Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

DA’s office expands education outreach on cyber-bullying, campus and online safety for kids

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

Starting on September 14, 2017, the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Unit, in conjunction with the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, expanded an outreach program directed at parents, teachers and students on the topics of cyber-bullying, campus sexual assault awareness and online safety for kids.  The presentations are aimed at educating parents and teachers on new trends involving social media, as well as providing students with information and tools to improve campus safety and prevent online exploitation.

“The effort was started last year, first at DVC,” according to Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. “The first presentation in a high school was at Campolindo in Moraga.”

“Since then we’ve been working with police officers and those in our office on the task force,” he continued. “Campus sexual assault awareness is geared toward high school seniors and community colleges, due to the content. The cyberbullying and online safety for kids is for everyone, but mainly targeted to middle school students and parents, with presentations for both,”

“We’ve been working to have somewhere for schools to call to have presentations made for students and parents,” Graves added.

Schools, community organizations and parent/teacher groups who are interested in learning more can call Deputy District Attorney Lauren Whalen at 925-957-8603. 

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Contra Costa teens targeted in large-scale voter registration effort

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

25 high schools to hold registration drives

The Contra Costa County Elections Division is coordinating a large-scale registration campaign with 25 Contra Costa County high schools as part of National Voter Registration Day on Tuesday, September 26th.

The Elections Division is providing ready-made registration kits to facilitate on-campus events, which contain everything needed to conduct a registration drive.

In addition to registering 18-year-old students, those who are 16 and 17 years old can also “pre-register” to vote.

“We’re happy to partner with schools across Contra Costa County and help register eligible voters and pre-register soon-to-be-voters,” said Joe Canciamilla, Contra Costa Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters. “As someone who first ran for office at age 17, I can personally attest to the value of registering and becoming involved in the electoral process as soon as one becomes eligible.”

National Voter Registration Day is an annual event to create awareness of voter registration opportunities and to reach those who may not otherwise register.

The Elections Division joins 2,500 organizations across the country in promoting voter registration and celebrating democracy on National Voter Registration Day.

This is the third year Contra Costa Elections has organized National Voter Registration Day efforts with county high schools, and over 1,000 students have registered or pre-registered to vote as a result.

Concord High School civics teacher Andrew Shetterly expressed his excitement, noting that very few of his students are currently registered to vote. “I think it will be powerful to have them all register together. The kits help turn the act of registering into a life event that students can share and it feels official,” Shetterly said.

The Elections Division urges all eligible voters to register or update their registration, which can be done online at

Interested groups are encouraged to hold their own voter registration events on September 26th. Contact our office at 925-335-7805 for information or visit for ideas and details.

National Voter Registration Day is celebrated annually on the 4th Tuesday in September and has been endorsed by the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors.

Each kit contains:

  • Voter registration cards
  • A voter registration card stand
  • Instructions on completing a registration form
  • National Voter Registration Day posters
  • “I registered to vote” Stickers
  • A table cover
  • Photo props
  • Table decorations
  • Pens
  • Sticky hands
  • A return envelope for completed registrations
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Antioch Chamber of Commerce supports new Rocketship charter school facility

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

The Antioch Chamber of Commerce (Chamber) has endorsed the plan by Rocketship Public Education (Rocketship) to build and operate a new, state-of-the-art, elementary school in Antioch.  The approximately $14 million investment by Rocketship in the Antioch community was approved by the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees last December. (See related article)

The facility proposed by Rocketship will be the first Net Zero Energy charter school to be built in the United States.  It’s construction on Cavallo Road near 18th Street is expected to help spark revitalization of the area while allowing access to a high-quality educational opportunity for socioeconomically disadvantaged students.

The school is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 with about 300 students, and to ultimately serve 600.  Rocketship has an impressive history of helping students achieve academically throughout the San Jose area and other parts of the country.  Their schools feature extended school days with imbedded learning labs, effectively providing every student with the opportunity to participate in enrichment activities that lead to some of the highest test scores achieved by schools serving similar populations in the state of California.

The site plan for the Rocketship school will come before the Planning Commission and the Antioch City Council for approval in the coming weeks, and the Chamber urges both bodies to work swiftly to ensure that this new option for our Antioch students becomes a reality as quickly as possible.  The Chamber further urges all members of the community to work together to support the new Rocketship school and the opportunity it presents for Antioch’s children.

The Chamber, in addition to its primary mission of promoting local businesses and jobs, has long been an advocate for local education and the AUSD.  These efforts include support for the creation of innovative programs, the development of high school academies, and the celebration of student talent in our community.

