Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch School Board Adopts Annual Budget That Digs Into Reserves, Approves LCAP

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

By John Crowder

At their June 25th meeting the Antioch School Board adopted a budget with about $6.5 million in deficit spending for the 2014-2015 school year and also approved a Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) that had been the subject of considerable discussion by local community groups at previous board meetings.

Prior to board approval Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business and Operations and Mia Cancio, Director, Fiscal Services, provided the board with a power point presentation regarding details of the budget. According to Forrester, the deficit spending in the budget was continuing, “for a very good reason…there are programs we wanted to support.” He emphasized that the amount of deficit spending in the current budget was less than that of the previous year, and that it would continue to decline, reaching slightly over $10,000 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

Forrester also noted several challenges involved with putting the budget together, including the fact that student enrollment in the district was continuing to decline, the unpredictability of special education costs, potential increases in CalPERS and CalSTRS contributions and uncertainty concerning the impact of costs associated with the Affordable Care Act.

Following Forrester’s presentation, Cancio discussed the new Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) which, along with the LCAP, had been the focus of so much recent concern in the community. Several community groups had been requesting that the Supplemental and Concentration Funds, generated by the number of high-needs students in the district, be used solely to increase services for these students, and not for the population as a whole. In explaining the rationale for district spending, Cancio quoted from a portion of the education code.

(A school district) may demonstrate it has increased or improved services for (high-needs students) by using funds to upgrade the entire educational program of…a school district…(when it has) an enrollment (of high-needs students) in excess of 55% of the district’s total enrollment,” she said.

The number of high-needs students in Antioch is over 67%. Cancio also presented a slide listing programs, including expenditures, that she said would benefit such students.

Board members, responding to community concerns, commented on the budget process, including the work involving the LCAP.

Board Member Barbara Cowan said that, although it was necessary to approve the LCAP because they were “on a deadline,” it was nonetheless a “living, breathing document.”

Board Member Claire Smith echoed her comments, noting, “the budget can always change.”

The reality is, the process is going to continue,” Board Vice President Gary Hack added.

In other news, the board informed the community that Scott Bergerhouse had been appointed principal of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS), effective immediately. He replaces Nancie Castro, who had been the principal of the school since its inception eight years ago.

Two members of the public protested the change in DLMHS leadership during the meeting. Mimi Metu, a recent graduate who had also been the student representative from DLMHS to the board for the last year, told the board that it was wrong for Castro to be demoted. Edgar Osorio, past president of the DLMHS Parent-Student-Teacher Association (PTSA) told the board that the move, “sounds like retaliation to me.” DLMHS teachers have been engaged in a fierce struggle for control of the school since 23 of the school’s teachers, 88%, filed a petition to make it an independent charter school in February.

Cheryl Cooper, board president for RAAMP Charter School, noted that Monday would be the last day for that school to be in operation. She expressed concern that the district was back pedaling on their commitment to “ensure the emotional well-being of our students.”

Two other members of the public also spoke up about concerns regarding their children’s education. One spoke about trying to establish an IEP for her son for over a year, but being met with continuing delays, while the other stated that she had been assaulted by the mother of a teacher on the Lone Tree Elementary School campus, and that she had found it necessary to bring the police into the matter. In response to the latter comment, Board Member Diane Gibson-Gray asked that she leave her contact information with staff so that, it can be passed on to the next level.

The adjournment of the meeting brought to a conclusion board meetings for the current school year. The next scheduled board meeting, beginning the 2015-2016 school year, is scheduled for August 13. Meetings are held at the district office at 510 G Street, typically beginning at 7:00 p.m.

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Back to Drawing Board for Antioch School District LCAP, Budget

Friday, June 20th, 2014

By John Crowder

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees conducted a Special Board Meeting on Wednesday, June 18, for the purpose of holding two public hearings, one on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP), and one on the annual budget.

