Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch School Board, NAACP sign settlement agreement to avoid lawsuit

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

By John Crowder

At the March 25, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees approved, in closed session, an “Interim Settlement Agreement” with the East County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) over a complaint against the district by the civil rights organization. The agreement was approved on a 4-1 vote, with board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray casting the sole vote in opposition. Board President Claire Smith and Trustees Barbara Cowan, Walter Ruehlig, and Debra Vinson all voted in favor.

Reporting out of closed session at the beginning of the meeting, Smith informed those attending that an agreement had been reached between the District and the NAACP in order to prevent a potentially expensive lawsuit by the latter. The agreement, according to the settlement document, which can be viewed, here AUSD-NAACP Settlement Agreement, was in response to allegations of violations of parts of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

According to a press release issued by the Equal Justice Society, “African American students in the Antioch Unified School District represented only 24.8% of the student population, yet received 57.3% of all suspensions and 61.4% of all expulsions.” The press release further quotes Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County Branch of the NAACP as saying that the, “disproportionate suspension of African American students greatly harms their chances for a quality education.”

Essentially, the agreement puts the potential lawsuit on hold until at least December 31, 2015, while the District engages specified, “experts for purposes of the settlement agreement.” A final settlement agreement is to be negotiated following the receipt of reports by the chosen experts.

The experts to be engaged by the District include:

  • Dan Losen, Director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies (CCRR) at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), to review District disciplinary data, policies and practices.

  • Jeffrey Sprague, Ph.D., of the University of Oregon, to review IDEA/Section 504 practices, including child find, assessment, behavioral and academic services.

  • Professor john a. powell and Ingrid Melvaer Paulin of the University of California, Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, the Center for Policing Equity, and Professor Rachel D. Godsil, Director of Research for Perception Institute and Seton Hall University School of Law, along with other researchers, to examine the relationship between psychological phenomena (e.g., implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat) and disproportionate outcomes.

In addition to the above, Losen and Sprague are charged with coordinating “a joint review of the District’s PBIS and RTI systems (current and planned).”

According to the agreement, both Losen and Sprague are expected to spend some time on-site at AUSD. For their work, each is to be compensated by an amount that, “may not exceed $60,000, excluding travel expenses,” for a total maximum cost of $120,000 plus travel costs for their portion of the work.

In addition to the above-mentioned fees, the District has acknowledged that the “initial analysis” undertaken by the social psychology experts, “may cost the District up to $20,000.”

As part of the agreement, the District has also agreed to “work in good faith to make administrators and teachers available for participation in survey, interview and other examination.” Further, they have agreed that participation by District staff, “shall be voluntary,” and those participating shall be allowed, “reasonable on-duty time…to participate.”

The combined cost of all fees to be paid for the analysis is a maximum of $140,000 ($120,000 + $20,000) plus travel expenses. Presumably, other costs would be incurred in order to arrange for substitute teachers to fill in for teachers participating while “on-duty,” and costs for administrators participating would also be absorbed by the District.

Dr. Donald Gill, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools for AUSD, responded to a request for a statement concerning the agreement.

We have taken an honest and hard look at our programs, in the context of social justice and civil rights, and while we have many great initiatives in place, we agree that there is much more work to be done. We hope to be a model for positive, student focused problem-solving,” Gill said. “Lawsuits are, by design, confrontational and engender defensive behavior, but we chose to look at the broader theme, where we can agree to take a step toward building shared goals to help improve education for our under-served students.”

To say we lost a legal battle is misrepresentation, we see it as an agreement to share goals and commit to improved services for our students. I hope education leaders across the nation will see this approach as a model of humble, honest, student-focused collaboration,” Gill added.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on April 15. Meetings are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Antioch School Board hears about district budget, declining enrollment

Monday, March 30th, 2015

By John Crowder

At the March 25, 2015 meeting of the Antioch School Board, the trustees heard from Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent-Business & Operations, and his staff as they presented the 2014-2015 Second Interim Budget Report. Following and during the presentation, board members raised questions about declining enrollment and whether or not expenditures were in line with the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) mandates.

