Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

County Office of Education to manage county’s EdTV Channel

Thursday, December 28th, 2017

CCCOE to partner with Contra Costa County in expanding community access television programming focused on local education

The Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) announced Wednesday that the agency will begin to coordinate local education programming for the Contra Costa County Education Channel, EdTV. CCCOE, with support from Contra Costa Television (CCTV), will be providing more access of quality, local pre-K through College educational programming to residents, students, educators and stakeholders in Contra Costa County.

“We are extremely excited to begin promoting education in Contra Costa County through the power of community access television,” said Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. “This partnership with the County will enable us to provide a voice and a forum to students, schools, school districts and higher education in our County so they can effectively tell their stories through video.”

EdTV, an Educational Access channel, is a basic cable TV service on Comcast Channel 32 and AT&T U-verse Channel 99, and is available throughout most of Contra Costa County. Currently, EdTV is unavailable to cable subscribers in San Ramon as well as WAVE subscribers. EdTV is one of a handful of PEG (Public, Education and Government) Access Channels that operate in Contra Costa County. All of these channels are carried in Standard Definition. Contra Costa Television (CCTV) currently manages five PEG channels. Online streaming of EdTV and availability of online video on demand will also be explored.

“Contra Costa County is home to nearly 400 K-12 public and private schools, 18 school districts, as well as several institutions of higher education, said Terry Koehne, Chief Communications Officer for the Contra Costa County Office of Education. “Each of these local education agencies would have the ability to publish unique, locally produced content and bulletin board material to EdTV, thus providing direct access to a majority of Contra Costa County residents and businesses; that is our goal.”

The role of the County Office of Education will be to work in collaboration with CCTV to direct the overall content and programming schedule for the channel, approve video and bulletin board content through the development of content submission guidelines, and promote EdTV using all communication tools available.

“It is a natural fit for the County Office of Education to take on this role,” said Chris Verdugo, Interim Director of Communications and Media for Contra Costa County. “We look forward to more quality content that promotes and impacts our local education communities.”

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Antioch School District to face three years of deficits, Vinson gets consolation appointment, laptops approved for trustees

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Visitors to the AUSD Offices are greeted with Christmas window decorations as part of a challenge by Superintendent Stephanie Anello to other government buildings located in Rivertown, and other district schools to do the same. Photos by AUSD

By Robbie Pierce

The main focus during the Dec. 13 Antioch Board of Education meeting was the election of the President and Vice President, however several other items were discussed by the board that night. Colorful and festive Christmas decorations created by local schoolchildren adorned the district office as deliberations went on. It included the mid-year budget report showing the district will face “manageable” deficits for the next three years.

In addition, Christine Ibarra, the new Associate Superintendent, was welcomed to her position by Superintendent Stephanie Anello during her report, in which she also congratulated music students and teachers for their recent “amazing concerts”, noting that the Board’s efforts to improve music education “really paid off.”

Martin Luther King Day Events & Essay Contest Announced

No student delegates offered reports due to finals, however three individuals spoke during public comments. Velma Wilson stepped up to congratulate Ibarra for her “passion” as well as to formally invite the trustees to and make a general announcement about a Dr. Martin Luther King Day event being held Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 by the AUSD and the City of Antioch at 1:00 p.m. at Deer Valley High School. The theme of the event is “The Power of One, the Strength of Many: Building a Better Community” and will feature local student skits and artwork as well as a middle and high school level essay contest, with the deadline for student work – which can be submitted at the district office or electronically – being Jan. 8. She also made announcements for an NAACP Prayer Breakfast the same day at 8:00 a.m. at Martin Luther King Junior High School.

Concerned Parents

Nina Yellama and Laurie Holly both spoke about two unrelated incidents regarding mismanagement of their children’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Yellama told of her experience of having to fight unrelentingly for her child to be taught with the rest of the class when not receiving specifically individual instruction. She asked the Board to consider changing some policies to make inclusion for children with IEDs easier and more of a goal.

