Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch’s Cornerstone Christian School celebrates Class of 2018

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Cornerstone Class of 2018 graduates, faculty and staff celebrate on Thursday, June 7, 2018.

Article & photo by Denise Baquing

Cornerstone Christian School’s graduating Class of 2018 included some top performing students.

Valedictorian Ryan Sierra earned a GPA of 4.14 and will be attending Grand Canyon University where he will major in mechanical engineering.

Salutatorian Michaela Felmann earned a GPA of 3.98 and will be attending Los Medanos College.

Cougar of the Year Jordan Edwards earned a GPA 3.9 and will majoring in computer engineering, also at Grand Canyon University.

Jordan has played three years of varsity basketball and received All League honors in both his junior and senior years. He’s maintained his high grade point average while serving the school in multiple ways, including being elected as President of the Student Government.

Jordan has volunteered at Royal Family Kids Camp where he’s been a counselor to foster kids, and he’s been a part of the youth leadership, at Cornerstone.

Cornerstone Christian School is located at 1745 E. 18th Street in Antioch and serves grades K-12. For more information about the school visit

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Antioch High sends off 300 graduates into the world

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura and Valedictorian Diana Muñoz speak to their classmates on Friday night, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

By Jesus Cano

Not even the strong winds infiltrating Antioch High School’s Class of 2018 graduation could have ruined the milestone celebration for its students.

But that is just one of the adversities the class had to face during their tenure as Panthers.

Something expressed deeply by many of the speakers was how discontent they were about not having a cafeteria throughout high school. In addition to that, during their sophomore year these scholars did not have their home, outdoor multi-purpose athletic facility (Eels Stadium), as it was under renovation.

That foreshadowed what these students were able to receive over time. Principal Louie Rocha pointed out that these students were able to witness the opening of the new library and media center.

But at the end of their high school careers, many of the students felt that walking across the stage was well worth the struggle.

Valedictorian Diana Muñoz and Salutatorian Diego Gonzalez Ventura both touched on the subjects about being children of immigrant parents in their speeches, but Gonzalez Ventura additionally spoke about his denial into both Dozier-Libbey and granted admission into one of Deer Valley’s academies.

“The best decision of my life was withdrawing my petition for appeal at Deer Valley,” Gonzalez Ventura said. “I got to create a whole new family here at Antioch.”

This was a smaller class for Antioch, with only 300 graduates, but Rocha saw unity. It was demonstrated by them organizing a rally on the National Walkout day to spread awareness about gun control following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“This class really highlights a strong sense of community,” Rocha said. “I think they’re going to make a difference in the years to come.”

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Antioch High Class of 2018 graduates celebrate.

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Dozier Libbey Medical High graduates 127 in Class of 2018

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

2018 Co-Valedictorian Natalie Tong speaks to her fellow graduates on Friday evening, June 8, 2018. Photos by Luke Johnson.

Co-Valedictorian Cinddy Wu Deng addresses her classmates.

By Jesus Cano

Dozier Libbey Medical High School’s graduation illustrated how much of a tight knit community the Antioch campus really is.

As principal Scott Bergerhouse addressed the 2018 Dozier-Libbey graduates, he not only did so as a class, but he mentioned 40 kids individually with the positive aspects they brought to him and the school. He described the smiles students offered him, anecdotes about the daily life of a student at Dozier Libbey, and recognized pitcher Ayanna Sanchez for tossing a perfect game.

“I wanted to recognize as many people as I can, because that’s how much they mean to me.” Bergerhouse said. “It all about the kids, it’s all about their accomplishments and what they do.”

He has been able to watch this class grow, since when he took over the helm as principal, they were just freshman.

This class of 2018 saw 127 seniors walks the stage. This was one of the smallest classes in recent memory according to the principal. Bergerhouse added that it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that it’s because many students ended up switching districts.

This year, Dozier Libbey had co-Valedictorians, in Natalie Tong and Cinddy Wu Deng. While they shared similarities in grade point average, they mentioned commonly how attending a close community like Dozier Libbey served as an advantage.

“Even if we don’t talk to everyone, we can always be there for each other.” Tong said.

