Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Following ACLU recommendations, Antioch Superintendent says district will limit cooperation with federal immigration agencies, officials

Friday, February 10th, 2017

By Allen Payton

Stepping into the national debate on illegal immigration and its possible impact on students, and following the recommendations by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello posted a letter to parents and guardians on the district’s website, recently, in an attempt to allay fears some students have been expressing to staff.

Although the AUSD Board has not declared the district a sanctuary, as the Contra Costa Community College District did, last month, Anello felt it necessary to send the message, following receipt of a letter from the ACLU sent out on December 12, to all Superintendents in California.

In their letter, the ACLU recommends superintendents “Designate your schools as sanctuary ‘safe zones’ for students and families with irregular immigration status” and to “Send a strong message to district and school staff, students, and families in your community, affirming your district’s values of diversity and inclusion, and making clear that unlawful discrimination against students will not be tolerated.” The letter also encourages superintendents to “Take measures to ensure that district and school staff, students, and families understand that all students in your district are guaranteed equal access to school, regardless of their or their families’ immigration status.”

The ACLU further recommends superintendents “Prohibit any communications with federal agencies or officials and refuse all voluntary information-sharing with federal or immigration agents across all aspects of the district to the fullest extent possible under the law” and “Prohibit staff, campus security, or campus police from divulging any information regarding immigration status or country of birth of any student or their family members. Require federal or immigration agents seeking information or access to a school site to have a warrant signed by a federal or state judge.”

In her message Anello wrote “Our students are sharing with school staff concerns they have for themselves, their parents, and other loved ones who may have an irregular immigration status.” Further she wrote, “the AUSD will not, to the extent possible by law, share the immigration status of any student or any student’s parent/guardian with federal agencies or officials.”

However, in responding to questions about the letter, Anello said  that the district is “not required nor do we ask the immigration status of students,” and that they have “no way of knowing if a student was here illegally as immigration status is not part of the enrollment process.”

Following is Anello’s complete message:

Message from the Superintendent: An Open Letter to Parents/Guardians

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Recently, while not in our District but throughout the country and in California, there has been an increase of reported incidents and actions which are predicated on hate such as racial slurs, taunting, and intimidation of students. There has also been an increase of fears surrounding immigration and, along with it, deportation. Our students are sharing with school staff concerns they have for themselves, their parents, and other loved ones who may have an irregular immigration status. This open letter to all Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) families is intended to allay some of those fears and to reaffirm our commitment to ensure school is a safe place for all students.

AUSD values diversity and inclusion; unlawful discrimination against any student will not be tolerated. The California and federal Constitutions as well as long standing federal and state civil rights statutes affirm that every student in our state must be provided with an educational environment that is safe and welcoming regardless of the student’s race, ethnicity, color, national origin, religion, age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetics, or disability. Thus, AUSD will continue to work tirelessly to prevent such discrimination and will take decisive steps against any individual who threatens that right.

Muslim and immigrant students are especially vulnerable at this time in our nation’s history. Please know that the AUSD will not, to the extent possible by law, share the immigration status of any student or any student’s parent/guardian with federal agencies or officials. Additionally, we will require that all federal immigration agents seeking access to information or access to a school site have a warrant signed by a federal or state judge.

In closing, please know that AUSD will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all of our students feel safe, valued, and appreciated.  As always, we encourage our families and those in the greater community to partner with us in this work.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Anello

Superintendent

When asked if the board authorized or directed her to write the message, Anello simply responded, “no.”

When asked why that was necessary to write if obtaining a warrant is already the legal requirement, she responded, “All warrants must be signed by a federal or state judge.”

Asked if the district had become a “sanctuary”, she said, “No, I believe PUSD (Pittsburg Unified School District) declared themselves a sanctuary district, but you might want to check. We have not.”

“My letter is meant to allay fears that students are safe while in schools,”Anello added.

Asked about educating students who are here illegally, she provided the following explanation.

“We are not required nor do we ask the immigration status of students,” Anello explained. “Additionally, undocumented students between the ages of 6-18 not only have a right to attend school in California, but are mandated to attend school pursuant to the compulsory attendance laws. (Educ. Code § 48200.) The U.S. Supreme Court has held that no state may deny access to a basic public education to any child residing within the state, whether residing in the U.S. legally or not. (Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202 (1982).) Further, all students have a right to be in a public school learning environment free from discrimination, harassment, bullying, violence, and intimidation. (Educ. Code §§ 220, 234 et seq.)”

