Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Op-Ed: Pittsburg Unified fails students over anti-Trump protest

Monday, November 28th, 2016

By Fernando Navarro

On Thursday, November 10, an incident took place in Pittsburg and Antioch which illustrated a major failing of our public education system.  Hundreds of Pittsburg High School students, apparently protesting the results of the presidential election, walked out of their classes, off campus, and made their way to Antioch. During their journey, some of them committed acts of violence which resulted in three arrests…and a strain on police resources for both cities, as 23 police officers (15 from Antioch and 8 from Pittsburg) had to be called out to deal with the situation.

Statements by some officers indicated that the PHS principal, Todd Whitmire, joined students in the protest.  This has been disputed by Whitmire and Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD) Superintendent Janet Schulze, who claim Whitmire was with the protesters only to make sure they were safe.

Neither story speaks well of the PUSD leadership.  The first would indicate that PUSD administrators are actively working to incite students away from learning and discourse and toward yelling and violence.  The second would indicate that PUSD administrators have lost control of their school, and that student whims rule the day.

What we witnessed didn’t come out of nowhere, and didn’t come about because the, “election has been especially emotional,” as a statement by Schulze said.  This is the result of years of inept classroom management, which has led to a lack of respect for authority.  It comes about because, as with English and math, students don’t appear to be learning basic civics.

I recently lost my bid for election to the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Trustees.  That doesn’t mean I’ll be silent, though.  I’ll continue to advocate for the change that’s needed to turn our schools around and deliver better educational, and life-choice, outcomes for our students.  And I’ll be encouraging parents to educate themselves about school policies, and to make sure their voices are heard.  But I’ll be doing so by speaking and writing in the appropriate forums, not by disrupting traffic, disrupting classes, or by otherwise impinging on the rights of my fellow citizens.

Finally, I applaud Antioch Police Chief Allan Cantando for speaking out about this incident at the PUSD School Board meeting.  I applaud AUSD Superintendent Stephanie Anello and Antioch High School Principal Louis Rocha for taking swift action to prevent similar disruptions in Antioch schools.

Now, let’s all come together to provide our students with the educations they deserve.

Navarro is a member of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees.

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Antioch Rotary Club donates, delivers dictionaries to all third graders in Antioch public schools

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016
Antioch Rotarian Jeff Warrenburg delivers dictionaries to third-graders at John Muir Elementary in November.

Antioch Rotarian Jeff Warrenburg looks on as third-grade students  at John Muir Elementary read from their new dictionaries.

A vital part of the Antioch community since 1947, the Antioch Rotary Club, a non-profit service organization, has a reputation for excellence in community projects, from its free dictionaries for third-graders to providing scholarships to local high school students.  Antioch Rotarians feel that literacy is an important factor in being a successful adult.

The Antioch Rotary Club continues to help children in our local community by providing dictionaries to third-graders as one of their annual, service projects.  The mission was accomplished, recently when Rotarians from the club, personally delivered hardbound dictionaries to every third grader in the Antioch Unified School District.   Many Antioch children do not own a personal dictionary and some do not have access to one in their home.

“In Antioch, nearly 70% of our third graders receive free or reduced lunch and may not have the resources to have access to their own dictionary or the internet,” said Antioch Rotary Club President Milanka Schneiderman. “The Antioch Rotary Club wants to reach out to the third-grade children and give them an additional learning tool. Plus, the importance of the English language acquisition cannot be overstated as nearly 18% of our students speak a language other than English, as their first language.”

The Dictionary Project also known as READ – Rotary’s Empowerment of Antioch through Dictionaries – encourages children to use dictionaries so that they will be able to use the English language effectively during their school years and lifetime.  Besides its own funds, Antioch Rotary Club received a $7,000 grant from District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover’s Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund, a $1,000 grant from Pacific Gas & Electric, and an $800 grant from Higgins Mortuary for the READ Program.

“These sponsors of the READ project greatly help us make a difference in Antioch,” Schneiderman shared. “We really appreciate their support in the Antioch community.”

The remaining funds for the project were raised through the Antioch Rotary Club’s annual golf tournament and its sponsors.

“We greatly appreciate the community support for our golf tournament,” she added. “These sponsors, along with Rotarians make our scholarships and community projects possible.”