Holly spoke about issues with her child’s required Occupational Therapy (OT) sessions, which they were not receiving due to understaffing problems. Furthermore, not only was her child not receiving as many sessions as they were supposed to, she was not even being informed of this fact. To make manners more complicated, a friend of hers who faced a similar issue was informed of it and given a resolution immediately. She asked the Board to investigate the therapist staffing issue in schools and try to find a solution to the problem.

Board Approves Various Contracts

Of the Consent Items, 11.P, the board split on approving a $195,000 “Master Contract with Bayes Achievement Center” regarding legally required services, including a residential nonpublic school placement and associated transportation costs, for a transfer student’s IEP. It was pulled for a separate vote, where it later passed without much discussion or issue with a vote of 4-1, with trustee Gibson-Gray voting no as she would have preferred more time to examine it.

The remaining 22 items were passed with a 5-0 vote after some minimal questioning about the following items: Item 11.J, a change order consisting of a near $50,000 increase to the projected cost for a project involving the “Modernization of Classroom Wing 1100 at Antioch High School” due to unforeseen issues such as bad plumbing as explained by an official on the project.

UC Davis Math, UC Berkeley Science Teacher Training

Also approved under Item 11.Q, was a contract for a professional development program for math teachers with the University of California, Davis.

“[Math is] definitely going to be an area of focus for us,” Ibarra said of the program, discussing the district’s recent problems, including low test scores in math and English.

Vice President Vinson stressed a desire to make sure the district is “getting our bang for our money” with the program, and that it will provide relevant information and techniques that teachers can actually use and apply, “not training just for training.”

“We have to find out what’s really going to work for our teachers,” she stated.

Anello pledged to gather and forward links for the contract and data relevant to it, such as the test scores of students who were enrolled in classes impacted by similar training programs.

The board also approved an agreement with the U.C. Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science to provide professional development training for district science teachers, focused on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

District Finances & Budget Report

The board also heard the First Interim Report on district finances and the budget, which showed, among other things, that the district expenditures were actually lower than originally projected. The report also included a multi-year projection for the district’s finances over the next two school years, predicting that the district will see a 4% increase in CalSTRS spending and a 5% increase in CalPERS spending, both forms of employee benefit, as well as a general reduction in teacher expenses due to factors such as contract expiration between now and 2020. The report also predicted that revenue would increase despite lower enrollment due to state-level government budgeting shake-ups.

The most notable part of the report was the prediction that the district will engage in three school years of deficit spending due to voluntary choices and programs, though an official tied to the report described it as being at a “manageable” level, with the district’s fund balance reducing from $16.5 million now to $12.6 million at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Vinson stated that she appreciated the inclusion of the ending balance numbers, and Gibson-Gray remarked that the deficit spending was not an issue for her as “if we have money, I’d rather spend it than save it.”

The board eventually gave the district a Positive certification, meaning that, in their eyes, the district will be able to meet financial obligations for the current as well as the next two fiscal years, by a vote of 4-1. Vinson voted no, stating that she “just [needed] more time to look at it.” (Please see the forms the district is required to submit to the state, here.)

Vinson Appointed as Liaison to County School Board

Aside from the tumultuous President and Vice President elections previously covered by the Herald, Gibson-Gray and Vinson were elected unanimously to the positions of “Board Representative to CFD (Community Facilities District) 89-1” also known as the Mello-Roos District, and “Board Member Liaison to Contra Costa County School Boards” respectively.

Laptops Approved for Board Members

The last major items were discussion on providing laptops for board members and creating a new nutrition program for the next school year, with both topics raised by Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White. The former was approved via consensus after an overview of the implications, with board members allowed to check out the same laptops they had in front of them at the meeting for take-home use, though strictly for business purposes only and with the taker of the laptop personally liable if it is lost or damaged. Trustees would not be allowed to install any programs on the laptops, however full suites of Microsoft Office would be provided, as well as email services.