Asked if the district risked losing federal funds by not following the law and reporting the illegal status of students, she reiterated, “We would have no way of knowing if a student was here illegally as immigration status is not part of the enrollment process.”

Anello responded to a further question asking if the district has no way of knowing the legal status of a student, why she didn’t simply write that in her letter.

“The letter was meant to allay fears that somehow immigration or other law enforcement branch could come on campus without a warrant signed by a federal or state judge to retrieve information about a student’s immigration status, etc.,” she stated. “We are bound by federal and state law to ensure that all students attend school feeling safe. When students and families continued to share their fears about the issues outlined in the letter, we have a duty to respond in my opinion. The letter is, in short, an attempt to ensure students are feeling safe at school.”

Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White was the first board member to respond when asked if she had seen Anello’s letter.

“Yes,” Sawyer-White responded. “I agree with our superintendent in regards to our children’s safety pertaining to immigration status. Based on a recent Deer Valley HS video, produced by the students, one can only empathize [with] the anxiety each student experiences.”

Board President Walter Ruehlig responded to the same questions asked of Anello.

“As has been previously noted by Superintendent Anello, the Board neither approved, nor even pre-read, the letter she put out on the school website. We simply do not edit the website,” he said. “I take the Superintendent’s word that she was reacting first and foremost not to the ACLU but to concerns of parents and students, many who are super anxious. I wouldn’t know where to begin on the reasons for the troubled climate, founded or unfounded.”

“I can only wish that both sides would start by lowering the volume,” Ruehlig continued. “Then maybe we can separate fact from unfact. Administration supporters and detractors, alike, can agree that we live in hyper-volatile times with disquieting misinformation running rampant. If the Superintendent was able to quell at least some of the hysteria, then I say it is for the good.”

As for echoing the language ‘irregular’ immigration, personally I would not have used that word. I don’t like double talk and the plain-speaking terms undocumented or illegal are fine by me,” he stated. “As for tacitly endorsing doing anything against the law, I didn’t see that in the Superintendent’s letter.  It certainly won’t happen on my watch.”

“Hopefully we can move from rumor and hysteria to dialogue and constructive action and that people of good faith on both political sides can get sweeping immigration reform to finally become reality,” Ruehlig added.

An email was also sent to Board Vice President Debra Vinson asking for her responses to the questions and their thoughts on the letter. Please check back later for any responses from her.

 

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Tickets available for 11th annual Deer Valley Foundation gala dinner and dance, March 4

Tuesday, February 7th, 2017

17-DV-Foundation_Gala_Dinner_FlyerClick here to download form – 17-DV-Foundation Gala Dinner Flyer

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Two teens assault others at Antioch school in January, face different consequences

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Juvenile Hall makes determination based on overcrowding, prior arrest history

By Allen Payton

According to Antioch Police, on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 at 10:58 am, a 13 year old male was arrested after assaulting a classmate at Antioch Middle School. The juvenile suspect was sent to Juvenile Hall for felony assault.

Then on Tuesday, Jan. 24th at 1:46 pm, Antioch Middle School staff called to report a 13 year old female student was detained in the office for assaulting her teacher. Upon the officers’ arrival, they determined the student had punched her substitute teacher in the face several times causing her to fall to the ground. While on the ground, the student continued to hit the victim several more times. School staff attempted to intervene and the student assaulted one of them. The victim suffered minor injuries from the assault. Several students filmed the assault with their cellular phones and the videos were collected as evidence. The student was issued a juvenile citation and was released to the custody of her mother.

When asked why the girl wasn’t taken to Juvenile Hall, Antioch Police Captain Tammany Brooks said it was up to Juvenile Hall to decide due to overcrowding and other details.

“When a juvenile is taken into custody for a felony, officers call over to Juvenile Hall, explain the charges, and Juvenile Hall staff determines whether or not they are willing to accept him/her,” he said. “When Juvenile Hall refuses to take an arrestee, we issue a citation and release to a parent.

