Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

On split vote Antioch School Board gives Rocketship Delta Prep second notice of violation on technicalities

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Hundreds of Rocketship parents, students and supporters, wearing purple shirts, attend the Antioch School Board meeting at the Lone Tree Elementary auditorium, Wednesday night, April 10, 2019.

“A blatant abuse of power” – Rocketship’s VP of Operations.

New school risking loss of charter is really premature” – Superintendent Anello

By Allen Payton

The Rocketship Delta Prep charter school in Antioch, which opened their brand new, $16 million school last fall, was issued a second notice of violation by the Antioch School Board over what they claim was a failure to fulfill state reporting requirements agreed to in their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Rocketship and the district. During a contentious board meeting, attended by hundreds of Rocketship parents and supporters, the motion passed on a 3-2 vote with Trustees Crystal Sawyer-White and Ellie Householder opposing. Resolution 2018-19-26 to Approve Issuance of Second Notice of Violation

The reporting requirements in the MOU adopted on June 27, 2018, include both financials and student enrollment projections.

Rocketship responded to the first notice of violation with 900 pages of documents.

However, a separate report, labeled the 2nd Interim Report was due March 15 and according to both Rocketship representatives and the district’s attorney, Scott Holbrook, it was received on time.

But, then the Rocketship board voted to revise that report on March 28 and submitted their Revised 2nd Interim Report on April 1st, within two weeks, which is allowed, according to Rocketship representatives.

However the revised report, according to Holbrook, negated the March 15th report, causing the district to be late, thus triggering the opportunity for the new notice of violation.

The details supporting the information in the Interim Report were included in the 900 pages of documents in response to the first notice of violation. But, that’s not acceptable to Holbrook or Superintendent Stephanie Anello.

“This is not about the education…it is a violation of law, a violation of timeline. It’s about the contractual obligation in the MOU. It’s nothing personal,” Anello said.

Two board members weren’t having it.

“Can’t the two attorneys meet and communicate? I don’t understand why we’re going back and forth. It’s time consuming and there are attorney fees, here,” said Sawyer-White to a loud round of applause.

No District Staff Have Visited The School

“Stephanie, you’re the district staff point person,” Householder stated. “Have you…visited Rocketship?

“The MOU requires a visit once a year and that’s set up for May,” Anello responded.

Rocketship Delta Prep’s new $14 million charter school in Antioch. Photo by Hilbers Inc.

“Doesn’t the MOU go both ways?” Householder asked. “I’m just trying to be honest. It’s April and we’ve issued two NOV’s and nobody in our…you know it seems it should go both ways. It’s this idea about good faith. I see several points where AUSD is not acting in good faith, as well.”

According to the resolution, the March 28 report projects the school will be fiscally insolvent in the 2019-20 school year, with an ending balance of -$645,394.03. That amount is greater than what was projected in the charter petition adopted by the school board in 2017, according to Holbrook.

Deficits were projected for Rocketship’s first three school years, explained Marie Issa Gil, Rocketship’s Regional Director.

“We refuted the allegations of insolvency, said Jerry Simmons, Rocketship’s attorney. We find it interesting that the school district’s independent auditor…did this audit…it demonstrates the school is not fiscally insolvent.”

The report also projects the school has 10 more students than was projected last year, for a total of 396 students according to the March 28th report. However, that’s a decrease of 24 students from the March 15 report.

According to the resolution, “The 2nd Interim Report failed to include any supporting documentation, and/or supplemental or narrative information explaining the projections. The 2nd Interim Report fails to specify any ‘5%’ set aside of reserves for economic uncertainty as required by the MOU, and contradicts the budget submitted with the Petition when the Charter was approved by the Board which projected a surplus.”

The resolution also states, “the March 28 Revised 2nd Interim Report appears to be a complete and total reworking of the March 15 2nd Interim Report with a multitude of revenue, expenditure, and enrollment alterations” and that “the 2nd Interim Report, the Revised 2nd Interim Report also failed to include any supporting documentation, and/or supplemental or narrative information explaining the new projections.

Additionally, the March 28, 2019 Revised 2nd Interim Report includes significant changes to the Charter School’s enrollment assumptions, again with no supporting documentation or narrative information explaining the new projections.”

However, Householder speaking of the details in the 900-page report asked Holbrook “Why is this threaded throughout. It says there’s no supporting documentation. How can we say that?”

The enrollment issue was not mentioned as a concern by the board members.

No Violations, An Abuse of Power

Members of Rocketship’s leadership spoke on the matter before the board deliberated.