Creation of Healthier Nutrition Program Discussed

For the latter, the board discussed creating a new contract with Revolutionary Foods to create a new nutrition program that would be healthier and less expensive than the current one – according to Sawyer-White, the San Francisco Unified School District saved money when they switched to a contract with Revolutionary Foods. No immediate action was taken, however Anello volunteered to provide several reports on the current program to aid any future deliberation.

11 Schools Pass Annual Williams Site Visits

The Board approved the annual Williams Settlement Site Visits Report, in which the 11 district schools visited were found compliant with standards for academic sufficiency. According to the staff report, at the beginning of each school year, the Contra Costa County Office of Education visits all schools within the County that rank in deciles 1 to 3 on the Academic Performance Index.

The visits are to determine the sufficiency of standards-aligned instructional materials in all four core subject areas; that there are no facility conditions that post an emergency or urgent threat to the health or safety of pupils or staff; and to ensure that accurate data is provided on the school’s accountability report card related to instructional materials and facilities.

According to the ACLU website, Eliezer Williams, et al., vs. State of California, et al. “was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the State of California because of the terrible conditions in many of its public schools. Parents, students, and teachers argued that the State failed to provide thousands of public school students, particularly those in low-income communities and communities of color, with the basic necessities required for an education.

They argued that the State’s failure to provide these bare minimum necessities to all public school students in California violated the state constitution, as well as state and federal requirements that all students be given equal access to public education without regard to race, color, or national origin.”

The case was settled in 2004 and as a result five bills were passed to implement the terms of the settlement known as the “Williams Settlement Legislation” and included an increase of almost $1 billion in state education spending.

The following district schools were visited in August and found to be in compliance: Belshaw, Fremont, Jack London, Kimball, Marsh, Mission and Turner Elementary; Antioch Middle and Park Middle, and Antioch and Prospects High Schools.

Revise Board Development Policy

In final action, a revision to the Board Policy 9240 for Board Development strongly encouraging that every member of the board attends at least one training conference annually, with costs covered by the district, was passed by consensus after brief debate. The maximum expenditure agreed to earlier this year is $3,000 per trustee. It was the fourth time the policy was on the agenda and discussed by the Board over the past year.

President Walter Ruehlig ended the meeting by wishing everyone in the district a “blessed holiday season.” The next school board meetings will be held Jan. 24 and Feb. 21.

To read the entire Board Meeting Agenda for Dec. 13, click here. To hear the audio of the meeting, please visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Antioch School Board Trustee Ruehlig compliments school concerts, music programs

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Deer Valley High School recently held its Jazz Ensemble during which members of their instrumental music groups performed. Photo by AUSD – See more photos of the various school concerts on the district’s Facebook page.

Dear Editor:

This holiday season brings the usual cheer, but adds a personal festive exclamation point with the local bounty of school concerts.  I was personally privileged to attend the Black Diamond Middle, Antioch and Deer Valley High Schools and Dozier Libbey Medical School combined concert and the Park Middle Schools performance. We had heard about the overflowing 1,300 students at elementary schools taking band but now we tasted the fruit of that pipeline.

We’re in our third year with music alive and well in the AUSD and are reaping benefits in more ways than one.  As might be expected, motivation took a hit when the heart and sound that can soften the daily grind was taken from the schools to save dollars and allow doubling down on core subjects. Granted, reading and math remain fundamental, but face it, for many kids, music or sports are the sole connection and engagement keeping them from truancy.

Aside, though, from increased attendance and GPA, we’ve noticed that, in and of itself, music is aiding academics as a sort of super brain food, bringing a plethora of values.  No surprise to us music lovers as poll any group of physicians or engineers and you will find that an amazing number of these hi-achievers had studied music in their formative years.

