Meetings are held at the AUSD office located at 510 G Street. Meetings typically begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Deer Valley High’s Divine Voices perform at Moscone Center

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014
IMG 3158 1024x768 Deer Valley Highs Divine Voices perform at Moscone Center

Deer Valley High’s Divine Voices sing at Moscone Center on Monday, December 15, 2014.

Deer Valley High’s Divine Voices performed for an audience of 3,600 during the 83rd annual California School Boards Association education conference, held in San Francisco’s Moscone Center on Monday, December 15.

The award-winning group was one of only two school choirs to be asked to perform. About 30 other high school choirs submitted audition tapes.

Superintendent Donald Gill, who was in attendance during the live performance said “They were phenomenal.”

The three-song performance, which was streamed live throughout the state, was given a standing ovation.

Special thanks to Antioch School Board Trustee Barbara Cowan for providing this information and photo.

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New members, new majority on Antioch School Board flex their muscles

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014
DeSaulnier and Vinson 1024x768 New members, new majority on Antioch School Board flex their muscles

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier gives the oath of office to new Antioch School Board Trustee Debra Vinson, at his Walnut Creek office, on Monday, December 8, 2014.  provided courtesy of Debra Vinson

Board splits on electing new leaders

By John Crowder

The December 10 meeting of the Antioch Unified School Board began with the newly elected board members, Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, reenacting their swearing-in ceremony for the public. Superintendent Dr. Don Gill administered the oath of office to Ruehlig, while Contra Costa County District III Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho did the honors for Vinson.

Ruehlig had previously been sworn in by Smith, at an earlier meeting, that afternoon. Vinson was sworn in by State Senator Mark DeSaulnier at his office on Monday, December 8.

At the earlier ceremony, Allen Payton was the only member of the public in attendance, and offered his congratulations to both of the new trustees.

Two members of the public addressed the board following the re-enactment ceremony. Willie Mims, of the NAACP East County Branch, told the board that he would be watching them, and that he wanted to see money, coming to the school district under the Local Control Funding Formula, “go to the right place.”

Antioch Mayor Wade Harper thanked outgoing board members Gary Hack and Joy Motts for their service, and welcomed Ruehlig and Vinson to the board. He pledged his support for the school board, and suggested they arrange for a joint meeting of the school board and the Antioch City Council sometime during the upcoming year.

Following a brief reception, the first order of business was the reorganization of the board. Diane Gibson-Gray nominated Smith for the position of board President, and her motion was seconded by Ruehlig. She was confirmed on a 3-0-2 vote, with board members Gibson-Gray, Ruehlig and Smith voting yes, and board members Barbara Cowan and Vinson abstaining.

Gibson-Gray was elected to the position of board Vice President on a 3-1-1 vote, with Gibson-Gray, Ruehlig and Smith voting yes, Cowan voting no, and Vinson abstaining.

Before that vote, Vinson attempted to nominate Cowan as Vice President, to which Cowan responded she wouldn’t mind because she hadn’t yet served as either president or vice president. But, there was already a motion on the floor and Vinson’s motion could not be considered, until the vote on Gibson-Gray was taken.

Vinson explained her votes to abstain.

Part of what happened was I did feel too new, and the nomination for President happened so fast,” Vinson said. “But, also that it should have been on a rotation basis and that Barbara was in line and should have been the Vice President, having been on the board for two years.”

As the board moved on to regular business, it quickly became apparent that there was a very different mindset with respect to the review and approval of expenditures than that held by the prior board. Over the last few months, Smith, and often Gibson-Gray, had been in the minority when it came to reviewing district expenses. Expense items were routinely passed with little questioning of district staff, as the board members voting in the majority stated they “trusted” administrative staff to make wise spending decisions.

At the December 10 meeting, board members questioned the financial impact of several items, including a property transfer, a contract extension for an agreement with Tobinworld III (a provider of special education services), a contract for milk and dairy products, several change-orders related to the improvements being made to the stadium, track, and field at Antioch High School, and travel expenses incurred by board members.