“The second notice of violation deals with three issues. But none of them are violations,” said Carolyn Davies Lynch, Vice President of Operations for Rocketship. “We submitted the financial report on March 15, on time. The budget revisions were submitted within two weeks. Our revised report does not equal a late report. To label it a violation is simply not true.”

“Third, the notice states the 5% reserve sits in a line item other than the district staff would like to see. But state law nor education code requires it sit in any line item. This is not a violation,” she reiterated. “The second notice of violation is a blatant abuse of power.”

“We expect district staff will have questions on our submission. That’s how we operate with other districts,” Lynch continued. “I urge the board to reject this latest notice of violation and direct staff to work with Rocketship for the benefit of students in the Antioch community.”

Rocketship representatives, parents and supporters claim their students have improved multiple grade levels since switching to the charter school, last fall. But, the Board President Gary Hack and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Mary Rocha pointed out that the matter before the board had nothing to do with academics, just financial reporting.

Anello Hasn’t Met With Rocketship Leaders

Gil also claims the district staff, specifically Superintendent Stephanie Anello, was sending the notices to the school address instead of Gil’s office and has refused to meet with her to rectify the situation.

Anello responded, “We sent one letter to the school. The rest were sent to the correct people.”

During her remarks, Gil noted that AUSD is the only authorizer that refuses to meet with Rocketship directly.  Every other authorizer Rocketship works with, including the California Department of Education, holds regular meetings with Rocketship to answer their questions, resolve any concerns, and work together in good faith partnership.

Gil later shared that per the MOU, all correspondence should be mailed to Rocketship Public Schools, 850 Twin Dolphins in Redwood City.  In the documents from the District there were at least five different mailings sent to Rocketship Delta Prep at 1700 Cavallo (the school’s address). Just this week, I received another envelope at 1700 Cavallo Drive.  The District has not cared that they are still failing to follow their MOU.

Regarding the fiscal issues and not willing to meet, Anellos responded, “if it deals with public money, all of our conversations need to be in public. The remedy is to put it before the board. Produce the documents, then we can sit down and talk about it.”

Anello’s greatest concern is the financial impact on the district from the projected deficit Rocketship is facing.

“As the charter authorizer the district can be responsible for any debt they might incur,” she stated. “If we didn’t document it and let the public know that wouldn’t be responsible.”

Gil said Rocketship is willing to provide a hold-harmless agreement for the district, like they’ve done for other districts where Rocketship schools are located.

Parents and other Rocketship supporters believe the district is being petty and focusing too much on process rather than results.

“Assuming the district will de-charter the school is really premature,” Anello responded. “It looks like we’re being arbitrary, but I believe the public expects us to be fiscally responsible. The least thing I want is for Rocketship to fail.”

Rocketship supporters also have complained the school’s representatives weren’t given the time they needed to explain things at the last two school board meetings.

However, according to Holbrook, the district has 60 days to review the documents provided by Rocketship. Then the school board will hold a public hearing at which the trustees and Rocketship representatives will have the opportunity for questions and answers.

“I think this is a little drastic…pump the brakes a little bit,” Householder said, making one last attempt to convince her colleagues to not pass the resolution. “This is our community. These are our people. I’ve only been here four months and I’m constantly being given these ultimatums… ‘you have to make this decision or the world’s going to fall apart.’ I ask the Superintendent to be transparent. We need to pump the brakes. Our kids are suffering.”

But her arguments fell on deaf ears as Rocha made the motion, Gibson-Gray seconded it and Hack voted with them to adopt the resolution issuing the second Notice of Violation. That triggered another 30-day timeframe for Rocketship to respond and then another 60-day clock at the end of that, in which the district has time to review the response and hold a public hearing on the second notice of violation.

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Antioch Teacher Recruitment Fair Saturday, April 13

Thursday, April 4th, 2019

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Rocketship facing possible charter revocation over paperwork

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Rocketship Delta Prep’s new $14 million charter school on Cavallo Road in Antioch. Photo by Hilbers Inc.

By Allen Payton

After obtaining their charter in 2016, building a new $14 million school and opening to almost 400 mainly Antioch students last August, the Rocketship Delta Prep Charter School is now facing revocation of their charter by the Antioch School Board over a technicality.

After school officials missed a deadline for providing a financial audit report, and the Antioch School Board voted 4-1 to approve the Notice of Violation, Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello sent Marie Issa Gill, Rocketship’s regional director, the 169-pages of documentation on Feb. 28. Antioch USD-Rocketship Notice of Violation

That stated “that this Notice of Violation is issued based on the following grounds for revocation pursuant to Education Code section 47607(c): 1. Committed a material violation of any conditions, standards, or procedures set forth in the charter. 2. Failed to meet generally accepted accounting principles, or engaged in fiscal mismanagement.3. Violated any provision of law.”