You see, in one sense music is pure math. Understanding beat, rhythm and scales helps children learn how to divide, create fractions and recognize patterns.  It sharpens special, temporal skills associated with math comprehension.   Essentially, then, music is a sort of hard wiring for all kinds of basic and advanced math.

Studying music also instills short and long-term memory aides by using mnemonic devices.  It also physically develops the left side of the brain, the part involved in language acquisition.

Music employs multiple skill sets, exercising eyes and ears and both larger and smaller muscle sets. Certain instruments, like percussion, develop timing, coordination, motor skills and ambidexterity. Call it sports in a chair.

Good news moms and dad; a 2007 study by Christopher Johnson at the University of Texas showed students in elementary schools having superior musical programs scored 22% higher on standardized English tests.

So-called soft skills, cited by employers as invaluable workplace skills, also mature. Musical student attendance is cumulatively higher and discipline rates less. Poise under pressure and accepting and giving constructive criticism also benefit. The habits of discipline, perseverance and the ability to demonstrate deferred gratification also develop.

Musical students learn teamwork and collaboration in group performance, and how to patiently wait their turn and respectfully listen to others.  They also broaden horizons as they are introduced to various genres, styles and cultures.

We might ask, how, then, does our child pick a chosen instrument?  Treat it like a petting zoo and let your child explore for the right sound, feel and temperamental fit. Make sure the challenge is appropriate, the price affordable, and that you, the parent, can live for endless hours without going crazy over home practice of that instrument. Drums, after all, may not fit us all.

Thankfully, with School Board support, and LCAP funding, we have welcomed back the spiritual soundtrack of our lives.  The enrichment surely can’t hurt our kids and our collective humanity. It’s an opportunity to celebrate as we affirm Frederick Nietzsche’s charge that “without music, life would be a mistake.”

Walter Ruehlig, Trustee, Antioch School Board

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A Charlie Brown Christmas free Family Bingo Night at Park Middle School tonight

Friday, December 15th, 2017

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Contentious Antioch School Board snubs Vinson for President, elects Hack on split vote instead

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Antioch School Board Trustee Debra Vinson. Herald file photo.

Due to censure, discipline earlier this year; possible lawsuit; board “needs a year to heal”; Sawyer-White unanimously elected VP

By Robbie Pierce

Many items – over three dozen in fact – were covered during the Wednesday, Dec. 13 meeting of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education. But one of paramount focus, importance and contention was the election of the President and Vice President of the Board. It resulted in a contentious, split vote of 3-2, with the board majority bypassing Vice President Debra Vinson and instead electing Trustee Gary Hack as the new President of the Board for the coming year. However, Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, the top vote-getter in last year’s election was elected Vice President on a unanimous, 5-0 vote.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about this,” stated Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray, speaking first on Item 12.B, the President’s election. “We need somebody that will help to bring consensus to the board.”

New AUSD Board President Gary Hack. Photo from AUSD website.

Gibson-Gray went on to nominate Trustee Gary Hack, citing his experience and the fact that he has served as Vice President but never President. President Walter Ruehlig seconded her motion, but the item was opened to public comment before they could vote on the nomination. The speakers were supposed to speak before the board when the item was first brought up, but were skipped initially due to a clerical error.

Jeff Belle, Contra Costa County Board of Education trustee and Vice President, spoke first, about history, precedent and inclusion.

“History has been very kind to us, and also has been very unkind to a lot of us in different ways,” he began. “Do keep in mind that history is very important in terms of precedent… tonight, just for the record, the Contra Costa County Board of Education voted two African-Americans to lead as President and Vice President.” According to Belle, the vote he described marks the first time the Contra Costa County Board of Education has appointed an African-American to either of those positions.

“We know there are individuals who are qualified to lead the board,” he continued. “It would be my pleasure to see individuals who are qualified, of color, to lead boards, and that was not even a tough discussion with the county tonight… I hope we will see the same thing here… We know that Antioch really needs it.”