“Juvenile Hall is extremely overcrowded and typically take kids arrested for very violent felonies, and who are a threat to the public,” Brooks explained. “They also are mandated to take kids who have outstanding warrants. Therefore, they screen all potential incoming kids and turn away ones who don’t fit that criteria.”

When asked why the boy was treated differently and what message that was sending to the other students, Brooks explained further.

“Each case is different,” he stated. “Boy or girl, prior arrest history, availability on the module, etc. that’s why we call first to get a yay or nay.”

“We’d prefer to send them all (to Juvenile Hall), but we’re at their mercy,” Brooks added.

When asked about the two incidents and if the school or district had taken any disciplinary action against the students, Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello responded.

“Our disciplining students is separate from any action law enforcement might take so I really can’t speak to the decision to send one student to Juvenile Hall versus the other,” she said. “The school discipline is based on the California Education Code and our discipline matrix and is in addition to any action law enforcement might take.”

However, she did not say if either of the students had been or would face any discipline, such as suspension or expulsion.

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School Board hears mostly from supporters on Antioch Charter Academy II renewal

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Sawyer-White re-enacts oath of office; Navarro, Terry given proper send-off

By Nick Goodrich

During their regular meeting on Wednesday, January 25th, the Antioch School Board saw a huge turnout from members of the public as they showed up to support the Antioch Charter Academy II’s (ACA II) petition for renewal.

The hearing was called only for public discussion and input, as the final hearing – during which the formal decision to renew ACA II’s charter or not – will occur at a later meeting, after residents’ input has been thoroughly weighed.

More than two dozen students, parents, and teachers at ACA II spoke in favor of the petition for renewal, including Antioch Mayor Sean Wright and Police Chief Allan Cantando, whose children attend the school.

Wright became emotional as he came before the Board, speaking of the difficulty he had had in finding a good fit for his children before ACA II.

“It allowed our family a successful opportunity to choose where they want to learn,” he said. “I encourage you to renew the charter.”

Cantando agreed, saying, “I feel extremely grateful to have my son in that school…When I leave him there, I know he’s getting a great education and has people that care for him.”

Vicki Willard, a second-year teacher at ACA II, spoke on the numerous programs that the charter school employs to reach students of all abilities and help them succeed.

“The school is able to incorporate programs that address student needs,” she told the Board. I am grateful for the school, and know that the students and parents are as well.”

She was certainly correct on that point, as half a dozen ACA II students from various grades stepped up to speak in support of their school, as well.

Even Gia Leone, a teacher who no longer works at ACA II, spoke in favor of renewing the school’s charter, because she remembers the impact it has had on its students. “It would be a devastating loss to this community to not renew the charter.”

The charter school’s performance in recent years certainly supports its bid for renewal. Todd Heller, Co-Administrator and Financial Director for ACA II, was on hand to present some key statistics for his school’s performance.

ACA II students, already performing higher than District schools in most categories in 2013, have only improved since then, he said. Math proficiencies increased from 31%-38%, and Language Arts saw a similar increase, from 46%-51%. Both of these numbers are higher than the statewide average in those areas.

Jeanie Dubinksy, a teacher and Code Administrator at ACA II, summed it up by saying, “The school has brought opportunity, choice, and equity to our students and to the surrounding community.”

Re-Enactment of Oath of Office, Recognition for Departing Trustees

New Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, the lead vote-getter in last November’s Board elections, re-enacted her oath of office before Wednesday’s meeting, when more people could be in attendance to witness it. Her actual swearing-in took place at the December 14th board meeting at 6 p.m. before it was on the agenda and the public could convene to watch.

“I would like to thank my husband, my family, my friends, and my supporters for this opportunity to serve and to put our children first,” she said in a statement after the ceremony. “And I would like to thank all the teachers in the District for all their hard work and dedication. As a new Board Member, I do appreciate you.”

Former Trustees Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry were also recognized in a ceremony following Sawyer-White’s oath of office.

The two Board Members were finally given their portraits and recognized by the Board after their service ended last year. Normally, departing Board Members are given their portraits during their last meeting. An attempt was made to have that occur in November, before the special meeting for the Rocketship Charter school hearing and vote in December, but Navarro and Terry refused. That meeting was held off-site and prevented the former trustees from getting their portraits until Wednesday.

