Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch School Board approves spending $75,000 to improve district’s public image on split vote

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Hires three local contractors for writing, photography and videography services

By Allen Payton

At their board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25 the Antioch School Board voted 3-2 to hire three contractors to provide photography, videography and public relations services to help improve the district’s public image. Board President Walter Ruehlig and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Gary Hack voted in support while Board Vice President Debra Vinson and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White were opposed.

Listed on the agenda under the Consent Calendar as item “Q. Vendor Agreements for Freelance Information,” district staff described it as follows: “As part of the Antioch Unified School District’s goal of community engagement, the District issued a call for freelance writers, videographers, and photographers. Applications were screened and the attached vendor agreements met the criteria established in the posting. These vendors will provide original content related to our District in the form of news and feature stories, informational and promotional videos, and photography of District events, etc.”

One contract is with local, self-described event photographer Beverly Knight, another one is with Melissa Hammack Photography, and both are not to exceed $25,000 and will last through next June.

The third eight-month contract is with Mike & Mike Media, LLC and is also not to exceed $25,000. Mike & Mike Media AUSD contract 10-25-17

The contracts are all the same for writing stories, videography and photography services and include the following: $250 for news stories of up to 250 words with photos, $500 for up to 500 words and $600 for stories up to 1,000 words; videography services of up to 10 minutes at $1,500; and photography services up to $1,300 for 50-100 photos at one location with significant editing.

But, the prices and the fact it doesn’t include either of their names just the name of the company, the contract with Mike & Mike Media is the most controversial because the company is partly owned by Mike Burkholder who is the owner and publisher of the local news website, His partner is local photographer Michael Pohl. Burkholder has been very critical of other media in East County over the years, posts articles with spelling and grammatical errors, was a candidate for school board in last year’s election critical of other candidates including Sawyer-White, and has been very critical of Vinson, as well.

However, before Wednesday night’s vote Burkholder said he now mainly publishes press releases on his website, no longer covers the school district in articles and was considering shutting down or selling his site.

Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello handles most communication with the media, as the district does not have a Public Information Officer.

“AUSD is the only district without outreach,” Burkholder explained to the Herald prior to the board vote. “Pittsburg and Mt. Diablo have PIO’s.”

“The more content sent out…the more you get,” he continued. “The more you know about and can share with your readers or do your own stories. Or heads up to events rather than last minute invites from board members.”

However, the contract with Mike & Mike Media is not for PIO services and Burkholder will not serve in that capacity. Anello and the Board President, currently Walter Ruehlig, will continue to be the individuals communicating with the media for official comment by the district.


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Antioch High JV football game cancelled due to sexual assault, bullying by players

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

By Allen Payton

According to a post by Principal Louie Rocha on the Antioch High School Facebook page, this week’s Junior Varsity football game against cross-town rival Deer Valley High has been cancelled due sexual assault and bullying by some of the players.

The Thursday morning post reads: “A message from Principal Louie Rocha of Antioch High School: Please note that due to the misconduct of several members of the Antioch High JV football team, the game vs. Deer Valley for this Thursday has been canceled. Antioch High does not condone or tolerate any level of sexual assault and bullying. Any students involved in this type of unacceptable behavior will be held accountable. At our school, we take pride in offering and exposing our students to educational and awareness programs on these topics. For example, we recently hosted the Consent is Everything assembly for all our male students. Antioch Police Det. Brian Rose and motivational speaker and former NFL player Anthony Trucks spoke about the seriousness of sexual assault awareness, making good choices and respecting all. Thank you for your support of Antioch High School.”