See more photos on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

Dozier-Libbey graduates cheer on their classmates.

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Deer Valley High graduates Class of 2018

Friday, June 8th, 2018

The Deer Valley High School graduating class of 2018. Photo by Robbie Pierce.

By Robbie Pierce

The students of Deer Valley High School, faculty, friends and family packed into Wolverine Stadium on the hot, humid evening of Thursday, June 8 for a graduation and commencement ceremony filled with themes of both congratulations and opportunities for their accomplishments.

Deer Valley teacher Robert Hubbard oversaw the event as Master of Ceremonies, and music was provided by the school band conducted by Larry Widener and the school Divine Voices choir led by Teacher of the Year Michelle Stark. After the students walked onto the field to the tune of the traditional graduation march and stood for the Presentation of Colors by Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps J.M. Jones and national anthem sung by the choir, Salutatorian Michelle Yin seated the class.

Principal Kenneth Gardner welcomed the class and audience to the ceremony, stating “there’s no other place I’d rather be in the world” than Deer Valley for the graduation.

“This class has been an amazing class… the knowledge that they’ve learned in academies and in classes will serve the rest of their life,” said Gardner.

Gardner, who retired this year, cried with joy during his speech. “It’s been an amazing ride,” he said.

Antioch Unified School District Board President Gary Hack gave the opening remarks, heartily congratulating the students but also urging them to “go upstream against the heard” and “do what you think is right, important and proper,” reminding them that while their graduation is no small feat, it marks the start of their life’s journey, not the end. Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White, trustees Debra Vinson and Diane Gibson-Gray, Superintendent Stephanie Anello and several District and City Officials were also in attendance as “Distinguished Guests.”

The commencement speakers for the class were Senior Class President TiaErykah Gregory and Valedictorian Rameez Mughal.

“Personally, I’d like to congratulate each and every one of you,” Gregory beamed. Throughout her speech, she stressed that students take every opportunity ahead of them whether their next step is college, career, military or a gap year and encouraging them to find their “passion.”

“Everyone has one,” said Gregory. “The only one that can keep you from a new experience of memory, is you.”

She also, somberly acknowledged that the assembled students would probably never be together again as a single unit, but celebrated the fact that before they all go their separate ways, they could be together “one last time” for their commencement.

“Congratulations, class of 2018,” she said. “We did it.”

For his speech, Mughal took a second to thank the faculty for “making our education possible,” giving special note to the retiring Gardner. He also offered encouragement to his peers while admiring the “effort” he had seen over the past four years and pushing everyone to seek out new opportunities.

“Wherever life takes you, I hope you bring that same effort with you,” Mughal said.”

Mughal also, in what he humorously referred to as “meta commentary,” discussed his initial inability to find an interesting anecdote to finish off his speech with, but how that led to a philosophic revelation for him and advising the class, “if you lack a story, write your own.”

After a musical performance of “A Blessing,” Gardner formally presented the Class of 2018 to Superintendent Anello, who accepted the class and formally certified that all present had passed graduation requirements. “Imagine” by John Lennon was performed before diplomas were presented at long last to the eager graduates by the AUSD Governing Board and DVHS faculty members Maria McClain and Allison Weihe.

The commencement lasted around an hour and a half and completed with Gregory leading the class in a traditional tassel turning ceremony, the presentation of a tassel to Gardner as a retirement gift, a few brief closing remarks by Hubbard and a recessional by the band as students and their families slowly filed out of the stadium and into the next chapters of their lives.



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Mary Allan Fellows Award recipients announced

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Fourteen teachers have been chosen by the Antioch Schools Education Foundation (ASEF) as this year’s Mary Allan Fellows Award winners.

In its 11th year, the ASEF honors educators from the Antioch Unified School District.

These year’s Fellows recipients are Jennifer Carrigan, Sutter Elementary School; Stevi Grimm, Antioch High School; Mark Libbey, Dozier-Libbey Medical High School; and Michelle Stark, Deer Valley High School. Stark is also the AUSD Teacher of the Year.