One of the first items addressed in the report was the continuing trend of declining student enrollment within AUSD. According to one of the slides used in the budget presentation, entitled “Enrollment and ADA (Average Daily Attendance),” student enrollment in the district is expected to continue to decline over the next two years from 17,792 in 2014-2015 to 17,506 in 2016-2017, a loss of another 286 students over the next two years.

The two newest board members, Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, both raised questions related to the enrollment numbers and average daily attendance, which are major factors in determining District revenue. Vinson, after stating that “A couple of things are not clear to me when I look at the budget,” expressed concern that, “I don’t see a dollar amount attached to that. The numbers seem off, based on ADA.”

As part of his response to Vinson, Forrester said that vacant homes in Antioch, and changing demographics related to the recession were factors driving down enrollment.

Ruehlig questioned Forrester on this analysis, saying, “I’m not seeing the vacant homes. How do you calculate this?”

Forrester responded, “We look at it internally.” He then talked again about losing students in the District due to foreclosures.

Ruehlig continued questioning that assumption, asking, “Is some [of the loss of students due to them moving to] private school, homeschool, to Brentwood?”

Forrester agreed with Ruehlig that, “Some is.”

A quick look at statistics regarding population numbers by age for the city of Antioch seems to lend some credence to Ruehlig’s concerns. According to demographic information contained on the city of Antioch website, declining enrollment was occurring as early as a decade ago, even while the school age population continued to grow. According to information found on the website, while the number of school age children in the city increased from 21,783 in 2000 to 24,088 in 2007, the number attending AUSD decreased from a peak of 21,628 in 2003-2004 to 19,422 in 2008. As noted by Forrester, the number of students attending AUSD continues to decline, and is expected to drop to about 17,500 within the next two years.

Local Control Accountability Plan

Following that discussion, board member Barbara Cowan raised concerns about the budgeting process in light of the LCAP and LCFF. “How are you going to balance LCAP?” she asked. (An ongoing concern with residents and local advocacy groups has been the distribution of Supplemental and Concentration funds. According to a report given out at the meeting, “…supplementary amounts are added for the economically disadvantaged, English learners, and foster students; and additional concentration amounts are added for these student populations when their numbers exceed 55% of total enrollment.” Local education advocates have been particularly concerned that this money is not being spent on new programs or improvements in programs for these targeted groups.)

Forrester said that $5.9 million of new revenue for 2015-2016 was from Supplemental and Concentration funds.

Cowan then asked for an estimate of how much of this money would be spent on new programs.

Forrester said he was unable to provide this information until a new budget was in place.

Cowan reiterated that she wanted to see what money was to be spent, “for new [programs], not the same old, same old.” “When will you have the numbers?” she asked.

Forrester replied that the numbers would be available in May.

Cowan then addressed Stephanie Anello, Associate Superintendent, Educational Services, asking whether or not AUSD staff was looking at specific needs when determining LCAP spending.

Anello responded, “Yes, we’ve been having stakeholder meetings and prioritizing.”

Following this exchange, Vinson said that she had been looking at the State website, and wanted to make sure that their numbers matched the numbers she was being given by the District. Saying she agreed with Cowan, she emphasized spending, “on programs where specifically designated.”

After further exchanges between the board members and staff, Forrester said that the June budget would reflect the most currently available information.

A separate article about the settlement agreement between the district and the East County Branch of the NAACP, approved at the meeting, will be posted, soon.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on April 15. Meetings are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Delta Baseball and Softball League donates over $10,000 to local schools

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

By Rick Hilton, Administrative VP, Delta Baseball & Softball League

Local youth sports organization, The Delta Baseball & Softball League (DBSL), announced recently, its donation of over $3,150 to East Contra Costa County schools.  The donations will be made through a special DBSL program called, “Delta Goes to Bat for Schools” and this isn’t the first time this youth sports league has donated money to local schools.