In a comment posted on Facebook early Thursday morning, Melissa Waren, a parent of a female Antioch High student who was one of the victims of the harassment and bullying, wrote:

So in case you didn’t know what standards we hold our Antioch Football JV team to, I’m going to let you guys know. Many of the members, not all, have participated in harassing five of the students. One of them being my daughter and her good childhood friend. They threatened to beat up one of the girls, who I will not name, if she came near them. This is after school hours and this is the only way she walks home. She went and got her other friends to walk her to the gate to feel more comfortable. As they walked her to the gate the guys were constantly insulting and harassing the girl with inappropriate profanities, name calling and more. One of the girls walked up to them and POLITELY asked one of the guys to leave her alone to which he responded with by harassing her about her sexuality. He also told her to “hit me so I can drag your a** and beat the f*** out of you.” He also said to another girl “ I’ll drag your white a**”. And to another “ you look like you would be a b**** to press charges.” Another guy physically pulled his pants down and rubbed his bare bottom on this girl. There were also many other things that were said and done to which I won’t mention. Again, this is not the whole football team’s doing, but MANY of them were there +3 randoms. Apparently, they were suspended and their game is cancelled. I’m sorry but I think this needs more attention. And til this very moment some of the girls are still getting messages from people about how wrong it was for them to have gotten suspended and a game taken away. They don’t call it a team for nothing! We should not tolerate this!!! I will not tolerate this and will be paying Antioch High school a visit tomorrow morning.

When reached for comment, Waren said, “I went to the school, today to meet Principal Rocha. I guess I was one of the only parents he hadn’t contacted. He said he had been contacting parents of the students that were involved, yesterday. These students have been suspended. The game has been cancelled. He said that kind of conduct is not acceptable at Antioch High and that the students were being reprimanded. Their parents have come in. They may or may not be able to play their very last game against Pitt.”

“I brought my daughter in and her friend, who the problem had originated with, and Louie thanked them for taking a stand and saying, hey this is what’s going on, that it took some courage and he was proud of them,” she continued. “We spoke for a good hour.”

“They had already had an assembly with the boys and spoke about sexual harassment and the code of conduct, just last week, and this happened,” Waren added. “It was ninth and tenth grades. I think the 11 and 12th grades will have one this week.”

Please check back later for any updates to this story.

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Haunted House Sat & Sun Oct 28 & 29 to benefit Dallas Ranch Middle School students

Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

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Antioch School Board continues 2-2 split on reappointing Mary Rocha to district’s Personnel Commission

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Trustee absences give it to State Superintendent Torlakson to make appointment

By Allen Payton

Due to the absence of Trustee Gary Hack at the Sept. 27 board meeting, the Antioch School Board split 2-2 on voting to reappoint former Antioch Mayor Mary Rocha to the district’s Personnel Commission. Trustees Vinson and Sawyer-White voted against her reappointment. Then due to Gibson-Gray’s absence at the Oct. 11th meeting, there were still not three votes to approve her reappointment and the item was pulled from the agenda.

According to the commission’s Rules and Regulations, “the California Education Code…provides the Personnel Commission with the right and responsibility for establishing rules and regulations to govern the District’s classified (non-faculty) employees.”

Following is the staff report on the item for the Sept. 27 meeting:

The term of the current Board of Education appointee to the Personnel commission will expire at noon on December 2, 2017.  As outlined in Personnel Commission Rule and Education Code 45248, 45245 and 45246, on or before September 1st of each year, the Human Resources Director shall notify the Board of Trustees of the name and address of the commissioner whose term will be expiring and whether or not that commissioner will accept reappointment for another three-year term.

The Director of Human Resources notified us that the Board of Education’s appointment’s term will expire in December and that Ms. Rocha would accept reappointment for another three-year term.

Personnel Commission Rule 20.1.2 states:

“The Board of Trustee’s Appointment:  By September 30th, the Board of Trustees shall publicly announce the name of the person it intends to appoint or reappoint.  At a Board meeting to be held after 30 and within 45 days of the date the board publicly announced its candidate, the Board shall hold a public hearing to provide the public, employees and employee organizations the opportunity to express their views on the qualifications of the person recommended by the Board of Trustees for appointment. The Board at that time may make its appointment or may make a substitute appointment or recommendation without further notification or public hearing.”

The vacancy was announced with a recruitment to target all regular advertisement, recruitment sources, social media and websites.  Recruitment closed on September 5th and only one application was received.