Next year, the 23rd Annual Golf Tournament will be held on May 5th, 2017 at the Lone Tree Golf Course & Event Center.

The Antioch Rotary Club was chartered in February, 1947. Their regular meeting days are Thursdays at 12:15 p.m. at the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center. Contact Lindy Maynes-Kolthoff, Club Secretary for more information: lindym2009@live.com.

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Residents speaking in support, teachers opposing Rocketship charter evenly split at Antioch School Board hearing

Thursday, November 17th, 2016
Supporters of the proposed Rocketship charter school in Antioch wore purple shirts, while opponents wore yellow shirts, at the Antioch School Board's public hearing on the matter, on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

Supporters of the proposed Rocketship charter school in Antioch wore purple shirts, while opponents wore yellow shirts, at the Antioch School Board’s public hearing on the matter, on Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

By Nick Goodrich

At their November 9th meeting, the Antioch School Board held the required public hearing on Rocketship Education’s petition to open a charter school in Antioch. The meeting was held at Lone Tree Elementary School instead of the board chambers, to accommodate an expected larger crowd.

Nearly 100 residents, teachers and other community members showed up to either support or oppose the petition, with Rocketship supporters donning purple shirts, and those opposing the school sporting yellow “No Rocketship!” T-shirts. While the speakers from each side were evenly split, there were many more people wearing purple shirts than yellow, in the audience.

The presentation, led by Rocketship’s Chief Growth and Community Engagement Officer Cheye Calvo, highlighted the charter school’s success in areas like math and English, in which Rocketship students have consistently outperformed other students in the Bay Area.

“By 2016, the majority of Rocketship’s students are ahead of their peers nationwide,” said Calvo, who also noted that Rocketship outranks all elementary schools within the Antioch Unified School District in the two subjects.

Despite Rocketship’s success in math and English Language Learning, questions were raised by residents and Board Members concerning the charter school’s efforts in other areas, such as Social Studies and History.

Trustee Walter Ruehlig relayed a concern that Rocketship’s rigid academic structure, involving an eight-hour school day, means that those subjects, as well as recess and playtime, get short shrift.

Calvo was quick to respond, saying that “Rocketship schools are joyful places.”

“We develop the whole child…We give a lot of attention to social and emotional growth,” he said. “Students are taught social and emotional skills through programs in both the upper and lower grades. Building a sense of joy in school is what we are about.”

Questions about Rocketship’s practice of hiring un-accredited teachers while they work toward their teaching credentials also concerned some parents, who worried that their children might not get the same quality of education at a Rocketship school. Calvo was unable to provide statistics on what percent of Rocketship’s teachers were credentialed, when asked by the Board.

Yet, AUSD does the same thing.

Trustee Fernando Navarro also noted that the proposed school’s Board meetings would be held in Redwood City, asking how much say the local community would have in its running.

Calvo told him that Rocketship is still subject to the Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in local legislative bodies. Antioch residents, he said, would be able to attend the meetings by video conference without having to drive out to Redwood City, and would also be able to participate in public comments through live video streaming to the Board.

Public Comments

Residents, teachers and others from the surrounding community had the opportunity to speak to the AUSD Board and share their views on Rocketship’s petition, and several dozen stepped forward for each side.

Antioch resident Martha Steele Spellman opposed the school, citing charter schools’ often narrow approach to learning.

“Charter schools are by definition a niche category of learning, and they offer narrow learning opportunities,” she said. “Let’s fix what we already have.”

John Crowder, the Educational Services Director of the successful Math Intensive Program at Deer Valley High School, disagreed.

“We need Rocketship. The current system is not working for far too many of our students,” he told the Board, citing AUSD’s low state test results and performance in math and English, as a reason to give the charter school a chance. “At the student level, these numbers mean you have children in middle school and high school who can’t do basic arithmetic. Reading and writing skills are equally bad. You can change this. Rocketship is helping students like this succeed.”

Scott Benedict, a Special Ed teacher at Antioch High School, was skeptical that Rocketship would be such a big improvement over AUSD’s schools, and criticized its use of un-accredited teachers.

“A lot of things Rocketship does, we already do in innovative classrooms around the District…[Rocketship] is really big on graphs and models, but has no real data. We know how many of our teachers are credentialed, and how many are interns,” he said.