The 2018 finalists are Samantha Helton, Park Middle School; Lisa Henley, Grant Elementary School; Debbie Karp, Park Middle School; Katy Kelley, Grant Elementary School; and Heather McGovern, Orchard Park K-8 School. And, semifinalists are Megan Cain, Fremont Elementary School; Steven Kestner, Sutter Elementary School; Darrin Neutz, Dallas Ranch Middle School; Alvin Sandford, Jack London Elementary School; and Kathe Saylor, Park Middle School.

Allan, a retired educator and 2001 California Teacher of the Year recipient, said ASEF’s primary purpose is to celebrate teachers.

“We want to place a focus on what excellent teachers do and how and where we can best support them. Teachers are generally nominated by a colleague, administrator, parent or student whose lives have been touched by their expertise.”

She added there was a “strong group of contenders proving a challenge for the selection team. It was a rigorous and daunting process. Each teacher who was nominated brought unique personal qualities, creative teaching methods to his or her classroom, and outreach into the community.

“The ASEF board members who visited the nominated teachers were very impressed with the quality of teaching they observed and the teachers’ commitment to their students and the profession,” said Allan. “We witnessed exceptional group work, teachers engaging students with higher-level thinking questions; students making connections between what they were doing and real-life; and students using the content language while articulating their ideas. All these teachers beautifully represented the fine quality of teaching that is happening throughout the AUSD.”

Hosted by the ASEF, these educators will be honored during the Mary Allan Fellows Award dinner on Sept. 18 at the Lone Tree Golf & Event Center.

This year’s guest speaker is Stan Murphy, the 2005 California Teacher of the Year and finalist for National Teacher of the Year. Murphy, a Cal grad, taught for 46 years.

For more info and tickets to the event, visit


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Letters: Former Antioch Mayor and School Board Member Rocha wants reconsideration of approval for East Bay Tech charter academies

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

Dear Editor:

At the Antioch Unified School Board of Education meeting held on May 9th, against the advice of staff and legal counsel, AUSD Board Members Crystal Sawyer-White, Debra Vinson, and Walter Ruehlig voted to approve East Bay Tech High School Charter (EBTHS) and East Bay Tech Middle School Charter (EBTMS) with the following conditions: “Delegate the Superintendent to negotiate the MOU that addresses the Findings of Facts included in Resolution No. 2017-18-9, including the revised budget, SPED and operations, by June 18th”.  Despite legal counsel concerns and Board Member Gibson-Gray pointing out that there was nothing in the motion to deny the charter if they did not meet the conditions the approval still stands. The motion was passed 3-2, with Hack and Gibson-Gray voting against it.

The EBTHS and EBTMS Charters are based on the Clayton Valley Charter High School (CVCHS) which has recently made headlines, “Contra Costa County Office of Education To Conduct Forensic Financial Audit of Clayton Charter High School After Sudden Departure of Administrators” (Claycord May 17, 2018).

One of the lead petitioners, Meagan Moilanen, is currently on staff of CVCHS and during the May 9th meeting spoke glowingly about the successes at CVCHS and they would be bringing that success model to the Antioch Charters.  This is very concerning and until the investigation is completed, Antioch Unified School District needs to put a stop to both charters.

Unfortunately, only AUSD Board Members who voted to approve the charters may request that the item be brought back to the board for discussion or a revote. For the sake of our students and community, I feel that action needs to be taken quickly.

Please contact the AUSD Board Members below to encourage them to reconsider their vote while the Contra Costa County Office of Education conducts a Forensic Financial Audit of CVCHS and the actions of their Administrators and Board Members.

Thank you.

Mary Helen Rocha

Past AUSD Trustee, Antioch Mayor and City Council Member

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Antioch School Board to hold special meeting on Monday for Superintendent’s annual evaluation

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

The Antioch School Board Trustees and Superintendent Stephanie Anello at the board meeting on May 16, 2018. Screenshot from the district’s YouTube Channel

The Antioch School Board will hold another special meeting for the annual evaluation process of Superintendent Stephanie Anello on Monday, May 21. The meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. with public comments followed by the closed session discussion, since it is a personnel matter.

The meeting will be held in the Board Room at the district offices at 510 G Street in Antioch’s historic, downtown Rivertown. The public portion of the meeting can be viewed on the district’s YouTube Channel. To view the agenda for the meeting, click here.