Staff is recommending that, in accordance with Personnel Commission Rule 20.1.2, a public hearing be held to provide the public, employees, and employee organizations the opportunity to express their views on the qualifications of the person recommended by the Board of Trustees, and thereafter, that the Board reappoint Mary Rocha to fulfill the term for the Board-appointed Commission.

Mrs. Rocha has over 44 years in public service, with 16 of those years serving as a board trustee for the Antioch Unified School District.  She is familiar with the policies, procedures and budgets for the school district, as well as personnel commission rules, and regulations.  Ms. Rocha believes in the underlying philosophy of the merit system to include providing the best qualified candidates for employment in a timely and efficient manner to support the District’s goal to advance student achievement.

According to the rules for the commission as seen on the district’s website, it “is composed of three (3) individuals who must be registered voters, reside in the Antioch Unified School District and be “known adherents to the principles of the merit system”.  One member of the commission is appointed by the Board of Trustees, one member is appointed by the Board of Trustees upon the recommendations of the classified employees’ organization, which represents the largest number of the District’s classified employees, and the third member is appointed by the other two (2) members of the Commission.”

Rocha is currently the board-appointed member of the commission.

Instead of being reappointed by the Board Rocha said, “I will have Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent (of Public Instruction) sign off my Personnel Commission position.”

That is expected to occur by early December, she shared.

Board President Ruehlig responded to questions about the matter.

“Mary was the only applicant both times (original and reappointment). We advertised in several…media.”

“This is not all that unusual,” he continued. “For years I was trying to get a replacement on the County Library Commission and there was no response. Crystal and Debra showed an interest in putting it back to advertisement, but I understand that we spent $1,800 advertising and the Personnel Commission has no caveat against there being only one applicant. With 44 years public service and 16 years on the School Board, Mary, whatever you feel about her, certainly is legitimate. On top of all that, we have deadlines.”

Asked about the commission and why the State Superintendent will fill the vacancy, Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello said, “Districts are not required to have a Personnel Commission related to their classified staff. However, they can and must vote on it as a bargaining unit. Antioch is one of approximately 100 districts in the State that have a PC. I am including our PC Director, Lynda Sifford on this email as she is the guru of all things Personnel Commission related.”

A question to Sifford asking if it was state law that the State Superintendent fills vacancies on such commissions was sent after close of business on Tuesday.

Thursday, Oct. 19 UPDATE:

Sawyer-White Wants to Reopen Application Process, Vinson refuses to comment

When reached for comment about why she voted against Rocha’s reappointment, Sawyer-White said, “I have been speaking to parents and other Board Trustees in Contra Costa County and the Personnel Commission is not a pressing issue. I am hearing “Keep up the fight for our students.” I addressed at our Board meeting recently, a new Child Nutrition Program called and declining enrollment. I think the public would like to hear more about topics pertaining to our students.

“To answer your question. Before voting, I motioned to reopen the Personnel Commission position,” Sawyer-White explained. “A district employee from the Personnel Commission conveyed to me that my motion cannot be granted. I decided to research further to see if there was a policy to reopen this position. I call the California Personnel Commission Association and I spoke to the Director and he said the position can be reopened.”

In responding to the same question, Vinson simply wrote via email, “No comment.”

She later attempted to call this reporter in response to a further email challenging her to give the public an explanation for why she voted how she did. But no voicemail message was left.


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Antioch School Board hears complaints about high rental charges for football stadium

Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

Eels Stadium at Antioch High. File photo by Luke Johnson

Vinson, Sawyer-White want greater reimbursement for conference expenses

By Robbie Pierce

At their October 17, 2017 meeting the Antioch School Board was given an earful from one youth sports organization about what they feel are overcharges for the use of Antioch High’s Eels Stadium football field.

“There is no justification for what we’re being charged… There is something wrong here,” said Arrieanna Lombard, representing the Delta Valley Wolfpack Football and Cheer Club. “There is something really wrong with what we’re being charged.”

