Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch student graduates from U.C. Merced during Fall Commencement ceremony

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

MERCED, Calif. — Over 140 students took part in UC Merced’s Fall Commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 15, at The Art Kamangar Center in the historic Merced Theatre in downtown Merced. Students receiving their bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees were honored together at commencement, with accomplished alum, and member of UC Merced’s first graduating class, David Do (’09) serving as the commencement speaker.

Graduates included Marlon Wilson of Antioch with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science.

This was the second year that UC Merced held a fall commencement ceremony.

UC Merced opened in 2005 as the newest member of the University of California system, and is the youngest university to earn a Carnegie research classification. The fastest-growing public university in the nation, UC Merced enjoys a special connection with nearby Yosemite National Park, is on the cutting edge of sustainability in campus construction and design, and supports high-achieving and dedicated students from the underserved San Joaquin Valley and throughout California. The Merced 2020 Project, a $1.3 billion public-private partnership that is unprecedented in higher education, will nearly double the physical capacity of the campus and support enrollment growth to 10,000 students. 

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A split Antioch School Board votes against promoting V.P. Sawyer-White to president

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

The new Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees at their first meeting together on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. From left to right, Diane Gibson-Gray, Ellie Householder, Board President Gary Hack, then Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White, Mary Rocha and Superintendent Stephanie Anello.

Speaker, new Trustee Householder decry it being the second time an African American female board vice president bypassed for president; Hack re-elected

Crystal Sawyer-White. Photo courtesy of AUSD.

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 the Antioch School Board on a 3-2 split vote, chose to not elect Crystal Sawyer-White to be president of the board for the next year. Instead they voted to have Board President Gary Hack to serve for another year. Hack initially said he was abstaining from the vote stating, “yeah, I know it’s a cop-out” but then changed his vote to a “no”. He was joined by Trustee Diane Gibson Gray and new Trustee Mary Rocha in opposition, while the other new trustee, Ellie Householder joined Sawyer-White in support of her appointment.

Members of the public, school district staff and Gibson Gray gave their reasons why Sawyer-White should not be president, that she “was not ready”. One public speaker decried it as racism, pointing out the fact that it was the second time in a row that an African American female board vice president was not elevated to serve as president of the board. Former trustee Debra Vinson was denied the presidency last year, at the end of her year as vice president. Householder shared some of the concerns expressed by Mims. Rocha didn’t speak on the item.

During public comments Mission Elementary School Principal Monte Gregg was first to speak on the matter. She asked the board to “Look at the board meeting of Oct. 24, 2018 starting at 2 hours 33 minutes and you can hear the direct quote of board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White and facts speak for themselves.”

Velma Wilson, who has been at odds with Sawyer-White in the past, said, “When we have leadership you really must learn how to follow before you can be an effective leader. I have been at these board meetings and I have sat here and have endured disrespect. I was actually even told by board trustee Crystal Sawyer-White that I committed a Brown Act violation. So, everyone in this room knows that Velma Wilson can’t commit a Brown Act violation. Oh, but Crystal you won’t know that, because you just missed the Brown Act training that this district had available for you and you didn’t attend.”

Sawyer-White attempted to say something, but Wilson said, “No. Don’t cut me off, sister. Not, tonight.”

“You do not know Brown Act, you do not know Roberts Rules of Order…you will not be suitable to sit in the role of president. Crystal Sawyer-White is not ready.”

The next speaker was Amy Betterncourt, a coordinator in the district’s educational services department, who provided some statistics about Sawyer-White’s tenure on the board. “She has arrived late 68% of all meetings…the board as a collective whole has been tardy 13% of that time. I have concerns with Trustee Sawyer-White’s ability to vote independently. For example, there were seven occasions of 373 action items in which she did not align her votes with former trustee (Debra) Vinson. There were 11 occasions in the last year in which Ms. Stephanie Anello had to remind her that the information she claimed to have no knowledge of were discussed at a previous meeting or shared in a Friday board update. Furthermore, Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White has participated on discussion items which totaled 86 minutes collectively. Of that time 73 minutes were spent on her personal growth as a board member and her desire to have a conference and travel budget.”

Willie Mims, a frequent critic of the school district, was next to speak claiming the decision was race related.

