Archive for the ‘News’ Category

The Learning Experience® Opens Academy of Early Education in Antioch

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

The Learning Experience’s new location in Antioch, near Mel’s Diner, Staples and Walmart. Photo by Allen Payton

First-time franchisee brings nationally-recognized childcare, enrichment programs and early education to toddlers and preschoolers in community 

The Learning Experience, one of the country’s fastest-growing Academies of Early Education, is pleased to announce the opening of its newest center at 4831 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, California.

The Learning Experience’s center in Antioch, which is now enrolling for summer camp for preschool and school age children and offering private tours for families, provides childcare, enrichment programs, and early education for children from six weeks to six years of age. Its all-inclusive curriculum and programs include phonics, mathematics, science, foreign language, yoga, and a philanthropy program that teaches children the value of kindness and generosity.

The independent franchise location in Antioch is owned by Rajya Ponnaluri, a first-time franchise owner who will employ over 30 teachers and staff members to serve upwards of 180 children in the community.

“The Learning Experience provides the perfect balance of owning a small business and having the support of a nationally-recognized franchise brand with a proven track record of success,” said Ponnaluri. “I am thrilled to bring such an outstanding curriculum to the little citizens of our surrounding communities.”

The Learning Experience’s proprietary Learning Experience Academic Program (L.E.A.P.®) curriculum and enrichment programs were developed through more than 30 years of experience in early childhood education. Its early literacy programs have 9 out of 10 children reading before Kindergarten, and its unique philanthropy curriculum was created in partnership with Make-A-Wish®.

The center in Antioch marks the franchise’s first location in San Francisco area, and fourth location in California. The Learning Experience is ranked no. 79 on Entrepreneur’s 2018 Franchise 500 and has over 220 centers across the country serving more than 25,000 toddlers and preschoolers with childcare, enrichment programs, and early education. The franchise also has over 100 locations currently in development in select markets nationwide.

For more information about The Learning Experience center in Antioch, please visit

About The Learning Experience®

The Learning Experience ( is one of the nation’s fastest-growing Academies of Early Education for children ages six weeks to six years old. With a greater national emphasis on educational development during the most crucial years of a child’s growth, The Learning Experience places a prominent focus on programs that advance scholastic preparation. The Learning Experience prepares children academically and socially via innovative scholastic and enrichment programs such as the L.E.A.P.® curriculum, a cutting-edge proprietary approach to learning which has 9 out of 10 of its children entering Kindergarten already reading. To complement the academic curriculum, The Learning Experience utilizes various enrichment programs crucial to advancing learning and overall balance, such as philanthropy, Yippee 4 Yoga™, Music 4 Me®, Movin’ N Groovin’®, manners and etiquette, and foreign language.

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Antioch student graduates from virtual California Connections Academy @ Ripon

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

Photos by Matt Lorenz courtesy of California Connections Academy.

More than 100 online public school students celebrate academic accomplishments, head to distinguished universities

California Connections Academy @ Ripon, a tuition-free online public school serving students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, graduated 108 high school seniors at a commencement ceremony held at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton on Monday, June 18. Remarks honoring the graduates were delivered by Couper Condit, district director, Dr. Richard Savage, the school’s executive director, Kara Mannix, high school principal, and Alexandria Yao, valedictorian and professional figure skater on Team USA. Hundreds of family members, friends, teachers and administrators gathered to honor the students’ accomplishments.

The graduates include Antioch’s Gadai Bulgac who utilized the flexibility of his education to pursue Debate Club and take challenging college courses while in high school. Other graduates from Contra Costa County include Jasmyn Barkley, Kylie Diaz, Amilkar Lopez and Anastasiya Klimko.

The graduating class also included Tatum Osborne, an activist from Los Gatos who produced and directed a PSA on sexual assault and will attend Saint Lawrence University on scholarship. She was also the recipient of the Student of the Year award presented by the Ripon Chamber of Commerce. Tatum views her advocacy as a long-term commitment and hopes to one day be a creative director for a magazine.

“The biggest advantage of attending Connections Academy is being able to customize your education to fit your learning needs,” said Osborne. “I was able to take classes my junior year that I would have taken during my senior year at traditional public school. I also had 24/7 access to my teachers which gave me the confidence to reach out to them whenever I had questions.”

