Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch School Board interviews superintendent search consultants, hears more teacher complaints, Gibson-Gray new President

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

By Allen Payton

At their regular meeting on Wednesday night, December 9, 2015, the Antioch School Board interviewed the representatives of three search firms, vying for the contract to help the district hire a new superintendent, to replace Dr. Don Gill.

After being sworn in at an earlier, special session, new trustee Fernando Navarro took his seat on the dais. In addition, the trustees voted in Diane Gibson-Gray as President and Walter Ruehlig, the highest vote-getter in last year’s election, as Vice President, for the coming year. They will begin serving in their new roles at their next meeting, in January.

Superintendent Search Firm Interviews

The board members challenged the representatives of the three search firms with questions such as how they plan to engage the community and about a money-back guarantee.

The three groups included Educational Leadership, Leadership Associates and Ray & Associates, Inc.

In response to a question by Gibson-Gray, Jim Brown of Leadership Associates and who is a former superintendent, as are his partners Sally Frazier and Rich Fischer, said their money-back guarantee applied even if the board goes with someone they don’t recommend.

“We want the candidate to interview us,” Gibson-Gray stated.

“We do too,” Brown replied. “We suggest two rounds in the interview process.”

Trustee Debra Vinson wanted to know how the search firms plan to engage the community.

Each group committed to reaching out to as many people in the community as possible.

They spoke of online surveys for the public to provide input, using the district’s website.

“There’s different steps in the process,” Brown responded. “Up front it’s very important to reach out as widely as we can and we’ll need your help to identify individuals.”

“Everybody’s perspective is important,” he added.

Dr. Carmella Franco, a former superintendent and Lead Consultant for Ray & Associates, Inc., spoke of public and employee meetings for input and a “full report with every single word taken down.”

Her colleague Noel Gallo, who served on the Oakland Board of Education for 20 years, shared his experience as a selling point.

“I know all about California and the Ed Code,” he said. “And I know Antioch. We work for the board. We work for you.”

Ruehlig asked about the current field of potential applicants.

“We don’t get the numbers we did 40 years ago or 30 years ago,” Brown replied. “Now we deal with the spouse because you’re not just hiring one, but two. We’re optimistic about the candidate pool. “We’re hoping to get 12 to 25 applicants.”

“We have a website people are checking throughout the state,” Frazier added.

Franco responded to the same question when it was her group’s turn.

“In a recent search in California, we had 54 applicants, which is unheard of,” she stated. “Some from California, some who have worked in California and want to move back. There usually is a connection to California.”

Franco said they do “deep reference checking.”

Ruehlig then asked about diversity, which Gallo had mentioned.

Franco stated they get “candidates from all backgrounds. Some bilingual, if that’s desired.”

“We want to see the superintendent be successful and for you to have a good relationship with the superintendent,” she added.

Gibson-Gray asked Franco about the money-back guarantee, as well, asking if the superintendent left within the a year would they do the search for free.

“We have the same money-back guarantee,” Franco stated. Then said they have had “less than five” superintendents that have done so.

“We have a very successful record,” she added.

Gibson-Gray then suggested the board members “mull over” their selection “individually, then come back January 20th” at the next board meeting to take a vote.

Vinson and Ruehlig agreed. Navarro did, as well.

“Of course, I’m on board,” he said.

Public Comments, More Teacher Complaints

Resident and regular board meeting attendee, Julie Young spoke about the new federal education bill, that recently passed Congress.

“We are going to still be teaching to the test,” she stated. “It requires state that they have adopted standards that comply with 11 federal requirements. We are stuck in this Common Core that is being run by a bunch of corporations and not in the interest of the children.”

She mentioned the “21st century initiatives making schools the sweeping influence in a child’s life.”

Deer Valley High teacher Joan Setka complained about class sizes.

“My largest class size is 37,” she stated. “But I have colleagues that have up to 44. This is more child care than teaching.”

Kenneth Kent, who teaches fifth grade at Kimball Elementary, spoke about special education.

“We have a history of placing students in special ed,” he said, then shared two concerns, including the hiring and support of special education staff.