Another resident echoed Ruehlig’s concerns about recess, saying, “Rocketship doesn’t educate the whole child. Recess is important, but it’s left behind in Rocketship.”

For many parents in Antioch, however, the potential of opening a charter school presents an alternative to District schools, which are underperforming when compared to other Bay Area School Districts.

“The AUSD thought my fourth grade son’s reading level of 2.8 was okay, so they just passed him along,” said Julie Young. “Rocketship wants to bring kids up the achievement gap. Give Antioch the choice to have this particular learning model.”

Ten-year Antioch resident Jennifer Alfonzo agreed.

“I am a mother of five children, three of whom attended schools in Antioch,” she said. “I removed my three oldest children from the AUSD schools and enrolled them in private schools after years of frustration dealing with a broken system. We experienced problems with bullying and were frustrated that our kids were not learning as we knew they could. Once we moved them, they began to excel, even winning awards for academic excellence.”

The value of Rocketship, to Alfonzo and its other supporters, is in its ability to offer a different system with better results, to parents that may have become disenchanted with the District schools.

“Having a Rocketship school in our community will give parents more options,” she concluded. “Please approve the petition for Rocketship. Our children deserve to have this choice.”

With the recent opening of a Rocketship school in Concord in August, some parents advocated for more research by the Board, including waiting to measure the success of that school, before making a decision. That school was opposed by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District Board and the county Board of Education. But, it received approval by the state Board of Education, including State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, a former teacher in Antioch. (See related article)

The final vote on whether or not to approve the proposed school in Antioch will be held on Wednesday, December 7th, after the Board has weighed its options and input from the community.

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Newcomer Sawyer-White in top spot in Antioch School Board race, Gibson-Gray re-elected, Hack is back

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016
Sawyer-White from her campaign.

Sawyer-White from her campaign.

By Allen Payton

As the rest of the votes are still being counted by County Elections Division staff, as of Tuesday night’s results, in the Antioch School Board race challenger and newcomer Crystal Sawyer-White is barely in first place with 8,087 votes for 19.61% of the vote among the seven candidates seeking three seats. In second is incumbent Diane Gibson-Gray who appears to be re-elected for a third term with 7,511 votes for 18.22% of the vote and former school board member Gary Hack is in third place with 6,910 votes for 16.76%.

He’s ahead of fellow former school board member Joy Motts, who had 6,510 votes for 15.79% of the vote. Appointed incumbent Fernando Navarro came in a distant fifth place with 5,047 votes for 12.24%, followed by news site publisher Mike Burkholder in sixth with 4,109 votes and 9.19%, and the other appointed incumbent Alonzo Terry, placed last with 2,935 votes for 7.12% of the vote.

school-board-results-finalBoth Hack and Motts served on the board until each losing their re-election efforts in 2014. Both also applied for the appointments to fill board vacancies, last year and earlier this year, when Navarro and Terry were appointed, instead.

In a brief comment, Tuesday night, Sawyer-White wrote “Wow! I am so excited!”

“I would like to thank all my supporters, family and friends,” she stated on Wednesday. “I am humbled to be elected and looking forward to working with our Superintendent, Stephanie and all the board members. Let’s put our children first.”

Sawyer-White, Navarro and Terry were all backed by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates with independent expenditure financed mailers. Gibson-Gray, Hack and Motts were all supported by the Antioch Education Association, which is the local teachers’ union, which contributed directly to their campaigns, as well as paid for an independent expenditure mailer. The latter three also had the support of the California Schools Employees Association, which includes the district’s non-faculty staff, and the district’s management staff, which includes the principals. The management staff also supported Burkholder.

Neither Gibson-Gray nor Hack could be reached for comment prior to publication time.

According to County Clerk and Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, the County Elections office still has approximately 180,000 votes to count in the county. They expect the next update to be provided Thursday afternoon and will be available on their website www.cocovote.us.

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Responding to anonymous criticism, community college board president says chancellor selection process was participatory, fair

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

By Allen Payton

An anonymous email on Tuesday morning, November 8th, with the signature line reading “Voiceless Employees of the Contra Costa Community College District,” took the Board of Governors to task for a “Lack of Transparency in Chancellor Selection Process,” as was written in the subject line of the email message. Board President Vicki Gordon disputes that.

