Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Vinson, Ruehlig to take on Belle for County School Board, three run for their seats on Antioch School Board

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Antioch School Board Trustees Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig will challenge incumbent Jeff Belle for County School Board. Photos from AUSD and CCCBOE.

By Allen Payton

Long-serving Antioch School Board Trustee Walter Ruehlig let it be known on Saturday, July 14 that he will not run for reelection and instead join fellow Trustee Debra Vinson and take on County School Board Vice President Jeff Belle in November’s election.

While Vinson, finishing her first and rather contentious term on the Antioch School Board, didn’t officially announce her campaign, she did ride in a car in the Antioch July 4th Parade with a sign indicating her decision to run for the county board. In 2017 Vinson was censured by her fellow board members for her interactions with district employees. (See related article). She was also passed over for the board presidency, following her year as Vice President. (See related article).

In an effort to achieve greater transparency for the public, earlier this year and after years of the Herald pushing the issue, Vinson was instrumental in getting the school board meetings televised live for the first time in the district’s history, via their YouTube channel.

On one issue, all three will most likely agree, which is approving charter schools. Both Vinson and Ruehlig were two of the three board members who, earlier this year, voted in favor of the East Bay Tech Academy middle and high charter school petitions, and Ruehlig was one of the three who voted for the Rocketship elementary charter school petition in 2016. Belle has voted against one and approved five other charter schools while on the county board.

“I have decided definitely to run for Area 5 County Board of Education,” Ruehlig stated, following rumors of the possibility.

In his official announcement, he wrote:

I will be submitting my candidacy papers on Monday, July 16th to run for Area 5 of the County Board of Education, which covers Antioch, Bay Point, Bethel Island, Brentwood, Byron, Clyde, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.
In June of 1968, I dedicated myself to public service and youth education when I taught English for the Peace Corps in Sultandag, a rural village in Turkey that had no electricity.  Fifty years later, the idealism continues.

I believe that that my twelve-year service, with three years as President, on the Antioch School Board, and my experience with the Pittsburg Unified School District as a California Department of Rehabilitation Workability Program Director for adults with disabilities and as a career counselor, have given me useful insight into County Trustee duties.  I am excited by the challenge of overseeing career training programs, special education, community day schools, and facilities for incarcerated juveniles.

I was a late-bloomer myself but, fortunately, had teachers who didn’t give up on me. I eventually caught fire and worked my way through college.  My passion for sharing opportunity and persisting with high-risk, disadvantaged or under motivated students is my way of returning thanks.

Aside from counseling, teaching and administrative background, I feel I have the proven temperament and intangible skill sets requisite for good governance.

I enjoy communication and transparency. I am open, creative and innovative but believe in sober budgeting, no-nonsense classroom behavior standards and back to the basics core curriculum.  I am pragmatic and put my ego at the door to focus on getting the task at hand done one building block at a time.  In this age of divisiveness, I am proud to say that I can get along without always going along. I am a consensus-builder but no pushover. I cannot be bullied or bought.

I look forward to meeting the voters of Area 5, hearing their concerns, and presenting my vision. I welcome their scrutiny and would be honored by their support. I pledge not to let them, or their kids, down.

Walter Ruehlig

Candidate, Area 5

Contra Costa County Board of Education

Incumbent Jeff Belle

Elected in 2014, Belle has faced a variety of controversies before and during his term on the County School Board. In January 2016, Belle admitted to claiming he was a respiratory care practitioner even though he didn’t have a license and was fined $8,200 by the state. (See related article).

He and his wife had to move from their home in Antioch in spring of 2015 for failure to pay rent, due to a loss of his wife’s job and Belle not earning enough through his consulting business. They separated and Mrs. Belle moved to the Sacramento area. As a result, questions have arisen about Belle’s residency. He rented rooms in other people’s homes in the district. The two have since reconciled and Belle now splits his time between his wife’s place in the Sacramento area and a home in the district.