Other graduates include valedictorian and professional figure skater Alexandria Yao who skates for Team USA. She enrolled in Connections Academy several years ago, seeking an education option that provided a high-quality curriculum and the flexibility to pursue her dreams on the ice. Additionally, aspiring actress Reagan Harwood from Palo Alto is headed to Foothill College this fall and the plans to transfer to a four-year university. She was able to balance her academics and her passion for acting through online school. Last year her hard work earned her a spot in a Disney on Ice commercial and she’ll be starring in a short film this July.

“We are so proud of what our 2018 graduating class has accomplished, and we are confident the skills and knowledge they acquired at Connections Academy has provided them with a foundation for success,” said Amy Hunt, site administrator at California Connections Academy @ Ripon. “Today we celebrate the culmination of their hard work and determination, and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.”

Additional students from the 2018 graduating class will go on to pursue higher education at institutions including University of California: Berkeley, University of California: Santa Cruz, Columbia University, Gonzaga University and San Francisco State University.

California Connections Academy @ Ripon provides an innovative and flexible learning environment for more than 1,200 students in transitional kindergarten through 12th grade in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. Through a combination of state-credentialed teachers and high-quality curriculum which meets stringent state education standards, the school provides an individualized and top-tier learning program for its students.

Throughout the school year, students have many opportunities to interact with their classmates in person and prepare for the next stage in their lives. Recently, California Connections Academy organized visits to various academic institutions, including the Academy of Art University and the University of the Pacific. The school also hosted several field trips, including visits to the Hilmar Cheese Factory, Sutters Fort, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and the Jelly Belly Factory. California Connections Academy offers a variety of clubs and activities for students, including National Honor Society, sports club, music club, and robotics club, among others.

Juniors and seniors planning to attend college may adapt their schedules to accommodate exam preparation and applications, as well as take advantage of the school’s diverse course catalog, including expanded AP classes and career technical education offerings. Unique electives include accounting, psychology and computer science.

To learn more about California Connections Academy @ Ripon and begin enrollment for the 2018-19 school year, please visit

About California Connections Academy @ Ripon

California Connections Academy @ Ripon is a tuition-free, high-quality, highly accountable virtual public school serving students in grades K-12, including transitional kindergarten, in Alameda, Amador, Calaveras, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara and Stanislaus counties. California Connections Academy is fully accredited (grades K-12) by the Schools Commission of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). The school opened in 2012 and is authorized under state law by the Ripon Unified School District. California Connections Academy provides students who meet state residency requirements with the flexibility to learn from anywhere with an internet connection with an innovative curriculum which meets rigorous state education standards. The combination of state-credentialed teachers, a proven curriculum, unique electives, technology tools and community experiences creates a supportive and successful online learning opportunity for families and children who want an individualized approach to education. For more information, call 800-382-6010 or visit the school’s website.

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Antioch city manager announces hiring of new economic development director

Monday, June 18th, 2018

Kwame Reed from his LinkedIn profile.

Antioch City Manager Ron Bernal announced the hiring of Kwame Reed as Antioch’s new Economic Development Director. Currently the Senior Analyst for Economic Development in Brentwood, California, Reed will start his new role with Antioch on July 2, 2018.

Reed brings over 20 years of professional experience in local and regional government agencies, with roles that include planning, redevelopment, affordable housing, project management and economic development. He is the 2018-19 Chairman of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

“Quality jobs, redeveloping underperforming properties and a vibrant downtown are important to our community, said City Manager Ron Bernal stated. “This newly created position shows just how serious the City Council is about economic development. Kwame is familiar with our region and its unique opportunities and challenges. His strong interpersonal skills will be key to retaining and attracting businesses and employers. Kwame and our Economic Development Project Manager Lizeht Zepeda will make a powerhouse team.”

His starting salary will be $140,448, according to Nickie Mastay, Antioch’s Administrative Services Director.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Reed has served in his current position since 2004. During part of that time, from 2008 to 2013, he owned a portrait photography business. Prior to his time with Brentwood, Reed worked for the City of Oakley as an associate planner from 2002-2004, a planner for the San Joaquin County Regional Rail Commission/ACE Train from 1999-2002 and a planner for the San Joaquin Council of Governments where he got his start in 1995.