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Antioch School Board approves charter middle, high school academies on split votes

Thursday, May 10th, 2018

The school board held their meeting in the multipurpose room of Lone Tree Elementary due to the expected size of the audience, Wed., May 9, 2018. Photos by Hilda Parham

By Allen Payton

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, after over five-and-a-half hours of public comments, discussion and debate, the Antioch School Board of Trustees approved the charter petitions for both the East Bay Tech Middle School Academy and High School Academy on 3-2 votes. Board Vice President Crystal Sawyer-White and Trustee Walter Ruehlig were joined by Trustee Debra Vinson in approving the schools, while Board President Gary Hack and Trustee Diane Gibson-Grey voted no, as expected. Vinson was the swing vote, having opposed the Rocketship Charter Elementary School in November 2016. This time she voted in favor, forming a new pro-charter school majority on the Antioch board. Ruehlig voted in favor of Rocketship, his wife had previously served on the board of a charter school, and during her 2016 campaign Sawyer-White expressed her support for charter schools, so their votes came as no surprise.

The East Bay Tech Academies are sponsored by the Clayton Valley Charter High School, which was converted from a regular, public high school in the Mt. Diablo School District. The petitions were presented to the board at their meeting on March 14. (See related article.)

The meeting was held in the Lone Tree Elementary School multi-purpose room for an expected overflow audience, as occurred during the hearings on the Rocketship Charter School. On the Day of the Teacher – as honored by Superintendent Stephanie Anello – the meeting featured mainly teachers speaking against the charter petitions, and Hispanic and African American parents in favor, the same split as occurred during the Rocketship hearings.

At the request of Gibson-Grey, the hearings on the charter school petitions were moved up to the beginning of the meeting, to accommodate most of those in the audience who were there specifically for those agenda items. But, that didn’t prevent the meeting to last past midnight.

District Staff Recommends Board Denies Petitions

According to the staff report, the district staff recommended the board take action denying the petition establishing the charter school. Resolution Exhibit A Findings of Fact (EBT MS)

“The District’s staff, with assistance from legal counsel, reviewed and analyzed the petition and supporting documents for legal sufficiency, and analyze public information regarding the petitioners’ history of involvement with charter schools.  Based on that analysis we have identified numerous deficiencies in, and concerns related to, the petition and the proposed Charter School’s operations and determined that more than one of the legal grounds for denial exist.  Specifically, the petition does not provide a reasonably comprehensive description of several essential charter elements and the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the proposed education program.”

Public Comments – Lead Petitioners Respond

Those speakers in favor formed one line and those against formed a separate line of speakers, with Hack alternating between the two sides to hear from the speakers.

The lead petitioner for the academies, Meagan Moilalen said “There is a matter of urgency. 79% of AA students and 77% of Hispanic students at Antioch High did not meet the English standards for last year’s CAP tests. We need urgent change, now.”

Co-petitioner and former Antioch Associate Superintendent Bill Morones said of the charter petition, “It’s exceptionally strong. It has been thoroughly supported and endorsed by the California Charter Schools Association.”

“The report is full of inaccuracies,” he continued. “You have our rebuttal…and it disputes all the information you have from your attorney. Parents and students in Antioch deserve a choice. Our petition is exceptionally strong.”

Board Members Debate, Discuss, Ask Questions of Petitioners

The district’s attorney gave reasons why the petition was inadequate, which was included in the staff report.

Gibson-Grey made a motion to deny the petition and Hack seconded it.

Ruehlig requested that the petition representatives be available to answer questions. “Yes, please”

Attorney for the district, the petition must be complete upon submission, then. Whatever they’ve submitted, today cannot be considered.”

Vinson, “what did you submit today?”

Moilalen said, “We submitted, today a response to the…inaccuracies in the charter petition.”

“It is an 18-page rebuttal,” Morones added.

Their then attorney said, “What is submitted to you, tonight is clarification of the elements of the charter petition. How those are interpreted are in the eyes of the beholder.”

Morones said, “we received the denial recommendation on Sunday.