The hearings were in advance of the regular board meeting scheduled for June 25th, at which both items are currently listed on the consent calendar (www.antioch.k12.ca.us). By the end of the meeting, however, the LCAP was sent back to staff in order to incorporate the expenditure amounts for programs listed in the document, and later, the board recessed in order to take up the budget again on Monday, June 23rd, in order to give the public time to view the document online.

The first of the public hearings opened with the public invited to comment on the LCAP, which, as previously reported, is a requirement of Local Education Agencies (LEA), such as AUSD. The LCAP is supposed to describe how an LEA “intends to meet annual goals for all pupils.” It anticipates parents and the public having a significant voice as to how such goals are to be accomplished, and how funds will be expended in order to accomplish those goals, particularly with regard to “high needs students,” such as English Language Learners, low-income students, and foster children.

Over a dozen members of the public, some representing a coalition of advocacy groups, addressed the Board about the LCAP. All of the comments made were similar, many reading a scripted message, while, to varying degrees, also adding personal anecdotes to their statements. While many lauded AUSD, and, in particular, Associate Superintendent Stephanie Anello and her staff in Educational Services for including ideas generated by the community in their revised LCAP, they nonetheless expressed concern that there were no monetary amounts included in the document.

Speaker after speaker told the board that Supplemental and Concentration Funds, which they pegged at amounting to about $8.4 million for the next year, were being generated because of the large proportion of high needs students in the district, and were to be used to benefit these same students. They repeatedly quoted Education Code 52604, which, according to the LCAP template produced by the California State Department of Education, “requires a listing and description of the expenditures required to implement the specific actions.”

Speakers were also under the impression that AUSD was only planning to spend $650,000 for high needs students. Synitha Walker, one of the founders of Parents Connected, whose children attended both Deer Valley High School and Dallas Ranch Middle School, expressed the sentiments of many present.

There is no way the district can implement (the programs) fully and effectively in the first year with only $650,000 designated for the students it is supposed to serve,” she stated.

There is a lot of confusion within the local community regarding the money that AUSD is expected to receive from the State under the programs that are designated to serve high needs students, and part of this may be due to the fact that, under both the old and new funding formulas, AUSD is spending much more than it receives, steadily depleting its reserves. In fiscal year 2013-2014, AUSD had total expenditures under the General Fund (i.e., the operating fund) of $159.1 million on revenues of only $138.8 million, a deficit of $20.3 million. For 2014-2015, the picture is somewhat better, with revenues expected to be $151.4 million and expenditures $157.2 million, but that still leaves them with deficit spending of roughly $5.8 million.

After public comments on the LCAP concluded, Board Vice President Gary Hack asked AUSD staff why there were no numbers in the document they had been presented. Dr. Donald Gill, AUSD Superintendent, responded that, “Up until two hours ago,” the County Board of Education had been advising them not to include numbers. Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent for Business and Operations, concurred with him. Gill then told the board that, now that they were being told to include numbers in the document, they would do so.

The hearing on the annual budget was then opened, and once again members of the public rose to express their dismay with the process. Willie Mims, Education Chair for the East County NAACP, expressed concern that the budget was not posted online, and, that because of this, “the people are operating at a serious disadvantage.” Once public comments concluded, Board President Joy Motts asked staff if the budget was posted online. Forrester said that it was, which immediately drove many in the room to their phones and computers to verify whether or not this was true. Several commented they could not find it, and board member Diane Gibson-Gray finally said, “It’s not there.” After further discussion, Motts asked, “When can we get the budget online?” Forrester responded that it would be there, “tonight.” The board then determined to reopen the hearing and recess until a at a special Board Meeting this Monday, June 23, at 6:00 p.m., in order to give the community time to review the document.

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Money issues dominate Antioch School Board meeting

Monday, June 16th, 2014

By John Crowder

Show me the money” could have been the theme for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) School Board meeting held on Wednesday, June 11 at the School Services Building.