Antioch resident Velma Wilson spoke next, describing that she came before the board as “a community member and… as a parent in this district, a very active parent with two students in this district.” However, Wilson also stated that despite her community and familial ties, she was “talking on behalf of Velma Wilson.”

“As an African-American mom I can’t sit idle and say that I am pleased with the representation. The color of our skin does not determine our skill set,” she stated. “The color of our skin doesn’t determine how well we form and how well we advocate for the needs of everybody, collaboratively, collectively, not [divisively] for our students.”

Wilson stated that she would be glad to see upward movement for Hack, but pointed out to the board that “we have to be fair, and we cannot make a decision based on one’s skin color… we need to make a decision based on what’s going to be best for everyone, collectively.”

The focus then shifted back to the board’s own internal discussion, in which Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White stated she was “not in agreement with the motion” of Hack’s nomination, and motioned to postpone the election, expressing her agreement with the public commenters and support for electing Vice President Debra Vinson to the presidency.

“Two of the board trustees have attended governance training, the other three have not… It is not about race, it’s about qualifications,” she expressed. “How many years’ experience have you actually taught in the system? Your educational background, your credentials… I think Debra Vinson is qualified to be Board President.”

Vinson spoke next, explaining a “system” that has been followed for some time in the district in which the current Vice President, if they have not previously served as President, is elected ceremonially to give them the opportunity to serve.

“I’d really like to see this board do something that is equitable and fair,” she stated, highlighting the need for inclusion and collaboration. “It’s important that we practice what we say and that we say what we mean… I look forward to this board making an equitable decision, following the process that we’ve always followed… to move this district forward positively and in a manner that’s going to work for all staff.”

The board’s deliberation was interrupted by one final public commenter, Odessa L., who questioned “why would we change the direction of things we’ve always done in the past” in regards to Gibson-Gray not nominating the sitting Vice President.

“I want trustee Gray to explain to me and to the residents of Antioch… why would we deter from [the old process].”

“I was going to do that, and I’d be happy to do that,” Gibson-Gray responded immediately after discussions shifted back to the board.

“In the history of Antioch… for as far back as I remember when I lived here, we’ve never had a censured Vice President,” Gibson-Gray explained. While there is a ‘system’ in place to nominate the sitting Vice President for the position of President automatically, Vinson is a unique situation, having been formally censured by a majority of the board earlier this year “for allegations of bullying and intimidating staff members” according to a Herald article from earlier this year.

“That is my reason for not going with Vice President Vinson,” Gibson-Gray stated firmly. “You can’t do one thing and then say, ‘oh, by the way, it’s ok, we’re going to make you president.’ Perhaps next year, but there has to be a lesson learned here.”

Possible Lawsuit

The explanation did not resolve the situation however, as Sawyer-White mentioned that she consulted an attorney about the censure and remarked that “this is going to end up being a lawsuit.”

Vinson is an elected official, not a hired district employee, and thus according to Sawyer-White’s research and claims, “the [censure] is non-valid… based on the board by-laws… she cannot be censured.” Sawyer-White also pointed out that Gibson-Gray’s comment of ‘perhaps next year’ is null and void as this is Vinson’s last year serving on the Board.

“What is your reason, aside from the censure-ship, that [Vinson] is not qualified for this position?” Sawyer-White asked Gibson-Gray.

“I feel that trustee Hack would be a better President,” Gibson-Gray began. “The censure is a big one for me.” She paused briefly before going on to accuse Vinson of calling her “racist” and of being “not nice to staff”, stating that the board needs “a year to heal” with Hack as president.

“I need to respond, I’m sorry, I can’t leave those comments out like that,” Vinson said, overstepping President Ruehlig’s attempt to call a vote on the motion of nominating Hack.

“I’m going to be quite frank with you,” Vinson said toward Gibson-Gray. “I have received numerous comments and postings from community members that have felt you present yourself as racist based on your comments and based off your actions.”

