Board to hold another meeting to reschedule dates for Rocketship charter hearing, vote
By Nick Goodrich
At their regular meeting on Wednesday, October 26th, the Antioch School Board witnessed Trustee Debra Vinson served with recall paper and heard district staff’s endorsements of candidates in the upcoming election. They also postponed a discussion on the Superintendent’s goals for the 2016-17 school year, and scheduled an emergency board meeting for Friday to discuss scheduling the meetings for the Rocketship Charter school petition.
During Public Comments at the beginning of the meeting, several Antioch residents stepped up to speak about Vinson, who has drawn attention in recent weeks after allegedly berating a District employee and making offensive comments.
District employee Nicole Cedano, who had promised to begin the process of recalling Vinson, served the Board Member with recall papers after speaking about the incident.
“She has failed to issue an apology or show remorse for her actions,” Cedano said of Vinson. “I came before you in previous meetings supporting her recall, and I still feel that way.”
Vinson found support from two Antioch residents, however, who were disturbed to hear the reports of the recall petition.
One 20-year resident, Reginald Johnagin, whose wife is a teacher in the district, stated that Vinson always responds to problems and inquiries in a timely and positive manner, and is both dependable and likable. He stated further that she brings “sensitivity” to the increasingly diverse neighborhoods of Antioch, wherein many families may feel that they do not have a voice in District proceedings.
“Just because there was a personal disagreement with someone doesn’t mean someone should be immediately recalled,” he told the audience.
Rocketship Charter Meeting Dates
Not on the agenda Wednesday night was the issue of Rocketship Education’s charter school petition public hearing and final vote. Board Member Fernando Navarro attempted to add the issue to the agenda as an urgency item, but was withheld by District staff and Board President Diane Gibson-Gray, who cited board policy interpretations after conferring with the School District’s attorney.
Rocketship is a private non-profit corporation that currently operates a network of charter schools with 6,000 students in the Bay Area and three more schools outside of California. They have submitted a petition to operate a charter school in Antioch. Dates that appeared to be finalized, for the public hearing and final vote meeting, were suddenly up in the air, leaving Rocketship to wait for the go ahead from the Board.
According to an article by Herald staff, the Board had voted 5-0 in its previous meeting on October 12th, to set the dates for the hearing and vote for November 2nd and 28th, respectively. The minutes of the October 12th meeting, however, do not reflect this Board decision, stating only that the dates were “tentatively suggested.”
Navarro attempted to get the matter placed on the Wednesday night’s meeting agenda as an urgency item but failed, after Gibson-Gray twice refused his efforts. However, he was able to schedule a special board meeting to discuss the issue and confirm the dates. He was supported by fellow Board Members Walter Ruehlig and Alonzo Terry, who agreed with Navarro on the urgency of the issue.
The special board meeting will occur on Friday, October 28th, at 4:00 p.m. in the School Services Building, at 510 G Street. The Board will have the opportunity to finalize the dates for both the public hearing and final vote on Rocketship’s petition, within the legal timeframe.
Before a discussion could be held on Superintendent Stephanie Anello’s goals for this school year, a motion was made by Navarro to table the item, until next meeting. The proposed goals were discussed at a public meeting, held on Wednesday afternoon, October 12th, before the last regular Board meeting. However, no members of the public were in attendance. Anello asked the Board to take formal action on the goals at the next meeting. The motion to table passed 3-2 with Gibson-Gray and Ruehlig voting against.
Candidate Endorsements by Staff
Also during public comments at the beginning of the meeting, Scott Bergerhouse, Principal of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, acting in his capacity as President of the Antioch (schools) Management Association, delivered the endorsements of the AMA, Antioch Education Association, and California School Employee’s Association for the Antioch School Board in the November elections. The candidates endorsed by all the organizations are current Board President Diane Gibson-Gray and former members Joy Motts, Gary Hack. The AMA also endorsed a fourth candidate, Mike Burkholder.
After conducting interviews with the candidates, Bergerhouse said, the organizations looked at qualities like a collaborative spirit, strong interpersonal skills, knowledgeable in the field of education, and a passion for improving the system.
“These candidates are committed to the District, strong, and willing to roll up their sleeves,” Bergerhouse stated after delivering the endorsements.
Speaker Defends Navarro
Also, during public comments, John Crowder, the director of the Math Intensive Program in the district spoke in support of Navarro and what he has been doing since being appointed to the Board, last year.
“Over the last several weeks, political opponents have stepped forward to use the public comments portion of this meeting to attack one of our Trustees, Mr. Navarro,” Crowder stated. “They’ve called him out for expressing his views on important matters related to this school district, including his shining a light on the dismal academic outcomes revealed by the SBAC test results.”
“Tonight, I want to commend Mr. Navarro for having the courage, in the face of increasing vitriol, to address a long-standing problem: academic results that are the worst of any major school district in Contra Costa County,” he continued. “As far as academic outcomes are concerned, AUSD has a very big problem. Less than 20% of AUSD students achieve basic proficiency in math. What’s more appalling is the fact that students of color post results that are even worse. Results for English Language Arts aren’t much better.”
“Parents are not waiting for you to address this crisis,” Crowder shared. “They’re moving their children. I can personally cite scores of parents that have removed their kids from this district, and are now either paying for a private school education, or commuting to other communities, to obtain solid educational opportunities.”
“Your jobs, as school board members, is to oversee the education of Antioch’s children. When that job’s not getting done, it needs to be addressed, boldly and forthrightly. Mr. Navarro, you need to continue to speak out about this. By doing so, you’re fulfilling your obligation to truly represent the children of our community,” Crowder added.
Questions were emailed to Board Members and staff following the meeting regarding the urgency item and special Board meeting, tomorrow. Check back later for updates to this article.