Early in the meeting, a presentation was made by District personnel regarding the development of AUSD’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP). The development of an LCAP is a requirement of all Local Education Agencies (LEA’s), including AUSD, under the latest methodology used by the state of California in determining school funding. Its purpose is to describe how a school district plans to meet “annual goals for all pupils.” Further, all LEA’s are required to “obtain parent and public input in developing, revising, and updating LCAP’s.” In other words, it is supposed to allow parents and the public a say in how education funding is spent.

Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business and Operations for AUSD, made a presentation to the Board regarding the AUSD LCAP budget. Included in his presentation were a list of services currently provided by AUSD, including such things as counseling, additional student support for special education, instructional and bilingual aides, and numerous other items.

Several citizens spoke about the LCAP process during the public comments portion of the meeting. First to speak on the subject was Yuritzy Gomez, Community Organizer with the group Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO). The organization bills itself as “a multiracial, multigenerational, interfaith federation committed to building civic engagement and increasing public participation by those most affected by injustice and inequity in Contra Costa County.”

Let us, community members, work with you,” Gomez said to the board, with respect to developing the LCAP.

Later in the meeting, she stated that she had provided a “Community LCAP” plan to AUSD via email earlier in the day. Several other community leaders, including representatives of the Education Trust-West, NAACP, Parents Connected, and RAAMP all spoke in favor of incorporating ideas from the Community LCAP in the AUSD LCAP.

Some of the Board members seemed to be taken aback by the public comments regarding the LCAP process.

Board member Diane Gibson-Gray asked why, based on the public comments, it appeared that AUSD and community members were separated on the process. Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, responded that the two plans were “not that far apart,” and that she had spoken with Gomez about the matter earlier in the day. In later remarks, she noted that the district had held 27 meetings and spoken with approximately 1000 parents, students, and community members about the process.

We are committed to including as many of these recommendations as possible in our LCAP,” Anello stated.

A request to fund instrumental music in Antioch schools was also made during the public comments. Betty Lawrence, a former instrumental music teacher at AUSD and founder of the Antioch Strolling Strings, along with three others, all stressed the importance of music in providing a quality education.

Another issue that generated some controversy, even among Board members, was the adoption of two math programs for the local high schools, College Preparatory Math (CPM) and Big Ideas by Houghton Mifflin.

Julie Young, a mother of a student at Deer Valley High School, spoke in opposition to the adoption of the CPM books. Quoting directly from research studies conducted by college and high school mathematicians, she told the board that CPM was known to follow a “guess and check” method that, according to one author, produced “mathematical morons.” She derided the program as one that had been tried before, and had horribly failed. Her daughter, Megan Young, a former AUSD student, also spoke, reading a statement given to her by Deanna Donaldson, the parent of a Deer Valley High School student.

Kids do the teaching, not the teachers,” she said.

Mrs. Young and her daughter were supported in their assessment of the program by board member Claire Smith. Even so, after Board Vice President Gary Hack received assurances from Anello that Antioch’s math teachers had vetted the curriculum, it was approved by a majority of the board.

The next board meeting, a special meeting dealing with the LCAP process, will take place beginning at 6:00 p.m. on June 18th. The next regularly scheduled board meeting will take place on June 25th at 7:00 p.m. Both meetings are slated to take place at the School Services Building, 510 G Street.

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Antioch student again earns Dean’s List recognition at Norwich University

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Ethan Bilotti FB Antioch student again earns Deans List recognition at Norwich University

Ethan Bilotti – from his Facebook page.

In order to be eligible to be on the Dean’s list a student must carry at least 12 credit hours and attain a grade point average of at least a 3.0.

Bilotti is studying biology and serving the U.S. Army while attending college.

Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in Baccalaureate and Graduate Degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation’s six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). For more information visit www.norwich.edu.

