Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch student at Washington State makes President’s Honor Roll for Summer 2014

Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Kristoff Williams Antioch student at Washington State makes Presidents Honor Roll for Summer 2014

Kristoff Williams, courtesy of WSU Athletics

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University has announced that Kristoff Isiah Williams of Antioch has, once again, made the President’s Honor Roll, this time for the 2014 Summer semester.

The President’s Honor Roll recognizes students who stand above the rest with excellent academic performance. To be eligible for the honor roll, undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine graded hours in a single term at WSU and earn a grade point average of 3.75 or earn a 3.50 cumulative GPA based on 15 cumulative hours of graded work.

A criminal justice major in his senior year, Williams is a 2010 graduate of Deer Valley High School, where he was a four-year scholar athlete and a National Football League Hall of Fame Scholar Athlete, as quarterback for the Wolverines. He now plays wide receiver for the WSU Cougars football team. Williams is the son of Daniel and Corlette Williams.

For more information on Kristoff Williams, click here or here.

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Antioch School Board hears from frustrated residents about school safety, behavior problems

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

By John Crowder

Dozens of people attended the October 8th meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board, packing the small meeting room and lining the hallway leading to it. Several of those in attendance were there to speak out against what they described as unruly and violent behavior by students in schools throughout the district. Parents, students, and teachers all expressed their dismay over the situation.

Even so, some at the meeting defended the schools, blaming the media for focusing on the problem behavior exhibited by a minority of students and telling the protesters they should be providing solutions instead of just complaining.

The most poignant pleas came from the children, who led off the public comments. They spoke about being scared to go to school. One young girl, a student at Dallas Ranch Middle School (DRMS), spoke about a friend of hers, who she said, “had a knife waved in her face,” and her hair cut off by another student. “She dropped out,” said the speaker.

Kathryn O’Shea, a sophomore at Deer Valley High School, said she was, “tired of classmates disrupting our classes.” She said that, on average, 30 minutes of each class is lost due to disruptive behavior.

We can’t learn anything,” she concluded.

Parents attending the meeting expressed grave concern with the amount of violent and disruptive behavior by students taking place in the classroom, on campuses, and in the surrounding community.

Lara Lindeman said she was speaking because, “my daughter is not safe at Dallas Ranch Middle School.” She listed a host of examples. They included two teachers leaving the school after being threatened and assaulted by a student, a student threatening to “return and shoot” a teacher, and a boy trying to kick down the door to gain entry to a classroom while students inside were, “helpless,” and “repeated calls for security were unanswered” during the incident. She went on to say, “Restorative justice practices are being implemented, but we’re told it will take several years before we can expect measurable results. What about in the meantime? What about in the NOW?”

Gil Murillo, a parent with children at Deer Valley High School (DVHS), began by taking issue with a statement he attributed to a current board member that, “the campuses we have are just fine,” with respect to student safety. He went on to demand the resignation of the DVHS principal, Ken Gardner, saying his leadership at the school had failed. Murillo said that students were, “running out of control,” and cited gambling, drug use on the campus, and violations of the dress code as just some of the problems evident. “As a parent, I am tired of poor management,” he said. He continued, “It is time for change, immediate change!”

Frank DeLuna, Vice President of the PTSO at Black Diamond Middle School (BDMS) and a long-time volunteer, noted several problems on that campus. He talked of students smearing feces in the boys’ bathroom, smoking pot, using profanity, cursing out adults, and committing acts of violence. “Just last month we had an incident where some relatives of a student came on campus,” he said. “They went to a P.E. class and had their kid beat up another kid while they watched and kept anyone from helping. The student who got beat up was taken away in an ambulance. The P.E. teacher who tried to stop it was also injured.” DeLuna summarized the concerns of many in attendance, when he said, “Stop worrying about the rights of the bad kids, and start worrying about the rights of the good kids who want to learn, but can’t.” This statement was greeted by loud applause from the audience.

Ellen Marie Sun, Vice President of the PTO at Jack London Elementary School said she was there because she was, “upset about the increasing violence in our schools which often spills over to the rest of the community.” She related an incident she said she “personally” knew of at DVHS, in which a girl student was walking to the bathroom and, “a stranger grabbed her and tried to carry her away.” Saying that the administration had downplayed the incident, she asked, “Do we need someone to really finish the deed – a sexual assault, an attempted kidnapping, or to find a girl murdered in the bathroom to finally have AUSD and Principal Gardner say, ‘Hey, something needs to be done-enough is enough?’” She also spoke about the BDMS fight that was brought up by DeLuna.