Lombard, via a speaker card, spoke multiple times during the most recent Antioch Board of Education meeting held Oct. 11, to raise awareness of an issue with fees levied against her club by the board for using Antioch High School facilities and fields. The fees were, according to her claim, in excess of $2000 per game, while school football teams – her club is not affiliated with any school district, but leases the rights to use the grounds for practices and games – are only charged around $700 to rent the field for the whole day.

The issue regarding Wolfpack’s fees was actually given a dedicated spot on the agenda for the meeting by Trustee and Board Vice President Debra Vinson under Item 12 – Items for Discussion by Board as sub-items 1 and 2, “Concession Stands” and “Direct Cost Analysis for Use of Custodial Fees and Custodial Cost”. Both were requested to be on the agenda by Vinson. Lombard spoke during the review of each item, as well as during Item 6 – Public Comments about 30 minutes beforehand.

On an evening in which one trustee, Diane Gibson-Gray, was absent, student delegates were asked to stay home due to air quality concerns, and several items were skipped outright due to no speakers being present for them, Lumbard’s impassioned speeches were the most charged portions of the meeting.

“We’ve been dealing with this issue since August, and it’s now October and we still don’t have any resolution on it,” Lombard said. “We would not be here if there was communication and transparency.”

She explained that the Civic Center Act is meant to, in her words, “ensure that school facility and fields are available to the public for acceptable use pursuant to the board policies and procedures.”

That Act clearly outlines the rules and guidelines for the use of school facilities by extracurricular organizations, and also strictly and clearly states what can and cannot be included in the fees for using them. The Act was amended this year by SB 1404, which added extra items that could factor into the total charge as “capital costs”.

Lombard had no issue with the addition of fees, instead her problem – and Wolfpacks’s problem – was the way the implementation of SB 1404 was handled and announced.

“Timing matters… the Wolfpack were notified about an increase in fees the last week of July, well our season starts the beginning of August, so we had no time to make changes according to fees that you’re going to raise,” she stated. “That’s not fair.”

The board seemed to very sympathetic to Lumbard’s issue, and made it clear the extra cost was an accident.

“Sometimes we get praised, sometimes we get criticized. I would have to say this is one of those times we deserve some criticism,” Board President Walter Ruehlig observed. “But, I would like to clarify I don’t believe [the extra fees are] from intent. I don’t think anyone up here wants to sock it to our kids in sports.”

Associate Superintendent for Business and Operations, Teresa Santamaria added that her biggest concern is “to make sure that we are charging them fairly, and not overcharging them.”

“I actually brought this on because I’d like for it to be resolved,” Vinson explained. “We’ve been dealing with this issue, actually, since I’ve been on the board. So, I think we need to really put some energy into really trying to resolve this and making it a priority. These are our children, this is our community, and we owe them that.”

The board as a whole agreed, as they all sought to research the issue, find out exactly how the fees became so exorbitant, and have a resolution to discuss by the next meeting.

“Given that it’s been delayed this long, I think we need to fast-track the item,” Superintendent Stephanie Anello commented.

Reimbursement of Trustees’ Conference Expenses

Outside of reviewing their process for levying fees for school facility usage, the board also took time to discuss two board policies regarding reimbursing board members for expenses associated with attending education related conferences.

Vinson formally requested a change to Board Policy 9240, which sets up procedure for board members to be reimbursed for any expenses during trips to educational or training conferences. Vinson’s request is to allow the district to pay the bill upfront, via invoice, for any official California School Board Association events instead of having reimbursement being the only option, telling the story of how one event she attended recently was willing to use an invoice, but she was not able to take that option because Board Policy 9240 did not allow for it.

President Ruehlig said such a request was “fair and reasonable”, and stated the board would likely discuss it at next meeting.

Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, in the final sub-item, cited that Board Policy 9352 sets a flat $400 reimbursement to every board member who attends a meeting, but allows for extra payment in exceptional circumstance, and requested extra payment for the four-hour meeting in September in which the board decided to discipline trustee Vinson. Superintendent Anello committed to do research into relevant policy and legislation to find out how much reimbursement they could ask for, citing a recent court case that might have affected the previous limits.