Gibson-Grey then said, “and you handed them to us, tonight. But, you didn’t email them to us prior. Some board members have them, some don’t.”

Anello responded, “the agenda was sent out last Friday.”

Ruehlig then said, “The petition was submitted on Feb. 6. I want to know if there was any correspondence from the school district.”

“No, there was no correspondence from the school district,” Moilalen said.

Vinson asked, “did you make any attempts to reach out to the district?”

“No, I did not,” Moilalen responded.

Ruehlig, “When a charter petition is deemed this flawed it makes me wonder how much experience they have in submitting charter petitions.”

“This is a thoroughly vetted petition,” Moilalen responded. “We’re very confident it meets all the legal requirements to go forward. So, we were very surprised to receive the denial.”

Gibson-Grey was first to offer her reason for denying the petition, mainly reading her prepared remarks.

“School choice is not going away. It’s my obligation to protect and serve public school education, not charter schools,” she said. “Approving charter schools at the local level impacts local schools.”

She argued that the district staff time costs will exceed the 1% revenue from the charter schools. “I am imploring that we not get into that, again.”

“It can be approved anywhere along the line,” she continued. “It will not impact our remaining students if it’s approved anywhere along the line.”

“Charter schools in my single opinion should be approved at the county or state level,” Gibson-Grey concluded.

“I disagree,” said Sawyer-White. “I have an example. I’ve lived in four different states. I haven’t lived in Antioch all my life. I’ve attended private schools and public schools. I was not supported by Rocketship. I was supported by the Charter Schools Association” during the 2016 election.”

“My apologies,” said Gibson-Grey, who had brought it up in her comments.

“Rocketship is a full-on campus,” Sawyer-White said. “We want this school to have a full-on campus. I toured Clayton Valley campus. Before you consider, ‘no’ you should have toured the campus, first.”

“It’s not just about choice. Teachers are great. I’m a teacher. I’ve been a teacher since 2009,” she continued. “I’ve been in the trenches. I want our kids to be able to explore other options. I just think Antioch needs to move up to the 21st Century. Antioch Charter I voted for that. This isn’t Rocketship. It’s a whole other ballgame. So, I move to approve the charter petition.”

Vinson then said, “California, as a state has 1,184 charter schools educating 9% of public school students. She spoke of accountability. I too want more money per student. The issue isn’t only about money. It’s about school climate, relationship with parents.”

Vinson referred to the NAACP report referred to earlier, against charter schools.

“The bulk of this report is on the public schools,” she said. “African American students have the distinct experience of falling below on all aspects. We’ve made gains in Latino students in the district. But we’ve fallen behind with African American students.”

Charter schools are public schools, Vinson continued. “Are charter schools the answer? Not always. Rocketship in each city that they’re in they’ve taken eight to nine awards.”

“If you have only one parent out of 17,000 students championing the successes of the district, then we have a problem,” she said referring to one parent who spoke against the petition and who regularly attends school board meetings.

“I do know parents want choice,” Vinson stated. “We are a suburb. We are not going to be able to accommodate the number of charter schools as in Oakland or Richmond.”

“If the charter is denied here and is approved at the county, they can do whatever they want in our district,” she explained. “Is this the best petition before us? Probably not. But parents want a choice. Do we have excellent teachers? Yes, we do. We have to figure out a system that will benefit our children.”

“This Board approved RAAMP Charter. RAAMP Charter didn’t perform. They were able to revoke the charter,” Vinson pointed out.

The district’s attorney responded, “there can be approval with conditions. The state approves charters with conditions.”

“With all of my research and with all I’ve heard from the community, I’m going to approve this charter,” Vinson stated.

Hack said, “that is not on the table at this time.”

Ruehlig was next to speak saying, “One of the hardest decisions a trustee has to make…I was struggling with this, this afternoon. It’s a complex situation. Kind of the good, the bad, the ugly. About 41% of charter schools perform the same as the public schools in the area. 29% perform better. 30% perform worse. But, when charter schools succeed they succeed well.”