“I’m sitting back there listening to this, an egregious assault upon a board member. I didn’t hear one positive thing that came out of these people’s mouths of what this lady has done since she has been on this board. No one is entitled to anything. But when it comes to fairness and equality then she deserves an opportunity like everybody else. I know that last year, two years ago, there was another African American woman who was slated to become board president. They found all kinds of excuses not to appoint her. Now we’re sitting here and the same thing. So, I’m looking at the issue of race coming into play here. Regardless of what these people are saying the elephant in the room is race. You had one in Debra Vinson. You found some kind of way to get rid of her, not to promote her. Now you have one, here scheduled to become the next board president. You’re supposed to be operating on a rotation basis. The board president does not belong in the hands of one or two people, every year a recycle center. Everybody should get an opportunity to serve regardless of what you think about them. I stand here in support of Crystal Sawyer-White. I think that you as a board you need to operate beyond the racial lens from which you see, which you view the world. See this person as a human being who has served this board, who served her community as no one else has. Regardless of what they said, she does support children.”

Several in the audience applauded Mims’ comments.

Jason Murphy was the last public speaker, stating he is “Dr. Jason Robert Murphy, I’m actually a director of educational services.”

“When I came to this community along with my late wife who also had the opportunity to serve the community as a teacher…we both had the opportunity to continue work in the spirit of putting students first. I wanted to thank you for the opportunity for the learning experiences. All I would ask is that we continue to make decisions in the interest of students. That is why we are here.”

Board Discussion and Votes

The board then took up the matter, with Hack speaking first.

“Knowing full well that there is a precedence of presidents being elected for two-year terms. But I have developed a philosophy. Let me share those five things.”

“I think the president needs to understand…that the task is to facilitate not dominate. Second one is being president is not a personal agenda, it’s a district wide agenda. The president needs to be out and about in the district seeing what’s happening. And to be prepared to attend and give speeches at community events…including the graduation ceremonies, and to put the district’s business high on their agenda. I think those are things we need to think about whoever the president is going to be.”

Householder was next to speak, asking questions about the history of the position.

“I was under…the idea that it was under a rotation basis,” she said.

Anello asked Gibson-Gray to share the background of the presidency.

“We have had board members take the position in two years, when the vice president may or may not have been ready,” she said. “Part of the problem is, too not everyone jumps up and says I want to be president or vice president. So, a lot of times it’s looking around and seeing who is best equipped and qualified for the position. It’s not an actual rotation. We have never set that kind of precedence.”

“Personally, it’s not my role to evaluate a board member for competency,” Gibson-Gray added. “It’s the voters. They should do that.”

Householder had some questions about the process and any bylaws, then was next to speak about the matter.

“It seems like we have a lot of things that are kind of like our practice,” she said. “But if we don’t actually have a policy around this, we’re going to keep coming into these issues over and over again.”

“I really take into consideration what Willie Mims said,” Householder stated. “It just concerns me that this is now, we have someone up for the…normal rotation based on the history of what we’ve done previously, who just so happens to be an African American female and again, we’re getting this huge resistance and this feeling,  a very intense tension and feeling that I have that we’re just doing the same thing, again. And I know we had a previous board member who was vice president who was slated to be president…did not end up becoming president and now we’re kind of in that situation again.”

“For me personally, going forward to avoid these issues I just think to avoid this in the future, where this is kind of something we’ve done in the past, it’s not something we have written down, it’s just this ambiguous thing and it leaves these questions and kind of muddies the waters going forward,” she continued. “So, I suggest that us as a board take a serious look at what our policies are…for electing the president… so that we don’t come into this tension again, going forward. Because it seems like we have this historical thing that keeps going on and then when it comes to African American women who are going to take this leadership position, all of a sudden, it’s ‘no, we don’t actually go by this historical precedent it should be by their qualifications’. So, it doesn’t seem like there’s a fair standard that’s being put…it seems pretty obvious to me that there are some issues.”

Gibson-Gray explained her reasons for not voting for Vinson the last time the board voted for board president.

“When you censure a vice president, I don’t think the next year it’s appropriate to vote them into office,” she said. “But that was a one-off. We have not had that one before.” (See related article).

