Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

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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Ruehlig, Vinson to become Antioch School Board Trustees Wednesday afternoon, then re-enact ceremony later that evening

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

By Allen Payton

The winners in the November election for the Antioch School Board, Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, will take their seats in a late afternoon oath of office ceremony on Wednesday, December 10, 2014. It will be held at 4:45 p.m. so they can participate in a Work Study Session at 5:15 p.m. and a brief closed session meeting at 6:15 p.m., before the regular meeting at 7 p.m.

However, at 6:30 p.m., they’ll do it again, as a re-enactment for the public who can’t attend the 4:45 p.m. real ceremony, followed by a brief reception before the regular board meeting begins.

According to Nancy Belleci, Superintendent Don Gill’s Senior Executive Assistant, who responded on his behalf in an email, on Tuesday, “The same format has been used for December meetings…[for]…almost eight years.”

Both ceremonies and the regular meeting, will be held in the School Services Building, at 510 G Street in downtown Antioch. But, you must attend in person to watch them, because unlike the Antioch City Council meetings, the school board meetings are neither televised nor live streamed online, yet.

For a copy of the complete meeting agenda, please click here.

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Community members intercede at Deer Valley Plaza

Sunday, November 9th, 2014
Debra Vinson Velma Wilson and kids 1024x576 Community members intercede at Deer Valley Plaza

Newly elected Antioch School Board Trustee Debra Vinson, Velma Wilson and local youth at the Deer Valley Plaza, last Friday afternoon.

By John Crowder

A small group of parents has decided to be proactive in addressing problems at a local shopping center by taking steps to engage students as they pass through Deer Valley Plaza (DVP) at the end of the school day.

DVP has been at the epicenter of student violence and disruptive behavior over the past few months. As widely reported in the news media, a group of students involved in fights and other troubling actions at the center, just down the street from Deer Valley High School (DVHS), has led some of the businesses located there to lock their doors at the end of the school day. The businesses, mainly fast food restaurants and Starbucks, have kept their doors locked from the time school lets out until most students have passed through and dispersed from the area.

Velma Wilson, a youth education advisor with the NAACP East County Branch, and a parent of two students who attend Antioch schools, determined to act to change that. For the last few weeks, she and others from the community, including her husband, Clarke, and Antioch Mayor Wade Harper, have been stationing themselves in the parking lot of DVP under a blue tent. There, they talk with students who come by, offering them sodas and snacks, along with words of encouragement. Wilson said that the idea for meeting with students had come from Harper, and it was his tent they were using.

On Friday, November 7, Herald staff dropped by the Plaza, unannounced, to take a first-hand look at what was happening. On that day, Wilson was joined by her husband, her two children, and two other adults, Darice Ingram and Debra Vinson. Harper was unable to be there on that day, as, according to Wilson, he was visiting a security guard who had been wounded in a gun battle in Antioch outside a local Starbucks earlier in the week.

Darice Ingram, a founder of Parents Connected, and also a member of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) personnel commission, invited students who were passing by to stop and talk. She encouraged those she spoke with to be serious students, and, among other things, to consider taking Advanced Placement classes and to focus on preparing for college. “Most students are just kids that need to know someone cares, someone holds them accountable, and expects great things from them,” she said. She also praised Wilson for taking the initiative, noting that Wilson had provided treats for the students out of her own pocket.

Debra Vinson, who was elected last Tuesday to the AUSD board of trustees, was also in the parking lot greeting students. As they approached, she would introduce herself, ask their names, and how their school day had been. She said that, as a school board member, she wanted to be visibly involved and make sure she was accessible to everyone with a stake in the schools, including the children who attend them. “Safety concerns are shared by everyone in Antioch,” she said, “and I want to see, first-hand, what is happening with our students.”

The impression left by observing these interactions was far different than the one derived from the recent news reports. First, not all students were from DVHS. Several students who came up to meet with the parents stationed in the parking lot were from Dallas Ranch Middle School, a bit of a walk from the site. Wilson said that students from four different schools routinely came by, or passed through, the center after school let out each day.

The students were also very polite. “I have one rule,” said Wilson, “that students look me in the eye and shake hands.” Far from the belligerence frequently attributed to teens, the students on Friday seemed more shy than anything else, only reluctantly taking the sodas and snacks offered by Wilson and the others.