“How do I feel about charters, myself? Again, it’s a mixed bag. I’ve voted for two of them over my 10 years. I voted against two of them. I voted against the renewal of RAAMP,” Ruehlig. But, I don’t feel I have the right to obstruct the wishes of hundreds, perhaps thousands of families. It’s not me and my personal decision or personal feeling. I do say I feel the law is flawed. I personally feel the law should be rewritten so a school district is compensated when a charter school moves into an area. I also agree…it would be fair to have the state reimburse. Sure, enough whether we approve it or don’t approve it. If we vote against it we’re spitting in the eye of the charter movement. But it won’t do a whit of good. In the history of charter schools there’s been one that’s been denied at the state.”

“I’ve been a supporter for 50 years of public schools. But, I’m not an obstructionist,” Ruehlig said. “To tell you the God’s honest truth, it was not a happy day in my life when I heard about this charter petition. I thought, ‘here we go again, so soon on the heels of Rocketship.’”

He read a quote from former President Barack Obama in support of charter schools from 2016.

“With a heavy heart, because of the impacts of the school district, I will be voting for this charter,” he stated.

Gibson-Grey then shared additional thoughts, saying “I will never have the eloquence of Debra or Walter. I want you to know I don’t have any problem with Rocketship. I’m only against the cost to the district for oversight. I’m not against parent choice. But, I’m elected as a public school trustee. That’s why I’ll be voting they way I am, tonight.”

Hack was last to speak saying, “I spent my entire life in public schools. I went to public schools. I’ve taught in public schools. I was the teachers’ union president…I’ve been on the board of public schools. I’m a purist, I know that parents, students and teachers make a difference in students’ lives. Will I approve a charter school by definition? No. I believe charter schools, for whatever reason harm public schools.”

Motion To Deny Petition Fails, New Motion Made.  RESO 2017-18-29 East Bay Tech Academy Antioch Middle School BOE 5.9.18

The motion to deny the charter petition failed 2-3 with Hack and Gibson-Grey voting yes.

The attorney then said “the board has to take action tonight, to be within the 60 days, unless the charter petitioner is willing to extend it.”

The staff only provided the board with a resolution for denying the petition, so a lengthy discussion ensued over what to include in a motion to approve it.

“If this is going to be approved then I recommend it be with conditions, with an MOU (memorandum of understanding),” the attorney continued.

He further advised that the board members of how to make a motion that addresses the deficiencies in the charter, “which may have already been corrected.”

“I would recommend a timeline,” he said. “Maybe something reasonable in summer.”

Anello suggested the early fall, perhaps the end of September to finalize an MOU.

Vinson then made a motion to approve the charter petition, with certain conditions for the petitioners to meet, and that they address certain finding of facts, and that the superintendent or designee negotiate the MOU by September 28.

The attorney kept pushing the district staff’s findings of fact for denial to be included in the motion and Gibson-Grey repeatedly attempted to get the board to postpone their decision for 30 days.

Vinson wasn’t having it.

“What I’m saying is…I’m a detailed person. I want to look at this. I may not have any questions at all. Then we will finish up with the budget. Then we will get it all organized and completed. So, I don’t see what the problem is,” she stated.

“The attorney works for us and we will be able to respond to him if there are any concerns,” Vinson continued. “But, they have said they’ve already addressed them. We’ve approved charters and the MOU comes later. They’re agreeing to have the MOU worked out.”

The petitioners wanted the MOU done in 30 days but Anello said that wouldn’t work with the graduations, school closings and reopenings about to occur.

Ruehlig asked, “Can you live with 45 days?”

Moilalen responded, “It didn’t take me very long to go through the points. The urgency is high. We’re trying to open two schools.”

The district’s attorney said, “I’m sure we can work it out. So, the 18th of June.”

Vinson then remade her motion to get the MOU done by June 18th.

Sawyer-White seconded the motion, again.

At 11:55 P.M. the motion passed 3-2 with Ruehlig joining the two ladies to approve the charter petition.

High School Academy Charter Petition Approved

Many people were still in attendance and some chose to speak, again repeating much of the same arguments on both sides during public comments.

Vinson then made a similar motion for the East Bay Tech Academy High School charter petition. Sawyer-White provided the second and it passed on another 3-2 vote at 12:40 A.M.

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