To view Sawyer-White’s oath of office re-enactment and thank you speech, it is available on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

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Antioch School Board to offer proper recognition of new Trustee Sawyer-White, past members Navarro, Terry at meeting tonight

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

By Allen Payton

The Antioch School Board faced criticism over the way the oath of office ceremony for new Trustee, and top vote-getter in the November election, Crystal Sawyer-White was handled, as well as the recognition of outgoing Trustees Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, in December. In response, new Board President Walter Ruehlig and Vice President Debora Vinson have set a redo for tonight’s meeting.

A re-enactment of Sawyer-White’s oath of office will begin at 6:15 p.m. followed by a time of special recognition of Navarro and Terry. Members of the public will be allowed to speak and offer their thoughts and thanks to all three. That will be followed by a reception.

According to a previous Herald article, Sawyer-White’s original ceremony was rescheduled for 6:00 p.m., an hour before it was listed on the agenda for the December 14th meeting, without announcing it publicly. So, very few people were in attendance.

An attempt by former Board President and re-elected Trustee Diane Gibson-Gray was made to replace Navarro and Terry with Sawyer-White and returning Trustee Gary Hack, before the Rocketship Charter School vote at the December 7th special board meeting. Navarro saw the removal of his and Terry’s photos from the wall inside the District offices and their presentation to the two outgoing board members at the meeting on November 16, as part of that effort. He refused to accept his photo that night and Gibson-Gray’s effort was later rebuffed by Ruehlig and Vinson.

Until tonight’s meeting there has been nothing on a school board agenda for an official farewell to the two former trustees, the way the Antioch City Council handled it during the transition of power, there.

The ceremony, recognition and reception will be followed by the regular school board meeting at 7:00 p.m. Both will occur in the Board Room at the District Administrative Offices at 510 G Street in downtown Antioch.

To view the entire meeting agenda, please click here.

 

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Antioch school board members concerned about renewing Charter Academy II

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Ruehlig is new Board President, Vinson Vice President

By Dave Roberts

Just a week after narrowly approving the Rocketship charter school, despite a staff recommendation to reject it, two members of the revamped Antioch Unified School District Board expressed concern Wednesday about granting another five years to the Antioch Charter Academy II school.

The charter for the school, which has been in operation for 10 years at the Antioch Fairgrounds, is set to expire July 1, 2017. It boasts superior test scores to most of the district-run schools. But it’s also been marred by a child abuse controversy that resulted in the school paying $250,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging a teacher placed duct-tape over a boy’s mouth and another immobilized and humiliated him by forcing him under a chair.

Crystal Sawyer-White, who was attending her first board meeting as a trustee, said that she didn’t even want to accept the charter school’s application for a five-year extension until she has a chance to visit it.

“I have an issue with the child abuse history,” she said. “I think the teacher’s still working there. That’s why.”

Sawyer-White was apparently referring to Marianne Dubitsky, who was allegedly involved in the chair incident. The teacher who was allegedly involved in the duct-tape incident, Michelle Mankewich, is no longer listed on the school’s website as a teacher. Dubitsky’s mother, Jeannie Dubitsky, is the school principal and a co-founder of the school.

The other board member who raised concerns about the school was Debra Vinson, who voted against the Rocketship application based on a variety of concerns that included its special education program.

“I have a lot of concerns,” Vinson said about the charter academy. “I would want there to be a capacity interview around special ed. I’ve looked at the petition. I know that it was signed years ago under certain conditions. I would want to review that. I would want to look at the details, especially around the special ed concern. I’ve visited the site, but I would like to go back again for a more comprehensive visit. There’s just a couple of different things we really need to look at.”

The only other board member comments came from President Diane Gibson-Gray, who said she doesn’t agree with the need for an interview with the charter school administrators, and from Walter Ruehlig, who asked staff to provide information at a future meeting on the AUSD board’s oversight of the charter school “just so we can see what we’ve been doing.”

Jeannie Dubitsky, in her brief remarks to the board, did not address the child abuse controversy or Vinson’s concerns about the special ed program, but did invite the board members to visit the school.

