Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch Superintendent announces Classified Employee of the Year finalists

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

By Stephanie Anello, Interim Superintendent

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) is pleased to announce the four finalists for Classified Employee of the Year. These outstanding finalists were selected from amongst 23 classified employees nominated for this award. The four finalists are:

  • Lara Hiemforth, Belshaw Elementary Library Technician
  • Sandy McGee, Administrative Assistant II at Prospects High School
  • Marie-Josee Parayre, Special Education Occupational Therapist
  • Leslie Scudero, School Administrative
  • Assistant II at Dallas Ranch Middle School

The selection committee will meet with the four finalists on April 29th and further information regarding the selection of AUSD’s Classified Employee of the Year will be announced shortly thereafter.

Congratulations to these final four outstanding employees. They are a great representation of the hundreds of classified employees in the District who work tirelessly to support our students, our schools and our community.

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Antioch School Board adopts slower-paced math courses for high schools, hears of solar energy improvements, seven apply for board vacancy

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Navarro: Wait to hire new superintendent until Board vacancy is filled

By Nick Goodrich

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, April 20th Antioch School Board approved slower-paced math courses for Antioch’s high schools, heard about the solar energy improvements to facilities and about the demotion of a vice principal to a teaching position.

Public comments opened with Antioch resident Shannon Ripoli speaking out against the recent demotion of Gil Armenta from Vice Principal of Mno Grant Elementary to a teaching position. More than a dozen Antioch parents and residents stood for the duration of her comments in a show of support.

Ripoli told the Board that throughout his time as Vice Principal, Armenta created an environment where students and staff could thrive.

“He brings many irreplaceable assets to our school,” she said, noting that he was known for developing strong relationships with students, families, and the school’s staff.

She said that the decision to reassign Armenta to a teaching position apparently came as a result of declining enrollment. However, Antioch Unified has suffered from a similar District-wide trend in recent years. Ripoli believes Armenta is not the reason for the decrease, and that he has much more to offer Mno Grant. “We believe a mistake has been made,” she concluded.

Other speakers, Chris Colkward and Dozier-Libbey High School Principal Scott Bergerhouse, spoke in support of Stephanie Anello for the vacant District Superintendent. Anello has served admirably as the Interim Superintendent as the Board tracks the progress of Leadership Associates, the search firm it hired to fill the Superintendent position.

“I think with the addition of Stephanie Anello as Superintendent, you can’t fail,” Colkward stated. “She’s going to bring some fresh and positive ideas to this District.”

Bergerhouse also spoke in favor of Anello.

“She has a passion for student achievement and quality production,” he said. “It is a needed decision and the correct decision for our schools.”

Facilities Update

The Board heard a presentation from Chris Learned, the District’s Acting Chief Business Official, offering a summary of capital improvements made in recent years.

The largest expenditure was on solar energy. Learned reported that solar panels have been installed at 20 school and District sites, for a total cost of $27,694,776.

The solar projects, which are projected to eventually pay for themselves and are already cutting utilities costs at the sites, comprise the majority of the expenditures of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond. This bond is a lump of money awarded to school districts to make improvements on facilities, such as solar energy generation, energy efficiency and STEM academic training. However, the entirety of the bond funds must be completely expended by a certain date: in the AUSD’s case, July 25th of this year.

Currently, the District has nearly $3 million remaining to spend by that date. Projects already underway include roofing improvements at Antioch High School, HVAC improvements at AHS, and HVAC improvements at Bidwell. Learned offered several projects that could be used to spend the remaining funds, including roofing at Mission Elementary and HVAC updates at Turner Elementary.

Another important aspect of the presentation involved the District’s deferred maintenance fund. Essentially, this fund is comprised of money set aside for “deferred maintenance” purposes: projects at school sites that are not urgent or emergency projects, but that may become problematic later on and will have to be revisited.

Learned reminded the Board that the AUSD has set aside little to nothing for such projects, and in fact has not formally created a deferred maintenance fund. “There’s a deferred maintenance problem in this District,” he told them. “We should create a deferred maintenance fund.”

Learned reported that District staff has identified about $35 million in deferred maintenance projects across the District. “It makes good sense for the District to have this fund, so it can start to tackle these issues,” he said. After some discussion, the Board seemed to agree, and moved to bring up a resolution in a future meeting that would create a deferred maintenance fund, worth about $800,000.

Math Courses

The Board then opened a discussion on math courses in Antioch high schools. Performance in Algebra classes by high school students have not been up to par in recent years, which is one reason for the creation of the new after school Math Intensive program at Deer Valley High School.

New Algebra courses for the upcoming 2016-17 school year were brought before the Board and approved on a 3-1 vote, with Trustee Fernando Navarro dissenting.

Julie Young, an Antioch resident that consistently tracks AUSD proceedings, spoke before the Board on the topic.

“Common Core isn’t working, and it’s dumbing down our students,” she said.

Young criticized the proposed courses, asking if slower-paced math classes, would really improve the situation. She went on to add that proficiency in elementary math classes -namely in fourth and fifth grade – would have to be improved to better prepare students for the courses they will take in high school.

Board Member Walter Ruehlig agreed with Young’s idea of earlier intervention. Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello noted that AUSD’s students’ math performance drops in half when they hit fifth grade. Board Member Debra Vinson stated that other Districts employ math coaches in high school and even middle school, which could be an option for AUSD.

Navarro offered a different view.

“Common Core underestimates the intelligence of our kids,” he said. “Math Intensive proves otherwise. It proves that they can do it.”

Nonetheless, the Board approved the slower-paced math courses for the high schools in the District, for the 2016-17 schoolyear.

Navarro: Wait on New Superintendent until Fifth Board Member appointed

After the vote, the School Board wrapped up its regular agenda and put forth several items for discussion or voting in future meetings.

Vinson, continuing from an earlier meeting in which the idea was discussed, asked that the Board look into establishing petty cash funds for school sites in the District, as there are currently none. She also brought up the issue of omitting names from Board meeting minutes, which Young had previously expressed concern about, as an obstacle to transparency. Board President Diane Gibson-Gray, also concerned with this issue, agreed with Vinson to revisit the topic.

Navarro had several comments on the ongoing search for a new superintendent. Noting that the Board was down to four members after the recent departure of Claire Smith, he suggested that the Board hold off its vote for a superintendent until a new board member was found. In the meantime, he suggested Julie Young as a viable candidate to replace Smith, noting that she is always involved in District proceedings, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience that would be an asset to the Board.

The Board will discuss the possibility of postponing the hiring until after the board vacancy is filled, when it meets again with its search firm, Leadership Associates.

At its last meeting, the Board adopted the procedure for appointing a new board member, which is the similar to the one they followed last November when Navarro was appointed. Seven people have applied, including Young and former Board Member Joy Motts who both confirmed they had applied. The names of the other applicants were not yet released to the public by District staff, at press time. Interviews of the applicants and a possible appointment will be held Wednesday, May 4.

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Enjoy A’s Family Nights in May and support Antioch High PTSA Scholarship Fund

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

A's Family Night

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Sutter Elementary teacher Vicki McGuire, is Antioch Unified School District’s 2016-17 Teacher of the Year

Monday, April 11th, 2016

Contra Costa County’s school districts announce their 2016-2017 Teachers of the Year

There are currently, approximately 8,401 teachers educating more than 174,800 students in Contra Costa County’s public schools. To recognize their efforts and bring much-deserved honor to the teaching profession, the participating school districts in the county recently named their Teachers of the Year (TOY) representatives. (See list below.)

The upcoming school year’s 21 TOYs represent 16 Contra Costa County school districts, the Contra Costa Community College District, and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE). Most of these representatives, those who teach grades K thru 12, are eligible to compete in the Contra Costa County TOY competition. The two top teachers in the county TOY program will represent Contra Costa County in the California State TOY Program this coming fall.

“We are immensely proud of these amazing educators,” said Karen Sakata, Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools. “They were thoughtfully chosen to represent their schools and districts, and truly represent what is best about public education.”

Now in her 30th year of teaching, McGuire began her career in 1985.  She taught in the Oakland Unified School District for seven years, then moved to Antioch, where she’s been teaching for the past 23 years.  Most of them have been spent at Sutter Elementary, but she did work at John Muir Elementary for five years.

McGuire received a Bachelor’s Degree from Ohio State University and her Master’s Degree from Cal State Hayward (now East Bay).

“I am currently taking classes at Los Medanos College because I believe in life-long learning,” she said. “I enjoy getting to build meaningful relationships with my students and their families.  In some cases, all of the children in a family have come through my classroom.  As a member of the community, I like seeing students and former students outside the school setting at sporting events or around town.”

“I believe in educating the whole child, by helping them grow socially, as well as academically,” McGuire added.

The county’s TOY program is directed by the CCCOE. With such a high caliber of teaching professionals to draw from, the CCCOE’s TOY program uses a three-stage selection process, with a point and percentage system to determine the final candidates as follows:

I Application Screening:

On April 8, a committee of 15 judges, representing the county’s education, business, and public-sector partners will carefully review the applications submitted by the school districts. This committee independently rates each application. After the application screening and scoring are completed, four teachers will be selected to advance to the next two phases as finalists.

II Classroom Observation and Interview:

In April and May, a small committee of education specialists and business partners observe the four finalists interacting with their students. Immediately following, the committee interviews the candidates discussing topics such as their teaching philosophy and techniques.

III Speech Presentation:

On August 15, the four TOY finalists will each give a three- to five-minute speech to another panel of a dozen educators, business, and public-sector representatives who will judge the finalists on their speech and presentation skills.

On the evening of September 22, 2016, all 21 TOYs, accompanied by their families, friends, and co-workers (an audience of close to 400) will be honored at the annual Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Dinner Celebration, held at the Hilton Concord. Ms. Sakata, who serves as master of ceremonies, introduces the TOYs by sharing a special story that reflects her classroom visits of each teacher during the current spring and summer months. This will be followed by the four finalists giving their three- to five-minute speeches (same speeches given in August) to the filled banquet room. Finally, the night will come to a dramatic close with the announcement of the two 2016-2017 Contra Costa County Teachers of the Year.

2016-2017 Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year Representatives:

Vicki McGuire, Antioch Unified School District, Sutter Elementary, Fifth Grade

Jamie Cackler Bennetts, Knightsen Elementary School District, Knightsen Elementary

Cynthia Boyko, Acalanes Union High School District, Miramonte High

Rachael Byron, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Dougherty Valley High

Krystal Figaroa, Pittsburg Unified School District, Stoneman Elementary

Erin Flanigan, Martinez Unified School District, Alhambra High

Daniel Yoshio Haley, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, El Dorado Middle

Shauna Hawes, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, Valley View Middle

Judy Jernigan, Lafayette School District, Lafayette SD Schools

Kristyn Loy, West Contra Costa Unified School District, Stewart Elementary

Judy Mazur, Walnut Creek School District, Buena Vista Elementary

Aminta Mickles, Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa College

Gina Minder-Maldonado, Oakley Union Elementary School District, Oakley Elementary

Dayle Okamitsu, Orinda Union School District, Wagner Ranch Elementary

Lawrence Pang, West Contra Costa Unified School District, El Cerrito High

Deborah Guillén Rocchild, John Swett Unified School District, John Swett High

Summer Rodriguez, Liberty Union High School District, Liberty High

Joyce Rooks, San Ramon Valley Unified School District, Creekside Elementary

Juliet Simens, Brentwood Union School District, Pioneer Elementary

Angela Taylor, Contra Costa County Office of Education, Parole Education Program Oakland Computerized Literacy Learning Center

Sarah Vieira, Byron Union School District, Timber Point Elementary

Note regarding eligible participants:

  • Sixteen of the eighteen Contra Costa County school districts represented, and the CCCOE are participating in this year’s TOY program.
  • Each year, one instructor from Contra Costa Community College District is submitted to the TOY program for his/her outstanding body of work with their designated college. The colleges rotate each year between Diablo Valley, Los Medanos, and Contra Costa. (These instructors do not compete in the State Teacher of the Year competition.) This year is Contra Costa College’s turn.
  • Due to the larger number of students and teachers in their districts, West Contra Costa USD, Mt. Diablo USD, and San Ramon Valley USD are allowed to submit two TOY candidates.

Follow Contra Costa County’s Teacher of the Year program on Twitter: #CoCoTOY

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Antioch School Board announces vacancy, appointment process

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Can make appointment at next meeting on April 20th if Board chooses

The Board of Education of the Antioch Unified School District Board of Education is seeking applications to fill a vacancy on the Board caused by the resignation of Claire Smith on April 1, 2016.  Board members will use the following process to appoint an individual to complete Mrs. Smith’s term, which expires December 2016.

Remaining Term of Office:  June 2016 – December 2016

Requirements for Office:

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Resident of Antioch Unified School District
  • Registered voter
  • United States citizen
  • Not disqualified by the U.S. Constitution or state law from holding a civil office

Application Process: 

To secure an application, visit the District’s website at or pick up an application at the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street, Antioch by April 20, 2016 by 12:00 p.m. The District office is open Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


  • Completed applications must be received in the Superintendent’s Office no later than 12:00 p.m. April 20, 2016.  Neither postmarks nor late delivery will be accepted.
  • Board of Education will interview candidates in a public meeting called by the Board.  The following date and time has been set aside for interviews:  May 4, 2016 between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.
  • The new Board Member will be sworn in at the regular Board of Education meeting on June 8, 2016.

If you should have any questions, please call (925) 779-7500 ext. 51000.

However, the Board can make an appointment at their next meeting on Wednesday, April 20.

“Under a provisional appointment, they can do the process like they did for Mr. Navarro,” according to Nancy Belleci, Executive Assistant to the Superintendent. “They can do anything they want. But, they have to wait 30 days before the new member can take their seat.”

“At the last meeting during the discussion the Board determined they want to revise interview questions and the tally process,” she added.

Notice:  This appointment is provisional and subject to the petition process specified in California Education Code 5092.

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Deer Valley High awarded $80,000 mathematics grant for promising practices

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

According to a Facebook post on the Antioch Unified School District’s page on Tuesday, April 5, “Deer Valley High School is the recipient of the CAPP Demonstration Partnership Extension Grant which highlights promising practice in the field of mathematics.

The grant totals $80,000.00 and will allow the school to continue sharing best practices related to a pilot mathematics program they wish to expand over the next two years. The grant will also help increase and build upon the secondary partnerships the school is building with local colleges and universities.

Deer Valley teachers Maria McClain, Carrie Hurtado, and Tammy Ely-Kofford – along with counselor Ruth Whittington have been instrumental in designing and implementing this promising program.”

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Students at Antioch’s Marsh Elementary raise over $1,500 in Pennies for Patients to find a cure for cancer

Thursday, April 7th, 2016
Pennies for Patients

Photo courtesy of AUSD.

According to a post on the Antioch Unified School District’s Facebook page on Tuesday, April 5, “Students at Marsh Elementary once again participated in the Pennies for Patients Fundraising Program organized by teacher, Michelle Reece. The program is designed to help students better understand how they can help others in the fight against Leukemia and other blood cancers.

According to Principal Crystal Berry, ‘By participating, our students have learned the importance of being caring citizens and how much of an impact they can make on others in our world. They’ve also learned the power of leadership, teamwork, philanthropy, and what doing for others truly means.’

This year alone, Marsh students exceeded their goal of raising $1,500.00! Way to go Marsh Tigers!”

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Payton Perspective: Antioch School Board should appoint Julie Young to vacant seat

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

Payton Perspective logo 2015By Allen Payton

The Antioch School Board has to fill another vacancy with the recent resignation of Claire Smith.

This is the second time the Board members have had to fill a board  position in less than a year. Last fall, after Barbara Cowan resigned with a little more than a year left in her term, the Board appointed Fernando Navarro to the empty seat.

During the appointment process, the person to receive the second most votes was Julie Young, who attends almost all school board meetings.

She is very knowledgeable about the issues and can hit the ground running, should she be appointed.

The Board is in the midst of searching for a new superintendent. They need a full, five-member board to help in making the decision.

If the Board goes through another appointment process to fill the current vacancy, it could take another month or two to do so, and then the new member wouldn’t be seated until a month after that. The Board is wanting to hire a new superintendent by June.

It makes sense to appoint Young at their next meeting so there will be a complete board for the hiring decision.

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