Anello further wrote, “On November 14, 2018 the District notified the Charter School of its failure to adhere to and comply with specific obligations in the MOU. (Enclosure No. 3.) The Charter School was slow to respond and to date, has not addressed all of the District’s concerns, as discussed more fully below:

…on November 14, 2018, the District notified the Charter School of its noncompliance with specific obligations in the MOU including but not limited to the Charter School’s failure to timely provide the District the following:

  1. Its Local Control Accountability Plan (“LCAP”) by July 1, 2018;
  2. Notice of all students disenrolling from the program within ten days of their departure;
  3. Information for all Charter School Directors by July 1, 2018;
  4. Notice of the Charter School’s Board meeting agendas and electronic copies of agenda packet materials;
  5. Its student discipline policies by September 1, 2018;
  6. A copy of written notice to parents of their right to access the full continuum of services, including special day class, nonpublic school, or residential care while enrolled at the Charter School as required by state and federal law and each students’ respective Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”) by September 1; 2018;
  7. Notice to the District’s Director of Student Support Services of the designated employee responsible for Section 504 compliance by September 1, 2018;
  8. Within 72 hours of a Special Education students’ expulsion, withdrawal, or dis-enrollment from the Charter School, the Charter School shall notify the District’s Director of Special Education;
  9. By September 30, 2018, the Charter School shall provide written report to the District containing information for every Special Education student newly enrolled;
  10. By September 30, 2018, the Charter School shall provide a written report to the District containing information for every Special Education student who exited the Charter School during the immediately prior tri-annual period;
  11. Provide a written quarterly report detailing information regarding entering and exiting special education students;
  12. Before September 15, 2018, the Charter School shall provide a current copy of insurance policies;
  13. Provide credentialing information for certificated staff in response to two District requests on September 18, and October 29, 2018.”

Rocketship’s attorney and staff were not allowed to speak at the meeting for more than the five minutes allotted to other public speakers, nor were they given the opportunity to respond to the concerns in the notice or brought up by board trustees.

Gil said the notices were sent to the school instead of to her office in Redwood City, as is required of the district in the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU). But, she admits the required documents were not provided in a timely manner and once she received the communication from Anello, she responded immediately.

“We…are fully compliant with our MOU,” Gil said at the Feb. 27 Antioch school board meeting.

Nevertheless, the school board voted 4-1, with Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White dissenting, to approve the “issuance of a Notice Of Violation” that stated “the District’s Administration has lost all confidence in the Charter School’s leadership team.”

Under state law charter schools have time to cure and correct any violation of their MOU’s with the district that oversees them. Rocketship had until April 1st to respond to the notice.

“We are in compliance with all 13 points,” Gil reiterated to the Herald. “The main thing is our students are improving in their education, with some of our upper grade students, who came in reading at Kindergarten levels who are now, in less than six months, reading at their own grade level.”

Check back later for updates to this report.

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Black & Gold Bash fundraiser for Antioch High April 13

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

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More than 350 Rocketship parents and supporters filled Antioch School Board meeting

Saturday, March 23rd, 2019

Rocketship supporters attend the Antioch School Board meeting, Friday, March 20, 2019.

Rocketship Delta Prep supporters ask District to work with them and open a dialogue to serve Antioch’s kids

Friday night, more than 350 Rocketship Delta Prep parents, teachers and community supporters packed Lone Tree Elementary to capacity at the Antioch Unified School Board’s meeting. Rocketship Delta Prep was not on the agenda, but parents engaged the board in a constructive dialogue about their experience at Delta Prep during public comment.

“I have been a member of this Antioch community since 2005, and I want to emphasize that Antioch is my home,” said Cynthia Cathey, parent of a student at Rocketship Delta Prep. “At Rocketship Delta Prep, my daughter is receiving a high quality education, she has academically reached the 90th percentile amongst other Kindergarteners nationwide. If I had not I won a spot in the Delta Prep lottery, I would have moved to Oakland. I am glad that my tax dollars can continue to contribute to my community.”

Friday’s board meeting was a continuation of the scheduled Wednesday, March 20th meeting, which was moved to a larger venue when more than 250 Rocketship supporters showed up for public comment on Wednesday night.

“Thank you board for moving this meeting to a larger venue. Our parents wanted to engage the Board directly and demonstrate their support for their school and commitment to work with AUSD in collaborative manner,” said Rocketship Bay Area Regional Director Marie Issa Gil. “We are here tonight because we simply want to participate in the public process at tonight’s hearing. We appreciate the opportunity to engage in a positive and constructive dialogue about how to best serve all students and families in Antioch.”