“We are very excited about this,” she said. “What happened was we allowed public students to have Montessori experience. Typically it was a private [school] endeavor. We are the first in Contra Costa County to be a charter. The first charter in the United States was a Montessori. We also offer many other programs.”

The school’s website describes the Montessori method: “The Montessori philosophy has an unwavering belief in the individual – an individual who through time, experience and support becomes a self-disciplined, independent, and self-confident learner. In Primary & Elementary (TK-3) the environment will be prepared for students to interact with specially designed materials that are hands-on which promote a concrete understanding of verbal, mathematical, and sensory skills.”

The method may be working. Slightly more than half of the school’s students are proficient in language arts compared to just one-third of students in the AUSD average. And twice as many Antioch Charter Academy II students are proficient in math than the district-wide average.

A significant contributing factor may be the demographic difference between the school and the district. The school is 41% white versus the district’s 16%, the school is 32% Hispanic or Latino versus the district’s 42%, the school is 9% African American versus the district’s 26%, and the school is 8% Asian versus the district’s 4.5%.

The board voted unanimously to accept the petition, formally beginning the 60-day process to either approve or disapprove it. A hearing on the petition has been scheduled for the board’s next meeting Jan. 25, and a vote is scheduled Feb. 8.

In other board action:

  • Several parents pleaded for the continuation of the after-school math program at Jack London Elementary, which they have been told is due to terminate. School officials did not comment on their concern, but Ruehlig asked that it be placed on a future meeting agenda.
  • Ruehlig was elected as board president for the next year and Vinson was elected as vice-president, each on a unanimous vote.
  • The board unanimously voted to refinance up to $20,752,944 in Measure C bonds in an attempt to save several hundred thousand dollars that can be used to help repair some of the district’s dilapidated schools, including Turner Elementary School’s leaking roof.
  • A budget update revealed that the district is no longer engaged in deficit spending after years of having done so, but the district’s technology system is, as one staffer put it, “on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”
  • The agenda specified that the new board members, Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, along with re-elected member Gibson-Gray, would be sworn in at the beginning of the public portion of the meeting at 7 p.m. But Gibson-Gray said they had already been sworn in – she and Hack the day prior and Sawyer-White at 6 p.m. – to allow the full board to participate in the closed session prior to the public portion of the meeting. The board also went into closed session after the public portion of the meeting.
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New Antioch School Board Trustees sworn in, but not when it was publicly announced and scheduled

Thursday, December 15th, 2016
Few people were in attendance when new Antioch School Board Trustee is given her oath of office by County Supervisor Federal Glover during a special session, before the regular Board meeting, Wednesday night, December 14, 2016. Photo by Debra Vinson.

Few people were in attendance when new Antioch School Board Trustee is given her oath of office by County Supervisor Federal Glover, as district staff look on, during a special session, before the regular Board meeting, Wednesday night, December 14, 2016. Photo by Debra Vinson.

Former board members got send off during November 16 meeting before term ended, also without being on agenda

By Allen Payton

The new members of the Antioch School Board, Crystal Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, along with Diane Gibson-Gray who was re-elected to a third term in November, took their oaths of office, this week. But, not when they were supposed to according to Wednesday night’s board meeting agenda.

The oaths were scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at the beginning of the board’s regular meeting, but Hack, who the voters returned to the board after having lost his re-election bid in 2014, and Gibson-Gray were sworn in on Tuesday, according to Superintendent Stephanie Anello. She said Hack thought he was going to have a scheduling conflict.

Sawyer-White, who received the most votes in the school board race in the November election, was given her oath by County Supervisor Federal Glover at 6:00 p.m. prior to the board’s previously scheduled closed session. Only her husband Casper and a few others were in attendance.

When asked if the public or media was informed of the change in schedule for the oaths of office for the new and returning board members, and why it wasn’t on the agenda for 6:00 p.m., Anello stated, “We don’t have to.” She later said her answer was in response to not having “it on the agenda prior to closed session, not about informing the media.”

Asked when Sawyer-White’s oath ceremony had been rescheduled after the meeting agenda was published on Friday, December 10th, Anello said she would respond later today. Sawyer-White said “Nancy (Stephanie’s Admin)…asked if I could be sworn in at 5:45 with Stephanie. I preferred Federal Glover and we decided 6:00 p.m. after all the confusion.”

