Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Ruehlig wants city council to fund more Antioch library hours

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Dear Editor:

As the President of the Antioch School Board and as Antioch’s former (thirteen years) Representative to the County Library Commission and two-time chairman of that organization, I am no stranger to the needs of libraries.

Speaking, though, strictly or myself in the role of a private citizen, I am convinced that libraries are not a luxury but are an economic necessity. Great cities have great libraries. Libraries are simply a gateway to community engagement and cultural enrichment.

They are today’s veritable Meccas and crossroads, serving as a hub of traditional quiet reading, study and research while intersecting with modern technology. Call them the 21st century town square as they bring together people of all ages, interests and economic and social strata.

As people look to buy into communities with good schools they also take an interest in the available educational and cultural support system.

Libraries do, then, matter in the big picture and they matter on many levels.

Consider the tale of two cities. Deer Valley High has a great library and is fortunate to be across the street from Prewett Park and the modern library there. Our downtown library, though, suffers from wear and tear.

It is also cramped and in need of more hours of service because of the fact that, invariably, less families in the downtown have computer access than in more affluent S.E. Antioch. As  is, the downtown library is open 28 hours and Prewett Park 35. That’s, plain and simple, an inequity, particularly to our youth and seniors.

The City is now in the process of apportioning excess funds. I urge our Council at their next meeting to vote in favor of using some of the newfound money for extended library hours for the 18th Street location.

Walter Ruehlig

Antioch

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Etiquette classes teach students life skills

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Students in the etiquette class learn how to properly set a table.

Antioch class begins June 26

By John Crowder

Monday, May 8, marked the beginning of National Etiquette Week.  More than just a list of manners, proper etiquette allows people to know how to handle themselves in life’s important interactions.  How should you conduct yourself at a job interview?  How about at a formal dinner?  Do you know how to make a good first impression?  Are you able to make a public presentation?

These are just a few of the questions that are answered in classes taught by Mrs. Tina Hayes, author of Getting Ahead with Etiquette and the owner and founder of the School of Etiquette and Decorum.

Etiquette class students learn to properly greet each other.

For the last few weeks, Hayes has been teaching a class on ‘Etiquette for Success’ to the students of Freedom High School in Oakley.  Once a week, Freedom students meet after school and are taught the soft skills that are so valuable to success in school and in work, but that many no longer learn while growing up.  As Hayes explains, “There was a time when these skills were taught in the home, when families still came together regularly for the evening meal.  These days, that’s often not the case.  Yet, we all know how valuable these skills are for students who want to successfully navigate their high school and college years, and especially when they enter the world of work.”

Hayes has been offering etiquette classes throughout the Bay Area and beyond over the last decade.  Over the years, her classes have helped hundreds of people, both young and old, learn to be more confident and courteous, and to exhibit social graces.  The training sessions conducted by Hayes and her staff cover more than 80 topics, and can be presented as workshops, seminars, or even in personal coaching sessions.

According to Hayes, “Our training gives individuals that ‘edge’ that will help them succeed throughout life and make for a better, and brighter, future.”

Her students, and their parents, agree.  My son, Eddy Crowder, an 8th grader at Paideia Academy, has attended four etiquette classes during his Junior High years.

“These classes have really helped me be more confident at formal dinners, and when I speak with adults,” he said.  “Mrs. Hayes is a great teacher.”

Wanda Ransom, the mother of a college-bound son who participated in the College Preparedness Training Workshop said, “Thank you so much for polishing his skills.”

This summer, from June 26 through 30, the School of Etiquette and Decorum will be offering a Summer Etiquette Day Camp from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Lone Tree Golf and Event Center. Two sessions will run concurrently, one for children (ages 6 – 12) and the other for teens (ages 13 – 17).  To learn more about these classes, or other offerings, contact Mrs. Tina Hayes at 925-519-0354 or visit the website at etiquetteschool.us.

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Most Californians now support school choice: study

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

By John Crowder

Most Californians (60%), and especially parents of children in public schools (66%), are now in favor of school choice.  This is one of several findings in a report issued last week by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) based on a statewide survey conducted by the nonpartisan research organization.

The survey asked the question, “Do you favor or oppose providing parents with tax-funded vouchers to send their children to any public, private, or parochial school they choose?”  When responses were disaggregated for ethnicity, it was found that African Americans (73%) and Latinos (69%) were more likely than other racial/ethnic groups to be in favor.

While the finding was seen by some as shocking, according to Dr. Lamont Francies, pastor of Antioch’s Delta Bay Church of Christ, it should not have come as a surprise.

“African-Americans have long been proponents of school choice,” he said. “Slavery, which was perpetuated in part by keeping those enslaved ignorant, led directly to the creation of Freedom Schools. These Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), begun in 1837 with the formation of Cheney College in Pennsylvania, were a rebellion against Jim Crow and years of systematic oppression in education.”

“Today, school choice is the true legacy of the Civil Rights Movement because it not only allows students of color to move in, but to move up,” Francies added.

Angel Luevano, an Antioch resident, educator, and long-time Civil Rights advocate, agrees with Francies’ assessment.

“Providing a quality education for all, and closing the achievement gap, is the Civil Rights issue of our time,” he said.  “Those with means in our society have a choice as to where to educate their children.  They can afford to send their children to private schools if the public schools in their area are not performing up to par.  Those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged don’t always have such options.  This is why the charter school movement is so important.  Charter schools, being public schools that are open to all students, provide parents with options and opportunity where there might otherwise be none.”