He graduated in 1995 with a degree City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Reed has been married for 21 years, is the father of three, two boys age 19 and 14, and a daughter who is 12. He enjoys watching them play golf and basketball.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Father’s Day fight between two men in Antioch ends with stabbing, arrest

Monday, June 18th, 2018

By Acting Lieutenant John Fortner #3264, Antioch Police Field Services Division – Patrol

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, at approximately 10:37 AM, police dispatch began receiving phone calls of a fight in the parking lot located at 2950 Delta Fair Boulevard. The fight involved two black adult males. While officers were responding additional information was given that one male victim, age 58 had been stabbed with a knife. After the assault, the victim fell to the ground and the suspect fled on foot.

Officers close to the scene saw the suspect running away and contacted him. The 47-year-old suspect complied with the officers’ commands and he was safely detained. The victim was contacted by police, who started administering first aid as they requested fire department paramedics to respond.

The victim sustained several stab wounds and was transported to a local area hospital. The victim is currently listed in critical condition.

The suspect was arrested and booked into the Martinez Detention Facility on felony assault charges.

This incident is currently under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call the Antioch Police Department at (925)778-2441. You may also text-a-tip to 274637 (CRIMES) using the key word ANTIOCH.

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Environmental groups, local supporters announce Sand Creek initiative signatures submitted

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Sand Creek initiative supporters, including Michael Amorosa holding petitions and Don Greibling in sunglasses, present signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office on Monday, June 11, 2018.

Richland Communities submitted their initiative signatures a week earlier

On Monday, June 11, fifteen excited volunteers for the “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition submitted 5,969 signatures to the Antioch City Clerk’s office to qualify their “Let Antioch Voters Decide” initiative 10 weeks earlier than the August 22 deadline. The group needs 5,092 good signatures and turned in 5,969, or 117%.

However, they were submitted three weeks later than the suggested deadline of May 18 provided to them by City Clerk Arne Simonsen, and a week after the “West Sand Creek” initiative by developer Richland Communities submitted their signature petitions on Monday, June 4. Simonsen said the prima facie count by his office shows Richland has submitted about 7,900 signatures, with about 50 or 60 that were invalidated.

“We’ve reached new heights in preserving the Sand Creek Initiative Area and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Turning in these signatures is further proof that our initiative is what the people of Antioch want,” said Tina Gutilla, one of the Antioch residents who submitted the petition to the city and a member of the Coalition Steering Committee, “Huge congratulations and gratitude to every volunteer who has played a monumental role in making this achievement possible.”

The “Antioch Community to Save Sand Creek” coalition drafted the initiative starting last August. It was submitted to the city for Title and Summary on February 8. The city provided Title and Summary on Feb. 23. Notice was published in the newspaper and signature gathering began March 3. Initiative signature-gathering drives are allowed 180 days, which meant a deadline of August 22. Instead, the coalition submitted its signatures ten weeks early, on Monday, June 11th.

If passed, the initiative would:

  • Limit the extent and amount of development in a 3 square mile (1,850-acre) area between Kaiser/Deer Valley Road and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve;
  • Require a vote to allow any major development in the initiative area;
  • Protect the existing Urban Limit Line;
  • Decrease impacts on city services including police, crime, fire, water, and schools;
  • Dramatically decrease projected traffic increases;
  • Preserve nature, open spaces, and historic qualities;
  • Maintain agriculture;
  • Protect the Sand Creek stream corridor;
  • Help focus city investments, revitalization and economic development on existing neighborhoods, downtown and along the waterfront.

Sand Creek initiative supporters bring their boxes of signed petitions to the Antioch City Clerk’s office.

The coalition had great success gathering signatures. It held more than two dozen events, hikes, forums and other activities, and attended another dozen community events. It organized signature collecting shifts every weekend day and then on weekday ones as well. More than 150 volunteers signed up for two-to-four-hour shifts, some of them every single week. The Steering Committee held weekly meetings in person, and weekly debrief phone calls after each weekend’s efforts.

Tina Gutilla, one of our angels, managed all of the materials, keeping track of every single petition. Juan Pablo Galvan and Margaret Kruse scheduled volunteer shifts. Thousands of Fact Sheets were distributed. Social media increased dramatically.

Dick Schneider, Margaret Kruse, and Lesley Hunt are the real unsung heroes; they evaluated almost 9,000 signatures in order to remove non-Antioch residents, bad signatures, and duplicates.