The email message read as follows:

“To Whom it May Concern,

We write to you today sharing the voices of many within the Contra Costa Community College District whom believe the existing Contra Costa Community College District Board of Trustees has, with malicious intent, manipulated the recent search process that led to the selection of Dr. Fred Wood for Chancellor of the district.

The Board selected its own Board President, Vicki Gordon, to serve as chair of the search committee. Board policy (BP 2057) outlines that the Board is to appoint a chair of the committee, not to appoint itself as the chair of the committee. This unprecedented move to have a Board member, no less the sitting Board President, serve as the chair of the initial screening interview process and then as Chair of the final interview process eliminated the opportunity for district employees, through their representation on the search committee, to have a true voice in the process.

Board President Vicki Gordon then violated the intent and practice of the Brown Act, calling a special meeting of the Board to announce its decision, without providing the normal 72 hour public notification. While it is understood that Special Meetings are allowed with only one day’s notice, the rush to announce a selection was unnecessary, as a regular Board meeting is scheduled to take place on November 9th. Both Vicki Gorgon and Greg Enholm are up for re-election on November 8th.

The Board interviewed the final candidates and did not consult with the screening interview committee regarding the committee’s feedback on the finalists. These committee members all serve as representative voices of the various governance and labor groups within the district. Instead, the Board relied entirely on Board President Vicki Gordon’s account, whom again placed herself at both levels of the interview process, as Chair of the committees.

IF the Board had held a transparent evaluation of the final candidates, it would have become clear that there remained significant concerns about the qualifications of Dr. Wood:

- Dr. Wood has never worked within the California Community College system, except for a brief graduate teaching assignment over 30 years ago. Dr. Wood has never served in any post-graduate administration or faculty role within any community college.

- Dr. Wood has never served as a President of any community college.

- Dr. Wood currently serves as Chancellor, which is a President level position in California, at a rural four year institution in Minnesota that serves 1,800 students, 900 of which are online students. In comparison the Contra Costa Community College District serves over 50,000 students and has more employees than the institution Dr. Wood currently serves.

- Dr. Wood was forced out of his position as Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs at UC Davis after the infamous pepper spray incident in 2011/12 and proceeding fall out, yet no reference or any background checks on this situation were conducted.

The Contra Costa Community College District, despite the incompetence of its current Board of Trustees, continues to be one of the most successful and well respected community college districts within California. It is appalling that the Board would manipulate the Chancellor selection process to hire an individual that should have never even been in consideration as a finalist. Dr. Wood may be a qualified leader in the world of four year higher education, but his experience is not a match for the needs and complexity of the Contra Costa Community College District.

Sincerely,
Voiceless Employees of the Contra Costa Community College District”

A message to the email address of origin from @guerrilamail.com, asking for the identity of the senders, did not receive a response. That’s because Guerrilla Mail is a “Disposal Temporary Email Address” as it describes itself. It offers the promotional message of, “Don’t want to give them your real email? Use a temporary email. No registration, lasts 60 mins. Protection from Spam.”

When reached for comment, Board President Vicki Gordon said, the college district has “participatory governance, which means everyone has the opportunity to participate, our students, our faculty and staff, the community and the process was really, really open.”

“The passage of AB1725 gives all constituent groups a role in the governance of higher education,” she explained. “I have been reaching out to all of the groups who are concerned and talking with them about the process. But reaching out has been taking longer than I thought.”

Asked if faculty and staff participated in the process, Gordon replied “They did.”

“We held public forums which were announced in local media,” she stated. “We had a search committee, following our policy, comprised of faculty and staff, and two college presidents, and community members. That got us to the three final candidates.”

“Each candidate participated in four forums. So we had 12 forums scheduled,” Gordon continued. “We also videotaped the forums at Contra Costa College and played those live and recorded them so people could go to the website and view them. And people did and made comments and we collected that input, as well.”

She said the Board did follow the state’s open meeting law, known as the Brown Act.

“As the Board President and Chair of the committee, I worked very hard to ensure inclusion, to ensure the process was true, ensure all voices were heard and that it was fair,” she stated. “I’m ecstatic with the results and happy with the Board. We had a difficult time making this decision. We talked about it extensively at the Board level. I’m very proud of our Board members for putting in the time and energy.”