Vinson Defends Herself

Vinson pointed out that Gibson-Gray denied several of Vinson’s invitations to get coffee, which Vinson hoped to use as opportunities to pass along that information to Gibson-Gray. Vinson also alleged that Gibson-Gray previously pledged to support Vinson when it was her “time” to be president.

“It’s pretty clear that you’re not ready to keep your word based on false information of a censure,” Vinson stated. “This is not a game, this is about our children’s lives, this is about what’s at stake for the staff, and this is about practicing what we say we’re going to do to make this district a really positive and open district… it’s unfortunate that you’ve made it personal.” Vinson re-extended her invitation to coffee in hopes of working out some of her and Gibson-Gray’s apparent issues, noting that she’s only had coffee with one member, and went over some of her qualifications for the presidency and agreed with Sawyer-White’s notion that a lawsuit might be brewing.

“I really think that I am next in line to be Board President,” she stated in conclusion. “And I really would like to see this board follow through on that action.

“I apologize, I must have missed the invitation, I haven’t received it,” Gibson-Gray responded. “Regardless, I just feel that the behavior that led to the censure is a reason that I am nominating Gary Hack… unless there is further conversation, there is a motion on the table.”

The board eventually voted Hack to the presidency with a 3-2 vote, with Gibson-Gray, Ruehlig and Hack himself voting yes and Vinson and Sawyer-White voting no.

Sawyer-White Unanimously Elected VP

The election for Vice President was much less of an affair. Gibson-Gray again spoke first, mentioning that “Crystal Sawyer-White has indicated an interest to educate herself” and nominating her in order to give her “more opportunities to understand the processes.”

Encouraged by Hack and Vinson, Sawyer-White made a brief statement before accepting the nomination.

“I am about the kids for Antioch,” she stated. “I wish this board could be more cohesive… things need to change.” In reference to a training conference she recently attended, she mentioned “in Southern California, people are aware of what’s going on in this board, and I was really shocked that they feel that we’re not supporting one another.”

Sawyer-White pledged to be the “best leader [she] can be” and was elected by a 5-0 vote.

Vinson Congratulates New President, VP says “Vengeance belongs to God”

“Although I’m disappointed that this board failed to make an equitable decision, I will congratulate trustee Hack and trustee Sawyer-White,” Vinson commented. Ruehlig expressed a genuine desire for Vinson to be president next year, but Vinson restated that she will not be in office next year.

“That probably was a part of the design,” Vinson stated. “But I’m not really worried because vengeance and justice will be served. Vengeance belongs to God, so I don’t really have to be here and take it personally… I would hope that this board is capable of putting children’s needs first and that they take this job seriously… I know that the truth is coming.”


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Dallas Ranch Middle School receives grant from Giants, Wells Fargo for high tech equipment

Monday, December 4th, 2017

SF Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, with DRMS Principal Bridget Spires, student Joshua Pese, computer teacher Max Bridges and Jim Foley of Wells Fargo with the replica check. Photo courtesy of AUSD

Last week, San Francisco Giant Brandon Crawford and Jim Foley, Executive Vice president and President of Wells Fargo’s Pacific North Region presented checks to recipients of the KNBR Step Up to the Plate for Education grants program funded by Wells Fargo at AT&T Park. Through an open nomination process, schools applied to receive grants and winners were selected. Thirty-one Bay Area schools received $100,000 in grants to support their sports, musical, art and education programs.

Dallas Ranch Middle School received a $4,817.00 grant to purchase high-tech tools such as a Makerbot 3D printer, a video capable drone, and 3 Go-Pro cameras for students to create presentations, design products, and share digital videos using the school’s website and social media.

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Antioch School board approves hiring, contract for new Associate Superintendent

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Hires Sylvan Learning to provide tutoring to over 6,000 eligible students; discusses laptops for board members; livestreaming of meetings to begin in January

New AUSD Assoc. Superintendent Christine Ibarra from her LinkedIn profile.