Asked again about when the change in scheduling of her oath ceremony occurred, Sawyer-White responded, “I am not sure which day. Nancy would know. Nancy sent out all the emails.”

When contacted about the matter, Nancy Belleci, Senior Executive Assistant for Anello, did not respond.

UPDATE 1: However, Anello did respond, Thursday afternoon, as she said she would.

“We sent an email to all three incoming Board Members approximately a week ago stating that they would need to be sworn in prior to Closed Session Wednesday night which was scheduled for 6:20 pm. We figured that 6:00 pm would be enough time for all three to be sworn in,” she said. “Tuesday, both Gary and Diane asked if I could administer the oath that day rather than prior to Wednesday’s meeting.”

“We then contacted Crystal to let her know that if it was more convenient for her to come at 6:15 pm. we could administer the oath then as Gary and Diane had already been sworn in,” Anello continued. “She said she needed to come at 6:00 pm since Federal Glover was swearing her in and he had another commitment.”

“The ceremonial oath of office was agendized,” she added. “None of the three Board Members felt they needed to participate in a ceremonial swearing in.”

She was then asked why then did the agenda which was sent out on Friday, two days later, show the oaths of office during the regular meeting that started at 7:00 p.m.

“Because in the past, Board Members wanted to have a second ceremonial swearing in after closed session when more people may be present,” Anello explained. “The three incoming Board Members declined.”

But, that was for a re-enactment ceremony, which is not how the item was listed on the agenda at 7:00 p.m.

The item on the agenda for the regular meeting was listed as a “Ceremonial Oath of Office.”

5. Recall to Open Session – 7:00 PM

A. Reports from Closed Session

B. Flag Salute

C. Ceremonial Oath of Office – Diane Gibson-Gray, Gary Hack, Crystal Sawyer-White

The confusion lay in the use of the term “ceremonial” by Anello and the new board members, to refer to the re-enactment of the actual oaths of office which occurred earlier. There was no oath of office ceremony for the public to be aware of and attend.

Former Board Members’ Farewell

The two former board members who were not elected in November, Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, did not attend Wednesday night’s meeting, as they were given their farewell send-off at the board’s meeting on November 16, according to Anello. However, it wasn’t on that meeting’s agenda for the public to know.

Navarro said he refused to have his photo, which was hanging on the wall inside the district office, given to him that night, since he and Terry were still on the board and continued serving until the new members took their oaths of office. He saw the effort as an attempt to demonstrate that the two of them were no longer on the board, so that they could not vote on the Rocketship Education charter petition at the board’s meeting held on Wednesday, December 7.

Asked if they were going to be recognized at the Wednesday’s meeting, Anello said, “They were recognized by Board Members and myself at our last regularly scheduled meeting.”

Asked if it was on the agenda, she responded, “My administrative assistant sent them an email letting them know that we would be recognizing them at our last regularly scheduled board meeting as we have done for all other outgoing board members in past years. Fernando said it would be inappropriate and that he would come pick up his picture at a later date. He said he spoke for both he and Alonzo. Thus, during my comments I acknowledged and thanked them for their service. Other Board members thanked them during their comments.”

According to Navarro, following the comments made by Walter Ruehlig and Debra Vinson, Gibson-Gray’s was merely, “ditto.”

I’m sorry if it appeared to…Fernando like it was a political move to formally recognize them as we had done in the past in order to send an inferred message of powerlessness,” Anello added. “I can assure you that from my perspective that was absolutely not the case. I didn’t always agree with them — nor they me, but I enjoyed working with them.”

However, Gibson-Gray did make an attempt, as board president at the time, to get Ruehlig and Vinson to join her in swearing in the new board members at the meeting on December 7th, prior to the vote on the Rocketship petition.

While the state Education Code states that terms of school board members end on the first Friday in December after the election, it also states that they serve until the new members are qualified. That has been interpreted to mean when the new members are given their oaths of office.

So, there was no formal, dignified ceremony of the transfer of power by the Antioch School Board as happened last Thursday, by the Antioch City Council. A video of Sawyer-White’s oath of office, taken by her husband Casper, can be viewed on the Antioch Herald’s Facebook page.