In spite of the findings, though, considerable resistance to choose the school that will educate one’s child persists.  Only last October, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called for a moratorium on the expansion of charter schools.  In addition, lawmakers continue to introduce legislation that would make it much more difficult for charter schools to be formed.

PPIC reports such as the one cited here are focused on understanding, “long-term societal trends” and guiding decision making.” Their central audiences, according to their website, are “California’s elected officials.” As we move ever closer to the 2018 election cycle, it will be of great interest to see just how well the implications of this report are heeded by local and statewide candidates.

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Antioch School Board to draft own “safe schools” resolution for a vote at future meeting

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Fear of losing federal funds expressed

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Wednesday, April 26 the Antioch School Board Trustees heard from 15 members of the public in standing room only audience, on a resolution to create a “Safe Haven School District”. (See below) Each of the trustees offered their input and suggested changes to the resolution, and two wanted to remove any references that might affect the district receiving federal funds.

The resolution was placed on the agenda by Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello and Board Vice President Debra Vinson for discussion purposes only, in response to a request by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson that all school districts in the state do the same, following the election of President Donald Trump.

The main focus of the resolution was about sending a message to students and/or parents who are in the country illegally, that they have a right to attend school and the district has the legal responsibility to provide them an education. But, it also contains a variety of other controversial issues, such as gender identity.

While some of those who spoke tried to downplay the political aspect of the resolution, others referred to the new president in their comments, and Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray clearly stated, “This is a political issue.”

The first to speak was Iris Archuleta, who with her husband Keith, were at the meeting on a different matter, to donate their Youth Intervention Network program to the district, to have it integrated into the district’s current programs.

“I so appreciate this resolution,” she said. “Just looking at the first ‘whereas.’ This district supports equity and inclusion. Many of us support and love you for taking this position. I very, very much support your efforts.”

Antioch Education Association President Robert Strickler asked “the board to support the resolution.”

Many speakers and members of the audience wore purple shirts as part of the First 5 Contra Costa East County Regional Group.

Antioch resident Concepcion James, whose daughter graduated from Deer Valley High and works as the County Health Equity Manager, said “there is a health impact when children and their parents feel marginalized.”

Antioch resident Paul Ramirez, who said he is “Chair of the Latino Advocacy Group,” which “sponsored the last Dreamer Conference” spoke in support of the resolution and “students going to school worried about their parents’ well-being.”

“When people read in the history books about this guy with orange hair,” he said referring to Trump, “they’re going to ask, ‘what did grandpa do?’”

Another speaker wanted the trustees to “make sure all students are safe and able to learn.”

Gloria Ochoa of the East County Regional Group sponsored by First 5 Contra Costa said, “this letter is wonderful.”

“Immigrant students are being bullied by other students, because they came from other countries,” she claimed.

Another speaker offering an example of bullying, told the Board, “Kids were saying ‘build the wall, built it higher’ to other students who are mainly Hispanic.”

Another speaker reiterated what Ramirez referred to, saying “Some students are afraid to come to school because they might be separated from their parents at any time.”

Still another speaker shared her thoughts, stating “this is a shame that we haven’t passed this. There are a lot of immigrants in this district. We need a declaration from the Board that the children will be safe from I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

It was clear some speakers hadn’t read the resolution before the Board for discussion.

Deborah Pope, with the East County Regional Group and worked with disadvantaged children, suggested clauses that were already included in the proposed resolution.

Cheryl Sing, of the East Contra Costa Council for Community Leaders said, “Please make schools safe havens for immigrant students.”

She also suggested having block parents with big signs in their house windows “so students know where to go.”

Sharon Weaver, a teacher at Turner Elementary said, “It will be a smile, kindness passing this for our families.”

Julie Young was only one of two speakers against the resolution.

“I was very disturbed to see this on the agenda,” she stated. “Superintendent Torlakson sent a letter to all 10,500 school districts shortly after the election. Only 110 have complied.” (Editor’s Note: The correct number of school districts in the state is 1,050).

“You have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution,” Young continued. “If you sign this you will be breaking the law, U.S. Code 1324, harboring illegals. What are we teaching the children? What message does that send?”

“This resolution does nothing, legally,” she added. “We already have the protections for the children.”

Former Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando spoke next, refuting part of Young’s statement. “There is a lot of misunderstanding and hysteria with our citizens,” he said. “This resolution is following the law. All this is doing by approving it is following the law.”

Another speaker against the resolution disagreed with Cantando, saying “we’re a nation of laws. To me that’s in violation of the Constitution.”

“This is pure politics,” he continued. “What really gets me is that some people who support this opposed charter schools who will serve the same students. It came out after the election.”

“I will campaign against anybody who votes for this,” he concluded.

Teacher Ken Kent said “we stand with you” but the resolution didn’t really do much. He requested the Board “add a clause of a plan to educate.” He also spoke of students who shared with him their fears.

Anamarie Avila-Farias, former Martinez Vice Mayor and unsuccessful candidate for District 5 Supervisor in last year’s election, said “it’s a moral issue” and supported moving the resolution forward.

Willie Mims asked the board to support the resolution, as well, saying “we have a group of folks concerned about this issue,” referred to Trump and compared the issue to slavery being legal.