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Antioch School Board approves labor agreements, considers parcel tax

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

By John Crowder

Labor agreements negotiated by the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) with the Antioch Education Association (AEA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA) were both ratified at the May 28th meeting of the school board. The board also approved an adjustment to salary schedule and benefits for the Antioch Management Association (AMA).

According to documents submitted to the board by Keith Rogenski, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources, the compensation for members of all three groups was increased by 5.21%. The total cost of the compensation increase for each group is listed as $2,442,195 with AEA, $1,029,960 with CSEA, and $384,245 with AMA. Together, the agreements raise the combined total compensation costs to AUSD by about $3.5 million.

Later in the meeting the Board revisited an item that had been discussed earlier this year during their January 22nd meeting. At that meeting, the idea of placing a parcel tax on the November ballot had been raised, and staff had been directed to gather further information. The board had not been willing, however, to authorize conducting a survey of Antioch citizens on the matter. Now the decision to move forward with a survey of voters appears to be gaining support.

During the discussion on the potential for placing a parcel tax on the ballot, all three board members who were present, President Joy Motts, Vice President Gary Hack, and Trustee Barbara Cowan, indicated they were in favor of moving forward with a survey.

However, before a motion was made supporting this step, both Superintendent Dr. Donald Gill and Hack voiced the opinion that it would be better to wait until the full board was present before taking any action on the matter. Board members Diane Gibson-Gray and Claire Smith were absent from the meeting.

Nonetheless, it was agreed that Associate Superintendent Tim Forrester could begin working to determine what questions the survey should ask in order to save time should the board decide to move forward with the survey in June.

According to Forrester, the purpose of the survey would be to determine whether or not there is public support for putting a parcel tax on the ballot in support of various programs that might be implemented or expanded by AUSD.

School boards have no authority to tax anyone,” Forrester said. “A survey is a way for the board to gauge if the public would support the board in placing a parcel tax on the ballot for needed programs for students. A survey would ask, at what level, would the public consider supporting the district’s needs.”

Some of the programs mentioned during the meeting that might be supported by a parcel tax included technology, counselors, art and music classes, and after-school programs. The cost of conducting such a survey was estimated to be between $25,000 and $30,000.

Not everyone at the meeting was happy with the idea of a parcel tax. Prior to the board discussion, one Antioch resident, Julie Young, addressed the matter during public comments. Young urged against placing a parcel tax on the ballot, citing a long list of other taxes either already in place, such as Mello Roos, Measure B and Measure C, or proposed, such as Measure E (which passed on June 3rd), the landlord business license tax and the increase in the minimum business license tax.

She made an analogy between a family that must budget for a large expense and government.

We are already taxed and if you want something else, you should budget and save to get it,” Young stated. “If you decide to put the parcel tax on the ballot for November, be prepared for a huge campaign against it.”

The next regularly scheduled Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 11th, at 7:00 p.m. The Board is expected to take up the question of whether or not to move forward with the survey to gauge the support for a parcel tax at that time. Meetings are held at the AUSD School District Office located at 510 G Street.

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Teachers, Antioch School District reach labor agreement

Monday, May 26th, 2014

By John Crowder

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) and the Antioch Education Association (AEA) announced that they have reached a tentative agreement in their recent labor talks at the AUSD School Board meeting on Wednesday, May 14th.

As recently as April 28th, the AEA had posted on their website an update expressing their dismay that AUSD had not yet made a salary proposal in the ongoing negotiations. On May 6th, however, both groups were able to reach agreement on all points that had been under consideration during the negotiating process.

Under the terms of the tentative agreement, teachers in the district are to receive two retroactive raises. The first is a 2% increase in “all salary schedules and advanced degree stipends in the Collective Bargaining Agreement” effective from July 1, 2013. The second is also a 2% increase on the same items and is effective from January 1, 2014. In addition, it was agreed that, “The extra duty schedule, stipends, hourly rate, period substitution, and all other rates of pay shall be increased by 4.04% effective July 1, 2014, effectively increasing payment for other teacher duties by the same rate as the salary raises negotiated during the talks.