UPDATE 2: However, as of Thursday afternoon, Sawyer-White said that new Board Vice President Debra Vinson told her that a ceremony for the new board members and and a re-enactment of the oaths of office will be held Jan. 25th. That was confirmed by new Board President Walter Ruehlig, who wrote via email, “More details to follow.”

 

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Rocketship vote question answered, current Board members serve until new ones sworn in

Monday, December 12th, 2016

By Allen Payton

Questions surrounding the Antioch School Board’s vote to approve the Rocketship Education charter petition at last Wednesday night’s special meeting were raised at the meeting and since then. Some have asked and considered challenging if there was a quorum of members, since current Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray, Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry’s terms ended on Friday, December 2nd, according to one part of the state Education Code. Both Navarro and Terry lost their bids for election. While Gibson-Gray was re-elected, she won’t take the oath of office for her new term, along with the other two election winners, Crystal Sawyer-White and Gary Hack, until this Wednesday night, December 14.

The portion of Education Code Section 5017 which has caused people to call into question the Rocketship vote, reads “Each person elected at a regular biennial governing board member election shall hold office for a term of four years commencing on the first Friday in December next succeeding his or her election.”

Therefore, they conclude there were only two voting, current members of the Board – Vice President Walter Ruehlig and Trustee Debra Vinson – at the meeting and voting on the charter school petition.

However, the rest of that section reads, “Any member of the governing board of a school district or community college district whose term has expired shall continue to discharge the duties of the office until his or her successor has qualified. The term of the successor shall begin upon the expiration of the term of his or her predecessor.”

That begged the question of what is the definition of “qualified.”

Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello answered that question, today, Monday, December 12, 2016. In an email, she providing the following explain and define the various terms and how they apply to the school board election:

“‘Qualifying’ for Office

Though the law does not explicitly state what is meant by the term ‘qualify,’ many counties interpret it to mean (1) the individual won the election, and (2) the individual has taken the oath of office. Technically, an individual has not ‘won’ the election until the election results are ‘certified.’

‘Certifying’ Election Results

The elections office must provide a certified statement of the results of the election to the District within 30 days of the election. (Elec. Code, § 15372.) The law is unclear whether the election results must be ‘certified’ prior to newly elected board members assuming office pursuant to Education Code section 5017. (According to County Clerk Joe Canciamilla, the election was certified last Tuesday, December 6, 2016).

‘Declaring’ Election Results

Separate and apart from the certification requirement, Elections Code section 15400 requires the ‘governing body’ to officially ‘declare’ the winner of the election. While section 15400 does not specify who the ‘governing body’ official is, generally the county board of supervisors will ‘declare’ the winner shortly after the election. Such is the case for the District. Unlike certification, there is no express deadline or timeline for the declaration of election.

Our legal counsel advised that they recommended that the new Board be sworn in after the certification of the results. However, they also advised that a district or other entity may choose to wait until the winners are declared to avoid a situation in which the winner appeared to be one individual when, in fact, it was another.”

So, the vote on the Rocketship charter petition by the current Board of Trustees was valid, they had a quorum of members in order to take the vote that night. However, the situation could have been avoided had the Board held the required to vote on the Rocketship petition on November 28th, meeting – within the 60-day limit after receiving the petition on September 30th – as it was originally scheduled.

An attempt was made last Monday, December 5th, by current Board President Gibson-Gray to have the new trustees sworn in last Wednesday night, before the vote on the Rocketship charter petition, when she called Ruehlig and asked him to discuss it with Vinson and to decide if they wanted to do that and let her know. (That created a violation of the state’s Brown Act open meeting law, by holding a serial meeting in private of a majority of board members. Both Ruehlig and Vinson say they rejected the idea. That matter will be the subject of a separate article.) But, her term had also expired on Friday, December 2nd, so any action by her could have also been challenged, if the new board was sworn in and the Rocketship charter petition vote had failed. But, that won’t occur until this Wednesday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m. during the regular school board meeting, at the School Services Building, 510 G Street in downtown Antioch when Sawyer-White, Gibson-Gray and Hack all are given their oaths of office.

 

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