Then “The Ranch” project developer Richland Communities created a second competing initiative, the “West Sand Creek” initiative, using paid signature gatherers, and which includes a development agreement approving Richland’s 1,100-unit “The Ranch” project.

The more aggressive paid signature gatherers competed for locations, upset store managers, and made things more confusing for the public.  But they also used the same message of “limit development, save our hills, reduce traffic” as the coalition, reinforcing our public education effort. The developers turned in their competing measure last week.  We turned ours in this week, ten weeks earlier than the August deadline.

In total, more than 150 volunteers collected almost 9,000 signatures (173%) to reach the goal of 5,092 valid registered voters.

Next Steps

Now that the signatures have been submitted, the Antioch City Clerk’s office transfers the petitions to the County Elections Department for verification. If the initiative qualifies with enough signatures, the Antioch City Council has the option of adopting the measure into law or placing it on the ballot.

“We’ve been out there, signature collecting since the beginning of March, and all that very hard work is now paying off. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to everyone who has walked their neighborhoods, stood in front of stores, reviewed name lists, spread the word and donated their time and energy in all sorts of different ways. This was truly a ton of work. We’re definitely planning a big thank you party to celebrate,” said Juan Pablo Galvan, Save Mount Diablo Land Use Manager, who helped organize the campaign.

“While this grueling phase of the Antioch campaign is over,” said Galvan, “there’s still work ahead. We need to make sure the Initiative is adopted or makes it on the ballot, fend off any potential frivolous legal challenges, and so on. But make no mistake, this is a huge win and cause for great celebration.”

Lesley Hunt of the California Native Plant Society expressed the hope that “the citizens of Antioch will use the opportunity this initiative represents to take control of development in the West Sand Creek area. They can vote for more houses, or they can vote to keep the land the way it is.”

“This has been a challenging, but incredible worth-while journey this spring, gathering signatures and meeting hundreds of people who are in great favor of saving one of the last unspoiled open-spaces in Antioch,” said Michael Amorosa, a Coalition Steering Committee member and one of the three required Antioch residents who were signatories for the effort. “I had the pleasure and privilege of working with some dynamite volunteers to hopefully put another feather in our cap for our town’s quality of life as we are one step closer in saving the prettiest three miles in Antioch. I am very proud to be part of this initiative process.”

“On behalf of Save Mount Diablo, I want to thank all the wonderful Antioch residents, incredible volunteers, staff, and coalition partners for stepping up to help collect enough signatures for an Initiative to give Antioch residents the ability to better protect one of its two most significant natural features, the Sand Creek Focus Area,” said Ted Clement, Save Mount Diablo Executive Director, “It helps distinguish Antioch as a desirable place to live, work and visit, which will be critical for Antioch’s economic well-being long-term. Antioch is blessed with the beautiful Delta area to the north and the Sand Creek Focus Area to the south. These distinguishing natural features should not be taken for granted.”

“Sierra Club is happy to have helped collect enough signatures for the Sand Creek Area Protection Initiative to qualify for the ballot,” said Dick Schneider, a Sierra Club volunteer who helped draft the initiative, “We believe that given the choice, Antioch voters will protect their remaining open space and prevent the massive traffic congestion that sprawling development in the Sand Creek area would bring about. We look forward to helping pass this important legislation when it appears on the ballot.”

“Many Antioch residents love their city and they’ve found their voice in city government. We supported the formation of a powerful grassroots coalition, residents have plugged in. They’re committed to the public having a say in development and quality of life issues” said Meredith Hendricks, Save Mount Diablo Director of Land Programs.

She continued, “I also strongly feel that this land cannot be mitigated for with some other property – containing tons of rare wildlife & riparian centurion oaks, and with vast extensive views from all angles that the Lone Tree Valley & Sand Creek corridor only provides in this special corner of Antioch; It is unmatched anywhere in Antioch and the citizens of Antioch, and in all of East Co-Co-County, will be thankful if we preserve it.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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Graves concedes to Becton in District Attorney race

Friday, June 15th, 2018

By Allen Payton

In the face of interim appointed District Attorney Diana Becton’s growing lead, her main opponent in the June election, on Thursday Supervising Assistant D.A. Paul Graves sent out a letter to his supporters conceding the race.