New board member Vinson was the first to express concerns about finances, looking for assurances that a proposed property transfer would not result in any costs for the district. She would go on to ask questions about every item pulled from the consent calendar. Further, it was Vinson who pulled every change order from the consent calendar, emphasizing that change orders equated to higher costs. On this point, she was strongly supported by Smith, who said that, with every change order, “we lose money for classrooms.”

Ruehlig was responsible for pulling the consent calendar items involving the Tobinworld and milk delivery contracts, which, together, were valued at almost $2 million for the next year alone. He called for a board discussion of the Tobinworld agreement, with information to be provided regarding their competitors, between now and June, when a new contract for these services will need to be finalized. Gibson-Gray and Vinson, concurring with Ruehlig’s concerns about the process used in negotiating service contracts, also said they wanted assurances of proper oversight of such providers.

Ruehlig also questioned the bid process being used for the purchase of goods, as the milk contract, he noted, appeared to be backdated ten days. He told staff that more advance notice for such contracts would be required by the board going forward. He also said that more information needed to be provided to the board prior to bringing contracts to them for approval, calling the information they had been provided with, “sparse.”

Not even the filling of administrative positions recently vacated by staff leaving the district or requests for board member travel to conferences were immune from scrutiny. Smith called for a review of the administrative staff structure and job descriptions at a future meeting. Gibson-Gray questioned the need for board members traveling to conferences.

Two other items addressed were AUSD communications with parents, and the Pathways program.

Julie Young, a regular attendee at AUSD board meetings, raised concerns about an automated call she said that she and other parents had recently received from AUSD. According to Young, the calls referenced an “information packet” that was supposed to be available at her child’s school related to a “parent training” meeting. But, she said, when she called the school, they didn’t know anything about it. Then, just prior to coming to the school board meeting, she said she had received another call canceling the meeting.

Young also raised a concern with the Pathways program. She told the board that, once an 8th grader selects one of the Pathways, they are being locked into it. She said that children in 8th grade cannot be expected to definitively know what career they want to pursue at that age, and should have the ability to change their minds.

Smith and Ruehlig both concurred with Young regarding the Pathways program. Although Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, said during the discussion that it was not the intent of the district to, “lock kids in” to a pathway, Smith said she had spoken with several parents who told her that their children were being pressured not to change their original choice. Cowan raised another concern, that some students are forced to leave the Pathways in order to obtain a full range of elective classes. At the end of the discussion, Anello vowed to investigate the matter.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for January 21 in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Ruehlig, Vinson take their seats on the Antioch School Board

Thursday, December 11th, 2014
Walter Ruehlig takes oath 768x1024 Ruehlig, Vinson take their seats on the Antioch School Board

Walter Ruehlig takes his official oath of office for the Antioch School Board, administered by Acting Board President Claire Smith, during a brief ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, December 10, 2014.

By Allen Payton

During a brief ceremony at the Antioch School Services Building on Wednesday afternoon, Walter Ruehlig was given his oath of office as a new Board Trustee. Following that, Debra Vinson, who was given her oath of office by State Senator Mark DeSaulnier on Monday, signed and submitted an affidavit confirming her oath and then took her seat on the dais with the rest of the board.

Debra Vinson on dais 768x1024 Ruehlig, Vinson take their seats on the Antioch School Board

Debra Vinson takes her seat on the Antioch School Board, Wednesday afternoon, December 10, 2014.

Because the two 0ut-going board members, former Board President Joy Motts and former Vice President Gary Hack, stepped down, last Friday, Board Trustee Claire Smith was given the responsibility to act as President at the meeting, until the reorganization of the board later in the evening. She said that was because she was the longest-serving board member.

No members of the public attended the meeting. But, a re-enactment ceremony was held later in the evening, before the regular board meeting, so the public could attend and watch.

Please check back later for a more complete article.

 

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