Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Letter writer doesn’t like religious newspaper insert inside the Herald

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

Editor:

I was disappointed to see a religious publication as part of the Antioch Herald. Is this group paying for the space in the paper, which makes it an advertisement? Or is this content – an editorial decision reflecting the beliefs of the publisher? I don’t mind a column written by a member of the clergy, from any denomination or religion, but ceding so much space to one group clearly sends the message that Antioch is not a diverse community.

Sandra Follansbee

Antioch

 

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Antioch School Board Trustee Ruehlig compliments school concerts, music programs

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Deer Valley High School recently held its Jazz Ensemble during which members of their instrumental music groups performed. Photo by AUSD – See more photos of the various school concerts on the district’s Facebook page.

Dear Editor:

This holiday season brings the usual cheer, but adds a personal festive exclamation point with the local bounty of school concerts.  I was personally privileged to attend the Black Diamond Middle, Antioch and Deer Valley High Schools and Dozier Libbey Medical School combined concert and the Park Middle Schools performance. We had heard about the overflowing 1,300 students at elementary schools taking band but now we tasted the fruit of that pipeline.

We’re in our third year with music alive and well in the AUSD and are reaping benefits in more ways than one.  As might be expected, motivation took a hit when the heart and sound that can soften the daily grind was taken from the schools to save dollars and allow doubling down on core subjects. Granted, reading and math remain fundamental, but face it, for many kids, music or sports are the sole connection and engagement keeping them from truancy.

Aside, though, from increased attendance and GPA, we’ve noticed that, in and of itself, music is aiding academics as a sort of super brain food, bringing a plethora of values.  No surprise to us music lovers as poll any group of physicians or engineers and you will find that an amazing number of these hi-achievers had studied music in their formative years.

You see, in one sense music is pure math. Understanding beat, rhythm and scales helps children learn how to divide, create fractions and recognize patterns.  It sharpens special, temporal skills associated with math comprehension.   Essentially, then, music is a sort of hard wiring for all kinds of basic and advanced math.

Studying music also instills short and long-term memory aides by using mnemonic devices.  It also physically develops the left side of the brain, the part involved in language acquisition.

Music employs multiple skill sets, exercising eyes and ears and both larger and smaller muscle sets. Certain instruments, like percussion, develop timing, coordination, motor skills and ambidexterity. Call it sports in a chair.

Good news moms and dad; a 2007 study by Christopher Johnson at the University of Texas showed students in elementary schools having superior musical programs scored 22% higher on standardized English tests.

So-called soft skills, cited by employers as invaluable workplace skills, also mature. Musical student attendance is cumulatively higher and discipline rates less. Poise under pressure and accepting and giving constructive criticism also benefit. The habits of discipline, perseverance and the ability to demonstrate deferred gratification also develop.

Musical students learn teamwork and collaboration in group performance, and how to patiently wait their turn and respectfully listen to others.  They also broaden horizons as they are introduced to various genres, styles and cultures.

We might ask, how, then, does our child pick a chosen instrument?  Treat it like a petting zoo and let your child explore for the right sound, feel and temperamental fit. Make sure the challenge is appropriate, the price affordable, and that you, the parent, can live for endless hours without going crazy over home practice of that instrument. Drums, after all, may not fit us all.

Thankfully, with School Board support, and LCAP funding, we have welcomed back the spiritual soundtrack of our lives.  The enrichment surely can’t hurt our kids and our collective humanity. It’s an opportunity to celebrate as we affirm Frederick Nietzsche’s charge that “without music, life would be a mistake.”

Walter Ruehlig, Trustee, Antioch School Board

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Celebrate Antioch Foundation announces winners of Lighted Holiday Parade and offers thanks.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

The dancers from Melody’s Dance Studio were the Overall Winners of the 2017 Antioch Lighted Holiday Parade. Herald file photo

Celebrate Antioch would like to say “Thank you” to the community and the City! We had a wonderful turnout for the Lighted Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony. You could feel the holiday cheer and the excitement of the children as they visited with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

The parade was well attended by our residents both with entries and people watching the performers. Seeing the community gather in such a positive manner is what makes the planning of the Holiday Parade and 4th of July festivities seem like play instead of work.