“One left after less than a month,” Kent shared. “One who’s only there until 10 AM and another only going to be there one hour a day.”

He said the qualifying process is “laborious. It has to be streamlined.”

“We have a larger population of students who have needs,” Kent continued. “Let’s stop ignoring them.”

Deer Valley High teacher Scott Benedict shared his concerns about the teachers’ contract with the district.

“This contract we’re negotiating is not just about current teachers,” he said. “This district always seems fit to do the negotiating in the contract year. We’re doing it backwards.”

“You’re going to be faced with a huge deficit of teachers this next year, due to fewer coming out of schools,” Benedict stated.

Antioch Middle School teacher Trish Campbell complained about the lack of heat in her classroom.

“I dress in multiple layers to teach in my classroom,” she stated. “The heat wasn’t going to be turned on until the calendar said so, instead of the weather. It’s set at 61 degrees.”

“When we hit a heat wave, the air conditioning goes off and we have no windows open,” Campbell continued. “We should be able to control it in the classroom and make them [the students] comfortable.”

Pamela Fisher, a kindergarten teacher at Carmen Dragon Elementary also shared concerns about class sizes.

“Our students deserve to learn in a smaller class,” she stated. “Districts are being funded to be 24 to 1. But our district is only willing to lower to 27 to 1 at the elementary level. You’re telling us you don’t care.”

Fisher spoke of the need for “better relationships to address student needs and disciplines.”

“Now all I do is trying to keep them under control,” she added.

Robert Strickler, President of the Antioch Education Assocation (AEA), the local teachers’ union, congratulated Navarro, then directed his thoughts to Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello, saying “If I was in charge of the search, it would be over.”

“We’re here to present Christmas cards from teachers,” Strickler said, then spoke of class sizes, especially in special education being over the legally maximum size.

“Eight teachers have filed grievances,” he stated. “Several aren’t returning next year.”

He also mentioned that there are “no computer education classes in elementary and middle schools.”

Sharon Weaver, a teacher at Turner Elementary, asked that the district would “please send your team, tomorrow,” then stated that the “special ed staff shortage is real and must be addressed to retain current employees.”

“Our students with disabilities deserve the best and that will never happen with a string of subs,” she added.

Antioch Middle School teacher Deb Hubbard offered her thoughts on the teachers’ contract discussions with the district.

“Let’s settle the contract early, instead of May,” she said. “It would be great for me and my colleagues to feel valued.”

“Pittsburg is in settlement,” Hubbard continued. “They just got a 7% raise, total. Almost 20% in two years.”

“Let’s get decent pay and let’s get this contract settled,” she added.

Antioch High French teacher Sara Svacool, Political Chair of Antioch Education Association, continued her efforts on the issue of substitute teachers, that she spoke about at length, at the previous board meeting, saying they’ve “got the ball rolling.”

“Thank you for passing on my message with regards to substitutes,” she told the board.

Synitha Walker shared her concerns about challenges with college application of high school students in the district.

“Transcripts of our students are incorrect,” she stated. “They’re not updating their GPA when classes affecting the college application process.”

“They need to be aware they need to send their transcripts from the colleges where they’ve taken classes,” Board President Claire Smith responded.

“They’re doing that,” Walker replied.

Board Actions

The board chose not to vote to endorse the proposed “Funding Kindergarten Through Community College Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2016” after Julie Young questioned the need for it.

“Do we need to have more taxes in Antioch?” she asked. “I’m certainly done.”

In a vote that should help alleviate the concerns of not enough teachers, the board voted 4-0-1, with Navarro abstaining, to approve a Provisional Intern Permit. That allowed the hiring of someone obtaining their credential by next May, for one classroom at Jack London Elementary, to replace a teacher who left.

“I don’t want to just rubber stamp the vote,” Navarro stated as his reason for abstaining.

Smith said she had told him it would be acceptable to not vote on issues that night, as he just took his seat on the board, earlier that afternoon.

“But, next meeting, he needs to be ready,” she added with a smile.