Jamie Clee said that she was a parent with children in the second, fourth, and sixth grades. “I am here tonight to address my concerns with the violence and lack of classroom learning from disruptive students,” she said. “Why do I feel as if I am dropping my children off at juvenile halls?” In a written statement detailing her comments, she states, “The parents in this community are talking about a STRIKE!! We are ready to stop sending our kids into schools in which they feel scared, unprotected and are always looking over their shoulders.”

Although most speakers at the meeting expressed dismay with how the schools are being managed, AUSD did have supporters speaking up as well.

Angie Jorgenson, Deer Valley Band Booster Vice President, said she had children attending both DVHS and DRMS. “I am here in support of Deer Valley in light of recent events in the media and on campus,” she said.

Jorgenson said she did not want to, “discount anything that has been said tonight,” and said other speakers had expressed, “valid concerns,” but that some had, “let their anger get the best of them.” She called for better communication, and said, “We need to stop placing blame and start presenting solutions.” She called DVHS, “a good school.” She also indicated that the attention being given to the “problem group” was causing a false impression. “I believe the pervasive negativity by the community and the media is taking a toll on our kids and teachers.”

Velma Wilson, a youth education advisor with the local NAACP, said that she had been to Deer Valley Plaza with Antioch Mayor Wade Harper, and had spoken with some of the students there. She said that, “some of [the misbehavior] is because of a bad home life.” She went on to say, “Kids want to keep it up because of the media,” arguing that media reports about students acting out actually encourage that type of behavior.

Following Wilson’s statement, board member Claire Smith indicated her agreement. “I went and I helped at school,” she said. The problem is not with every child. It’s with a small group of children.” Referring to the reference made by Wilson to some of the children having a bad home life, she said, “You absolutely do grasp the situation. It’s a community working together issue. It starts with supporting these kids, and telling them they’re good kids.”

Other speakers challenged those in attendance to spend less time complaining, and more time at school helping out.

At one point, board president Joy Motts called on Bob Sanchez, Director, Student Support Services with AUSD, to comment. “The city has changed,” he said. “We are trying to do the best we can.” He went on to talk about having a “discipline matrix.” He also referenced an agreement he said the district has with the American Civil Liberty Union regarding suspensions and expulsions.

In the end, concerns with violence, both on and off school campuses, appear to be coming to a head, given the talk of a strike and the fact that different groups of disaffected parents seem to be coalescing. The issue has been a major point of discussion among candidates for school board, and will certainly remain a focus leading up to the November 4 election and beyond.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 22, at the AUSD office at 510 G Street. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Writer supports new location for community college

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Editor:

The Contra Costa Community College District, as with every educational agency, is mandated to provide educational equity, ensuring every student equal access to tools and programs necessary to succeed in career and in life.

The current land area by Marsh Creek Road chosen by the Board to locate a new community college facility does not have the public works framework in place for disability access or public transportation.

How will the physically challenged be served?  Many students of Far East Contra Costa (known as the stepchild of the county) are minorities, English language learners or poor.  How will the socio-economically disadvantaged, dependent on the bus or train for mobility, be served?

Speaking as a private citizen and not for the CCC Board of Education for which I am the elected Trustee for Area 5 (Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Clyde, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley and Pittsburg), I believe exploring the possibility of a land swap (for a more conveniently located and development ready area) is an exercise in good governance, responsive to the needs of the community.

Cynthia Ruehlig

Antioch

Ruehlig represents part of Antioch and other parts of East County on the Contra Costa Board of Education

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Citizen groups, Antioch school district, reach understanding on accountability plan

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

By John Crowder

At the September 24 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees and the public heard a report on changes made to the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) before voting, 5-0, to approve the revised LCAP budget.

Michael Ricketts, Associate Vice President of School Services of California, Inc., a private company providing, among other things, consulting and legislative advocacy services to California school agencies, presented the LCAP report to the board.

Ricketts began his presentation by emphasizing the changes that the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) had made with respect to the spending distribution of Supplemental Funds, funds provided by the state to local school districts that are designated for providing help to high needs students, such as English Language Learners, low-income students, and foster children.

Three changes to the LCAP were noted. First, the raise that AUSD employees received for the current fiscal year was shifted to Base Funds (funds provided to local school districts for all students). As Ricketts explained, the money for raises had been moved because, including it in Supplemental Funds had become a divisive issue with community groups.