“Good people stood up to unjust laws,” he said and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and St. Augustine to support his point.

Paul Seger, an Oakley resident, retired coach and teacher from “Nor Cal, Humboldt area” said the “East County Board was first to pass a ‘Safe Haven. It made the community so much easier to be around.”

“We need to change the laws and it takes so long,” he continued, then encouraged the board to support the resolution.

The Board members then had their opportunity to speak on the matter.

Gary Hack said, “other than one or two people, I’d say ‘ditto.’ Everybody who comes through the door we educate…”

Vinson said, “I’m happy that this resolution is on here. I will absolutely support the resolution.” But she wanted to make some additions to it and asked Anello if the District was asking for students to identify their citizenship during enrollment.

Anello responded, “on our previous enrollment forms  for federal funding we asked citizenship status. We took that off because it only affected 12 students.”

Gibson-Gray asked “has that changed?”

Anello responded, “this was changed, recently.”

Gibson-Gray then asked “is there anything in this that we’re not doing? As a Board Member I have to protect federal funding. I’m all about the money.”

“If we change the language to ‘a safe educational environment’ I’m all for it,” she added.

Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, who is also a Parent Education Teacher said she had “experienced it first hand, the concerns of the teen mothers and their children who are Latino.”

She also suggested adding some clauses to the resolution.

Board President Walter Ruehlig said, “I would have to agree with Trustee Gray about the language of this.”

“My parents were immigrants. My father jumped ship to come to America,” he continued. “I don’t have to apologize for my fervor for human rights.”

“The language of this is quite controversial,” Ruehlig stated. “There’s probably more risk than reward. This won’t change the law. I think this is misleading. I’m not against it. I, too agree it’s quite political.”

Vinson suggested the trustees “wordsmith this and bring it back May 24th.”

Gibson-Gray responded, “I want a resolution that…reaffirms what we’re already doing. I don’t want at some point President Trump saying ‘you’re not getting money.’”

Ruehlig then asked if the district requires a warrant for I.C.E. officers to be on campus and search student records.

Anello said “no…nor do we know (a student’s citizenship status), except for the 12.”

Ruehlig than asked her if she knew of “any incidents where I.C.E.” was on an Antioch school campus.

“I’m not aware of any, personally,” Anello responded. “That doesn’t necessarily minimize the fear.”

Gibson-Gray reiterated here earlier concern, “I do want to keep the money” to which Vinson responded, “I, too want to keep the money.”

Gibson-Gray then said she was “content to be legally within the law.”

“The resolution before you, tonight is within the law,” Anello assured her.

Ruehlig offered an addition he wanted to the resolution, to “included what our history has been. This gives the impression we have been violating people’s rights.”

Hack then said he felt “the length of it is appropriate.”

The Board members agreed to each email Anello with their additional suggestions for the resolution and have her present two options, one with the term Safe Haven and one without, and to then have it on a future meeting agenda for a vote.

Following is the proposed resolution discussed by the public and Board:

Antioch Unified School District

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-17-30

IN SUPPORT OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL STUDENTS –A SAFE HAVEN RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America recognizes every    individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

WHEREAS, Education has played a critical role in furthering tolerance and strengthening our society;

WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court in 1982 ruled in Plyer v. Doe that public schools were prohibited from denying students access to Elementary and Secondary Public Education based on their immigrations status, citing that children have little control over their immigration status, the lifelong harm it would inflict on the child and society itself, and constitutional equal protection rights;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees is committed to educating all students in a safe and welcoming environment;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District is committed to preventing and ending acts of discrimination or bullying based on a student’s immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees believes that celebrating the diversity that exists in our District, elevating the uniqueness of each student, and embracing the cultural assets that both they and their parents bring to the District is vital to the success of all students;

WHEREAS, State and Federal laws prohibit educational agencies from disclosing personally identifiable student information to law enforcement without the consent of a parent or guardian, a signed court order or lawful subpoena;

WHEREAS, Concerns of potential raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) have caused immigrants in the community to experience increased levels of concern about the presence of ICE in and around schools and the disruption that this presence may have on the learning environment for students and their families;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees hereby directs the Superintendent to support the creation of a Safe Haven School District. This shall include:

  • Restricting, to the extent possible by law, the sharing of student and parent/guardian immigration status with federal agencies or officials;
  • Requiring all federal immigration agents seeking access to information or access to a school site have a warrant signed by a federal or state judge;
  • Continuing to promote and enhance a climate of inclusion;
  • Offering appropriate, focused professional development opportunities for staff;
  • Ensuring there are adequate supports and resources for students who may feel unsafe both on and off campus especially as it relates to discrimination or bullying predicated on immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability;
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In spite of warning from Superintendent, principal, Park Middle School students prepared for teachers’ union May 1st Day of Action

Monday, May 1st, 2017

One of the teachers’ union posters for the May 1st Day of Action. Source: www.cta.org/ForAllStudents

Principal labels as “cowardly act” whistleblower informing news media of teachers’ efforts; accused of encouraging students to wear red on Monday to show their support; Antioch High hosting activities, as well

By Allen Payton

In response to an April 21st article by this reporter on this website, about plans by one or more teachers at Park Middle School to recruit students to participate in the promotion of the California teachers union May 1st Day of Action, Principal John Jimno sent out a memo to teachers warning them not to do so. In that memo, he also labeled the action of the whistleblower who informed the Herald “a cowardly act.”