A special thank you to the City, they did a wonderful job of decorating the tree and setting up for the tree lighting. Having the Music Masters singing Christmas carols before the lighting was a nice addition, this year.

Following is our list of winners for the parade in the various categories, as well as our overall winner.

OVERALL WINNER: Melody’s Dance Studio

Scouts: Delta Gateway Girl Scouts of America

Civic Community Service Clubs: Antioch Rotary Club, YWCA of Contra Costa

Commercial for Profit:  Antioch Delta Skimmers

Entertainment Performance: Golden State Soul Line Dancers, El Pinto Ranch

Cultural Costumed: Rancho Los Centenarios

Musical Instrumental: Antioch High School Marching Band and Deer Valley Marching Band

Clubs: Antioch Lapidary Club

Youth Children non-scouts: El Campanil Children’s Theater

Dance/Gymnastics: Elite Dance/Special Haven

Public Officials: Mayor Sean Wright making three laps

The Celebrate Antioch Foundation is looking forward to another year of bringing celebration to our City with the 4th of July Parade, fireworks all the festivities down out the Fairgrounds on the 4th of July and of course the Holiday Parade and Tree Lighting.

To everyone once again, Thank You!!!! We wish you Happy Holidays and a Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Celebrate Antioch Foundation

See photos of the parade on the Herald website by clicking, here.

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Letter writer claims there’s deceit in the Republican tax plan

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Dear Editor:

You know what the shame is with the Republican tax bill besides raising taxes on the middle class and giving billions of dollars to the upper 10%, it is when the $1.5 trillion budget deficit is not paid for by the supposed growth of the economy, they will not raise taxes to make up the difference, they will cut spending for the ACA, Medicare and Social Security. This is their strategy to do away with these middle-class benefits.

They, the Republicans, are not only despicable but criminally negligent in their responsibility as members of the US Congress. So be it, it is up to the rest of us to throw these carpetbaggers out of office in 2018.

Harry Thurston

Antioch

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Antioch School Board president responds to criticism of district schools

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Dear Editor:

If Antioch had a dime for every time it has been bashed, our streets would be paved with gold. Inarguably, our schools take a disproportionate share of that thrashing.

I am the first to admit that Antioch schools have their set of pressing concerns, particularly on what I call the ‘Big Three’: parental engagement, student motivation and behavior, and state proficiency on test scores, especially math. Let’s review.

If you can’t get Mohammed to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammed.  Without parental support education is an uphill climb so we need creatively expand even more our already concerted efforts to get mom and dad involved, be it thru home visits, Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) meetings, social media or parenting skill workshops.

As to behavior, after several years of dramatic decline, suspensions are, perplexingly, up 16% this school year. We are working double time to address this.

With math, that’s an area where we need a radical departure in approach. Our 20% proficiency rate is simply unacceptable.

It takes a new seed to develop a new crop. We need ever-bolder actions, aggressive interventions and individuated, pull-out instruction to overcome this perennial thorn on a core skill.

That said, on our weaknesses, we can’t completely ignore social context. Some sample facts: from 2000 to 2012 the city’s violent crime rate doubled; our number of English language learners tripled; the number of homeless, public school students increased from 382 in 2011 to 706 in 2014; the number of students residing in group homes rose 144% in the past six years; 40% of district students live in homes without secure parental employment; 1 out of 5 students had suicidal ideation; 1 in 5 students reported prescription drug usage.

Sadly, we haven’t even touched on the distressing subjects of broken homes, latch-key kids, parental abuse, transiency, the epidemic of attention deficit syndrome; societal permissiveness, the erosion of public civility; the seduction of electronic gadgetry, etc.