“My daughter has grown tremendously in such a short amount of time at Rocketship Delta Prep, and I can see this through the ownership she takes over her own learning,” said Rocketship Delta Prep parent Sandra Torres. “They are constantly holding me accountable as a parent by providing me with resources to ensure her learning continues beyond the school walls. Rocketship pushes my daughter towards the greatest extent of her potential, and I am exceedingly grateful to have them as part of my Antioch community.”

About Rocketship Public Schools

Rocketship Public Schools is a nonprofit public charter network of 19 elementary schools serving low-income communities with limited access to excellent schools. Founded in 2007 in San Jose, California, Rocketship has since expanded to Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Nashville, Tennessee; and Washington, D.C. By building a scalable and sustainable school model that propels student achievement in underserved communities, Rocketship is working to eliminate the achievement gap in our lifetime. Visit http://www.rocketshipschools.org/ to learn more.

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School Board meeting shut down, postponed due to over capacity crowd

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Antioch school librarians and library technicians mount a protest outside the Antioch School Board meeting Wed. night, March 20, 2019.

Rocketship supporters and others talk outside of the school district offices and board room, after the meeting was cancelled.

By Allen Payton

Wednesday night’s Antioch School Board meeting had to be cancelled and postponed until Friday night due to a large turnout of district staff and Rocketship charter school supporters. The over capacity crowd for the small school board meeting room at the district office, included school librarians and library technicians who face possible budget cuts, and staged a small protest with signs. Plus, it included an estimated 250 parents and supporters of the Rocketship Delta Prep elementary school in Antioch whose charter is being threatened with possible revocation.

The Rocketship supporters were there to speak during public comments in support of the school.

“The meeting was continued to Friday at 7:00 p.m. due to the number of people in attendance,” Superintendent Stephanie Anello told the Herald. “Rocketship was not on the agenda but many (district) employees showed up due to pending expenditure reductions in addition to Rocketship.”

“Additionally, Rocketship did not notify us that they would be attending the meeting until Friday, March 15,” Anello continued. “Two public hearings that required a 10-day notification were on the agenda, so it was too late to change the venue. Friday’s meeting will take place at Lone Tree Elementary.”

The Fire Marshall was called, who in turn called the Antioch Police, and determined the meeting had to be cancelled.

Lone Tree Elementary is located at 1931 Mokelumne Drive in Antioch.

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Antioch High Choir to hold pasta dinner fundraiser April 9th

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Tickets available at the door or by calling (925) 529-0861.

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Writer upset with AUSD budget cuts reducing library, other classified staff

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Dear Editor:

I would like to make the community aware of upcoming budget cuts at the Antioch Unified School District. This Wednesday (March 20) at 7:00pm there will be a School Board meeting in the board room at the district office. At this meeting, the district will propose cuts to be voted on.

Among these cuts will be $775,000 worth of classified staff. Around 29% of that will be Library Media Technicians (elementary school librarians). In the past when budget cuts were made, library techs were laid off. Full time school libraries were not staffed. Some schools only had a library open two days a week.

When this happened, there was a drop in reading scores, love for reading, and books in general. We are seeing the result at the middle school and high school level now. Since library services have been restored, reading scores have began to improve. Some of our students never hear a story read to them aside from in the library or the classroom. Others are not able to afford to purchase books because it is just not in their budget.

Books are treasures to students who sometimes need to escape the hard realities they are living in. Libraries are a safe place for students, and librarians in our district are not just librarians. We do not just read to kids. We participate in PBIS programs such as Tool Box or Mindfulness. We plan activities and stories to support what is going on in the classroom. We teach literacy. We feed the inquiring minds of students daily. We process books and keep open schedules to accommodate teachers and students. We do yard duty in the mornings and after school. We plan fundraisers, book fairs, and family events. Some of us participate in PTO’s/PTA’s at our school sites. Others sit in on School Site Council meetings, and more. We are valuable.

If, as a community, we can agree that reading is important and has a place in everyday life, how can we not then say that libraries are not just as important? Let’s face it, we all know that cuts need and have to be made because at the end of the day, the budget is the budget. However, why do the librarians have to feel close to 29% of that cut? Why aren’t there more cuts being made to the high paid employees at the district office? Why aren’t we looking into programs such as the organics program offered by Republic Services as the Benicia School District and many restaurants in the area have adopted to save money? Why do our students have to suffer?

Our students will lose instructional assistants, reading teachers, librarians, and more. Out of 92 classified classifications, librarians will take 29% of the hit?

Do not sit by and just watch this happen. Let your voice be heard at the meeting Wednesday night. Afterall, We are AUSD.

To view the agenda item (14-B), please visit the AUSD Website

Thank you,

Samantha Loza

 

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