In spite of the warning from Jimno and District Superintendent Stephanie Anello that teachers were not to recruit students or use class time, according to another anonymous staff member at Park, students in the school’s Leadership class were making red paper chains and recruiting other students to support the teachers’ efforts, in preparation for Monday’s activities. The California Teachers Association’s website states “Wear Red for Ed” and that the effort is to “Support All Students.” Yet, the teachers and possibly also the principal are encouraging students to wear red to support the teachers.

An email received on Thursday, April 27th (but unfortunately not viewed until Sunday night) from someone self-identifying as “Conscientious Employee” included Jimno’s email message sent to his school’s staff on Monday, April 24th:

FW: When planning for next week….

John Jimno

Sent: Monday, April 24, 2017 8:42AM

To: PMS Distribution List

Please do not promote this with any students or use class time to work on flyers. I am in talks with the District Office and The Teachers Union. You all have the right to promote this but we cannot use class time or encourage students to promote this. If you would like to discuss further please call me instead of replying to this email.

On another note, it saddens me that someone on our staff would take this inter school memo and send it to a reporter and cause such negativity for our school. For the past 5 years I have worked extremely hard to always have my door open if someone wanted to express a difference of opinion. On many occasions I have shifted or changed a decision or event based on how people were feeling about it. I would hope that if the person that sent this email would either come see me now so we can talk or the next time they feel something is not right they come speak with me prior to sending such a message to the media and causing such an attack on our school. In my opinion it is a cowardly act.

If you are confused about what I am talking about you can read the article on the Antioch Herald that was posted on Saturday.

Sincerely, John

In the email to the Herald the anonymous “Conscientious Employee” also wrote:

“I find it highly unprofessional and insulting that Principal Jimno would call whomever made the public aware of this violation a coward and to be so outraged that information, that the public has a right to know about, making Park look negative rather than being upset about the outrageous fact that a political agenda is being pushed on the student body of his school.

It was my understanding that any potential student involvement with this May 1st “Day of Action,” like wearing red, and activities like the red chain, etc. were to be ceased and the students were not to be encouraged or involved as pawns in this blatant use of the Union’s political agenda push. Not just at Park but also at other school sites throughout the district.

Today, Thursday, April 27th, I was told by other staff at Park that Principal Jimno put over the announcements this morning that the students don’t have to, but that they can wear red on the first of May to show support for their teachers.

Also today during lunches the Leadership students were assigned to run the lunch activity of making the red chain mentioned in the first e-mail sent to the Antioch Herald. Students who participated said that they were told by the Leadership students that the chain was, ‘or the May 1st thing. On May 1st everyone is supposed to wear red and it’s pledging your support.’

Pledging support for what? They were told, ‘That education should be free.’ This was all done during the Leadership students’ class time; they were not accompanied by a teacher and obviously had been instructed on what to say to their fellow students and to promote this agenda.

I dearly hope that this, as Walter Ruehlig so well put it in the comment section of your article, ‘black, white and unarguable violation of prohibition of political activity within the schools’ and unlawful ‘use of District technology, facilities and paid time to lobby’ is ended swiftly. I thank you for your action in keeping the impressionable young minds of Antioch’s youth protected from being used as political pawns.

Sincerely,

‘a conscientious employee’

*This letter has also been sent to the following: Walter Ruehlig (School Board President) and Stephanie Anello (AUSD Superintendent)”

Questions were sent late Sunday night to Anello, Ruehlig and the rest of the board members, asking what actions would be taken against the teachers who ignored the directions by both Anello and Jimno.

In addition, they were asked if the May 1st activities by teachers were also occurring at others schools in the district, if they believe Jimno’s “cowardly act” comment was appropriate, and about a culture of fear in the district which some school staff members are afraid to speak out with views that differ from other teachers, the union or administration.

5/1/17 12:00 p.m. UPDATE: In an email, Monday morning, Anello responded with the following:

“I just spoke with Principal Jimno and there are no activities planned today. If students are participating, it is outside of class and voluntary. The announcement that Mr.  Jimno made about wearing red, etc. was to reiterate the contents of the follow-up email to staff wherein he told them no class time was to be used and no students should be told to wear red, etc. The activity that occurred at lunch time was student led and no teacher directed students to participate.”

However, a person who answered the phone at Park Middle School said Jimno was unavailable for comment as he is not at the school, today. An email was then sent to him asking him why and with other questions regarding the activities alleged by the anonymous Conscientious Employee.

In addition, a voicemail message was left with Vice Principal Peter Crutchfield asking if activities for the May 1st Day of Action were occurring on the campus.

Antioch High May 1st Activities

Promotion of May 1st event at Antioch High on Facebook.

An event listing posted on Facebook described an Immigration Awareness Assembly and Resource Fair at the school for Monday afternoon, from 12:15 p.m. to 2:00 p.m., with the description of “Know Your Rights” and the graphic of a black, raised fist.

The assembly, presented by the school’s Lead Academy, offered the subject matters of “Know your rights,” “Information for undocumented students and parents” and “How to protect yourself from ICE” listed in both English and Spanish.

The resource fair began at 11;30 a.m. and included the following description:

“Come join us on May Day for a day of action! You’re invited to Know Your Rights.