Jesus said, ‘suffer the little children to come unto me,’ and that is what I want to do,” said Wilson. “We can choose community over chaos. It’s imperative that we come together as a community to be better role models for our youth.”

Wilson is in the DVP parking lot every Tuesday and Friday, from 3:00 until 4:30, when school is in session.

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One, possibly two Antioch incumbents ousted from County School Board by challengers, Belle leads in upset

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

By Allen Payton

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m., 11/5/14 – Both incumbents on the County School Board in Areas 4 and 5, which include parts of Antioch, appeared to be going to down to defeat in Tuesday night’s election.

Antioch resident Richard Asadoorian trails Mike Maxwell of Danville in Area 4 by 1,712 votes. Maxwell had 14,846 votes or 52.81% of the vote to Asadoorian’s 13,134 votes or 46.72%. There were also 134 write-in votes in the election.

In the Area 5 race, which featured two more Antioch residents, challenger Jeff Belle is leadingf incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig, beating her 9,129 votes or 50.95% to 8,665 votes or 48.36%. There were 122 write-in votes cast in the election.

However, 95,000 ballots are left to be counted in the county, which could affect the outcome of both races, especially the one in Area 5, since it’s so close. The next update from the County Elections Office will be provided on Friday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m.

Belle had faced questions about his past and education claims during the race, yet was able to overcome the negative news articles about him, to win the race. But, he ran a stronger, more aggressive campaign and was able to garner the endorsement of the California Teacher’s Association, a point Ruehlig made earlier in the evening.

It was a contentious election, starting with a lively candidates forum in September, and continuing with accusations, a confrontation, and an emailed threat of retaliatory campaigning by both Belle and his wife, Carmen, toward both Ruehlig and her husband Walter, who was running for and elected to the Antioch School Board, Tuesday night. The Belles allege Cynthia emailed to others information from Belle’s ex-wife about his past. Walter Ruehlig denied any involvement by Cynthia. But Carmen Belle claims she has proof, but has yet to provide it to Herald staff.

In comments on his Facebook page, following the final election results, Belle posted the following:

Congratulations to my wife, my anchor in the victory!”

Many thanks to my supporters and critics. To God be the Glory!”

To God be the Glory who alone defines me and keeps me in His plan.”

Then, today, Belle said in an email “As far as I’m concerned it’s done. No more comments.”

Check back later for updates to this story. For more information on election results in Contra Costa County visit www.cocovote.us.

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Walter Ruehlig returns to the Antioch School Board, Vinson joins him to unseat incumbents

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014
Ruehligs Walter Ruehlig returns to the Antioch School Board, Vinson joins him to unseat incumbents

Walter Ruehlig talks with Bob Brooks, while Cynthia Ruehlig ponders the early election returns, at their home, Tuesday night.

By Allen Payton

Both incumbents in the Antioch School Board race, Joy Motts and Gary Hack, were defeated by challengers Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, Tuesday night.  Ruehlig and Vinson led the other two from the first returns.

“I’m feeling a little nervous,” Vinson said after learning of the early returns. “It’s exciting. But I’m waiting.”

Earlier in the day, Vinson posted the following on her campaign’s Facebook page:

Today I am filled with gratitude. I appreciate all of the volunteers and those who contributed to my campaign to make it successful! It has been an unforgettable experience of sharing, listening, and an incredible opportunity to connect with parents, students and the community. Tomorrow a new chapter will begin and I accept the challenge. Education is the liberator for ALL students. As adults we must never give up on our students because they are the future. The zeitgeist is now!

Ruehlig, who ran for the Antioch City Council in 2012 instead of reelection, took first place in the race with 5,028 votes or 30.27%, with Debra Vinson taking the second of two seats up for election, this year, with 4,668 votes or 28.11%. Motts had 3,426 votes or 20.63% and Hack was close with 3,400 votes or 20.47%. There were 87 write-in votes, although there no officially qualified write-in candidates in the race.

Check back for updates to this story. For complete election results in Antioch and Contra Costa County, visit www.cocovote.us.

 

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Deer Valley High to host Spooktacular Trunk or Treat Car Show fundraiser Thursday

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

DVHS Spooktacular Trunk or Treat 787x1024 Deer Valley High to host Spooktacular Trunk or Treat Car Show fundraiser Thursday

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