In December 2016, facing prosecution by the Contra Costa District Attorney’s office for lying on his ballot statement, Belle admitted in court that he didn’t have a college degree which he claimed. He agreed to community service to avoid a trial and possible fine of up to $1,000. (See related article)

In 2017 Belle suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. Recently, he posted a fundraising effort on his Facebook page to help him pay off $8,000 in medical bills. The total raised was $50 from former County School Board Trustee and Clayton Valley Charter High School Trustee Richard Asadoorian.

Until recently, Belle claimed to be serving as a producer for a TV show in Southern California for women over 40.

Three Candidates, Two Open Seats on Antioch School Board

Ellie Householder and Shagoofa Khan in a photo from Facebook on July 6, 2018.

Mary Rocha from her Facebook page.

As a result of Vinson’s and Ruehlig’s decisions there will be no incumbents running in the November elections. Three candidates have announced, so far, including former Antioch School Board Trustee and Mayor of Antioch Mary Rocha, Shagoofa Khan, a 2018 Antioch Youth of the Year award winner, 2018 graduate of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School in Antioch, and currently a School Site Council Member for the district, and Elizabeth “Ellie” Householder, who was a Research Analyst working as a vendor on the LCAP for the district for two years, and is beginning a Master’s Degree program in Public Policy, this fall. She has also served as a member and Vice Chair of Antioch’s Measure C Sales Tax Citizens’ Oversight Committee.

The two are backed by Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and have been campaigning together, including during the Antioch July 4th parade and on Facebook. In a post on July 5, Householder wrote, “Filing out our campaign finance forms. I couldn’t of [sic] asked for a more passionate and dedicated running mate.” Then in a post on July 6 she wrote, “Officially mailed in our finance papers to the Secretary of State! August 4th is our official campaign kickoff. Fundraising season starts soon – stay tuned for more details! #EllieandShagoofaforAUSD

Filing opens on July 16th and closes August 10th if the incumbent seeks reelection. If not, the filing period will be extended to August 15th. The election will be held on Tuesday, November 6th.

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Antioch School Board extends Anello’s contract on split, 3-2 vote

Monday, July 2nd, 2018

Superintendent Stephanie Anello

Finalizes LCAP and budget, discusses 53 Consent Items and approves nine new board policies

By Robert Pierce

The June 27 Antioch Unified School District board meeting was a particularly lengthy affair, with agenda items including a massive 53 Consent Items, nine new board policies and final approval of the district’s 2018-2019 Local Control Accountability Plan and budget. Most were approved unanimously. But the board split 3-2 on approving the contract extension for Superintendent Stephanie Anello with Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White and Trustee Debra Vinson voting against.

The greatest amount of time was spent discussing the Consent Items, which went from A to Z, AA to ZZ and finished with AAA. Clarifying questions were asked on several of the items in a process that took about an hour and a half, however only items B, O and GG were voted on separately, with all others passed as a group by a 5-0 vote.

Item B, a tort claim for damages regarding an altercation between two students filed against the district, was pulled by Sawyer-White, who stated that the claim, which involved a minor, should be discussed in closed session before being voted on.

Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray responded that the claim, which the district’s insurance company recommended rejecting to avoid liability, was not an item that was up for discussion as it was based on confidential information and meant for immediate action. Ultimately the motion to reject the claim was approved 4-0, with Sawyer-White electing to abstain, citing the Brown Act.

Item O involved Facility Use Fees charged by the district, an issue that has been a source of contention for a long time. The new fee schedule outlined by the item – seen here – raised some fees and lowered some others and was approved at the previous meeting as part of a group consent item vote, the first change since 2010. However, Vinson requested that it be brought back for further discussion. The fees only apply to large scale or particularly lengthy uses of facilities, or situations in which the user would make money, for example a cookout where the food is sold. “Family use” situations such as a group of friends playing sports on the field Girl Scout troupes holding meetings are not currently charged.

Vinson brought the item back due to “concern” she has for the community and has heard from community members regarding “excessive” facility fees. Vinson also mentioned the Civic Center Act, which allows local education authorities to charge less than recommended fees for facility use, or to not charge a fee at all. Ultimately, Vinson pushed for greater accessibility for community members in the form of lowered fees and mentioned the positive impact it could have on the district’s image, expressing a desire to make sure that the rates were “fair and equitable to the community,” with particular emphasis on the non-profit rate.