The second change noted was the addition of “more than $1 million,” described as “new money,” realized when AUSD recently completed their analysis of actual revenues and expenditures, and found that income was greater than anticipated, and expenses were less. Ricketts said that this money would all be “earmarked for services directed toward the goals of students with the greatest need for support.”

The third change was the identification of actions being taken by AUSD, “supporting goals for English learners, students eligible for the meals program, and foster youth.”

With these changes, Ricketts’ presentation showed, the $9 million AUSD expects to receive in Supplemental and Concentration Grants for the 2014-2015 school year will be designated for: Economic Impact Aid ($2.3 million), technology upgrades ($1.4 million), counseling services ($1.3 million), special education ($1.1 million), vice principals ($751,000), and new services ($1.67 million). About $581,000 is set aside for security services, summer schools and programs, and an English/Spanish translator position.

Following the presentation by Ricketts, two speakers who had been involved with community groups advocating for changes to the LCAP, addressed the board.

Yuritzy Gomez, Community Organizer with the Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO) said she was, “very excited” about the changes. She said that she was thankful that AUSD had been open to collaborating with her group, and that she was looking forward to continuing her work with AUSD in the future.

Angelica Jongco, Senior Staff Attorney with Public Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit law firm and advocacy organization that, in part, seeks to “strengthen community voices in public policy” and achieve “tangible legal victories advancing education,” also spoke. In her statement, she recognized the progress that had been made.

In a statement released by Jongco, she commented further on the talks between AUSD and the community organizations, such as CCISCO.

Persistence paid off,” she said. “Because community members stood up on this issue, Antioch Unified has a much improved local spending plan.”

The district is no longer seeking to fund last year’s across-the-board salary increase with money that is supposed to serve high-need students,” Jongco continued. “This really shows the power of community collaboration. Together we were able to win significant changes in the LCAP. We commend the district for having the flexibility to listen to community concerns and generate a better LCAP as a result.”

We expect the district to follow through on its commitment to work closely with parents and students in planning for the future years. A hallmark of the Local Control Funding Formula is increased transparency around spending and programs. The district must do a better job going forward of making sure that community members can understand and meaningfully participate in discussions around how future money should be spent to best serve the kids.”

School board President Joy Motts responded to comments at the board meeting, thanking the community groups for collaborating with AUSD on improving the LCAP.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for October 8. Meetings are held at the AUSD School Services Building, located at 510 G Street. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Community College Board invites community for State of the District meetings this week, next

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Governing Board meetings Community College Board invites community for State of the District meetings this week, next

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Home of Dozier-Libbey teacher, leader in independent charter effort, attacked by gunfire

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

By John Crowder

At approximately 12:30 a.m. on September 11, the home of a Dozier-Libbey Medical High School teacher came under attack as, according to the victim, a lone gunman, standing in the street, fired 20 rounds at her house. Police picked up casings from a .45 caliber firearm.

The bullets penetrated the ground floor of the home and the garage, leaving large holes on the inside walls with some exiting an interior window. Several bullet holes can clearly be seen on both the outside and inside of the residence.

The teacher was the only one home at the time, but was not injured during the incident.

Antioch police are investigating the matter. No arrests have yet been made.

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Antioch School Board hears report of improvements at Black Diamond Middle School

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

By John Crowder

A presentation made by the principal, staff members, parents, volunteers, and students from Black Diamond Middle School (BDMS) at the September 10 meeting of the Antioch School Board, painted a picture of the school that was significantly different from what these same groups had been saying last year. Unlike prior meetings, when complaints of out-of-control violence dominated board sessions, the message this time was one of support for the new leadership on the campus and optimism for the future.

This year a new administrative team took over at BDMS. Phyllis James has come on board from Vallejo as the new principal. Vice principals are Ken Daniels and Denise Pesmark.

New Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO) Chairwoman Francis Spijker and Vice Chairman Frank DeLuna were among those who spoke about the positive changes seen on the campus. They said that the PTSO already had 150 members, and they invited the board members to join as well. They mentioned several programs being implemented by their group, including family movie nights, a science fair, and a uniform closet, where those parents who considered buying uniforms a financial burden, could stop by and pick up a starter set of uniforms at no cost.

At a two-hour visit to the school last week, many of the positive sentiments expressed by those attending the board meeting were borne out. Representing the Antioch Herald, I was given complete access to the school on Monday morning, September 15, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30.