Becton now has 921 more votes than is needed to win, with 50.49% of the vote, up from 50.01% in the last update on June 8. The County Clerk’s office announced on Wednesday that they have approximately 10,000 ballots left to count and that some of those might be disqualified.

In addition to thanking his supporters, during a brief interview Friday morning, Graves also thanked those who voted for him.

A Heartfelt Thank You

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Nearly all the votes have been counted, and although it is very close, it is unlikely we will have a runoff in November. This afternoon, I called Diana Becton to congratulate her on her expected election as District Attorney.

I am grateful for the support of Contra Costa’s law enforcement community and firefighters, Marc Klaas, and the support and confidence of my fellow prosecutors.

I have been especially moved by the survivors who have reached out to reconnect, and in doing so reminded me why I am a prosecutor. Most of all, I am grateful for the support and encouragement I have received from friends and my family, most of whom already knew that I was probably a better prosecutor than a politician.

I want to say to all my supporters that your dedication to this campaign has been humbling and inspiring, and I complete this chapter knowing that I would do it all over again for the privilege of fighting the good fight alongside you all. We didn’t just fight for “change,” we fought for the right change, and I know that we will continue to fight for the safety of our communities and justice for crime victims.

Most of all, we can be proud of our effort and that we maintained our integrity throughout this election, including the appointment process. The District Attorney’s office is an office built on trust, and we met our obligation to the people of Contra Costa with the type of campaign we ran from start to finish – armed with real knowledge, focused on real issues, and fueled by real, local grassroots support.

Now we must come together and support our newly-elected District Attorney for the sake of Contra Costa residents who are counting on us to put politics aside for their benefit and safety. This campaign has ended, but our worthy cause continues in our courtrooms every day.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart,

Paul Graves

According to County Clerk-Registrar of Voters Joe Canciamilla, the final election results are expected to be announced next Friday, June 22 by 5:00 p.m. Please check back later for that final update.

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Antioch Council approves desal plant labor agreement, $51 million Capital Improvement Program

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Gives City Manager $20,000 pay raise

By Alexandra Riva

The Antioch City Council met on Tuesday, June 12 to discuss items on their agenda including adoption of the five-year Capital Improvement Program, a Project Stability Agreement in accordance with the Brackish Water Desalination Plant – Labor Study, and amendments to City Manager Ron Bernal’s employment agreement.

These issues were of particular interest to those in attendance and received equal amounts of debate and consideration from members of the public and City Council alike.

City Manager Pay Raise

Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe made a motion to bring the discussion of the City Manager’s employment agreement to the start of the meeting. After having met in a closed session earlier in the day to discuss the matter, the City Council met in an open session in the hopes of coming to a decision that, if Mayor Wright signs the agreement, would increase Bernal’s pay by $20,000.

One public comment was made on this issue, from Marty Fernandez, in opposition to the increase in pay.

“Mayor and City Council, I just want to ask a question,” he said. “Do you know that there are people, working people, in this town that don’t make twenty thousand dollars a year? I just don’t care how much city managers are making in other cities or anything else. If somebody jumps off the bridge, are you going to jump off the bridge too? Thank you.”

Thorpe then made a motion that would move the discussion of the agenda item back to closed session, which was voted on and approved by all five members of the City Council.

$51 Million Capital Improvement Plan

The City Council then discussed the proposed adoption of a $51 million five-year capital improvement program, lasting from 2018 to 2023. The adoption of this program would amend the operating budget slightly from what was previously discussed for improvements to roads, traffic signals and sidewalks, the water system, sewer system, and storm drains, as well as parks, marina and Amtrak Station improvements.

The improvements also include a new restroom at the Boat Launch facility at the end of L Street. The CIP also includes $1.0 million for the renovations to the Council Chambers in addition to the $400,000 in the current fiscal year budget.

Projects, like the Contra Loma basketball courts, would be made their own project instead of being part of the generic park fund. Additionally, an action plan regarding L Street would be created, and the $25,000 that would roll over from this year’s budget would be used to help better handle these situations and projects.