The Antioch Unified School District Board of Education meets twice a month, usually the second and fourth Wednesdays, at 7:00 p.m. at the School Services Building, 510 G Street, Antioch. For more information visit

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Report: More than half of top California schools for low-income students are charter schools

Monday, December 21st, 2015

Data from educational justice group shows that charters are pivotal in helping students overcome the barriers of poverty 

SACRAMENTO – A list released in October, 2015, of the highest performing schools for low-income students across California, released by the non-partisan research and advocacy group Education-Trust West, reveals that the majority are charter public schools. This is the latest data affirming that charter schools are pivotal in helping students overcome the barriers of poverty.

“It is crucial that California celebrates and learns from the schools that are yielding the strongest results for those students with the greatest needs,” says Myrna Castrejon, acting CEO of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). “We are thrilled to see that so many of these schools are charters. Clearly charters are fulfilling their mission of helping historically under-served students get the education they deserve, and we will continue to support our charter schools and ensure they continue to help students in poverty excel.”

The new Ed Trust-West data highlights the “top 10 highest performing schools for low-income 3rd, 8th and 11th grade students” in California. In 3rd and 11th grade, five of the top ten are charter schools. In 8th grade, seven of the top ten are charters.

“This data helps explain why there are more than 150,000 students, many of them living in poverty, on charter school wait lists throughout California,” says Castrejon. “These students and their families recognize that in many cases charters are their best hope for success. As legislators and school boards seek to provide their communities with the best possible schools, this data speaks loud and clear: charters are a big part of the solution.”

The new data from the Education Trust-West is available here:

The California Charter Schools Association’s vision is to increase student learning by growing the number of families choosing high quality charter public schools so that no child is denied the right to a great public education. Our mission is to ensure a million students attend charter public schools by 2022, with charter public schools outperforming non-charter public schools on every measure. We do this by serving as the advocacy organization that builds the policy environment needed to grow as quickly as possible the number of students attending high quality charter public schools. For more information, please visit our website at

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

8th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day scholarship contest open to Antioch students

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015

Antioch middle and high school students can win prize money in the 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Program. Open to middle and high school students who reside in the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) boundaries, this year’s contest theme is  “If I Were President of the United States.” Judges will be looking for work that best represents Dr. King’s vision and incorporates the 2016 theme.  Application deadline is January 7, 2016. Submissions may be written or visual.

Written submissions may be a poem or essay, short story, etc. Visual entries may be a story told through video, photographs, music, drawings, paintings, collages, etc., and must incorporate 2016 theme.

Winners will be announced and scholarship awards will be presented at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Event on January 18, 2016, from 1 – 3 PM at Deer Valley High School. Scholarship Awards levels are: High School: 1st Place $400, 2nd Place $200, 3rd Place $150 and Middle School: 1st Place $200, 2nd Place $150, 3rd Place $100.

Submission Requirements: The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Program is to open middle and high school students who reside in the Antioch Unified School District boundaries. Application submission deadline is Thursday, January 7, 2016 at 4 PM. Applications and submissions must be received by that date. No late submissions accepted.   It is important that you include your contact information.

Written submissions may be submitted at Antioch City Hall or sent by email to  Visual electronic media needs to be submitted on a CD or DVD and 3-D art (posters, drawings, paintings, collages, etc.) must include the student’s name, school, grade and contact information on the back of the visual entry and submitted at Antioch City Hall, 200 H Street, 3rd Floor, Attention: Y’Keyah Johnson. Write on the envelope or package “MLK Scholarship” and your name, school, phone number and email address. Please check the city website for holidays and open to the public hours.

All submissions must include the student’s name, school, grade and contact information on the top of the electronic document or included in the email message. Submissions become the property of the MLK Scholarship Committee and will not be returned. For questions regarding the scholarship contact Diane Gibson-Gray at or (925) 325-9897.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Navarro takes oath of office as Antioch’s newest school board trustee

Thursday, December 10th, 2015


New Antioch School Board Trustee Fernando Navarro takes his oath of office administered by Board President Claire Smith, Wednesday afternoon, December 9, 2015.

New Antioch School Board Trustee Fernando Navarro takes his oath of office administered by Board President Claire Smith, as the other trustees look on, Wednesday afternoon, December 9, 2015.