Starting in 2012, the program has provided much-needed donations that give schools and their PTAs/PTOs additional resources.  With the latest announcement, Delta Goes to Bat for Schools reached a significant milestone – over $10,000 in donations to local schools.

The Delta Goes to Bat for Schools program began at a late night board meeting in the Spring of 2012.  Due to an unanticipated influx of new sponsorship dollars and an enrollment 5% higher than budgeted for, DBSL found itself with a slight budget surplus.

Several alternatives were batted around, but the league eventually settled on their local schools as the place where a few hundred dollars might have the greatest impact, both practically and symbolically for the kids in the league.  

From this initial budget overage, they developed the Delta Goes to Bat for Schools program, making it a part of the league’s priorities.  Now a percentage of the fees families pay to play in the Delta Baseball & Softball League are donated back to the school that the players attend, bringing tangible benefits to students beyond the DBSL.  Board member David Chuey explains the nexus between youth sports and schools, “sports in general and team sports specifically teach kids things like communication, teamwork, good sportsmanship, and responsibility – all qualities that aid in their overall physical and educational development”.  

The success of the program has inspired DBSL to go beyond donations.  In addition to over $10,000 in direct cash contributions, DBSL partners with local schools to assist with carnivals and fairs, field day activities, and a wide variety of fundraising events, all focused on increasing the opportunities for local students to grow and develop their mind and bodies through better access to athletic programs. 

This year’s donation of $3,150 will go to public, charter, and private schools in Antioch, Brentwood, Discovery Bay, Knightsen, Oakley, and Pittsburg.  Representatives from five schools – Sutter Elementary, John Mir Elementary, Lone Tree Elementary, Orchard Park K-8 School, and Holy Rosary Catholic School – have been invited to the league’s Opening Day at Freedom High School on March 21, 2015 as honored guests.  The league will present checks to each of the represented schools as a part of their opening day ceremony.

Matthew Wright, the League President in the inaugural year of Delta Goes to Bat stated “As an idea that was kind of stumbled upon towards the end of a long night of league meetings, Delta Goes to Bat ended up being one of the best things we did as a board of directors that year.  It’s great to see that the leadership of the Delta Baseball & Softball League continues to make it a priority to support our local schools through this program.”

League President Mark Foley does indeed continue the commitment started by 2012 Board of Directors.  “The Delta Goes to Bat program has become fundamental to DBSL and is high on my list of priorities for the league,” Foley said.  “This program, along with our C.H.A.M.P. Buddies Program, exemplifies the spirit of community service and involvement we hope as a league to instill in our young players.”

The Delta Baseball and Softball League, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 1984 as the Delta Peanut League by a group of like-minded parents seeking an alternative to the high pressure, high intensity youth sports leagues available at the time.  Starting with 6-8 year old players the league has grown to include children from age 4 to 13, and today continues the non-competitive legacy and vision of the league founders, and competitive divisions playing under the banner of Cal Ripken Baseball and Babe Ruth Softball.  In 2007, the league added a division for differently-abled children, the C.H.A.M.P. division (formerly FREEDOM division) where physically or mentally challenged children learn and play baseball free of charge alongside all of the other children in the league.

To learn more about the Delta Baseball & Softball League please visit www.deltabaseballleague.com or www.facebook.com/DeltaBaseballandSoftballLeague.

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College Career Night March 31 at Prospects High School in downtown Antioch

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

College Career Night Flyer 2015 College Career Night March 31 at Prospects High School in downtown Antioch

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Antioch School Board hears bond measure spending, questions REACH program effectiveness

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

By John Crowder

At the March 11, 2015 meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education, the trustees approved sending four staff members to the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative. They also heard from a teacher at Marsh Elementary who was concerned about projectors not working, received a report from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) regarding Measure B and Measure C expenditures, and pulled from the consent calendar an addendum to the REACH Project Vendor Agreement.