Richard Pagano, CEO

Antioch Chamber of Commerce

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Americans are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Constitution Day is September 17 – Take the Preamble Challenge

PHILADELPHIA –– Many Americans are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions, according to a new national survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey finds that:

  • More than half of Americans (53 percent) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution;
  • More than a third of those surveyed (37 percent) can’t name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment;
  • Only a quarter of Americans (26 percent) can name all three branches of government.

“Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are.

The fact that many don’t is worrisome,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. “These results emphasize the need for high-quality civics education in the schools and for press reporting that underscores the existence of constitutional protections.”

Illegal immigration and constitutional rights

The APPC survey, conducted Aug. 9-13 among 1,013 adults in the United States, finds that 53 percent think that people who are here illegally do not have any rights under the Constitution. That incorrect belief is especially strong among self-identified political conservatives – 67 percent think it is accurate, compared with 48 percent of moderates and 46 percent of liberals.

In fact, immigrants who are in the United States illegally share some constitutional protections with U.S. citizens. More than a century ago, in Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886), a case involving an undocumented Chinese immigrant, the Supreme Court ruled that non-citizens were entitled to due process rights under the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause. Other cases have expanded upon those rights. (For more on Yick Wo, see this video on Annenberg Classroom’s website.)

Most respondents, though not all, know that under the Constitution, U.S. citizens who are atheists or Muslim have the same rights as all other citizens. Seventy-nine percent of respondents know it is accurate to say that U.S. citizens who are atheists have the same rights as other citizens, and 76 percent know it is accurate to say that citizens who are Muslim have the same rights as other citizens.

What does the First Amendment say? 

Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government.

The First Amendment reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Contrary to the First Amendment, 39 percent of Americans support allowing Congress to stop the news media from reporting on any issue of national security without government approval. That was essentially unchanged from last year. But the survey, which followed a year of attacks on the news media, found less opposition to prior restraint (49 percent) than in 2016 (55 percent).

Many don’t know the branches of government 

Only 26 percent of respondents can name the three branches of government (executive, judicial, and legislative), the same as last year. People who identified themselves as conservatives were significantly more likely to name all three branches correctly than liberals and moderates. The 26 percent total was down significantly from APPC’s first survey on this question, in 2011, when 38 percent could name all three.

In the current survey, 33 percent could not name any of the three branches, the same as in 2011.

The phone survey, conducted for APPC by the research firm SSRS, has a margin of error of ±3.7 percent. For more on the methodology and questions click here.

Constitution Day and the Civics Renewal Network

APPC’s Annenberg Classroom, presented by the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics, has created a series of free, award-winning videos for educators and the public, including Yick Wo and the Equal Protection Clause, The Role of the Courts, and Freedom of the Press: New York Times v. United States.

Annenberg Classroom has joined with 30 other nonpartisan organizations to create the Civics Renewal Network, which offers free, high-quality educational materials online. Among CRN’s partners are the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Constitution Center, the U.S. Courts, the NEH’s EDSITEment Project and iCivics.

Constitution Day (Sept. 17) will be observed Monday, Sept. 18. To mark it, the U.S. Courts are holding naturalization ceremonies nationwide and educators will lead students in the “Preamble Challenge,” celebrating the Preamble to the Constitution.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center was established in 1994 to educate the public and policy makers about the media’s role in advancing public understanding of political, health and science issues at the local, state and federal levels. Find APPC on Facebook and Twitter: @APPCPenn. Follow the Civics Renewal Network: @CivicsRenewal.

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Rep. DeSaulnier invites high school students to attend “Service Academy Nights” in Richmond, Pleasant Hill in Sept.

Monday, September 11th, 2017

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) announced he will host two upcoming “Service Academy Nights” in Pleasant Hill and Richmond. All students living in the Eleventh Congressional District of California who would like to apply to one of the nation’s premier service academies are invited to attend.

At each of the events, service academy representatives will be on hand to speak with interested students, including members from the U.S. Naval Academy, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the U.S. Military Academy (aka West Point). Service academy representatives will give presentations, and Congressman DeSaulnier’s staff will provide a briefing on the nomination process.

Students who wish apply to a service academy must ensure a completed application is received by Congressman DeSaulnier’s office no later than October 31, 2017.

Richmond Service Academy Night Thursday, September 14, 2017 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Richmond City Council Chambers 440 Civic Center Plaza First Floor Richmond, CA 94804

Pleasant Hill Service Academy Night Thursday, September 28, 2017 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Diablo Valley College The Diablo Room, 3rd Floor HFS Building 321 Golf Club Road Pleasant Hill, CA 94523 Details: A map of DVC’s campus can be found here.

For more information on applying to any of the service academies or to RSVP, please contact Congressman DeSaulnier’s office at or (925) 933-2660.