“Dr. Fred Wood brings not only a new, fresh outside look, but a hometown view as well,” Gordon said of the new chancellor, who not only attended Diablo Valley College as a student, he graduated from College Park High School in Pleasant Hill. “He walked the path that many of our college students are following and working to accomplish. We look forward to having him on board, soon.”

Dr. Wood is expected to start his new position in January.

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Parents of Antioch students hear Rocketship charter school proposal, Thursday night

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
(L to R) Delta Bay Church of Christ Pastor Lamont A. Francies, Rocketship Associate Director, Family Recruitment & Growth Nick Hunt, Rocketship Nashville Regional Director Shaka Mitchell, Rocketship Futuro Academy Principal Jason Colon, Rocketship Milwaukee Regional Director Brittany Kinser, Rocketship DC Regional Director Jacque Patterson, Rocketship Chief Growth and Community Engagement Officer Cheye Calvo, and Rocketship Bay Area Regional Director Marie Gil.

(L to R) Delta Bay Church of Christ Pastor Lamont A. Francies, Rocketship Associate Director, Family Recruitment & Growth Nick Hunt, Rocketship Nashville Regional Director Shaka Mitchell, Rocketship Futuro Academy Principal Jason Colon, Rocketship Milwaukee Regional Director Brittany Kinser, Rocketship DC Regional Director Jacque Patterson, Rocketship Chief Growth and Community Engagement Officer Cheye Calvo, and Rocketship Bay Area Regional Director Marie Gil.

Antioch School Board to hold required public hearing Wednesday night

On Thursday evening, November 3rd, eager parents and community supporters filled the seats of Delta Bay Church of Christ to hear from Rocketship Education about their application to open a new public charter school in Antioch. The event was organized by Antioch community members who are in pursuit of improving education in Antioch, and hosted by Dr. Lamont Francies, pastor of the church.  Regional directors from Rocketship schools in Milwaukee, Nashville and DC joined Marie Gil, Bay Area Regional Director to share perspectives on starting schools in new communities and serving a wider diversity of students.

Rocketship Education is a nonprofit organization that opened their first 10 schools in high-needs areas of San Jose and has since expanded to Concord, Redwood City, Nashville TN, Milwaukee WI, and Washington DC. Focusing exclusively on elementary education, Rocketship engages parents to become advocates for their children, inviting families into schools and making them active drivers of their children’s learning. Principal Jason Colon of the new school in Concord, Rocketship Futuro Academy, noted that he came to Rocketship five years ago to teach because he was “moved by the focus on parent engagement.” Mr. Colon says that he sees parent engagement at Rocketship “not as empowering parents, but it’s collaborating with them. Let them [parents] see that they have the fire and the ability to change the future for their kids.”

Parent engagement was a big focus of the questions from Antioch parents at the event. One community member, Arireanna Lombard, said that she’s heard a lot about engaging parents, but wants to know how Rocketship will actually do it as it can be hard to organize people.

Jacque Patterson, of Rocketship DC, said that the difference is that Rocketship shows up with and for parents, year-round, working with elected officials, instead of just every four years when candidates come to ask parents for votes.

“When kids are in classrooms, there’s not a whole lot of difference,” shared Shaka Mitchell, Regional Director for Rocketship Nashville. “We’re making sure all kids are getting exactly what they need at the right moment. We have to be sensitive to parents of different backgrounds having different relationships with the school. All of our faculty do home visits to meet our families where they’re at and where they are comfortable. We’re helping build the skills to be strong advocates in elementary school and beyond.”

Rocketship is also known for high achievement, with their Bay Area network of 10 schools ranking in the top 10% in both math and English Language Arts among all elementary school districts serving a similar student population across the state, on last year’s California assessment. These students also stay ahead, as once they graduate from Rocketship schools they are a year ahead of their classmates in math and reading, after the first and second years of middle school.

Pastor Francies welcomed Rocketship into his congregation, citing the need for quality schools in Antioch and his belief that, “there are some teachers who can’t teach, but there are no students who can’t learn.” According to Francies, Rocketship brings the opportunity for Antioch kids to experience high-quality, personalized learning that will prepare them for success later in life.

Gil began the meeting by introducing herself and sharing a bit of her story as a single mother in Antioch many years ago.

“To be able to come back to the families and children of Antioch is very meaningful,” she said, having eventually moved her family out of Antioch in search of better schools. Gil cited the power of parents as the driving force to demand better outcomes for their children as the reason for the interest in Rocketship in Antioch.