Other Board Action

Beyond that, the board passed two resolutions for immediate action, one legally declaring that every school in the district has “sufficient” textbooks and instructional materials (such a declaration is required by Education Code 60119 and Senate Bill 550) and one authorizing Provisional Internship Permits, or PIPs, for three teachers in the district; Melissa Holmes-Molina, Steven Nosanchuk and Jennifer Uresti.

The board also collectively and unanimously accepted two new board policies that were presented in a revised form for Second Reading and Action – 1312.3, a revised policy for Uniform Complaint Procedures and 5146, a new policy dealing with policies and procedures for married/pregnant/parenting students.

The meeting closed with a brief discussion of planning for future meetings. Vinson expressed a desire for a study session for strategic planning within the next few months to discuss systemic issues within the school district such as declining enrollment. Sawyer-White made the point that according to Governor Brown, California is experiencing record numbers of homeless and asked the district to do something about it. Anello pledged to get some numbers together for the board.

Pierce is a new reporter for the Antioch Herald, is a student at Los Medanos College and writes for the school newspaper, The Experience.

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Antioch schools remain closed Friday due to “extreme poor air quality”

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Air quality in the San Francisco Bay Area showing Antioch in the orange zone as of 7:00 AM, Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. From

The following message was posted on the Antioch Unified School District’s website on Thursday:

“This is Stephanie Anello, Superintendent of the Antioch Unified School District with an important safety announcement. We have been monitoring the air quality throughout the day. Once again, given the extreme poor air quality due to the recent, ongoing wildfires, schools will be closed tomorrow Friday, October 13th. Although the air appeared to be less toxic than predicted today, it is forecasted to be, once again, unhealthy tomorrow. Due to living in the Bay Area, our micro-climates are dynamic and air quality is always changing. Additionally, although some fires may have improved containment levels, this does not necessarily equate to different levels of toxic pollutants in the air that can reach our children. Please know that your child’s safety was the primary factor leading to this decision. Many of our students walk or ride their bike to and from school and will be exposed to the poor air quality even if we were to remain open and shelter in place. We regret any inconvenience this may cause you but, again, your child’s safety is our number one concern.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our schools and our District as we work to ensure your child’s health is not compromised in any way.  Our thoughts remain with the victims of this tragedy as well as with the firefighters and other first responders.”

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website the air quality in the Antioch area is designated with an orange color which is “Unhealthy for Sensitive Groups.” It further defines that category as “Members of sensitive groups may experience health effects. The general public is not likely to be affected.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Governor signs Sen. Glazer bill to return greater local control to school districts

Friday, October 13th, 2017

SB 751 would eliminate the limit on reserves for most small school districts and raise it to 10 percent for others

SACRAMENTO – School districts will have a greater ability to manage their own fiscal affairs under a bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed on Wednesday.

The bill, SB 751, jointly authored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo and Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, eliminates the reserve cap for most small school districts and substantially reduces reserve fund obligations for large school districts.

“This measure significantly reverses an ill-advised law limiting local school reserve funds. School districts will now be able to more fully prepare for a rainy day, which may be right around the corner,” Glazer stated. “I would hope that eventually we can eliminate any type of cap on school reserves and keep the state out of micromanaging local school districts’ budgets. I want to thank Senator Hill and the California School Board Association for their leadership on this critical local control issue.”

Glazer represents most of Contra Costa County including all of Antioch in the California State Senate.

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Community college district reopens Los Medanos, other campuses in Contra Costa County

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College-Pleasant Hill Campus, Diablo Valley College-San Ramon Campus, Los Medanos College-Pittsburg Campus, Los Medanos College-Brentwood Center, will resume a regular class schedule and student services beginning today, Friday, October 13.  Outdoor sport activities will continue to be limited until further notice, but indoor activities including theater performances will still be held as scheduled.

The weather forecast for this weekend calls for increasing winds that may hamper firefighting efforts and contribute to poor air quality.  We encourage students and staff to continue monitoring email, website and social media over the weekend for any updates.

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