There were no public comments on the matter, and a motion was made by Council Member Lori Ogorchock to adopt the changes to the CIP. The vote was unanimous, and the CIP was approved. 2018-23 Antioch Capital Improvement Program

Desalination Plant Project Stability Agreement

The possible authorization of a Project Stability Agreement (PSA) in accordance with the Brackish Water Desalination Plant – Labor Study was of major interest at the meeting. The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not a PSA would help the project reach completion and help to aide labor efficiency and employment. Desal Plant Labor Stability Agreement

More than ten members of the public came out to voice their opinions on the matter. Many of the comments were positive, calling for the authorization of a PSA for this project and making note of the benefits that would come from this decision.

Bill Whitney, the CEO of Contra Costa Building Trades, came to show his support for the adoption of a PSA.

“If you have a PSA, we are going to need more apprentices, that just the way it works. And we go out and we look to hire people from the community, such as Antioch residents. PSAs, by law, so they have been through the court system, have been declared that they are non-discriminatory. Someone may come up and tell you it’s discriminatory, that’s not true,” said Whitney.

Local hiring and an increase in diversity among hires, including more women in these programs and helping veterans find jobs, were among the positives cited not only by Whitney, but by many in support of the PSA.

Among the dissenting views was Joseph Lubas, a longtime resident of Contra Costa County.

“I flat out oppose the project stabilization agreement…they have consistently shown that they are wastes of tax payer dollars, results in bids being rejected, and, yes, just reject this PSA,” said Lubas.

Despite the comments from those in opposition, which brought up concerns similar to those made by Lubas, the PSA was seen favorably by the members of the City Council.

After public comments ended, Council Member Tony Tiscareno said, “There’s a lot of good things that I see…I’m going to let my councilmen speak, but I am ready to make a motion to pass this thing.”

Further, in regard to the adoption of the PSA, Thorpe remarked that it was not rocket science, it’s the right thing to do.

In a 5-0 vote, the City Council chose to support the adoption of a PSA for the Brackish Water Desalination Plant.

Other Matters

Other agenda items discussed and resolved in the meeting include, the approval of a grant of $20,000 for Celebrate Antioch for community events including the July 4th Celebration and Holiday DeLites. Council Member Monica Wilson abstained from voting on this matter.

The City Council discussed a new voting Delegate and Alternate Delegate for the League of California Cities’ Annual Conference. It resulted in the appointment of Ogorchock as the Delegate, Wilson as the Alternate Delegate, and Thorpe as the second Alternate Delegate, in a unanimous vote.

In a 4-1 vote, the City Council decided on appointments of Ogorchock and Tiscareno to serve on the City Attorney Ad Hoc Recruitment Committee. Thorpe voted no.

The extension of the expiration date of the Quality of Life Ad Hoc Committee, which is comprised of Thorpe and Wilson, to December 31, 2018, was approved in a unanimous vote.

To view the complete meeting agenda, click here. To watch the council meeting on the City’s website, click here.

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Antioch School District 2018-19 budget decreases again, this year by $4.2 million

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

Board discusses LCAP, LCFF; support staff contract approved

By Robert Pierce

At the June 13, 2018 Antioch School Board meeting all five trustees discussed the draft Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and preliminary budget for the 2018-2019 school year. They also approved the tentative collective bargaining agreement between the district and California School Employees Association for non-teaching support staff, and several new district policy items that were voted on as a group. Summary of Tentative Agreement CSEA

The meeting began with official congratulations to the recent high school graduates, and a happy birthday message by the rest of the board to trustee Walter Ruehlig.

There was a single comment from the public by Mary Rocha, who is planning on running for the board in November’s election. She urged the board to reconsider their decision and “if nothing else, slow down” the development of two new charter schools, which the board authorized last month. Rocha cited concerns with budget and documentation as reasons to reconsider.

“I ask you to reconsider, because, in the end, we are going to be affecting our own school system and our own employees,” Rocha said.

Back on the main agenda, district reports were given on both the LCAP and the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) by Dr. Jason Murphy. 2018-2019 LCAP District Report

According to the official district website, “The Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is a California funding calculation that recognizes that students with additional academic needs – low-income, English language learner, and foster youth students – need additional financial resources to support their education.”

The district LCAP website

The LCFF provides a per-pupil “base grant”, a “supplemental grant” for every student in one of the target areas and a flat “concentration grant” for districts with more than 55% of their students in one of those three groups. The LCAP, in turn, is a “planning tool” in which the district uses to report how they are going to use that funding, as well as the effectiveness of the programs and services the funding was used on.