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Former First Lady Michelle Obama invited to speak at Antioch teachers’ awards dinner in September

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Michelle Obama. From her Twitter account

By Allen Payton

Rumors circulating through Antioch over the weekend have been confirmed, today that former First Lady Michelle Obama has been invited to speak at the Mary Allan Fellows Awards Dinner in Antioch on Sept. 19. The annual event hosted by the Antioch Schools Education Foundation will be held at the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center. Tickets are completely sold out.

In an email from Antioch School Board President Walter Ruehlig, he wrote that he had “heard from one other person that Michelle was invited by keynote guest speaker (National Counselor of the Year), who apparently knows her.”

The ad for the event states that it features “2017 National Counselor of the Year Terry Tchorzynski and Special Guest.” That special guest is presumed to be Mrs. Obama.

Ruehlig also wrote, “Incidentally, still unconfirmed that Michelle is actually coming; nothing yet in writing.”

Although the ad for the event has the Antioch Unified School District’s logo on it, they are not a sponsor of the event. They are a recipient of funds raised by the foundation, Ruehlig explained.

However, none of the board members of the foundation are allowed to speak about it, due to security concerns, according to someone else who did not want to be identified. That person said to call Antioch Police Chief Tammany Brooks.

It was also rumored that President Barack Obama was also invited, but that was not confirmed.

The four teachers who will be honored as Fellows the event are Tammy Ely-Kofford, 11th Grade Social Science teacher at Deer Valley High School; Jacey Renfroe, 5th Grade teacher at Marsh Elementary; Italo Rossi, 11th/12th Grade Human Anatomy & Physiology and AP Biology teacher at Antioch High School; and Frank Zrinski, Seventh Grade Science teacher at Antioch Middle School.

When reached for comment, Velma Wilson, chairman of the foundation board said about Tchorzynski’s connection to Obama, “She was awarded by Michelle as First Lady at her last speech.”

According to a Time Magazine article, “In 2015, Obama began a tradition of honoring the school counselor of the year as part of her Reach Higher initiative to encourage post-secondary education—an issue she has said she will continue to work on after leaving the White House.”

Regarding the tickets which sell out early every year, Wilson said, “The tickets have been sold out for two weeks. We give teachers first priority, every year.”

“We will be honoring all 35 counselors in the district for the first time ever,” she added as another reason the tickets sold out so quickly.

Attempts to reach Chief Brooks for this article were also unsuccessful.

Please check back later for any updates.

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Contra Costa Medical Career College cuts ribbon on new location in Antioch

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

CEO Stacey Orozco (with scissors) celebrates the ribbon cutting of the new location of Contra Costa Medical Career College with Antioch Mayor Sean Wright (in white shirt), other community leaders, Chamber of Commerce leaders and members,, and college staff and students on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017.

By Allen Payton

On Friday, August 11 Antioch community and business leaders, and Chamber of Commerce members joined with Stacey Orozco, CEO of the Contra Costa Medical Career College and her staff and students to cut the ribbon to officially open their new location in Antioch.

The school relocated in town after trying to buy the former AAA building on Auto Center Drive in 2015. (See related article)

Richard Pagano, CEO of the Antioch Chamber of Commerce said, “We’re so happy for you guys with everything you’re doing and everything you’ve accomplished.”

Mayor Sean Wright was also on hand to share his and the City’s congratulations.

“Having taken a tour of this location and seeing how beautiful it is, I’m so excited to see where you are right now,” he stated. “The Lord knows better than we do. I’m glad Antioch got to keep you. So, on behalf of the City of Antioch we have a certificate of appreciation,” which he presented to Orozco.

She then shared her appreciation for the opening of the school in its new location.

“It wouldn’t be what it is without my staff or my family,” Orozco said. “Without my second family this business wouldn’t be in existence.”

A representative of Congressman Jerry McNerney presented certificates of recognition from McNerney and Assemblyman Jim Frazier. A representative of County Supervisor Diane Burgis presented a certificate of recognition, as well.

“We wish you nothing but the best and look forward to see what comes out of it,” Pagano added.

Then Orozco cut the ribbon to cheers from those in attendance.

Now located at 4051 Lone Tree Way at Blue Rock Drive in the Blue Rock Center, the Contra Costa Medical Career College “is a small, private vocational training institution that is fully approved to operate by the California state Bureau for Private Post-secondary Education” which opened in July, 2011 and became fully accredited in May, 2013, according to their website at The school offers courses for those who want to become medical assistants, as well as in the areas of surgical technology, pharmacy technology, phlebotomy and more.

For more information call (925) 757-2900 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or visit their website or Facebook page.