Resource fair opens at 11:30 am, program begins at 12:15 pm

Keynote speakers include: Juan Ortiz and Mary Rocha

Resource fair organizations include: First 5, International Institute of the Bay Area, One Day at a Time, Organizing for Action, Planned Parenthood, Together We Will, and United Latino Voices

Asked about the event occurring on another Antioch school campus, Anello said, “Today is a minimum day at Antioch High School and this event happening after school and was organized by students as part of their senior project.”

5/1/17 6:45 p.m. UPDATE

In an afternoon email, Anello responded further, stating “Mr. Jimno did not tell students to wear red. He stated that some staff may wear red as part of a national day of action day but that classroom time should not be used for activities supporting the day.

According to Mr. Jimno, students did not use Leadership class time for any activities related to the day of action.

You are welcome to reach out to Mr. Jimno about his email as he and I did not discuss it prior to or after he sent it out.”

In addition, Jimno also responded to questions emailed to him earlier in the day, including if it was appropriate to label what the anonymous teacher or staff member did to first inform the Herald, a “cowardly act” and if there was a culture of fear at the school that causes some teachers or staff to be afraid to speak up with views that are different from other teachers, the union or the administration.

“In response to the below email:

  • At no time did I make an announcement in attempt to solicit students to participate in what the teachers were planning.
  • The leadership students did not take part in a class time activity to work on this.  Any participation by students was through their request to do so and voluntarily.
  • I have worked extremely hard with the help of many dedicated staff members to create an organization where everyone’s voice is heard and valued.  As my email to the staff suggests, it saddens me that someone chose to go outside the school to express their concern prior to coming to speak with me first.  Before I am accused of having “a culture of fear” on my campus I would hope you would come interview the staff on their thoughts instead of making this judgment on an anonymous email.

Sincerely,

John Jimno”

Another email was received from Conscientious Employee reporting what occurred at Park Middle School, today and last week by students in preparation for the May 1st Day of Action:

“I was told that this morning there were teachers in front of the school wearing red and holding signs and that some students picked up signs and participated as well.  I don’t have pictures of the students making the chain during lunches, they made it during lunches last week I think just so that if anyone questioned it they could say that it wasn’t done on May 1st.  I also find it a side-step trying to avoid the issue that they are saying that any activities were student led and no teachers were involved; yes, the leadership students were running the activity table without adults involved.

“However, they were doing so during lunches that did not correspond with their grade level which means that they were out of a scheduled class missing instructional time to run the red chain activity and they had to have been instructed in what activity to do and what it was about.  Students participating during their lunches may not have been directed to participate but obviously the leadership students had to have been directed by staff.”

Please see the photos, below of the rather muted Day of Action activities at Park Middle School provided anonymously to the Herald.

 

A hand-written sign on the side of a building at Park Middle School on May 1st.

A red paper chain on metal a barrier in front of Park Middle School was one of three seen on fences at the campus on Monday, May 1st.

 

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Superintendent asks school board to consider making Antioch a “safe haven” district at Wednesday meeting

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

Item on agenda for discussion purposes only, for now

By Allen Payton

On the agenda for Wednesday night’s Antioch School Board meeting, trustees are being asked to consider a resolution creating a Safe Haven School District, to mainly restrict the ability of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from enforcing federal immigration law. The effort is part of the California Teachers Association agenda, as stated on their website, and included in their May 1st Day of Action pledge they’re asking all teachers to take.

Following is the draft resolution:

Antioch Unified School District

RESOLUTION NO. 2016-17-30

IN SUPPORT OF THE RIGHTS OF ALL STUDENTS –A SAFE HAVEN RESOLUTION

WHEREAS, The Declaration of Independence of the United States of America recognizes every    individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

WHEREAS, Education has played a critical role in furthering tolerance and strengthening our society;

WHEREAS, The United States Supreme Court in 1982 ruled in Plyer v. Doe that public schools were prohibited from denying students access to Elementary and Secondary Public Education based on their immigrations status, citing that children have little control over their immigration status, the lifelong harm it would inflict on the child and society itself, and constitutional equal protection rights;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees is committed to educating all students in a safe and welcoming environment;

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District is committed to preventing and ending acts of discrimination or bullying based on a student’s immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability

WHEREAS, The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees believes that celebrating the diversity that exists in our District, elevating the uniqueness of each student, and embracing the cultural assets that both they and their parents bring to the District is vital to the success of all students;

WHEREAS, State and Federal laws prohibit educational agencies from disclosing personally identifiable student information to law enforcement without the consent of a parent or guardian, a signed court order or lawful subpoena;

WHEREAS, Concerns of potential raids by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) have caused immigrants in the community to experience increased levels of concern about the presence of ICE in and around schools and the disruption that this presence may have on the learning environment for students and their families;

NOW BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees hereby directs the Superintendent to support the creation of a Safe Haven School District. This shall include:

  • Restricting, to the extent possible by law, the sharing of student and parent/guardian immigration status with federal agencies or officials;
  • Requiring all federal immigration agents seeking access to information or access to a school site have a warrant signed by a federal or state judge;
  • Continuing to promote and enhance a climate of inclusion;
  • Offering appropriate, focused professional development opportunities for staff;
  • Ensuring there are adequate supports and resources for students who may feel unsafe both on and off campus especially as it relates to discrimination or bullying predicated on immigration status, race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics or disability;

The following questions were sent to Board President Walter Ruehlig and the rest of the trustees, as well as Superintendent Stephanie Anello:

  • First, who requested this be placed on the agenda?
  • Second, is the board now doing the bidding of the California Teachers Association, in passing this, as this is part of their agenda as stated on their website?
  • With the third “Whereas” clause being the law and as the sixth “Whereas” clause states “State and Federal laws prohibit educational agencies from disclosing personally identifiable student information to law enforcement without the consent of a parent or guardian, a signed court order or lawful subpoena;” and the why is this necessary?
  • What message does it send to the law-abiding students? Shouldn’t we be teaching the children in our district to comply with the laws and not pick and choose which ones they want to follow?
  • Is this an effort to keep students attending school instead of staying home?
  • Furthermore, which rights that students in the district have are you not currently being protected? How will this resolution change that?
  • Or is it a message to those parents who are in the U.S. illegally that the District won’t go out of its way to help the federal government deport them?
  • Or is it just pandering by some board members to certain political constituencies?

Anello responded Wednesday morning.

“I placed the item on the agenda,” she said. “As you are most likely aware, AUSD is one of the few districts in far east county that has not passed a Safe Haven Board Resolution. I have been asked by students, parents, community members, and staff if this is something that the Board is interested in pursuing.”

“I placed it on tonight’s agenda under ‘Items for Discussion by Board Members’ so that I could ascertain if it was/was not,” Anello continued. “Without placing it on the agenda, I have no way of knowing the will of the Board as this would be a potential violation of the Brown Act.”

In response, the following additional questions were emailed to Anello, Wednesday afternoon:

  • Why couldn’t those members of the public have asked their elected representatives – the trustees – if they would place this on the agenda?
  • If none of them has asked you to do this, since they’re your bosses, not “students, parents, community members, and staff” why would you agendize such a controversial issue potentially putting them on the spot on a political hot button issue?
  • Would this change the current practices of staff within the school district if it is adopted? If so, how?
  • Finally, who sets the agenda for the board? Isn’t it the Board President in consultation with you, as is done by the Mayor and City Manager for City Council meeting agendas? Since Walter was on vacation last week, was this run by him before being placed on the agenda? And if not, couldn’t it have waited until the next meeting when he could have provided his input, first?

4:45 PM UPDATE:

Anello responded with the following comments:

“This is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Board and one that the State Superintendent of Public Education has asked all California School Boards and Superintendents to consider adopting,” she stated. “Thus, it is appropriate to agendize it. Censoring or not bringing forth agenda items because they may be political or controversial, would be highly inappropriate in my opinion. As elected officials, Board Members are expected to weigh in on matters that may or may not be political that are within their jurisdiction. I am confident that AUSD Board Members –by virtue of their running for political office, understand that they may be required to act on issues that may be political in nature and I am confident that they have the courage to do so.”

“The resolution before the Board this evening for discussion is intended to remind parents and guardians about existing laws that protect them and their students’ records from questions about immigrations status,” Anello explained. “It is also intended to let the community know that the District is committed to maintaining a safe and welcoming environment for all students and families. Superintendents and Boards were asked to do both of these things by Tom Torlakson, The State Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

In addition, Anello stated, “Per Board Policy 9322, I  am the Executive Secretary to the Board and, according to this policy, ‘the Superintendent shall prepare the agenda for the Board.’ The agenda shall include items within the Boards jurisdiction. Agenda items may be brought forward by individual Board Members or the Superintendent per this policy. The Superintendent does not need Board permission to place an item on the agenda as long as it is within the Board’s jurisdiction. Items from Board Members can be requested at a Board Meeting and/or thru the President. These items must appear within two regularly scheduled Board Meetings or as soon as practical to allow sufficient research, etc.”

5:30 PM UPDATE:

However, Board Vice President Debra Vinson said she approved having Anello place the resolution on the agenda as a discussion item only.

“When I got the draft agenda, it was on there,” Vinson stated. “I said it was fine for discussion.”

Asked if any of these things are happening in the district, such as students being bullied or ICE approaching students and their parents who are here illegally, she replied “No, but I received a copy of an article on SFGate.com (the S.F. Chronicle’s website) listing Antioch and asking whether or not Antioch was participating in collecting students’ citizenship data.”

In addition, Vinson said she received a copy of a letter from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, sent to State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, about a” Complaint Concerning Discriminatory Enrollment Practices Denying Immigrant Youth Their Right to Enroll in School.” It shows Antioch and Orinda as the only two school districts that request the citizenship data of students when the enroll in the district. LawyersComteComplaintLtr

“The board president is supposed to sit down with her (Anello) to discuss the agenda,” Vinson added. “I know this is a hot issue, but I said we can have it on for discussion, not decision, tonight. We have to hash this out. We’re seeing this for the first time.”

In response to who is responsible for placing things on the agenda, she replied, “Board Policy9220 states that the vice president shall serve in the absence of the president in all capacities.”

A call was made and a text sent to Board Vice President Debra Vinson asking if she approved having Anello place the resolution on the agenda. She was  unavailable until after 5:00 p.m., today. Please check back later for her response.

To see the complete agenda, click here.

The board meeting is Wednesday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the District Office Board Room, 510 G Street in downtown Antioch.

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Park Middle, possibly other Antioch school teachers asked to promote state unions’ May 1st Day of Action

Friday, April 21st, 2017

One of the posters on the CTA website offered for the May 1st Day of Action.

Another poster on the CTA website offered for use on its May 1st Day of Action.