Accompanied by Leif Utler, a young, 8th grade English teacher with boundless enthusiasm for the work he is doing, I saw how the school handled the morning uniform inspection, was able to see office staff interacting with students and parents, observed class changes and security staff, and visited three classrooms, the cafeteria, the library, and the ‘opportunity school.’

One of the first things you notice is that most, but not all, of the students on the campus of over 600 were in school uniforms. To date, 84 students have had their parents submit requests to opt out of wearing the uniform. Of those, two were approved by James, and the rest forwarded to the district’s administration for appeal. Two of those appeals have so far been granted, and the other 80 are awaiting decision.

Another thing that stands out is the cleanliness of the campus. Last year, an independent consultant, Dr. John Bernard, had specifically cited the deteriorated condition of the physical site as a problem. This year, there is no trash to be seen. One of the reasons for this, according to James, is that students are no longer permitted to take food from the cafeteria.

The three classes visited were Algebra I, English, and physical science. In each of the classes, students were, for the most part, listening to the instructor and following directions. While in two of the classes, a few of the students were interacting with each other and otherwise distracted, overall, the classes were well-controlled, and the minor distractions were no more than one would anticipate, indeed probably less than one would anticipate, from a large group of middle school students.

Although some staff members that I talked with expressed nervousness about speaking their minds, all ultimately did so, at the encouragement of Utler. All of them were supportive of the new on-site administration, but some expressed worry that “downtown” would not support the efforts that were being made to improve the learning environment.

Of particular concern was whether or not AUSD officials would support the uniform policy and support efforts underway to ensure that disrespect toward teachers and staff was stopped. Specific problems cited included some students pushing past the lone cafeteria lady trying to prevent them from walking out with food after breakfast when, apparently, there is no security or other staff available to assist them.

That being said, the overall view of the school from staff and the PTSO leadership remains positive. In a subsequent interview, Spijker said, “I appreciate the school board for giving us this great new administration. I call them our ‘dream team.’ I’d like to see the board back the decisions, the changes that our administration is making, including the uniform policy. And, support disciplinary actions that the school administration should take with some troubled kids. Parents want to see more expulsions [for chronic bad behavior.] According to James, a half dozen fights have occurred on the campus this year so far, only two of which she characterized as “serious.”

The next meeting of the school board takes place on Wednesday, September 24, at the School Services Building, 510 G Street. Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Brutal fight part of history of violence at Dallas Ranch Middle School

Monday, September 15th, 2014

By John Crowder

A brutal fight at Dallas Ranch Middle School last week between two 8th grade girls was caught on a student’s cell phone and the video made its way to the internet and to Bay Area news station KRON, channel 4, which has run several segments on the story.

In the video, (which can be viewed by clicking here) one of the girls gets the other down to the ground, and then uses her boot to smash her head into the concrete walkway. Other students can be seen on the video near the two fighters, using their cell phones to film the scuffle.

Since the story first aired, more parents have come forward complaining of fights occurring “every day” on the campus.

Dallas Ranch has a long history of violent incidents occurring on the campus. Last year, as reported in the Herald on different occasions, parents, students, and teachers addressed the Antioch School Board about violence at the school.

At the March 26th school board meeting, student Taylor Donaldson spoke about three P.E. teachers no longer teaching because of violent incidents.

I’m afraid our school is turning into a disaster,” he said.

At the January 22nd school board meeting, several staff members from DRMS addressed the board with concerns about student violence. At that time, two P.E. teachers vowed not to return to the school as long as a student who had physically attacked one of them was allowed to remain on campus. Following this most recent incident, teachers at the school are once again speaking up, saying they are afraid to go to work, and that they are continuing to be physically attacked by students.

A former teacher’s assistant, Kathy Arroyo, was featured on one of the Channel 4 segments discussing a two-year old incident at the school where she says she tried to intervene in a fight between students. She ended up in the hospital with her back having to be fused together. In the news segment she laments, “nothing’s changed.” Speaking to parents, she said, “There is violence at that school, and they have a right to be concerned.”

In response to this most recent incident, DRMS Principal Ed Dacus states that the two students involved in the incident were disciplined, and that, due to the nature of the matter, the Antioch Police Department was involved.

We were able to grab as many of the kid’s cell phones, and, trying to prevent this type of video getting out, because it does lead to cyberbullying,” he added.

Bob Sanchez, the school district’s Director of Student Support Services, also weighed in on the matter. He is quoted as saying that, in spite of the fight, Dallas Ranch is one of the best schools in the district. He also talked about steps being taken by the district to address the problem.

We are in the process of getting people to come and train us on certain issues like this,” he said.

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