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Antioch School Board splits on vote to discipline Trustee Vinson over allegations by school employees

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Supporters of Antioch School Board Vice President Debra Vinson spoke and brought signs to show their support for her at the board meeting on Wednesday, August 23, 2017.

By Allen Payton

On Wednesday night, the Antioch School Board voted 3-2 to discipline Board Vice President Debra Vinson over allegations by school employees of harassment, intimidation and bullying from earlier this year. Following a two-month investigation by an outside law firm, in which Vinson did not participate and offer her side of the story, Board President Walter Ruehlig, and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Gary Hack voted in favor, while Vinson and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White voted against the motion.

The investigation was requested by Ruehlig, who as President is the only member who can communicate with the board’s attorney. The process could have remained confidential, but Vinson requested the matter be taken out of closed session and into a public meeting for discussion.

Vinson offered her side of the story in the following prepared statement, which she read at the meeting, in addition to other comments:

I regret the untimely coordination of a meeting with my legal counsel which came too late for the investigator. My attorney and I attempted to contact Ms. Maddux to set up a time to talk. It is unfortunate that we were not able to coordinate an agreed upon time with the Investigator based on availability and work schedules.

I do not agree with the findings, accusations and the conclusion of the investigation. I would never intentionally intimidate, bully, demand, or disrespect anyone. I strongly believe that we should provide excellent customer service as a district to our community of parents. I find it perplexing that I am accused of coming across as intimidating. I also need to say plainly that I do not believe that any Board policies were violated knowingly and with intention and find the definitive conclusions to be strongly injurious, subjective, opinionated and biased.

Since the district paid more than $20,000 for this investigation, and I am the accused, the district and its investigators have a duty and obligation to disclose the names of the accusers. The investigators report redacted all names, except mine, and the Investigators findings are based on statements of district employees who may have been coerced into giving a statement.

I have always tried to have a positive working relationship with district staff and recognize that I was elected to serve the people that voted for me. On this particular situation, I forwarded the parents email to the Superintendent and was directed by her to speak to the employee to whom she delegated the work/intradistrict transfer request to. Though I felt hesitant in following the Superintendent’s direction, I reached out and had a brief chat with two employees; both immediately expressed their opinion. My short conversations with the employees centered on questions around “how they could help the family and asking if anything could be done”. At no time did I demand with any forceful communication that they “had to follow” through on a request for any specific school.

I continued to communicate with the Superintendent and the Board President to ascertain if it was going to become an agenda item. No suggestions were made. I shared my concern to our District Superintendent about the safety issues that the parent expressed. To this date, I do not know how the matter ended; was the student placed at the school site that the parent requested? The Superintendent ultimately informed me that the matter was resolved “per standard procedure.” Therefore, I had no direct involvement in finalizing the process followed by our superintendent. My only involvement was to address the parent’s concerns with the Board President and Superintendent and I followed the directive given by our Superintendent. Ultimately, the district process and final decisions rest on our Superintendent and AUSD policy she followed. All I was doing was my duty in the role of serving people as an elected official.

It is true, that I put parent’s needs and concerns over any partisan issue and have not crossed over any boundaries in my role as a Trustee. My passion and strong belief for an inclusive and equitable school community as a Board Trustee. All I was doing was my duty in the role of serving the people as an elected official.

The discipline includes a possible censure by the board, as well as possible revocation of Vinson’s position as Board Vice President. The points Ruehlig made to support the action are as follows:

  • In February, 2017 the Antioch Unified School District received a complaint from employees alleging that they were directed by District Trustee Debra Vinson to transfer a student from one school to another in the District contrary to District Board Policy 9200/9005.
  • On receipt of the complaint, the District retained an outside, neutral investigator, Deborah Maddux of the Van Dermyden Maddux Investigations Law Firm.
  • During spring 2017, Ms. Maddux conducted an investigation of the complaint, which included interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents.
  • Ms. Maddux completed the investigation and submitted her investigative findings to the District in June 2017.

The District issued copies of the investigative findings to the complaints and Trustee Vinson.

The motion made by Gibson-Gray and seconded by Hack was as follows:  Directing Board President Ruehlig to send a letter to Trustee Vinson directing her to communicate inquires or requests for information or documents solely to the Superintendent, and not to communicate directly with other District office staff and site administrators unless authorized by the Board to do so for a time period of six months; Directing Board President Ruehlig to send a letter to the Complainants and other administrative employees letting them know that they are not required to respond to direct inquiries or requests from Trustee Vinson, but instead may refer her inquiries or requests to the Superintendent for handling; Board President Ruehlig to work with legal counsel to prepare a censure resolution against Trustee Vinson which would be presented to the Board for action at a future Board meeting.

Please check back later for more details, including comments from the public, Vinson and other board members.

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