Teachers, students asked to wear red, put names on red strips of paper, make posters; district, principal unaware of effort

By Allen Payton

On Thursday, an Antioch resident concerned with “communist propaganda being pushed at school” informed the Herald of an effort at Park Middle School entitled “‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity’ – May 1st” asking all staff and students to wear red that day, as part of “a movement to build a stronger union.” In addition, students are asked to make signs and posters during the “first week of our block schedule for testing, April 24 – 28,” which begins next Monday.

May 1st was the day chosen by the International Workers of the World and the Communist Party to protest for workers’ rights, starting in the late 1800’s and gaining prominence in the early 1900’s. The raised, clinched fist became the symbol of the movement. That symbol has since been adopted by other movements such as the black power and feminist movements.

Now it’s being used by the California Teachers Association (CTA), the state’s largest teachers’ union, which, via its website, is asking teachers and students to participate in their May 1st Statewide Day of Action to “Stand Up for Students.”

In an email message, the resident, who wished to remain anonymous wrote, “This memo [below] is circulating at Park Middle School. Why are public schools pushing political propaganda? Thought you may want to look into it” and forwarded the following message:

“Remember that on May 1st we are ‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity,’ so you can have your students make posters next week.

‘Park Spartans Stand in Solidarity’ – May 1st

This is a day where the Nation will create a movement to build a stronger union to strengthen free, safe, and quality public education for ALL students based on social, economic, and political justice.

  1. ALL staff and students should wear RED this day.
  2. Students will be writing their names on red strips of paper during their lunches on April 26th – 28th. They will be linked together. (PLEASE send any red construction paper you would like to donate to Shelly in room 602.)
  3. Share the information with your students, and they can make signs and posters. A great week to have your students do this is the first week of our block schedule for testing, April 24 – 28. Any posters you want hung up outside of the school, please send to me by the end of the day on Friday, April 28th. Also, if anyone wants to get here early on May 1st to hang up the posters, I would appreciate it.
  4. I have attached a scan of the Action page. At the bottom are different links. One includes different ideas and activities you can do.
  5. Please take the pledge to Stand for ALL Students: cta.org/ForAllStudents (copy and paste the website)”

Posters on the CTA website offered for use as part of the organization’s May 1st Day of Action.

In an email response to questions about the memo, the anonymous resident wrote, “It is my understanding that it is a District wide program and each school is encouraged to set up their own May Day celebration based on the CTA guide. As far as the email I provided, it was sent out to all Park Middle School employees and I have been told that many employees are upset that the District is pushing this propaganda on the students. I have also been told by a friend at Mno Grant Elementary School that they are setting up a similar program there.”

On the CTA’s web page promoting the activities for the Day of Action, it asks people to sign a pledge with the message, “Take the Pledge: A Call to Action for the Public Education ALL California’s Students Deserve.”

It includes non-controversial clauses about supporting “safe learning and teaching environments, and the right to attend school free of fear, bullying and discrimination” and “all students deserve a well-rounded education – ensuring that students and schools have access to multi-cultural education, art, music, theater, dance, physical education, and career-technical classes.”

But, the pledge also includes political positions of the teachers’ union, in the following clauses:

“WHEREAS, public schools should serve as centers of the community, not profit centers with taxpayer dollars diverted to private voucher schemes and unaccountable corporate charter schools; and

WHEREAS, California has always been a place for DREAMers and supports safe-haven schools and sanctuary cities that reflect and embrace the diversity of our students and their families, as well as the rich language and cultural assets they bring to our communities.”

The website also provides a variety of posters that can be used, including one that shows two hands in a handshake with the words “The Union Makes Us Strong.” Others promote the LGBTQ agenda with the new symbol that includes male, female and transgender.

A message left for Park Middle School Principal John Jimno seeking comment about the activities at the school proposed for next week was not returned.

An email was sent to Board President Walter Ruehlig, who is out of town on vacation, all board members and Superintendent Stephanie Anello asking if they were aware of this, if it was a district-wide effort and if they supported it.

Anello responded, “I am looking into this and will get back to you. I was unaware that this went out, etc. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.”

Board Vice President Debra Vinson said “I hadn’t heard of it. That’s news to me” and that there are “so many things that we need to reel in.”

In a later email message from Anello, she said Jimno was not aware of the memo, either and that he would be contacting the teacher who sent it.

“I was unaware of the email as was Mr. Jimno as he was out of the office yesterday,” Anello wrote. “According to Mr. Jimno, nothing has gone out to students or their families about this. CTA and its membership certainly have a right to free speech and expression that would include their ability to wear red and make posters and comments on the issues and to encourage their membership to do so. However, there is no legal basis for taking class time to direct students (or non-CTA staff) to do so as it is not part of a district approved curriculum. Mr. Jimno has already reached out to the teacher who sent the email and she will send out clarification letting teachers know.

“Thank you for bringing this to my attention,” she concluded.

After returning from vacation, Ruehlig responded with the following:

“This was done off the District radar screen and I am only thankful that it was caught and reported in time by a conscientious employee.

The choice of using International Worker’s Day as a showcase, coupled with the design of some of the posters is, indeed, controversial but that is not the major point.

What is black, white and unarguable is the violation of prohibition of political activity within the schools; you simply can’t use District technology, facilities and paid time to lobby. These are public schools.