Stanford Education Leadership Initiative

In a March 2, 2015 letter from the Co-Directors of the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, Dr. Donald Gill, AUSD Superintendent of Education, and three of his staff were invited to attend the one-year Executive Program for Education Leaders (EPEL). According to a report submitted to the board by Gill, the program, “includes a mix of on-campus and distance learning sessions incorporating case-study and research-based presentations, discussions, and exercises led by…faculty” from both the Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Business.

Also according to Gill, the $84,000 cost of four administrators attending the program will be paid for by two grants, one from EPEL for $76,000, and the other from the James Irvine Foundation for $8,000.

After some questions from the trustees concerning the source of funds and choice of administrators attending, the trustees approved the request on a 5-0 vote. Attending the program will be Gill, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, Stephanie Anello, Coordinator, Community Outreach and Engagement, Cheryl Domenichelli, and Director of Educational Services, Jason Murphy.

Broken Projectors

During public comments only one speaker came forward, a teacher from Marsh Elementary School. She said that projectors at the school were, “going out,” and, without them, teachers were unable to implement the curriculum as intended. Following her statement, board member Debra Vinson stressed the importance of having the projectors working, and Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent, Business and Operations, said he would follow up on the matter.

Bond Measure Reports

The board received a report from the Dale Hudson, chairman of the seven-member CBOC regarding the expenditure of funds for Measure B and Measure C. The CBOC, established in accordance with the voter-approved Proposition 39, which lowered the voter approval requirement from 2/3rds to 55% for school district bond measures that meet certain conditions, is charged, along with other things, of ensuring that, “bond funds are used for legally authorized purposes.”

Measure B is a $56.5 million school bond, passed on November 6, 2012, for the purpose of renovating and modernizing Antioch High School buildings and classrooms, including the athletic stadium.

Measure C is a $61.6 million school bond, passed in June, 2008, “to address critical renovation and modernization needs at schools that have served Antioch for more than forty years.” Among other items, it provided funding to replace roofs, plumbing, heating and air conditioning units and upgrade the district-wide technology infrastructure.

According to Hudson, all requirements of Proposition 39 are currently being met with respect to the two bond measures.

REACH Program

After considerable discussion, the trustees decided to pull an item from the consent calendar, an addendum to the REACH Project Vendor Agreement on behalf of Marsh Elementary.

An affirmative vote from the trustees would have added another $15,541 to the contract, revising the total not to exceed amount to $199,716. Money spent on the program comes from “site restricted categorical state funds (Title 1),” and have, “no impact to the unrestricted general fund,” according to a staff report submitted to the board.

Trustee Walter Ruehlig was the first of the board members to address the item when it was brought forward. Noting that fellow Trustee Barbara Cowan, had in previous meetings questioned how the program was being measured, he asked staff, “Where are we with metrics?”

Vinson also questioned how the program was being measured.

There is no way to know what they’re doing,” she said.

Following her statement, Ruehlig said, “I agree wholeheartedly.”

Cowan addressed not only REACH, but other service providers in her comments.

The only thing REACH does is very vague,” she said. “I would really like to see some required metrics for all vendors that serve students directly.”

Board President Claire Smith then followed up on Cowan’s comments, saying, “My problem with REACH is exactly that. I have never seen a measurable outcome in twenty years. I don’t see any proof in the pudding.”

Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray, though, supported approving the addendum. Not wishing to deny Marsh Elementary the use of REACH when so many other schools were using their services, and concerned that the rules were being changed for one school mid-year, she suggested she would make a motion to approve. As it became clear, however, that at least three of the board members would vote to table the item, she decided not to follow through. The item was then tabled for a future meeting, and the board went on to pass the rest of the consent calendar on a 5-0 vote.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on March 25. Meetings are held at the school district office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Middle School students’ art to be on display at Antioch’s Lynn House Gallery in March

Monday, March 9th, 2015

The Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch is proud to present artworks from students from Antioch Middle, Black Diamond and Dallas Ranch Middle Schools beginning March 11th and continuing through March 28th. There will be an opening reception on March 11th from 4-6 PM. There are many talented students in Antioch and this an opportunity to showcase their art like a professional artist in a local gallery.

The Arts4Schools Program is sponsored by the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch, the City of Antioch and Keller Canyon Mitigation Fund and Cal Pine Grants from Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover.

In addition to sponsoring the gallery exhibit, Supervisor Glover through the Keller Canyon Mitigation Grant, provides $500 to each participating school to be used for art and cultural supplies and educational endeavors. For more information about each exhibit call Diane Gibson-Gray at (925) 325-9897 or email Diane@Art4Antioch.org. The Lynn House Gallery is located in the Rivertown District at 809 W. 1st Street, Antioch (across from the AMTRAK Train Station) and is open from 1 – 4 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays during exhibits and admission is free.

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Antioch School Board surrenders Dozier-Libbey dependent charter petition

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

By John Crowder

At the February 25, 2015, meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education, a resolution was adopted for the closure of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School (DLMHS) Dependent Charter School, bringing to an end the protracted battle that took place last year between DLMHS teachers and AUSD administrative staff over whether or not to convert the school to a charter school. In addition to this action, representatives of the Black Diamond Middle School (BDMS) Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) outlined their plans for the remainder of the school year, and board member Walter Ruehlig announced the first in a series of meetings he has planned to speak with members of the community about their questions and concerns regarding the school district.

Dozier-Libbey dependent charter petition surrendered

The action taken to close the DLMHS Dependent Charter School, which has long been expected, passed on a 5-0 vote. With this action, the board has taken one of the final steps it had committed to under a Memorandum of Understanding reached with DLMHS teachers that essentially maintains the governance of the school under district control.

The board took action to surrender the dependent charter petition pursuant to a settlement agreement reached between the conversion charter petitioners and the District which allows Dozier-Libbey to continue in its current form,” stated district Superintendent Dr. Donald Gill. “The District is pleased to have reached a resolution of this matter with the petitioners and remains committed to the continued success of Dozier-Libbey.”

Black Diamond Middle PTSO announces events

Frances Spijker, President of the BDMS PTSO, along with Vice President Frank DeLuna, addressed the board and members of the public attending the meeting, announcing their plans for various events for and in support of the school for the remainder of the school year. The first event on the calendar is a science fair, which will be open to the public on Friday, March 6, from 5-8 p.m., and again on Saturday, March 7, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. This event will take place in the school’s gymnasium. Other upcoming events include:

  • BDMS golf tournament/banquet fund raiser scheduled for Sunday, March 22, at the

    Lone Tree Golf and Event Center

  • BDMS ‘Fun Day,’ which takes place on Friday, April 17, during the school day on the

    campus field

  • BDMS High Achievers Gala, tentatively scheduled for Monday, May 11

  • BDMS Talent Show, ‘The Road To Hollywood,’ tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 28.

Anyone wanting more information on any of these events, or to learn more about the BDMS PTSO, can contact Frances Spijker at (925) 642-2796, or by email at francesjs1030@aol.com. Their website, with additional information, is www.bdms-pts.org,

Ruehlig Announces Coffee Chats

At the conclusion of the meeting, board member Walter Ruehlig announced the first in a series of informal coffee chats he is scheduling in order to receive input from the public regarding AUSD schools, and to provide parents with an informal opportunity to speak with a board member. The first of the meetings is scheduled for Thursday, March 5, at 7:00 p.m. at the Bluerock Starbucks, 4045 Lone Tree Way, Suite G. Ruehlig also plans to have a guest speaker at each coffee chat. He will be joined by Contra Costa Community College District Trustee Greg Enholm at the March 5 meeting, who will be speaking about dual high school/college credit.

The next regularly scheduled meetings of the Antioch School Board take place on March 11 and 25. Meetings are held at the district office, located at 510 G Street, and typically begin at 7:00 p.m.

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Los Medanos College to Celebrate 40th Anniversary with Community Open House and ribbon-cutting for new Student Services Center

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

LMC 40th banner Los Medanos College to Celebrate 40th Anniversary with Community Open House and ribbon cutting for new Student Services Center

Join Los Medanos College (LMC) in celebrating 40 years of serving the communities of East Contra Costa County. The College will be hosting an open house for all ages on Saturday, March 21 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The event will include the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the College’s new Student Services Center, tours of the campus; music, dance and dramatic arts performances; workshops on college and career success, and the College’s support programs; the opportunity to see inside many of LMC’s academic departments; planetarium shows; arts and crafts activities; and an opportunity to meet representatives of student clubs and organizations. All ages are welcome to this free community event.

The event is free and a parking permit is not required. The campus is located at 2700 East Leland Road in Pittsburg.

Activities include:

- campus tours

- workshops on how to get started in college, career pathways,

- opportunities to learn about LMC’s academic programs and athletics

- planetarium shows

- theater performances: scenes from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

- welders in action

- chemistry experiments including gummy bear explosions and making “elephant toothpaste”

- the LMC fire truck used to train firefighters

- Mexican bark paintings and other crafts (especially for kids)

- a mock archeology dig

- dance team performances

- music performances by the faculty, the college’s jazz band, and other music students

- ceramics demonstrations

- blood pressure checks by nursing students

- a chance to make DNA bracelets

- hands-on biology activities

- physics experiments and demos

- information about the college’s Brentwood Center

- American Sign Language (ASL) demonstrations

- open labs for computer science, appliance service technology, math, graphic arts/photography, journalism, English, emergency medical services

The campus will open at 10:00 with activity booths, the library and art gallery. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Student Services Center will take place at 10:30 a.m. Workshops, demonstrations and open departments will begin promptly at 11:00 a.m.

Food will be available for purchase. Two food trucks will offer a wide variety of entrees, the college’s cafeteria will be open, and student clubs will be offering snacks and beverages.

LMC’s new Student Services Building was completed in January 2015 and is home to the many services that students need to facilitate and support their success at the college. This includes services such as Admissions & Records, Financial Aid, Scholarships, Disabled Students Programs & Services, Career Services, Counseling, Equal Opportunity Programs & Services, CARE and CalWORKS, along with the college’s leadership and instructional administration.

Los Medanos College opened its doors in 1974 on a 120-acre site near the boundary between the cities of Pittsburg and Antioch. For 40 years, the college has served the communities of East Contra Costa County, and students from Antioch, Liberty, Mt. Diablo, and Pittsburg Unified School Districts, as well as adults of all ages. Tens of thousands of students have attended Los Medanos College during its many years of service to the community.

The name of the college derives from the 8,000-acre Rancho Los Medanos, which was one of the last land grants made by the Mexican government when California was still a territory of Mexico. Rancho Los Medanos covered almost all of Pittsburg and Antioch, including the current site of the college. Translated into English, the name of the college refers to inland sand dunes or sand hills, which may be a reference to the sandy terrain that characterizes eastern Contra Costa County with its long history of sand mining.

Today Los Medanos College, as one of 112 community colleges with the California Community College System, is a thriving center of higher education activity. The college offers courses leading to transfer credit at senior colleges and universities, general education and major coursework leading to associate degrees, and courses leading to certificates of achievement.

LMC’s educational programs provide cutting-edge, rigorous workforce and advanced education preparation. The College’s efforts are strengthened by regional business and industry support as well as collaboration with K-12, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations. As the leading force in the economic development of eastern Contra Costa County, Los Medanos College offers high-quality instruction supported by the latest technology while still maintaining the personal touch and family orientation for which the college is known. To further meet the needs of local residents and businesses in Brentwood, Discovery Bay and Oakley, the College provides an educational center in Brentwood.

More information about the college’s history and open house can be found at www.losmedanos.edu/openhouse.

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