As a counterpoint, Anello mentioned that “handing out” facilities could incur serious costs for the district; the main purpose for facility use fees, as outlined in the Civic Center Act, is not to create profit for the district but to help recoup the costs the district pays to operate the facility, such as custodial costs.

During public comments, Kim Scott took the time to thank the board for brining the issue back and requested they find a solution to it quickly.

“We started the process about a year ago,” Scott stated. “Our kids are looking for a resolution, our community… we’re looking for a resolution.”

Despite approving the fee schedule last meeting, the board almost unanimously expressed regret at doing so, with Sawyer-White declaring that she would have never “intentionally” raised fees. Ultimately Trustee Ruehlig requested more research be done and that multiple potential models be presented to the board instead of just one, and the board voted 4-1 to override and reject the fees approved last week, with Gibson-Gray voting nay.

Item GG, pulled by Sawyer-White, was a revision to the salary schedule for the district Superintendent, Associate Superintendent, and Chief Human Resources Officer to bring them in line with a 2.25 percent increase other district staff received recently. Superintendent Anello, however, waived her 2.25 percent raise, a decision praised by several members of the board.

Sawyer-White stated she was “not in agreement for a raise at this time,” but the motion to accept the revisions passed 4-1 with only Sawyer-White voting nay.

For Action Items, the board approved the district’s Local Control Accountability Plan or LCAP and 2018-2019 Budget, both of which were discussed at length in the previous meeting.

Antioch School District 2018-19 budget decreases again, this year by $4.2 million

The LCAP did not change in substance, however the board emphasized that it can be brought back at any time and encouraged parents and other community members to provide feedback.

“It’s not personal,” said Vinson, urging the board to detach themselves emotionally and embrace feedback. “It’s to extend and develop the plan… so that we’re actually improving academic outcomes.”

As far as the budget goes, while the final presentation went into much greater detail on several funds, the raw numbers changed very little – the district still anticipates an ending balance of about $11.7 million and remains weary of a looming potential recession.

Preliminary Budget, presented last meeting          Final 2018-2019 Budget

Anello Contract Extended One Year on 3-2 Vote

The final two action items were one-year extensions to the currently two-year, originally three-year contracts of Chief of Human Resources Officer Jessica Romeo and Superintendent Stephanie Anello. Both extensions were passed 3-2, with Sawyer-White and Vinson voting no, citing not any sort of performance issues but merely a preference of shorter contracts in an economically uncertain time.

The last major items of discussion were nine Board Policies for Second Reading and Action, revised to reflect new state legislation. The policies, minus C and E, were passed as a group with a 5-0 vote, however both C and E later passed 5-0 as well.

Item C dealt to district residency requirements and new legislation preventing the district from asking about a student’s immigration status; Vinson clarified that homeless students can still get into any school district and were unaffected by the new policy. Item E responded to “new legislation requiring districts to educate students about the negative impact of bullying based on actual or perceived immigration status or religious beliefs and customs” as well as other legislation that now “requires staff training with specified components related to bullying prevention and response.”

Revised Board Policy 5111.1 District Residency

Revised Board Policy 5131.2 Bullying

With the district on summer break, the board will not be meeting again until August, with meetings scheduled for August 8 and August 22. Future items requested by the board included increasing the district’s financial reserve percentage, revising the district mission statement and changing the board logo.

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The Learning Experience® Opens Academy of Early Education in Antioch

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

The Learning Experience’s new location in Antioch, near Mel’s Diner, Staples and Walmart. Photo by Allen Payton

First-time franchisee brings nationally-recognized childcare, enrichment programs and early education to toddlers and preschoolers in community 

The Learning Experience, one of the country’s fastest-growing Academies of Early Education, is pleased to announce the opening of its newest center at 4831 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, California.