Class size was another item negotiated during the meetings. Here, for grades K-3, the parties have agreed to reduce class sizes year-to-year, with an average class size of 29 pupils per site for those grades during the 2014-2015 school year, 28 during the 2015-2016 school year, and 27 for the 2016-2017 school year. Maximum class size for those years were also agreed to, of 30, 29, and 28 respectively.

The adoption of Common Core Standards by the state of California was also taken up during the bargaining process. Addressing this issue, the parties created a Memorandum of Understanding emphasizing their shared commitment to successful implementation of the program, which they jointly state will, “ensure that ALL students are ready for college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century.” In order to accomplish this goal, AEA and AUSD have agreed to establish “an advisory Common Core Committee (CCC).” This committee, to be comprised of district members, teachers, and that may include up to two parents, is to meet at least four times per school year. Their primary role will be to “help guide the implementation of Common Core,” including staff development related to the implementation of the new standards.

Robert Stickler, President of the AEA, said, “AEA is pleased with the tentative agreement that was reached with AUSD on May 6th, 2014. I have heard many positive comments from teachers regarding the 4.04% raise and an increase to the district’s contribution to benefits. We are also happy that elementary teachers in grades kindergarten through third grade will have class size maximums written in the contract and that these maximums will reduce each year over the next 3 school years. The class size ratios for these grades will also be reduced. They will continue to be reduced further if the state’s projected Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is fully implemented over its 8 year time span.”

Antioch teachers are now in the process of voting for ratification of the agreement. The results of that vote are expected next Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Board is expected to vote on acceptance of the agreement as well.

In other news, the Board recognized employees for their outstanding service. Anndria Romo, who assists with Special Education at Diablo Vista Elementary School, was chosen as the Classified Representative of the year. Julie Verhoek, from Sutter Elementary, was Runner Up Teacher of the Year, and Kevin Jones, Antioch High School EDGE Academy, was selected as the Teacher of the Year.

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County School Board votes to deny Dozier-Libbey independent charters

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

By John Crowder

On Wednesday, May 21, the Contra Costa County Board of Education (Board) voted 3 to 1 to deny the petition submitted by the teachers of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS) to convert the campus to a charter school and remove it from under the control of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD).

Board Trustee Cynthia Ruehlig cast the lone vote in favor of the petition. Trustees Richard Asadoorian, Daniel Gomes, and Pamela Mirabella voted in opposition to the charter proposal.

Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, County Office of Education staff (Staff) had submitted a recommendation to the Board that the petition be denied. In recommending for denial, they stated that, “the Petition presents an unsound educational program and petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the Petition. The Petition does not contain reasonably comprehensive descriptions of all of the elements prescribed by law.”

Staff findings were refuted in a letter submitted to the Board by Paul Minney, an attorney representing the teachers, and by supporters of the move speaking at Wednesday’s meeting. With respect to Staff finding that the charter school would present an unsound education program, Minney’s letter pointed out that the Education Code specifically defined “an unsound educational program” as one that would present, “the likelihood of physical, educational, or psychological harm,” or “was not likely to be of educational benefit” to pupils, noting there was no evidence to support either contention.

Many of the public comments in support of the charter petition dealt with the concerns regarding their plan for assisting low-achieving, special education, and English learner students. Those opposed cited the problems identified by Staff in their report, and noted that many groups in the community, including elected officials, AUSD employees, advocacy groups and business representatives were opposed.

Following public comments on the matter, the Board questioned the teachers, staff, and AUSD representatives.

Ruehlig was the most outspoken in asking questions, beginning her examination by charging the teachers with explaining what they were offering that was not in place when they won a Distinguished School award in 2011. Dr. Cynthia Soraoka responded by detailing her desire to have her students participate in “virtual internships” with doctors from around the world. She described how her efforts to bring such plans to fruition had been stymied by AUSD over the last few years, specifically addressing a lack of technology. Ruehlig then asked how many of the teachers were committed to working at the school who had been involved with Dozier-Libbey when it won the Distinguished School award. Teachers responded that, with two exceptions, the staff would be the same.