Amidst the societal chaos, though, our educators seek solutions, not excuses, and do their best, against great odds.  Day in and day out much good goes unheralded.

  • We can celebrate Antioch’s graduation rate soaring above state average.  Its’ 6.3% increase last year was one of the highest California increases in the State.
  • Dozier-Libbey Medical School has been honored as a California Distinguished School and Deer Valley High as an Honor Roll School.
  • The Antioch School Board, Chamber of Commerce, Planning Commission and City Council all approved Rocketship, a third Antioch public charter school. to be housed in a 14,5 million dollar state-of-the-art, zero net energy campus off 18th Street. The school underscores our openness and community richness in recognizing many unique seats at the table; traditional, private, alternate, charter and home study schools.
  • Unquestionably, Antioch is known as a trailblazer in linked learning with real-life career paths in law, the medical field, engineering, green energy, digital arts, business, research and the performing arts with GPA, attendance and graduation rates prosper.
  • Music is back, alive and well, with 1300+ students involved at the elementary level, allowing a pipeline tor the higher grades and a great outlet for creativity, self-esteem and brain development.
  • The number of students taking Advanced Placement exams has grown 71.6% over the past 5 years.
  • The number of U.C.-system qualified graduates rose 6.9% over the last 5 years and more of our high school students are now co-enrolling at community college, gaining credits and exposure.
  • Counselors, for the first time, are present in all of our schools, from elementary to high.  Not long ago we had no counselors. Now our ratio of counselors to students is one of the highest in the state and at 500 to one double the California average of 1,000 to 1.
  • In a recent LCAP funding evaluation the State determined that Antioch met or exceeded expectations in eight of nine categories. (To little surprise, we fell short on math in grades 3-8),

This letter, then, hopefully. demonstrates that we have a mixed bag with ample good, bad and, yes, sometimes ugly; but while we squarely face our undeniable flaws we don’t have to dwell on challenges alone.   We can also acknowledge and build upon successes.

Each of us can do our bit by involved parenting, by having high expectations of our children and schools, perhaps by civic volunteering, joining PTA, or tutoring. Yes, there is considerable work to be done for Antioch to become the destination city many of us dream of it being. To that end, we must honestly self-reflect and then roll up our collective sleeves and become part of the solution and not the problem.

Walter Ruehlig

President, Antioch School Board

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Writer says Frazier again gets ‘F’ on taxes

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

Editor:

You can thank Assemblyman Jim Frazier for that pain at the pump you’re feeling now that gas is an extra 12 cents per gallon.

Frazier and his fellow Democrats in Sacramento raised taxes $52 billion annually, including a 12 cents/gallon gas tax hike, 20 cents/gallon diesel gas tax hike and a $25-$175 vehicle fee increase. The average household will be paying an extra $600 a year.

Frazier not only voted for the tax-hike legislation, but sponsored his own version of the tax-hike bill, Assembly Bill 1. So it’s no surprise that Frazier once again received an “F” on his legislative report card from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He voted in favor of taxpayer interests only 16 percent of the time on 22 tax bills in 2017.

This makes the fifth year in a row that Frazier, whose campaign slogan is “People before politics,” has received an “F” from HJTA for putting politics before people when it comes to their taxes.

Unfortunately, Frazier is not alone – a record 79 legislators flunked the tax scorecard. “By approving major new burdens on middle class taxpayers, the current crop of Sacramento lawmakers is exhibiting an outright hostility to the taxpayers who pay the state’s bills,” said HJTA President Jon Coupal.

How bad is the hostility? State lawmakers this year proposed $373.4 billion in higher annual taxes and fees, according to the California Tax Foundation. That’s nearly $200 billion more than the total taxes and fees annually collected by state government.

When will it end? Only when taxpayers decide they’ve had enough and stop sending taxaholics like Frazier to represent them in Sacramento.