The Learning Experience’s center in Antioch, which is now enrolling for summer camp for preschool and school age children and offering private tours for families, provides childcare, enrichment programs, and early education for children from six weeks to six years of age. Its all-inclusive curriculum and programs include phonics, mathematics, science, foreign language, yoga, and a philanthropy program that teaches children the value of kindness and generosity.

The independent franchise location in Antioch is owned by Rajya Ponnaluri, a first-time franchise owner who will employ over 30 teachers and staff members to serve upwards of 180 children in the community.

“The Learning Experience provides the perfect balance of owning a small business and having the support of a nationally-recognized franchise brand with a proven track record of success,” said Ponnaluri. “I am thrilled to bring such an outstanding curriculum to the little citizens of our surrounding communities.”

The Learning Experience’s proprietary Learning Experience Academic Program (L.E.A.P.®) curriculum and enrichment programs were developed through more than 30 years of experience in early childhood education. Its early literacy programs have 9 out of 10 children reading before Kindergarten, and its unique philanthropy curriculum was created in partnership with Make-A-Wish®.

The center in Antioch marks the franchise’s first location in San Francisco area, and fourth location in California. The Learning Experience is ranked no. 79 on Entrepreneur’s 2018 Franchise 500 and has over 220 centers across the country serving more than 25,000 toddlers and preschoolers with childcare, enrichment programs, and early education. The franchise also has over 100 locations currently in development in select markets nationwide.

For more information about The Learning Experience center in Antioch, please visit

About The Learning Experience®

The Learning Experience ( is one of the nation’s fastest-growing Academies of Early Education for children ages six weeks to six years old. With a greater national emphasis on educational development during the most crucial years of a child’s growth, The Learning Experience places a prominent focus on programs that advance scholastic preparation. The Learning Experience prepares children academically and socially via innovative scholastic and enrichment programs such as the L.E.A.P.® curriculum, a cutting-edge proprietary approach to learning which has 9 out of 10 of its children entering Kindergarten already reading. To complement the academic curriculum, The Learning Experience utilizes various enrichment programs crucial to advancing learning and overall balance, such as philanthropy, Yippee 4 Yoga™, Music 4 Me®, Movin’ N Groovin’®, manners and etiquette, and foreign language.

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Antioch student graduates from virtual California Connections Academy @ Ripon

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Photos by Matt Lorenz courtesy of California Connections Academy.

More than 100 online public school students celebrate academic accomplishments, head to distinguished universities

California Connections Academy @ Ripon, a tuition-free online public school serving students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, graduated 108 high school seniors at a commencement ceremony held at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton on Monday, June 18. Remarks honoring the graduates were delivered by Couper Condit, district director, Dr. Richard Savage, the school’s executive director, Kara Mannix, high school principal, and Alexandria Yao, valedictorian and professional figure skater on Team USA. Hundreds of family members, friends, teachers and administrators gathered to honor the students’ accomplishments.

The graduates include Antioch’s Gadai Bulgac who utilized the flexibility of his education to pursue Debate Club and take challenging college courses while in high school. Other graduates from Contra Costa County include Jasmyn Barkley, Kylie Diaz, Amilkar Lopez and Anastasiya Klimko.

The graduating class also included Tatum Osborne, an activist from Los Gatos who produced and directed a PSA on sexual assault and will attend Saint Lawrence University on scholarship. She was also the recipient of the Student of the Year award presented by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce. Tatum views her advocacy as a long-term commitment and hopes to one day be a creative director for a magazine.

“The biggest advantage of attending Connections Academy is being able to customize your education to fit your learning needs,” said Osborne. “I was able to take classes my junior year that I would have taken during my senior year at traditional public school. I also had 24/7 access to my teachers which gave me the confidence to reach out to them whenever I had questions.”

Other graduates include valedictorian and professional figure skater Alexandria Yao who skates for Team USA. She enrolled in Connections Academy several years ago, seeking an education option that provided a high-quality curriculum and the flexibility to pursue her dreams on the ice. Additionally, aspiring actress Reagan Harwood from Palo Alto is headed to Foothill College this fall and the plans to transfer to a four-year university. She was able to balance her academics and her passion for acting through online school. Last year her hard work earned her a spot in a Disney on Ice commercial and she’ll be starring in a short film this July.