The biggest damage, though, would be to allow the use of students as a pawn to pursue any partisan lobbying and uncontested ideology.”

Communist poster

On the Marxists.org website it provides background about the first International May Day.

“In his preface to the fourth German edition of the Communist Manifesto, which he wrote on May 1, 1890, Engels, reviewing the history of the international proletarian organizations, calls attention to the significance of the first International May Day:

As I write these lines, the proletariat of Europe and America is holding a review of its forces; it is mobilized for the first time as One army, under One Bag, and fighting One immediate aim: an eight-hour working day, established by legal enactment…. The spectacle we are now witnessing will make the capitalists and landowners of all lands realize that today the proletarians of all lands are, in very truth, united. If only Marx were with me to see it with his own eyes!

The significance of simultaneous international proletarian demonstrations was appealing more and more to the imagination and revolutionary instincts of the workers throughout the world, and every year witnessed greater masses participating in the demonstrations.”

Soviet Propaganda poster from the 70’s stating “We are in solidarity with you, Vietnam!”

On the same website the French Marxist, communist activist, essayist, and journalist, Boris Souvarine is quoted from his work entitled, The Call, published in 1920 about the Communist roots of May Day celebrations.

“Since the foundation of the Communist International, containing all the revolutionary forces of the world proletariat, the international manifestation of May Day has taken on a character of working-class solidarity which it never possessed before,” Souvarine wrote.

“Previously, when the Second International had resolved to choose the first day of May as the occasion to affirm the universal fraternity of the workers, the annual demonstration of the exploited of every country was a luminous symbol. But the Second International shed itself of its revolutionary spirit, and sunk more and more in opportunism, whilst the general strike of the May Day also lost its revolutionary spirit, for which was substituted an overweening concern for the ‘practical.’ And during the war when, more than ever, the solidarity of the proletariat was a pressing necessity, when Imperialism intensified the oppression and the exploitation of the producing class, the International backed out, and its weakening parties traitorously renounced the traditional celebration of May Day.”

On the CTA website, it explains why it chose May 1st and that it’s part of a national effort in coordination with the National Education Association (NEA), the national teachers’ union. They want parents and community members to support the effort at local schools, as well.

“Why May 1?

May 1st has been historically linked to international worker’ rights. On May 1, 1886, the U.S. Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions (including immigrant workers) ruled that an 8-hour work day, would be a full and legal work day. NEA and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) are also holding a national day of action on May 1. May 1, or May Day, continues to be a national day of action to raise awareness about immigration rights and the need to keep families together as they fight for a better life.  

How can I get involved?

CTA is asking our local chapters and members to hold actions with parents and community members at their local school sites. Actions may include “walk-ins” with parents and community members, unveiling new safe zone policies and safe zone resolutions, taking the pledge, hosting community meetings, and more. Please join our Facebook group and fill out our form to let us know how you are participating.”

However, nothing could be found on the NEA’s website regarding a national day of action on May 1st. 

Nothing could be found on the NEA’s website regarding a national day of action on May 1st. However, on the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools’ website, their May 1st day of action is entitled “Build Schools Not Walls” and is about opposing President Trump’s proposed wall on the border with Mexico and education for illegal immigrant students.

That website states, “Every community deserves quality public schools where immigrants are welcome and kids & families are safe, respected, and loved.”

Further, it states, “Join millions nationwide on May 1st, 2017:

Demand an end to mass deportation and threats to immigrant communities

Demand our schools be safe spaces free from the threats of ICE raids, racism, and bullying

Demand that billions not be spent on a wall, but on strengthening public schools to educate all our children regardless of immigration status.”

However, the AROS website only shows a few sites throughout the U.S. participating in their Day of Action and the only one in California is in Los Angeles.

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Antioch Chamber honors School District for achievements at annual awards Gala

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

At its annual awards Gala on Friday, March 10, 2017, the Antioch Chamber of Commerce honored the Antioch Unified School District for its recent achievements.

Over the past decade, both the City of Antioch and the Antioch Unified School District have faced significant challenges due to the economic housing crisis that began in 2006. However, like the City, the District has capitalized on the strengths of our student population, our families, staff, and the greater community. As a result, AUSD, despite the many challenges, has shown several areas of positive growth.

A Few of the Challenges:

· From 2000–2013, the number of students who speak a language other than English in the home increased from 6% – 20%.

· The number of students residing in group homes has risen 144%.

· 11,468 AUSD students (68%) receive free or reduced lunch, 85% free and 15% reduced.

· The number of students in foster care has risen 252% in the past six years.

· More than 3,100 AUSD students live in poverty as defined by the federal government with families earning less than $10,830 for a one-parent family and $14,570 for a two parent family;

· Currently 441 AUSD students are homeless.

Despite These Challenges, Successes:

· AUSD increased its graduation rate 6.8% in the past year; AUSD now outpaces the state graduation rate.

· The percentage of students graduating eligible to attend a UC/CSU has increased 8.6% since 2010.

· The number of students taking an Advanced Placement exam has grown nearly 71.6% in the last five years while the number of students taking the SAT has increased 29.2%.

· Suspension occurrences have reduced 38% since 2011 while the number of days students are suspended has decreased 48%.

· AUSD now has nine career-themed high school pathways that provide students with real-world experiences; AUSD is a lead district in implementing linked learning in the State;

· After years of deficit spending, the District balanced its budget in 2015 and is no longer deficit spending.

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