Householder then made a motion to appoint Sawyer-White, saying “because I believe this person needs to be given the opportunity to reach her potential.” Sawyer-White seconded the motion.

Before the vote was finalized, Gibson-Gray asked to say something.

“While I respect the rotation process, I have concerns that Crystal has not learned enough about Roberts Rules of Order, Brown Act. I think there’s some education that can happen. So, I will be voting ‘no’,” she stated. “I’m sorry. But it’s been a challenge.”

Sawyer-White responded, emotionally saying, “Either way, this has just been a rough two years and I’m disappointed. I really am.”

“So, I don’t need you doing that, alright?” addressing Gibson-Gray. “I support the community, as a whole. My daughter graduated from Deer Valley. I attended many PBIS meetings. This is not easy. It’s not a salaried paid position. You volunteer. I’ve studied many hours. But I had a feeling this was going to happen. So, I just want to publicly say this, I’m not surprised. The Brown Act training, you only need to attend that, once. In the beginning I asked about training and you nominated me, Board Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray, to be vice president because you said I attended training. So, I’m not understanding that.”

“I befriended some friends from other districts and we’re not moving forward as a district, whether I’m here, or not,” Sawyer-White continued. “And I’ve encouraged other parents to observe and view what’s going on here. Even some of the other leaders in other cities. It’s just mindboggling that we’re not moving forward.”

“The role of the president, I understand it,” she stated. “But the next person who is president has to be a little more open minded to what’s going on in the 21st Century. We’re moving forward as a district for the kids’ sake. What they’re addressing, charter schools, declining enrollment. This is a problem. I’m not all for charter schools. But there is an issue with Antioch Unified School District. I just hope the next person will realize that and we can’t move forward if…the president is not going to move forward.”

Gibson-Gray then said, “I’m going to nominate you for vice president, again.”

“Oh, no. I decline. I decline. I decline,” responded Sawyer-White.

Gibson-Gray continued saying, “The reason is, last month you said you hadn’t had Brown Act training, so you couldn’t run a meeting. Then as we saw this evening it’s Roberts Rules of Order. It’s not easy to sit in that seat and I would like you to have more opportunity to learn how to run a meeting before we put you there. I don’t think it’s fair. You have attended trainings you have tried to learn. But, until you sit in that seat and run meetings, it’s difficult.

“I’ve been there three times,” she continued. “I didn’t want to be president for three years, and finally I was forced into it. I just think you have a little more…that you need to learn about the meeting format, running it, etc.”

“That’s basically just nerves,” Sawyer-White responded. “I don’t even eat dinner when I come here. It’s just been so nerve wracking, out of the norm to come to these meetings. If you don’t have the support of the community and your kids attended and graduated. I’m just not understanding. Two kids in the district. I work. I’ve attended concerts based on my schedule and availability. But I would change my schedule to meet the needs of the presidency. I would like also more protocols for this particular candidacy. We’re backwards. We’re just so backwards. We don’t have protocols for certain things to address the kids of the district.”

“Well, I just want you to be successful. So, that’s why I’m going the way I am,” Gibson-Gray replied. “It’s difficult to run public meetings, to speak in public. I get nervous, too. I just thought you could use a little more time to…”

Sawyer-White cut her off, saying “You don’t need those qualifications to be president and that doesn’t specify that in the board bylaws at all. I think my background and even Ellie, her background involved in education. I’ve worked in non-profit, I’ve worked with the juvenile system. Teachers have reached out to me, and I haven’t mentioned their names, there’s some concerns, here.”

Householder then said, “I do agree that…this is a very important role. Until you’ve sat up here, it can be very nerve-wracking up here and I just really think unless we have some protocols and procedures of what we’re supposed to do, that we should follow the historic precedent.”

“I just haven’t heard these kinds of concerns raised about other members,” she continued. “I just feel that everybody should be given the opportunity to learn. Crystal Sawyer-White is coming into her third year of serving and so why not give her a chance to blossom into the role and be a leader for our population of students who’s primarily students of color. That’s just a reality of that we’re living in, now and I would like to see leadership and see us giving people of color the opportunity to be leaders in this community. She might not be the most perfect…she might not know everything down to the letter of exactly how it’s supposed to be. But her and I both haven’t been serving since, you know, the 70’s. No offense to anybody (to laughter from the audience). I’m just saying you gotta be given the opportunity to come into that role. And sometimes you can’t learn unless you just do. And I was told for years, and especially this past election cycle that I shouldn’t do it because I didn’t have the experience and I didn’t know this, and I didn’t know that. But, guess what the people elected me, and the people elected Crystal, as well.”

“So, I just think we just need to give everyone a fair shake. It’s a year and I think we should be coming together to support her or to support anybody who is going to be the president and vice president. If we want to do something different then let’s write a policy about it. I’m just going based on historical precedent and it just seems to me that it’s fair…and I don’t want there to be tension, either. You know I want it to be like kumbaya,” Householder concluded.

With no more comments from the board members, the vote failed on a 2-2-1 vote. Hack said, “Abstain. It’s a cop-out. I know.” He then immediately changed his vote by saying, “no”.

Gibson-Gray then made a motion that Hack “retain the seat.”

The motion passed on a 4-1 vote, with Sawyer-White voting against.

“Alright. That was painful,” Hack said.

The board then took a break, Sawyer-White left the meeting and did not return. To view the recording of the meeting visit the district’s YouTube page.



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New Antioch School Board members Rocha, Householder ceremonially sworn in Wednesday night, Rocha twice

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

New Trustee Ellie Householder is given her ceremonial oath of office by Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

Chooses former Antioch Councilman Tiscareno for Personnel Commission

New trustee Mary Rocha during her first ceremonial oath of office administered by her son and Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha, Jr.

By Allen Payton

At their meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, the Antioch School Board welcomed two new members elected in November, Mary Rocha and Ellie Householder. Both held ceremonial oaths of office in front of the audience inside the Lone Tree Elementary School auditorium, as they had each been sworn in as new members previously, so they could participate in a closed session meeting earlier that evening.

Householder was first to take her ceremonial oath, with Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe swearing her in. She then introduced her family who was in attendance.

“My mother flew all the way from Arizona to be here tonight,” she said.

Former Antioch mayor, councilwoman and school board trustee Rocha held two ceremonies. First, with her son Louie Rocha, Jr., the principal of Antioch High School, administering her oath. She said she had asked State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to swear her in, but he was late. When he showed up a few minutes later, Rocha had him give her the oath, again.

Following Rocha’s second ceremony, Torlakson said, “yay, you’re in again.”

Rocha taking her second ceremonial oath of office, this time administered by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Rocha introduced the rest of her family, including her husband Louie, Sr.  She mentioned her “40 years of friendship and working together” with Tom Torlakson.

Each new trustee was then seated on the dais and given the opportunity to speak

“I’m really excited about moving forward,” said Householder. “There’s a lot of positive momentum from the election.”

Rocha asked her family members to stand and thanked them, getting choked up as she spoke.

“I just want to thank everyone of you because each of you have done something special for me,” she said.

“This time I’m excited. I have three grandchildren going to school and my son who has never graduated,” Rocha added to laughter from the audience. “I will do my best for all of you. We will have disagreements, but it doesn’t mean we don’t care about each other.”

New Antioch School Board Trustee Ellie Householder takes her official oath of office administered by Antioch Councilman Lamar Thorpe, as her parents Dave Householder and Karen Matty, and Antioch Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts, second from left, look on, at the Round Table Pizza restaurant, early Wednesday evening, Dec. 13, 2018.

Tiscareno Chosen for Personnel Commission

The new board’s first major issue was to appoint a replacement for Rocha, who resigned on Dec. 7 following her election to the school board. Three people applied, including former Antioch Councilman Tony Tiscareno who lost for reelection in November, and Shagoofa Khan and Dr. Clyde Lewis, Jr. who were unsuccessful candidates for school board, also in the November election.

Khan did not show up for the public interview, so only Tiscareno and Lewis the question and answer process.

At the conclusion, the board voted 4-1, with Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White opposing, and Tiscareno was announced as the choice for the commission. However, a public hearing must be held in January, which was scheduled for the board meeting on the 23rd, “to provide the public, employees, and employee organizations the opportunity to express their views on the qualifications of the person recommended by the Board of Trustees for appointment. The Board at that time may make its appointment or may make a substitute appointment without further notification or public hearing. If the Board is unable to agree upon an appointment within thirty (30) days after the notification of the vacancy, the appointment to fill the unexpired term shall be made by the Superintendent of Public Instruction within thirty (30) days.”

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Antioch High hosts 4th annual Warm for the Holidays, collecting jackets for students in need

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018


Antioch High School is hosting its 4th annual Warm for the Holidays, which gives new books, toys, jackets and food to students in need. It’s a wonderful event. Every year, they help about 500 families. This year they’re in big need of jackets and hoodies for their big holiday giveaway to students in need. New and gently used goods can be dropped off at Antioch High School, 700 W. 18th Street, this week.

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Writer says public school alternative programs take time to succeed

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Dear Editor:

After attending a few board meetings, it has become more apparent that the parents who want charter schools simply want options for their students to learn. Unfortunately, some people may not realize that when you change something it takes time because there is no instant switch that automatically changes something.

The people in favor of charter schools don’t take the time to realize what the public schools have to offer. Plus, the reason so many charter schools probably fail is because they don’t take time to put together these programs like the public schools do.

While attending these meetings, I have noticed that these people who are in favor of the charter schools attend the meetings to get their public comment out there. While this is all fine and dandy, it did not seem to me that many of them stayed long enough to hear the options that AUSD is trying to put in place. Also, these options take time because, remember there is no instant switch to make these options happen. Just like with the academies at the high school level, they did not just roll out overnight. These academies took time to roll out at the high school level, like years to become the greatness that they are. Now, because of the successful implementation of these options, oh, I meant academies, there is starting to be more options at the middle school level for students to take classes that give them options to learn.

I know a lot of parents want their students to learn how to code or learn other skills, but those programs take time to develop and these programs also take time to implement. Also, what parents may not realize is that there is this thing called expanded learning and during LCAP meetings (which all parents who want to know what’s going on should be involved in) there was a large discussion on what should we offer our AUSD students for expanded learning. Coding, engineering related skills, and other computer skills were mentioned; but what was not mentioned was anything about charter schools. Parents that want to give their students a different learning opportunity should get involved in PTSA or LCAP, which help and support all students and takes in ideas on how to improve learning and the betterment of all students.

Also, after being lied to once and then your director not knowing what he was talking about I would be skeptical about wanting to send my child to this school.

Deanna Rundall


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Applications for Antioch School Board appointment to Personnel Commission due Dec. 5

Monday, November 26th, 2018

The Antioch Unified School District Board of Trustees is accepting applications for appointment to the District’s Personnel Commission, Unexpired term 2/13/19-12/1/20.

Must be a registered voter, live in AUSD boundary, adherent to Merit System principles, qualified to hold CA public office, not employee of AUSD or any governing board.

Application & Packet: Click Here

Or stop by Personnel Commission

510 G Street, Antioch, CA 94509, (925) 779-7500 x55500

Due: 12/5/2018


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Contra Costa community colleges will remain closed until Monday, Nov. 26

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

By Timothy Leong, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa Community College District

The Contra Costa Community College District (District) has decided to close all College and District operations on Tuesday, November 20th and Wednesday, November 21st. due to ongoing poor air quality.  The District Office and Colleges (Contra Costa, Diablo Valley, San Ramon Campus, Los Medanos, and Brentwood Center) will resume regular operations on Monday, November 26th.

While the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is forecasting improved but fluctuating air quality over the next few days, the District has decided to err on the side of health concerns of its students and staff.  The District has been closed since Thursday, November 15, 3:00 p.m., due to very unhealthy air quality in Contra Costa County.

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Contra Costa community colleges to remain closed on Monday due to poor air quality

Monday, November 19th, 2018

By Timothy Leung, Public Information Officer, Contra Costa Community College District

Due to the ongoing and unpredictable poor air quality we are experiencing throughout Contra Costa County, the Contra Costa Community College District has decided to close all locations  – Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, Brentwood Center, San Ramon Campus and District Office on Monday, November 19, 2018. We hope to re-open Tuesday, but will make a final decision by 3:00 PM on Monday.

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