“We are so proud of what our 2018 graduating class has accomplished, and we are confident the skills and knowledge they acquired at Connections Academy has provided them with a foundation for success,” said Amy Hunt, site administrator at California Connections Academy @ Ripon. “Today we celebrate the culmination of their hard work and determination, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.”

Additional students from the 2018 graduating class will go on to pursue higher education at institutions including University of California: Berkeley, University of California: Santa Cruz, Columbia University, Gonzaga University and San Francisco State University.

California Connections Academy @ Ripon provides an innovative and flexible learning environment for more than 1,200 students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. Through a combination of state-credentialed teachers and high-quality curriculum which meets stringent state education standards, the school provides an individualized and top-tier learning program for its students.

Throughout the school year, students have many opportunities to interact with their classmates in person and prepare for the next stage in their lives. Recently, California Connections Academy organized visits to various academic institutions, including the Academy of Art University and the University of the Pacific. The school also hosted several field trips, including visits to the Hilmar Cheese Factory, Sutters Fort, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and the Jelly Belly Factory. California Connections Academy offers a variety of clubs and activities for students, including National Honor Society, sports club, music club, and robotics club, among others.

Juniors and seniors planning to attend college may adapt their schedules to accommodate exam preparation and applications, as well as take advantage of the school’s diverse course catalog, including expanded AP classes and career technical education offerings. Unique electives include accounting, psychology and computer science.

To learn more about California Connections Academy @ Ripon and begin enrollment for the 2018-19 school year, please visit

About California Connections Academy @ Ripon

California Connections Academy @ Ripon is a tuition-free, high-quality, highly accountable virtual public school serving students in grades K-12, including transitional kindergarten, in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. California Connections Academy is fully accredited (grades K-12) by the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The school opened in 2012 and is authorized under state law by the Ripon Unified School District. California Connections Academy provides students who meet state residency requirements with the flexibility to learn from anywhere with an internet connection with an innovative curriculum which meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of state-credentialed teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit the school’s website.

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Antioch School District 2018-19 budget decreases again, this year by $4.2 million

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Board discusses LCAP, LCFF; support staff contract approved

By Robert Pierce

At the June 13, 2018 Antioch School Board meeting all five trustees discussed the draft Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and preliminary budget for the 2018-2019 school year. They also approved the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the district and California School Employees Association for non-teaching support staff, and several new district policy items that were voted on as a group. Summary of Tentative Agreement CSEA

The meeting began with official congratulations to the recent high school graduates, and a happy birthday message by the rest of the board to trustee Walter Ruehlig.

There was a single comment from the public by Mary Rocha, who is planning on running for the board in November’s election. She urged the board to reconsider their decision and “if nothing else, slow down” the development of two new charter schools, which the board authorized last month. Rocha cited concerns with budget and documentation as reasons to reconsider.

“I ask you to reconsider, because, in the end, we are going to be affecting our own school system and our own employees,” Rocha said.

Back on the main agenda, district reports were given on both the LCAP and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by Dr. Jason Murphy. 2018-2019 LCAP District Report

According to the official district website, “The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a California funding calculation that recognizes that students with additional academic needs – low-income, English language learner, and foster youth students – need additional financial resources to support their education.”

The district LCAP website

The LCFF provides a per-pupil “base grant”, a “supplemental grant” for every student in one of the target areas and a flat “concentration grant” for districts with more than 55% of their students in one of those three groups. The LCAP, in turn, is a “planning tool” in which the district uses to report how they are going to use that funding, as well as the effectiveness of the programs and services the funding was used on.

Specifically, the LCAP, which AUSD has received funding from since the 2013-2014 school year, has local districts tie their budgets to concrete improvement goals. AUSD’s LCAP for this year currently has six LCAP goals, which according to Murphy were designed to mirror both state priorities and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and include goals such as “Provide effective and enriching learning environments,” “Build inclusive school communities” and “Reduce the achievement gap amongst student groups.”