Dave Roberts

Oakley

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Writer supports Antioch school district spending $75K on public relations

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Dear Editor:

As a lifelong resident of Antioch and product of AUSD I find the past few days befuddling. It seems most people see that there is and are problems within our school district. Each person has their own solution which probably hits closest to home for them. Truth be told, there are many issues within our School District that needs to be addressed. So the crux of the matter comes down to this….which do we address first and where can we get the best bang for our buck.

Yes, spending up to $75K sounds like a lot of money especially if it is in one of our own personal bank accounts. When compared to a budget of $266 million, it is approximately 0.028% of the budget. Then, take into account that around 50% of the school districts have public relations persons allocated in their budgets that run on average of $180,000 per annum once all taxes and benefits are accounted for. In my simple math that I try to live by it appears they are getting the same function for $0.41 on the dollar. As a resident and person with children in the school district this is exactly the kind of forward thinking I want to see from the people in charge of the money.

As far as my understanding with this and I could be wrong – it happens – the purpose and target audience is not the general public but the actual parents and students. This is to let them know what positive items as well as events are coming to their school, adjacent schools in the district and what is to come as events and timelines. There are roughly 17,000 students which in turn makes roughly 34,000 parents (once again simple math) for an aggregate of 51,000 people. This brings the amount being spent to roughly $1.47 per student and parent. For me as an involved parent I see this as a good investment to be informed what is going on with my child’s school as well as other schools in the district, because the bad items are all over social media and easy to find.

Then I step back and think, what if I was one of the parents that has to commute 1.5 hours to work each day or has to work two jobs to make ends meet, then the $1.47 per person seems to be almost nothing to be informed as to what is going on in the school district. With that said by doing the same math the district has around $15,647 to spend per student per year in totality. This $1.47 would represent 0.009% of that money. In my opinion for AUSD to spend this per year is money well spent.

As I stated in the beginning yes, there are many issues to be addressed and there are many ways to address them. This is just one. I see this as an investment in pride in the school and its students while informing the parents. It is like anything. If all you are told is negative comments, then you have a negative opinion or mindset. When the positive is added to the negative at least a true perspective is able to be held. This is not a cure or fix. It is a beginning to curing the plethora of issues that face every school district.

Kenny Turnage

Antioch

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Writer says AUSD declares war on press, public

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Editor:

AUSD is one of the worst performing school districts in the county if not the state. But rather than devote $75,000 to improving performance, it’s wasting it on a doomed-to-fail, lipstick-on-a-pig propaganda effort to pull the wool over parents’ and taxpayers’ eyes about how great things are going.

It’s particularly ironic that one of those chosen to put a happy face on the district, Mike Burkholder, has a history of divisiveness, hostility and negativity toward critics, journalists and politicians in his online postings.

For example, here’s what he posted on a Facebook site called “Boycott the Contra Costa Times” about an East Bay Times reporter (https://www.facebook.com/pg/Boycott-the-Contra-Costa-Times-121667354561835/community/?ref=page_internal): “You can now add Rowena Coetsee to the list of reporters not to speak with. ECCFPD Should Boycott Rowena Coetsee Immediately I am not one to call on boycotts very often, but I have had enough of Rowena Coetsee’s bad reporting in Oakley and now it’s carried over to the ECCFPD today as she broke the cardinal sin of jou… BURKFOROAKLEY.WORDPRESS.COM

Burkholder also has numerous postings vilifying East Bay Times columnist Dan Borenstein because Borenstein has been critical of excessive pension benefits for firefighters. Burkholder also participated in a boycott of an Antioch Herald AUSD candidates forum.

By hiring Burkholder as a press representative for the school district, AUSD has declared war on the East Bay Times, the Antioch Herald and the press in general — and by extension the public that they are seeking to objectively inform about their government.

Dave Roberts

Oakley

Roberts periodically reports for the Herald.

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