By Allen Payton

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, November 15 the Antioch School Board unanimously approved the contract for new Associate Superintendent, K-12 Education Services, Christine Ibarra. At their previous board meeting on Oct. 25 the board approved hiring her to fill the position made vacant by the resignation of Dr. Adam Clark, who accepted the position of superintendent for the Vallejo City Unified School District in September. (Agenda Item 12.A.)

The contract includes an annual Senior Management Salary of $191,040 plus benefits, including a $300 per month automobile stipend.

According to her profile on LinkedIn, Ibarra has worked in public school education since 1992, and had previously worked as the School Support Administrator for the Mt. Diablo Unified School District since July 2013. Prior to that she was a principal in the district for eight years. She started her career as a Teacher and Program Specialist for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

Ibarra earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from U.C. Santa Barbara and a Master’s of Education in Education and Counseling from St. Mary’s College in Moraga. Her employment with AUSD begins on Monday, Nov. 27.

Tutoring Offered to Over 6,000 Students Who Are Behind (Agenda Item 11.X.)

Also at the meeting the board approved a contract with Bay Area Education Support Systems, which does business as Sylvan Learning to provide tutoring services at a cost of $800 per student. During the district staff report, it was explained that Tier 2 “targeted students who are a year behind” in their school work “are given Sylvan as an option. Over 6,000 of our students are eligible for supplemental educational services, such as tutoring.”

“Tier 3 students are more than a year behind” staff further explained.

Livestreaming of Board Meetings to Begin in January (Agenda Item 11.F.)

During the mid-year budget update it was reported by Superintendent Stephanie Anello that video cameras for online livestreaming of Antioch school board meetings will be installed in the board room by January.

“Our goal is to begin livestreaming by our first meeting in January, Wednesday the 24th on the (district’s) YouTube Channel,” she said.

District IT Manager, Joe Gengler explained how to view the meetings live online.

“Link on the district’s website that currently contains the audio of the meetings,” he said. “An archive of the video will be ready to go the same night.”

Laptops for Board Members Requested (Agenda Item 13.A.1)

During the board member period of the meeting, Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White requested that each of the five be provided with laptops by the district.

She said that other districts provide them to board members “from day one, as soon as you’re elected, and a cell phone.”

Gengler offered to check with other school districts to see how they handle the matter.

Board Vice President Debra Vinson agreed with the request.

“I would really like a separate device rather than on my personal device,” she stated.

However, Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray wasn’t interested. “I just want to make sure I’m able to opt out,” she said. “I don’t want to have to carry two laptops.”

“I agree,” said Trustee Gary Hack.

Vinson explained further, “I do use my one personal cell phone. But, I would not load any of my personal information” on the laptop.

Sawyer-White shared how it could work and to avoid personal use of the machines. “At the end of your term you turn in your device and anyone can access and are free to search for any personal use, and free to track usage during our term,” she stated.

The discussion then centered on a request from a principal for a laptop, according to Sawyer-White and which platform to use.

“I have never heard of this request,” said Gengler. “I am building infrastructure to support these. The district needs to decide which. There’s Microsoft and there’s Google Chrome. We certainly don’t have the resources to support Google Chrome Books.”

“We can certainly reach out to the principal,” he added.”

Sawyer-White then mentioned Springboard.

Vinson then asked, “how many students have Chrome Books?”

Gengler replied, “Right now there are zero Chrome books. Right now, they are window-based laptops. Some folks use Chrome Classroom.”

“If we’re going to be a digital classroom it’s something to consider for the future,” Vinson stated.

“We’re hoping to have this ready by the summer,” Gengler explained. “We’re open to whatever platform…we just want to serve the kids.”

The next meeting of the Antioch School Board will be held on Wednesday, December 13 in the District Office Board Room at 510 G Street in Antioch. To view the agenda for the Nov. 15 meeting, click here. For further details about past and future board meetings visit

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Antioch School Board president responds to criticism of district schools

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Dear Editor:

If Antioch had a dime for every time it has been bashed, our streets would be paved with gold. Inarguably, our schools take a disproportionate share of that thrashing.