Murphy brought with him several students and parents from district high schools to comment on their involvement with the process of developing an LCAP. All of them spoke highly of their experiences with the program and expressed a desire for greater student and community member involvement, even at the middle school level.

Trustee Debra Vinson asked how the efficacy of a program is tracked, specifically programs dealing with behavioral justice, and mentioned the district’s current struggles with high suspension, expulsion and absenteeism despite heavy investment in programs such as “Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports”. Vinson also asked how it is determined when and if a program needs to be dropped entirely.

Murphy responded that there is an on-going process of in-depth analysis of each program and service associated with LCAP, a big part of which involves getting community feedback and perspectives from students and parents, and using this data to help shape LCAP goals, mentioning specifically that they are actively working on using grant money to bring in more mental health professionals.

Murphy also explained that they have a vetting process for any vendor they choose to do business with, but for vendors who already passed the vetting and have a contract but are underperforming, information and data on the programs and services that vendor provides are available on the district website so that any staff member or community member can see how well they are working and use the data to have “critical conversations.” For Murphy, getting the LCAP data online, publicly available, was a major goal.

“We thought our theory of action would necessitate that we develop a process that includes all stakeholders,” he stated. “Available on the district website… is the list of all of our stakeholder engagement opportunities.”

Murphy said he strove for more engagement with stakeholders “whether they are students, parents, staff members or even community members” so that they can collaborate directly with the district to improve LCAP goals and processes. Another stated reason for online engagement was so that community members could interact with LCAP even if they were unable to physically attend meetings on it.

Vinson also specifically asked about the potential creation of a Restorative Justice program and a school site Climate Team to tackle issues regarding bullying and student emotional trauma that affect student attendance and classroom behavior; Associate Superintendent Christine Ibarra responded that she currently has a team looking into that issue and considering multiple solutions to it including Restorative Justice.

Ultimately Ruehlig reflected that it was a lot of information to digest, and trustee Diane Gibson-Gray encouraged parents and students to reach out with their ideas.

District reports were also given on the 2018-2019 preliminary budget by several staff, chiefly Associate Superintendent Teresa Santamaria.

Santamaria highlighted that the full implementation of LCFF, the elimination of gap funding, rising expenditures and a potential recession are creating “a huge squeeze for local education authorities.” While revenue assumptions per grade level based off of ADA grants rose about $200, drastic shifts in both federal and local revenue sources as well as rising salary and benefit costs for many employees created said squeeze.

Despite all of that, however, the district only lost $4.2 million this school year compared to a loss of $9.9 million last year, and the district will remain in the black this year as well.

“Looking at this number, we can definitely say the budget year 18-19 will be positive,” Santamaria stated. However, she explained that in the long term, due to revenue losses and expenditure increases as well as the opening of new charter schools in the area, “there will be a huge impact on our fund balance.”

The full preliminary budget

Santamaria declared that the full budget will be presented at the June 27 meeting and will include more in-depth discussion of “the major components of the budget” as well as “multi-year budget projections” with true budget balance being a huge goal for the future.

In addition to district reports, there were public hearings for both the LCAP and the preliminary budget, despite the public having already had chance to comment; Board President Gary Hack observed that it was a “silly” situation but, required by law. Predictably, both public hearings ended without any comment.

No votes were taken for either item during the meeting. The final adoption is expected to occur at the board’s meeting on June 27.

Employees Association Contract Approved

“Disclosure and Ratification of the Tentative Agreement Between Antioch Unified School District and California School Employees Association for 2017-2018,” was passed 5-0 with little to no discussion by the board, merely accepting the result of a collective bargaining agreement already settled by the district required by law to be publicly disclosed before final confirmation. The settlement included extra pay and benefits and a definitive workweek of five consecutive days Monday through Friday for most employees. The district also commended both sides of the negotiation. The full settlement, ratified 5-0

To view the complete meeting, visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

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Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian School celebrates Class of 2018

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Cornerstone Class of 2018 graduates, faculty and staff celebrate on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

Article & photo by Denise Baquing

Cornerstone Christian School’s graduating Class of 2018 included some top performing students.

