Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Antioch Council hears report on library, concerns about room being used as homeless warming center

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Tiscareno questions Mayor Wright’s Planning Commission appointment; Ogorchock appeals city board decision

By John Crowder

With Mayor Pro Tem Lamar Thorpe and Council Member Monica Wilson away at a Tri Delta Transit Conference, the remainder of the Antioch City Council members heard an update from Antioch/Brentwood Head Librarian Liz Fuller, appointed several Commission members, and heard an administrative appeal at their October 10, 2017 meeting.

Fuller, who has been acting as Head Librarian for both Antioch and Brentwood in recent months, provided the Council with an update on the increased use of the Antioch Library since the City Council approved funding for increased hours three months ago.

Fuller stated that the library was now open five days per week.  She also noted that, compared to August a year ago, the number of programs offered at the Antioch Library increased by 108%, to 27 programs, and program attendance rose from 191 to 527, a 176% increase.  She said there was an 18% increase in meals served through the Lunch at the Library Program, operated in partnership with the Antioch Unified School District, for a total of 717 meals provided over the last year.  Two programs recently added are Family Storytime, Mondays at 6:00 pm, and Preschool Storytime, Wednesdays at 2:00 pm.

Thanks to the receipt of a Keller Canyon Fund Grant, the Antioch Library is now hosting a free music program one Monday each month, featuring world music from different cultures, including jazz, blues, Celtic, choral music, and more.

In ‘breaking news,’ Fuller announced that Antioch was getting a new, full-time Librarian next month.  The new manager is Ruth Boyer, Branch Manager of the Martinez Library for the past few years.

Following her presentation, Council Member Lori Ogorchock commented on her satisfaction with the increased use of the library following the Council approving funding for additional hours.

Ogorchock asked about programs specific to the Hispanic Community.  In addition to relating information about an ESL class offered, Fuller said that a program called East County Reads was reading the book, The Distance Between Us, about an undocumented immigrant who came to the United States years ago, and the experiences she had.  The author is scheduled to speak at the Brentwood Library.

Friends of the Antioch Library members had spoken earlier in the Council meeting, during public comments, about being displaced from the library because of the addition of a warming center.  Ogorchock asked Fuller why this was happening.  Fuller responded, “It’s above my pay grade,” but that her boss, Melinda Cervantes, Contra Costa County Librarian, was working with the County and they had identified the Antioch Library as a site for a pilot program to establish a warming center from 8:00 in the evening until 7:00 in the morning, in the library’s meeting room.  Stating the times for use of the meeting room would be impacted for about an hour, Fuller said, “It would still be reservable throughout the day,” and, “It doesn’t affect our open hours.”  She also noted that, “The need was seen in our community for more resources for the homeless.”

Mayor Questioned on Planning Commission Appointment

Several Commission appointments were recommended by Mayor Sean Wright, and approved by the Council Members in attendance, all on votes of 3-0.  Appointed were:   Farideh Faraji, Board of Administrative Appeals, Tracey Nicks, Economic Development Commission, and Martha Parsons, Janet Zacharatos, and Robert Martin to the Planning Commission.

During the discussion surrounding the appointments to the Planning Commission, after seconding the motion to appoint the three candidates recommended by Wright, Council Member Tony Tiscareno asked the Mayor, concerning the application of former Antioch Mayor Mary Rocha, “Why she wasn’t considered.”

“I haven’t spoken to her,” Tiscareno added, but said he wanted to hear Wright’s thought process out of respect to Rocha.

Wright responded, “I interviewed Mary, had a great conversation with Mary.”  He then said that Parsons and Zacharatos were reappointments, and for the new member he chose Bob Martin because, “He’s been on the planning commission before, his experience. I talked to our Planning Department and they say on the Commission he’s one that really delves into, and really studies the material, calls them up, asks hard questions…that was something that impressed me, and the reason that I chose him.”

Ogorchock Appeals City Board Decision

The final business of the night was prompted by Council Member Ogorchock asking that the denial of an administrative appeal made by Joseph Boseman, owner of the property located at 701 Wilbur Avenue, be considered by the Council.  Boseman has several tenants on his property, some of whom are residing in recreational vehicles.  According to City Staff and the ruling by the Board of Administrative Appeals, his use of his property violates city ordinances.  While the Council, City Attorney, and Boseman’s attorney all discussed working together amicably to come to a resolution with respect to the property and the hope that they would not displace his tenants, some of whom had been on the property for years, the Council ultimately upheld the Notice of Violation.  It was emphasized by the City Attorney that affirming the position of the Board of Appeals would not lead to the imminent eviction of tenants on the property.

The next meeting of the City Council will be held on October 24 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at 2nd and H Streets in downtown Rivertown.

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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 20.1.2.2 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 Revolutionfoods.com 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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Red Sand Project in Antioch to raise awareness of human trafficking Thursday, Oct. 19

Monday, October 16th, 2017

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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 AIRNow.gov.

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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Antioch Police, DEA to hold prescription drug Take Back Day Oct. 28

Friday, October 13th, 2017

By Corporal D. Pfeiffer #3707, Antioch Police Support Services Bureau

On October 28th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the Antioch Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will give the public its 14th opportunity in seven years to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Bring your pills for disposal to the Antioch Police Department at 300 L Street, Antioch, CA. (The DEA cannot accept liquids, needles or sharps; only pills or patches). The service is free and anonymous – no questions asked.

Last April, Americans turned in 450 tons (over 900,000 pounds) of prescription drugs at more than 5,000 sites operated by the DEA and more than 4,200 of its state and local law enforcement partners. When those results are combined with what was collected in its 13 previous Take Back events, DEA and its partners have taken in over 8.1 million pounds (more than 4,050 tons) of pills.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines – flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash – pose potential safety and health hazards.

For more information about the disposal of prescription drugs or about the October 28th Take Back Day event, go to the DEA Diversion website or contact Corporal Pfeiffer of the Antioch Police Department at (925-779-6909).

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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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