By Allen Payton

Antioch businessman Fernando Navarro took his oath of office, Wednesday to become the newest member of the Antioch School Board. During a special afternoon session at which his parents and brother were in attendance. but not his wife and children, Navarro was sworn in formally by Board President Claire Smith.

“We’ll have a ceremonial oath of office in January when his family can be in attendance,” said Smith.

Fernando Navarro signs his Oath of Office to officially become Antioch's newest schools trustee.

Fernando Navarro signs his Oath of Office to officially become Antioch’s newest schools trustee.

“They’re on their way to Guadalajara for Christmas,” Navarro shared referring to his family.

“We’d like to officially welcome Fernando,” Smith stated.

“It will be a fun ride, maybe,” she added with laughter.

The meeting was held at 4:00 p.m., so that Navarro could participate in a closed session meeting with Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello, which was on the agenda as a “Public Employee Performance Evaluation: Interim Superintendent.”

However, in an email from Smith in response to questions about the meeting, she stated that it was not an evaluation. Following is the email exchange on the subject:

Antioch Herald – Why is Fernando Navarro being sworn in at 4 p.m. when most members of the public cannot attend?

Smith – “In order for him to participate in closed session and get all the information he must be sworn in first.”

AH – I assume it’s so he can participate in the Performance Evaluation of Interim Superintendent Anello. If so, that begs the question how could he evaluate her performance when he’s taking office that day?

Smith – “It is not  ‘a performance evaluation.’ Obviously, she has not been working in the position long enough to have an evaluation. However, the board does need to discuss with her what we expect of her performance.”

AH – Do you really expect the early Closed Session to last almost 3 hours?

Smith – “Yes, I do anticipate the closed session to last 3 hours. That is not uncommon.  Look at past agendas.”

AH – The agenda states “Public Employee Performance Evaluation…”  So, if it isn’t one, perhaps that should be relabeled as to what it truly is, a meeting to discuss guidance and direction of what the Board expects the Interim Superintendent to do. That being the case, why must that be done in closed session?

Smith – “Because it is still considered a personnel issue. An Employee will be discussed. Superintendents evaluations are never done in public. In past years, this discussion took place off site and lasted sometimes 5-6 hours.”

The closed session with Anello was held as scheduled, following Navarro’s oath of office ceremony, but nothing was reported out after it was finished, and before the regular meeting began at 7:00 p.m.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

California Capital Fellows Programs applications now available

Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

The nationally recognized Capital Fellows Programs administered by the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento, announces the availability of applications for the Capital Fellows Programs:

·         California Senate Fellows

·         Executive Fellowship Program

·         Jesse M. Unruh Assembly Fellowship Program

·         Judicial Administration Fellowship Program

Voted as one of the top internships nationwide by, the Capital Fellows Programs are ranked highly for their combination of meaningful work experience and career opportunities. These fellowships offer the unique opportunity to work for 10-11 months as a full-time paid staff member in the California State Assembly, California State Senate, California Executive Branch or the California Judiciary. Fellows participate in policy making, program development and implementation and gain first-hand experience in the governance and leadership of the most diverse, complex state in the nation.

Prospective Capital Fellows must have a bachelor’s degree (in any major) by September 1, 2016 and a demonstrated interest in state government and public service. Applicants may apply to one or more of the programs that meet their interests and qualifications. Recent graduates, graduate, postgraduate and mid-career applicants are welcome to apply.

For detailed information about the fellowships and applications, please see our website,

The application deadline for all four fellowships is: February 8, 2016.

If you have questions regarding the Capital Fellows Programs, please contact the Center for California Studies at (916) 278-6906 or

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Antioch High School holding books, coats and toy drive through Friday, Dec. 11

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

AHS coat book & toy drive

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Book Fair on Monday at Antioch Barnes & Noble to benefit East County university women scholarship program

Saturday, November 28th, 2015

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) Delta Contra Costa Branch is hosting a Book Fair, and will receive a percentage of the net sales for the entire day, Nov. 30 if you mention their Bookfair ID number 11714250. Download flyer for details – AAUW B&Nvoucher2015

You may shop at any Barnes & Noble, not just the one in Antioch.