Valedictorian Ryan Sierra earned a GPA of 4.14 and will be attending Grand Canyon University where he will major in mechanical engineering.

Salutatorian Michaela Felmann earned a GPA of 3.98 and will be attending Los Medanos College.

Cougar of the Year Jordan Edwards earned a GPA 3.9 and will majoring in computer engineering, also at Grand Canyon University.

Jordan has played three years of varsity basketball and received All League honors in both his junior and senior years. He’s maintained his high grade point average while serving the school in multiple ways, including being elected as President of the Student Government.

Jordan has volunteered at Royal Family Kids Camp where he’s been a counselor to foster kids, and he’s been a part of the youth leadership, at Cornerstone.

Cornerstone Christian School is located at 1745 E. 18th Street in Antioch and serves grades K-12. For more information about the school visit

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Antioch High sends off 300 graduates into the world

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura and Valedictorian Diana Muñoz speak to their classmates on Friday night, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

By Jesus Cano

Not even the strong winds infiltrating Antioch High School’s Class of 2018 graduation could have ruined the milestone celebration for its students.

But that is just one of the adversities the class had to face during their tenure as Panthers.

Something expressed deeply by many of the speakers was how discontent they were about not having a cafeteria throughout high school. In addition to that, during their sophomore year these scholars did not have their home, outdoor multi-purpose athletic facility (Eels Stadium), as it was under renovation.

That foreshadowed what these students were able to receive over time. Principal Louie Rocha pointed out that these students were able to witness the opening of the new library and media center.

But at the end of their high school careers, many of the students felt that walking across the stage was well worth the struggle.

Valedictorian Diana Muñoz and Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura both touched on the subjects about being children of immigrant parents in their speeches, but Gonzalez Ventura additionally spoke about his denial into both Dozier-Libbey and granted admission into one of Deer Valley’s academies.

“The best decision of my life was withdrawing my petition for appeal at Deer Valley,” Gonzalez Ventura said. “I got to create a whole new family here at Antioch.”

This was a smaller class for Antioch, with only 300 graduates, but Rocha saw unity. It was demonstrated by them organizing a rally on the National Walkout day to spread awareness about gun control following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“This class really highlights a strong sense of community,” Rocha said. “I think they’re going to make a difference in the years to come.”

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Antioch High Class of 2018 graduates celebrate.

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Dozier Libbey Medical High graduates 127 in Class of 2018

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

2018 Co-Valedictorian Natalie Tong speaks to her fellow graduates on Friday evening, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

Co-Valedictorian Cinddy Wu Deng addresses her classmates.

By Jesus Cano

Dozier Libbey Medical High School’s graduation illustrated how much of a tight knit community the Antioch campus really is.

As principal Scott Bergerhouse addressed the 2018 Dozier-Libbey graduates, he not only did so as a class, but he mentioned 40 kids individually with the positive aspects they brought to him and the school. He described the smiles students offered him, anecdotes about the daily life of a student at Dozier Libbey, and recognized pitcher Ayanna Sanchez for tossing a perfect game.

“I wanted to recognize as many people as I can, because that’s how much they mean to me.” Bergerhouse said. “It all about the kids, it’s all about their accomplishments and what they do.”

He has been able to watch this class grow, since when he took over the helm as principal, they were just freshman.

This class of 2018 saw 127 seniors walks the stage. This was one of the smallest classes in recent memory according to the principal. Bergerhouse added that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that it’s because many students ended up switching districts.

This year, Dozier Libbey had co-Valedictorians, in Natalie Tong and Cinddy Wu Deng. While they shared similarities in grade point average, they mentioned commonly how attending a close community like Dozier Libbey served as an advantage.

“Even if we don’t talk to everyone, we can always be there for each other.” Tong said.

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Dozier-Libbey graduates cheer on their classmates.

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