Specifically, the LCAP, which AUSD has received funding from since the 2013-2014 school year, has local districts tie their budgets to concrete improvement goals. AUSD’s LCAP for this year currently has six LCAP goals, which according to Murphy were designed to mirror both state priorities and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and include goals such as “Provide effective and enriching learning environments,” “Build inclusive school communities” and “Reduce the achievement gap amongst student groups.”

Murphy brought with him several students and parents from district high schools to comment on their involvement with the process of developing an LCAP. All of them spoke highly of their experiences with the program and expressed a desire for greater student and community member involvement, even at the middle school level.

Trustee Debra Vinson asked how the efficacy of a program is tracked, specifically programs dealing with behavioral justice, and mentioned the district’s current struggles with high suspension, expulsion and absenteeism despite heavy investment in programs such as “Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports”. Vinson also asked how it is determined when and if a program needs to be dropped entirely.

Murphy responded that there is an on-going process of in-depth analysis of each program and service associated with LCAP, a big part of which involves getting community feedback and perspectives from students and parents, and using this data to help shape LCAP goals, mentioning specifically that they are actively working on using grant money to bring in more mental health professionals.

Murphy also explained that they have a vetting process for any vendor they choose to do business with, but for vendors who already passed the vetting and have a contract but are underperforming, information and data on the programs and services that vendor provides are available on the district website so that any staff member or community member can see how well they are working and use the data to have “critical conversations.” For Murphy, getting the LCAP data online, publicly available, was a major goal.

“We thought our theory of action would necessitate that we develop a process that includes all stakeholders,” he stated. “Available on the district website… is the list of all of our stakeholder engagement opportunities.”

Murphy said he strove for more engagement with stakeholders “whether they are students, parents, staff members or even community members” so that they can collaborate directly with the district to improve LCAP goals and processes. Another stated reason for online engagement was so that community members could interact with LCAP even if they were unable to physically attend meetings on it.

Vinson also specifically asked about the potential creation of a Restorative Justice program and a school site Climate Team to tackle issues regarding bullying and student emotional trauma that affect student attendance and classroom behavior; Associate Superintendent Christine Ibarra responded that she currently has a team looking into that issue and considering multiple solutions to it including Restorative Justice.

Ultimately Ruehlig reflected that it was a lot of information to digest, and trustee Diane Gibson-Gray encouraged parents and students to reach out with their ideas.

District reports were also given on the 2018-2019 preliminary budget by several staff, chiefly Associate Superintendent Teresa Santamaria.

Santamaria highlighted that the full implementation of LCFF, the elimination of gap funding, rising expenditures and a potential recession are creating “a huge squeeze for local education authorities.” While revenue assumptions per grade level based off of ADA grants rose about $200, drastic shifts in both federal and local revenue sources as well as rising salary and benefit costs for many employees created said squeeze.

Despite all of that, however, the district only lost $4.2 million this school year compared to a loss of $9.9 million last year, and the district will remain in the black this year as well.

“Looking at this number, we can definitely say the budget year 18-19 will be positive,” Santamaria stated. However, she explained that in the long term, due to revenue losses and expenditure increases as well as the opening of new charter schools in the area, “there will be a huge impact on our fund balance.”

The full preliminary budget

Santamaria declared that the full budget will be presented at the June 27 meeting and will include more in-depth discussion of “the major components of the budget” as well as “multi-year budget projections” with true budget balance being a huge goal for the future.

In addition to district reports, there were public hearings for both the LCAP and the preliminary budget, despite the public having already had chance to comment; Board President Gary Hack observed that it was a “silly” situation but, required by law. Predictably, both public hearings ended without any comment.

No votes were taken for either item during the meeting. The final adoption is expected to occur at the board’s meeting on June 27.

Employees Association Contract Approved

“Disclosure and Ratification of the Tentative Agreement Between Antioch Unified School District and California School Employees Association for 2017-2018,” was passed 5-0 with little to no discussion by the board, merely accepting the result of a collective bargaining agreement already settled by the district required by law to be publicly disclosed before final confirmation. The settlement included extra pay and benefits and a definitive workweek of five consecutive days Monday through Friday for most employees. The district also commended both sides of the negotiation. The full settlement, ratified 5-0

To view the complete meeting, visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

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