Parent questions and responses from the panel of school leaders covered Rocketship’s special education model and extended school day. Rocketship uses what’s called an inclusive model of special education, which means that children designated as having special needs spend 80 percent of their time in the classroom with their peers and the rest is personalized support by specialists. This specialized support level is decided upon in consultation with parents. Principal Colon promises that “we’ll collaborate and decide what’s best for your child.”

There was also a discussion of the many different language needs in Antioch, with Brittany Kinser, of Rocketship Milwaukee, noting that every meeting is translated into as many languages as parents need. Homework is also translated so that parents can work with their children.

Rocketship Education is proposing a free, public charter school in Antioch to offer elementary school beginning in the 2018-2019 school year.

“You shouldn’t have to dig deep into your pockets to get a good education,” said Shaka Mitchell.

The Public Hearing will be held on November 9, 2016 at Lone Tree Elementary School at 1931 Mokelumne Drive in Antioch, beginning at 7:00 PM in the Multi Use Room.

For more information about Rocketship Education, visit www.rsed.org.

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Subject of letter opposing Rocketship writes in response, claims it’s a defamatory smear

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Dear Editor:

In an election year that has been notable more for wild hyperbole than substantive discussion, even our local races have not been immune from the kind of irresponsible and baseless rhetoric that has plagued those on the national stage.

One case in point. Last week an opinion article written under the byline Selina Button was posted by Mike Burkholder on his East County Today blog, and posted as a letter to the editor on the Antioch Herald news website. The article included false, defamatory, and possibly libelous statements about me, my wife, Argentina Davila-Luevano, and my friend, John Crowder.

The reason for her unwarranted attack? We were quoted in a press release by Rocketship Education as being in favor of their building a brand new, high-performing, elementary school in Antioch. Ms. Button characterized our positive comments as, “an effort to support their own personal financial gain.” She went on to ask, “Were they possibly promised a job by Rocketship?”

For the record, we have absolutely no gain, financial or otherwise, coming our way from Rocketship. Neither have we been offered jobs or anything else. In fact, the only thing we were promised was that people who want to maintain the failed status quo would likely try to smear anyone supporting their efforts…something I didn’t want to believe at the time.

Regardless, we stand by our support of Rocketship. As those who know us are aware, Argentina and I are long-time advocates for children, and particularly for children of color and/or those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. We see the addition of a Rocketship school as an important step in solving the problem of the horrifically underperforming schools in our city.

Unfortunately, It is clear that those who stand in the way of much-needed education reform in Antioch are willing to make false statements, to bully, and to try to mislead the public about a good organization, Rocketship, that truly has the best interests of our children at heart. They have shown that they are willing to use such unseemly tactics against Rocketship’s supporters, as well.

We’re not going to back down, though. We’ve fought for years for the rights of children. The right to a good education for all is too important for us to cave in. We urge everyone who realizes we need change to get the facts about Rocketship. Their model is working for students around the country. Let’s make sure they have the chance to bring this same success to Antioch’s students, as well.

Angel G. Luevano

Antioch

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Complaints filed, Friday against Antioch teachers union, Gibson-Gray, Motts over campaign finance reports; Motts responds with copy of on-time report

Friday, November 4th, 2016

By Allen Payton

Antioch School Board candidates Crystal Sawyer-White and Fernando Navarro, an appointed Board Trustee, filed complaints with the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC), on Friday, against the Antioch Education Association (AEA) for not filing the required financial disclosure forms. Sawyer-White also filed a complaint for Board President Diane Gibson-Gray not filing her reports properly,

Complaints Against AEA

As a result of a Herald article about the campaign finances in the school board race for next Tuesday’s election, published on Thursday, in which it was revealed the AEA had not filed any financial forms for this election as required by state law, Sawyer-White complained to the agency, which oversees enforcement of the Political Reform Act.

Navarro filed a separate complaint with the FPPC about the AEA’s lack of financial disclosure.

The Antioch teachers union did not file required forms for either their contribution to former school board member Joy Motts’ campaign in the amount of $2,003, as reported in her 460 form, nor for the expenditure for a mailer supporting Motts, Gibson-Gray and former school board member Gary Hack.