I am the first to admit that Antioch schools have their set of pressing concerns, particularly on what I call the ‘Big Three’: parental engagement, student motivation and behavior, and state proficiency on test scores, especially math. Let’s review.

If you can’t get Mohammed to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammed.  Without parental support education is an uphill climb so we need creatively expand even more our already concerted efforts to get mom and dad involved, be it thru home visits, Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) meetings, social media or parenting skill workshops.

As to behavior, after several years of dramatic decline, suspensions are, perplexingly, up 16% this school year. We are working double time to address this.

With math, that’s an area where we need a radical departure in approach. Our 20% proficiency rate is simply unacceptable.

It takes a new seed to develop a new crop. We need ever-bolder actions, aggressive interventions and individuated, pull-out instruction to overcome this perennial thorn on a core skill.

That said, on our weaknesses, we can’t completely ignore social context. Some sample facts: from 2000 to 2012 the city’s violent crime rate doubled; our number of English language learners tripled; the number of homeless, public school students increased from 382 in 2011 to 706 in 2014; the number of students residing in group homes rose 144% in the past six years; 40% of district students live in homes without secure parental employment; 1 out of 5 students had suicidal ideation; 1 in 5 students reported prescription drug usage.

Sadly, we haven’t even touched on the distressing subjects of broken homes, latch-key kids, parental abuse, transiency, the epidemic of attention deficit syndrome; societal permissiveness, the erosion of public civility; the seduction of electronic gadgetry, etc.

Amidst the societal chaos, though, our educators seek solutions, not excuses, and do their best, against great odds.  Day in and day out much good goes unheralded.

  • We can celebrate Antioch’s graduation rate soaring above state average.  Its’ 6.3% increase last year was one of the highest California increases in the State.
  • Dozier-Libbey Medical School has been honored as a California Distinguished School and Deer Valley High as an Honor Roll School.
  • The Antioch School Board, Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission and City Council all approved Rocketship, a third Antioch public charter school. to be housed in a 14,5 million dollar state-of-the-art, zero net energy campus off 18th Street. The school underscores our openness and community richness in recognizing many unique seats at the table; traditional, private, alternate, charter and home study schools.
  • Unquestionably, Antioch is known as a trailblazer in linked learning with real-life career paths in law, the medical field, engineering, green energy, digital arts, business, research and the performing arts with GPA, attendance and graduation rates prosper.
  • Music is back, alive and well, with 1300+ students involved at the elementary level, allowing a pipeline tor the higher grades and a great outlet for creativity, self-esteem and brain development.
  • The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams has grown 71.6% over the past 5 years.
  • The number of U.C.-system qualified graduates rose 6.9% over the last 5 years and more of our high school students are now co-enrolling at community college, gaining credits and exposure.
  • Counselors, for the first time, are present in all of our schools, from elementary to high.  Not long ago we had no counselors. Now our ratio of counselors to students is one of the highest in the state and at 500 to one double the California average of 1,000 to 1.
  • In a recent LCAP funding evaluation the State determined that Antioch met or exceeded expectations in eight of nine categories. (To little surprise, we fell short on math in grades 3-8),

This letter, then, hopefully. demonstrates that we have a mixed bag with ample good, bad and, yes, sometimes ugly; but while we squarely face our undeniable flaws we don’t have to dwell on challenges alone.   We can also acknowledge and build upon successes.

Each of us can do our bit by involved parenting, by having high expectations of our children and schools, perhaps by civic volunteering, joining PTA, or tutoring. Yes, there is considerable work to be done for Antioch to become the destination city many of us dream of it being. To that end, we must honestly self-reflect and then roll up our collective sleeves and become part of the solution and not the problem.

Walter Ruehlig

President, Antioch School Board

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