You may also shop online from anywhere at from Nov. 30 – Dec. 5 and enter their ID number 11714250 on the checkout/payment page.

Books, CD’s and DVD’s make great gifts.

During the day at the Antioch store, they will offer free gift wrapping and children’s crafts. Plus, spin the wheel and win prizes.

From 1-2 pm Antioch author, Linda Locke will be holding a book signing and doing a talk about her book, Family Fables.

Thanks for shopping and supporting AAUW – proceeds go to educational scholarships and Tech Trek.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

Antioch School Board hears from teachers about problems in district, Anello’s first meeting as Interim Superintendent filled with complaints

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

By Nick Goorich and Allen Payton

During public comments at the Antioch School Board meeting on Wednesday, November 18th, parent Candi Amigo shared concerns about parents of eighth graders not being aware “there will be non-themed options for eighth graders going into ninth grade.”

They don’t have to choose an academy,” she continued. “December 11th is the deadline for choosing.”

But, she said she learned the school district was not going to send out notices to parents until January.

We are not being informed, properly,” Amigo added. “I’m not the only parent who feels this way.”

Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello, in her first meeting in her new role, responded.

I’ve heard your concerns and will meet with staff in the morning,” she said.

Board President Claire Smith also offered a response.

Those kids who want to be in the general education pathway…we need to always maintain that,” she stated.

English Language Development

Another parent, Nallely Malaspine, shared her concerns with the English Language Development (ELD) program.

The whole program needs restructure,” she said to light applause from the many faculty in attendance.

I’d like to see this program become a priority to the district,” Malaspine continued. “We are in a very big need of bilingual assistance. We don’t have any bilingual teachers.”

We’re killing these kids’ home language,” she added. “We’re teaching them in just English.”

Smith responded briefly, stating that state law has something to do with the district’s limitations in the area of bilingual education.

Class sizes

Deer Valley High teacher Scott Benedict shared his concerns about the number of students in the special education classrooms, and lack of teachers.

We feel it’s critical. Some are up in the 22 to 25. It drives a lot of our suspensions and referrals,” he stated to heavy applause.

We’re using like a 1970′s model for hiring, we wait until April,” he added.

Gill’s paid leave

Lone Tree Elementary Teacher Sarah Nichols wanted to know why Superintendent Dr. Don Gill was placed on paid administrative leave, to strong applause.

He’s being paid for eight months,” she exclaimed. “Couldn’t the money be used for something else?”

Substitute Teachers

Antioch High French teacher Sara Svacool, Political Chair of Antioch Education Association, the local teachers’ union, joined several teachers in expressing her dissatisfaction with the current state of substitute teaching in the district.

I’m here to talk about subbing,” she stated. “It’s a mess.”

Savacool made it clear that there are too few substitute teachers available, leaving many overworked.

There are not enough substitutes in the sub pool,” Savacool continued.

She told the board that many substitutes do not receive sufficient training and therefore make less of an impact than they could and the fact that teachers are substituting in classes, during the day, earning them time off.

Teachers are using their bank days,” she said. “I have teachers getting a day a week because they’re subbing every day.”

The bank day system, in which teachers can save up time off over the course of a school year and later use them all at once as a vacation, is flawed, said Savacool, as it makes substitute teachers’ job more difficult and stretches the sub pool thin when replacements are called upon for so many days in a row.

She also reminded the board that many subs have difficulty getting their pay on time; pay can be received months after the work has been done, in some cases. “We need to revamp our hiring and training of substitute teachers,” she said. “And the pay is a mess.”

Savacool suggested several best practice strategies that she has seen work well in the past. Having permanent substitute teachers at schools, whom the students and staff know, would increase the effectiveness of the substitute teachers and allow them to make a greater impact.

Smith and the other board members, as well as Anello said they would look into the challenges and work to address each one.

The next Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 9th at which the new Trustee, Fernando Navarro will be sworn in to fill the vacancy left by the resignation in September by Barbara Cowan.

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter