Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Gov signs Frazier bill helping youth recognize early warning signs of domestic abuse

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

Adds instruction on adolescent relationship abuse and intimate partner violence to sexual health education

SACRAMENTO – Middle and high school students in California public schools will receive education on how to spot the early warning signs of abusive relationships under a bill authored by Assemblymember Jim Frazier (D-Discovery Bay) that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Saturday.

Frazier’s bill, AB 643, adds instruction on how to recognize early warning signs of adolescent relationship abuse and intimate partner violence to sexual health education at California public schools, for grades 7-12.

“Domestic violence invariably leads to tragedy – broken families, long periods of incarceration and far too often homicide,” Frazier said. “It leaves untold suffering in its aftermath. It consumes law enforcement and other emergency resources. AB 643 gives our children the knowledge they need to help stop this destructive behavior before it becomes tragic. I thank the governor for recognizing the importance of this early education and its potential to prevent future suffering.”

Frazier authored AB 643 after a constituent, Sonia McClellin, came forward to relate the story of her sister’s murder at age 24 by an abusive boyfriend. Ms. McClellin asked Frazier to find a way to help educate youth to recognize the type of behavior that led to the tragedy that took her sister’s life.

“On behalf of my sister Deborah and my entire family, I would like to thank Assemblymember Frazier and his staff, who tirelessly saw this process through to the end,” McClellin said. “If any good can come of my sister’s tragic death, it would be that we now having something in place to educate our youth in an effort to prevent domestic violence from happening in the first place.”

Assemblymember Frazier represents the 11th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Antioch, Bethel Island, Birds Landing, Brentwood, Byron, Collinsville, Discovery Bay, Fairfield, Isleton, Knightsen, Locke, Oakley, Pittsburg (partial), Rio Vista, Suisun City, Travis AFB, Vacaville and Walnut Grove.

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Following long, contentious meeting Antioch School Board censures, disciplines Trustee Vinson

Wednesday, September 27th, 2017

Lasts until the end of the school year; claims of retaliation, racism made

By Allen Payton

During a four-hour Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday night, Sept. 13, the members held three split votes on the censure and discipline of Board Vice President and fellow Trustee Debra Vinson for allegations of bullying and intimidating staff members, earlier this year. Each item passed 3-2 with Board President Walter Ruehlig and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Gary Hack voting in favor, while Vinson and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White voted no.

The first vote was for a letter to Vinson from Ruehlig directing her to communicate only through Superintendent Stephanie Anello. The draft letter limited that to six months. However, the final vote makes it last through the end of the school year, next June. Following is the draft of the letter:

“September 14, 2017

By U.S. Mail & E-mail:

Trustee Debra Vinson

Antioch Unified School District

510 G Street

Antioch, CA 94509

Re:       Directive Following Findings of Employee Complaints

Dear Ms. Vinson:

As you know, last month the Antioch Unified School District (“District”) completed its factual investigation into a complaint filed against you by two District employees and provided you with an executive summary of the findings prepared by the District’s independent investigator, Deborah Maddux.  Ms. Maddux’s investigation found that you engaged in intimidating conduct towards the two District employees, that you improperly attempted to exercise administrative responsibility and command over the services of the two District employees, and that you used your position to pressure the two District employees into making a decision that was contrary to Board Policy.

Based on Ms. Maddux’s investigative findings, you are hereby directed, effective immediately, to refrain from communicating directly with District Office and site-level administrators, other than the Superintendent, regarding District business for the next six months.  Should you require information from the District in your capacity as Board member, please direct your inquiries or requests for information to the Superintendent, who will communicate with the necessary staff members to get you information in response to any appropriate inquiry in a timely manner.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Walter Ruehlig

Board President”

The second vote was for a letter sent to all administrators at the schools and the district office that they are not obligated to communicate with her, either. The draft of the letter also contained a limit of six months, was extended to the end of the current school year, as well. Following is the letter:

“September 14, 2017

By E-mail

District Office and School Site Administrators

Antioch Unified School District

510 G Street

Antioch, CA 94509

Re:       Communications from Board Member Debra Vinson

Dear Administrators:

Last month the Antioch Unified School District (“District”) completed a factual investigation into a complaint filed against Board Vice-President, Debra Vinson, by two District employees.

Based on the findings of the District’s investigation, Ms. Vinson has been directed, effective immediately, to refrain from communicating directly with site-level and District Office administrators, other than the Superintendent, regarding District business for the next six months.  In the event that you receive any direct inquiries from Ms. Vinson within the next six months, please forward them to the Superintendent, who will respond to Ms. Vinson.  You are not obligated to respond directly to Ms. Vinson or provide her with any information.

Please let me know if you have any questions.


Walter Ruehlig

Board President”

The third action was the actual censure of Vinson, in which it states, “That the Board does hereby censure, disavow and formally express its disapproval of Trustee Vinson’s conduct” and “direct Trustee Vinson to comply with state law, Board Policy, Regulations, and Bylaws; and cease and desist from engaging in intimidation of District employees, commanding the service of District employees, and/or exercising excessive administrative responsibility.”

The resolution also states that a “censure by a public body is a collective judgment of stern condemnation of one of its members for behaviors or actions that violate laws or policies” and that “it is a formal public act of disapproval of a member’s unacceptable conduct.”

The resolution also offers the board’s reasons for taking the action. Those reasons are based on two parts of the Board Bylaws, numbers 9005 and 9200:

“Board Bylaw 9005 states that ‘to maximize Board effectiveness and public confidence in District governance, Board members are expected to govern responsibly and hold themselves to the highest standards of ethical conduct.’ Board Bylaw 9005 also sets forth…standards for ‘building unity and creating a positive organizational culture’…and “Board Bylaw 9200 states that ‘Board trustees shall hold the education of students above any partisan principle, group interest, or personal interest,’ and ‘individual members of the Board shall not exercise any administrative responsibility with respect to the schools or command the services of any school employee,’” as well as Board Bylaw 9000 and Police 4119.21, for which the resolution didn’t provide details.

The board determined that “the investigator made the following findings: Trustee Vinson engaged in intimidating conduct towards two District employees; Trustee Vinson improperly attempted to exercise administrative responsibility and commanded the services of two District employees; and Trustee Vinson used her position to pressure two District employees into making a decision that was contrary to Board Policy; and Trustee Vinson’s behavior towards the District employees and her conduct during the subsequent investigation exceeded her role and influence as a Board member; and “Trustee Vinson’s coercive behavior, language, and conduct toward District employees fail to meet the professional standards for an elected representative or the minimum standards expected of any District employee or trustee, and violated District Policies and Board Bylaws, including Board Bylaws 9000, 9005, 9200 and Board Policy 4119.21.”

Vinson Denies Intimidation, Opposes Board Actions

In a statement given during the previous board meeting on August 23, Vinson denied her actions were intimidating. (See related article) During Wednesday’s meeting, she denounced the actions as possibly retaliation and racism. Vinson is the black and the three trustees who voted to discipline and censure her are white.

Sawyer-White called the actions illegal stating the censure resolution referred to board policies that don’t exist.

Please check later today for more details including comments by the public and board members.


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

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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Contra Costa teens targeted in large-scale voter registration effort

Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

25 high schools to hold registration drives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each kit contains:

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

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Pagano, CEO

Antioch Chamber of Commerce

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Americans are poorly informed about basic constitutional provisions

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

Constitution Day is September 17 – Take the Preamble Challenge

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

The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey finds that:

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

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

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

Illegal immigration and constitutional rights

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

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

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

What does the First Amendment say? 

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

The First Amendment reads:

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

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

Many don’t know the branches of government 

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

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

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

Constitution Day and the Civics Renewal Network

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 11th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

Michelle Obama. From her Twitter account

By Allen Payton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please check back later for any updates.

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