Asadoorian asked about the use of the facility currently occupied by DLMHS. AUSD has taken the position that the charter school, if approved, would not be entitled to the use of the facility because of a lack of timeliness in requesting its use. This argument was countered by Minney, who said that, although he was confident that the teachers were legally entitled to the use of the facility, the teachers were willing to delay the conversion until the 2015-2016 school year in order to avoid a protracted legal fight.

Trustee Mirabella took issue with what she considered the lack of a comprehensive plan, as outlined in the petition, to operate the school as a charter.

In explaining their positions just prior to the vote, Mirabella and Ruehlig each weighed in on the proposal. Mirabella said she was voting against the petition, and supporting the findings of county Staff in their assessment that there were too many corrections needed. She went on to say that the intent of the law was to convert low-performing schools to charters, and that this petition had divided the community.

Ruehlig countered that the main question was whether or not we have the right to self-governance. She said her decision was based on the proposal presenting a sound educational program, and that it not only was sound, but was likely to succeed, and was best for the community.

With the rejection of their proposal by both the Antioch and Contra Costa School Boards, teachers must now decide if they will appeal the decision to the State Board of Education.

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County school board hears Dozier-Libbey independent charter petition

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

By John Crowder

On Wednesday, May 7th, the Contra Costa County Board of Education heard from members of the teaching staff of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS). The teachers were petitioning the board to convert the campus to a charter school at the beginning of the coming school year. Following their 10 minute power point presentation, representatives of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), which currently operates the school, voiced their arguments against the move. Once both presentations had concluded, members of the public were invited to share their views. Almost one hundred speakers did so, with slightly more comments in favor of the conversion petition.

The public hearing, held at a middle school auditorium in Pleasant Hill in order to accommodate the large number of people interested in the issue, began just after 6:00 p.m. with Board Vice President Daniel Gomes opening the meeting.

Following a brief statement from Bill Clark, Associate Superintendent, Business Services, introducing the matter, Dr. Cynthia Soraoka, a health science teacher at DLMHS, introduced three of her colleagues who presented their case to the Board. The three teachers, Stacey Wickware, Lisa Kingsbury, and Kasey Graham, lead petitioners for the proposed charter school, each highlighted different aspects of the projected benefits of the conversion.

Wickware, a history and ethics teacher, began by detailing some of the benefits their charter proposal would provide to students. These included an ability to expand course offerings in the arts and the establishment of new courses, such as Medical America (a U.S. history course) and Forensic Pathology. One area that she emphasized was an enhanced Special Education program, which would include tailored credit recovery and the hiring of Instructional Aides, including those with the ability to speak Spanish.

Kingsbury, an English teacher, followed Wickware, continuing with the theme of student support. She emphasized summer programs the teachers planned to implement and the ability they would have to “use innovative technology to expand relationships with health care professionals around the world.”

Graham, also an English teacher, finished the presentation with a focus on student life and civic involvement. She discussed the implementation of an intramural sports program and assured the Board that the school would serve the students of Antioch, preemptively addressing two areas, sports and enrollment criteria, in which the petitioners have been repeatedly challenged by AUSD since the conversion proposal was introduced in February.

With the conclusion of the teachers’ remarks, AUSD representatives presented the Board with arguments against the proposed charter. First to speak against the conversion petition was Joy Motts, President of the AUSD school board. Reading a statement she said had been authorized by her peers, she called the charter petition “divisive,” and said the petitioners did not use an inclusive process in creating their proposal. She said the proposal raised “serious concerns,” and was “flawed.” She went on to say that there was “overwhelming opposition” to the proposal, concluding her remarks by stating, “Dozier-Libbey was created by the Antioch community, and belongs to the entire community.”