Calls to Robert Strickler, President of the AEA asking him why the forms weren’t filed, or if they were, where were they filed and requesting a copy, as well as comments on the complaints, on Friday afternoon, were not returned by publication time.

Complaint Against Motts is Moot

Navarro also filed a complaint against Motts for not filing her required form 460 report for the period ending on October 22nd, which was due on October 27th. Attempts to reach both Motts and her campaign treasurer, former Antioch Mayor Don Freitas, on Thursday, asking if the report had been filed, if not why not and requesting a copy, if it had been, were unsuccessful.

When reached for comment, Navarro stated he filed the complaints “because she hasn’t reported and I’d be interested what her donations would look like.”

“It’s about transparency,” he added. “Hopefully they’re not dragging their feet and playing out the clock right before the election.”

Navarro said in his complaint against the teachers union he wrote “that they’re not reporting their donations and for the mailer.”

“I would be interested in seeing how much they spent and the amounts they contributed to the candidates they endorsed multiple, multiple times,” he continued. “The public has a right to know.”

“If a check for $125 to my campaign makes a scandal and is such an outrage, I would like to see what amounts the others received,” Navarro added. “It’s the epitome of hypocrisy. At least I was being honest reporting the contributions I received.”

Just before 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Motts’ campaign manager, Cliff Glickman called and said that her 460 form was filed on time and then provide a copy of it for the Herald to post. He also said they don’t know why it hasn’t been posted on the county’s website.

When reached for comment about this latest information, Navarro responded by asking “Is it online? I’d like to see it. I’d like to see her donations. It’s only fair.”

Asked if once he saw a copy of Motts’ report, would he rescind his complaint, Navarro said, “Of course. I’m just making sure we’re all being transparent.”

Please see a copy of her report, here: motts-460-102216

County Clerk Explains

When reached for comment about why Motts’ 460 form was not on the County Elections office website, and if they were having a problem with the website, County Clerk Joe Canciamilla responded, “No.”

“Number one there’s nothing that requires us to post the reports on our website,” he explained. “We do that as a matter of convenience. They are available to see in our office. We’re trying to get everyone to file electronically.”

“I was actually in the lobby when she (Motts) and Diane Gibson-Gray came in to file and they were filing by paper, because their treasurers were having trouble filing online,” Canciamilla stated. “We’re just behind in scanning in the reports, because everyone is on election duty, right now.”

“We’ve been transitioning over to all electronic, so when people submit by paper, we have to go through a whole process to get them uploaded to the website,” he added. “We’re hoping to have them all up on the website, this weekend.”

Motts’ latest report was still not on the County Elections office website as of 7:00 p.m. Friday. Search the campaign finance disclosure portion of their website by clicking, here.

Complaint Against Gibson-Gray

The complaint Sawyer-White filed against Gibson-Gray was a result of the same Herald article. In that article it was revealed the school board president had improperly reported her expenditures, by either paying her husband Ken Gray, which is illegal, or reimbursing him in amounts more than $500 without disclosing who was actually the recipient of the campaign funds, as required by state law.

Gibson-Gray refused to answer questions emailed to her on Thursday asking if the expenditures were payments to her husband or reimbursements, and who was the recipient of the two expenditures over $500. A call to her campaign treasurer, Bob Martin asking the same questions on Friday, was not returned before publication time. She also did not respond to attempts to reach her for a comment on this article on Friday afternoon.

11/05/16 7:30 AM UPDATE: In a comment on this article, last night at 9:52 PM, Martin wrote, “The financial information listed on Gibson-Gray’s reports are correct to the best of my knowledge. Expenditures to Ken Gray were for reimbursement for actual expenses and not payment for any services. The two expense in excess of $500.00. One in the amount of $1,105.05 is itemized as follows: $485.05 to Bellici Designs for yard signs, $600.00 for an internet ad to ETC and $20.00 for zip ties. The second one in the amount of $650.00 was for print ads in the Bay Area News Group. I neglected to include Bellici Designs and Bay Area News Group as a sub-vendor. An amended report has been submitted.”

Attempts to reach Sawyer-White for comment were also unsuccessful.

According to Navarro, all four complaints were filed on the FPPC’s website. An email was sent to the FPPC after 5:00 p.m. on Friday asking for any information they can provide about the complaints. Calls will be made to the FPPC on Monday when they’re offices are open, again.

Check back later for updates to this report.

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