Motts was followed by Jack O’Connell, a long-time California politician who has served as a state Assemblyman, state Senator, and, most recently, as the State Superintendent of Public Instruction until January, 2011. An internet search finds him listed as a partner with Capitol Advisors Group, LLC, which bills itself as “a team of experts in California politics, education policy and finance, legislative strategy, and public affairs.”

O’Connell said that the original intent of the charter school law was to try and rid schools of over burdensome regulation from Sacramento, and “raise the bar.” He went on to say that [those proposing charter schools] should, “engage and involve all the parents in all the community,” something he believed had not been done by the DLMHS teachers. “I would strongly urge you to not approve this conversion,” he concluded.

Gomes called for public comments at this point, and speakers both for and against the proposal lined up to speak. While there was some crossover, speakers tended to fall into very distinct categories. Most of those speaking in favor of the charter proposal were teachers from DLMHS, parents of students attending the school, and the students themselves. Opposed were employees of AUSD and their relatives, and representatives of two special interest advocacy groups, the NAACP and Parents Connected. Antioch Mayor Wade Harper and Mayor Pro Tem Mary Rocha also spoke in opposition. Both sides had lawyers present and speaking on their behalves.

Those speaking in favor of the charter emphasized the quality of the education they expected under the plan presented by the teachers while complaining that, if left under AUSD control, the academic program at the school would continue to decline. April Padilla, whose stepson attends DLMHS, chided AUSD for “pushing [students] to reach for mediocrity.”

You don’t have to stop at good,” she said, “You can be better, you can be great, you can be exceptional.”

Angela Lacy, another parent, complained that AUSD personnel had the mindset that, “having a darker skin color [was] being treated as a learning disability.” She went on to say that, “They [the independent charter petitioners] will have programs in place to help all students succeed.”

The staff at Dozier-Libbey are simply trying to take something great and turn it into something outstanding,” said Jared Sarinas, a 2012 graduate of DLMHS. Countering an oft-heard point made in opposition to the charter, he said, “The staff have outlined that the students of Antioch will clearly be given attendance priority under the independent charter.”

Edgar Osario, past president of the DLMHS Parent/Teacher/Student Association, was particularly critical of AUSD in his remarks. He addressed arguments that AUSD personnel have been making against the proposed charter for the past two months.

AUSD has made some inflammatory remarks,” he stated. “The statement that Dozier-Libbey cherry picks their students and that’s the reason for their success is absolutely false. The district controls the lottery process. I am further offended that it’s implied that minority students leaving Dozier-Libbey are being ‘forced out.’ My Hispanic/Filipino daughter left the school because we left the district, she was not forced out because she couldn’t handle [the] curriculum. Minority enrollment at Dozier-Libbey is 77%, at Deer Valley is 78%, and at Antioch High is 73%. Your numbers just don’t add up.”

People speaking in opposition to the charter were equally fervent in their statements, focusing primarily on what they viewed as a secretive and divisive attempt to, as AUSD Director of Student Support Services Bob Sanchez said, “hijack the school.”

Scott Bergerhouse, appointed in April as principal for the competing “dependent charter school” proposed by AUSD in response to the teachers’ petition, told the board that the independent charter proposal would mean a loss of sports programs for DLMHS students. He went on to say that it would place district employees at risk of losing their jobs.

Other speakers reiterated the themes that the petition was divisive and wasn’t inclusive, one stating that it “violated the spirit of Brown v. Board of Education,” the landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1954 in which the Court declared that separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional.

In all, the board listened for about three-and-a-half hours to anyone wanting to speak on the conversion charter issue, then adjourned in order to return to the County Education office to discuss other matters, including the appointment of a fifth board member. The decision they must now make was perhaps best summed up by Jim Bonwell, a parent of a junior at DLMHS, who asked, “Whose vision will better serve the students?” The County School Board is expected to announce their decision within two weeks.

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