Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

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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Writers concerned about $75,000 of school funds spent to improve AUSD public image

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Editor:

Following is a letter sent to Antioch Unified School District Superintendent Stephanie Anello last week:

Dear Superintendent Anello,

We respectfully disagree with your proposal of spending $75,000.00 school funds, as well as the “yes” votes of Trustees Gibson-Gray, Hack, and Ruehlig on this matter.

We thank you for trying to use school money “wisely” and for your work on attempting to get our school district on track.

My husband and I have been AUSD parents since 2005, we’re appreciative that our children have access to quality education. All teachers we’ve encountered, dating from 2005 to today are intelligent and caring with a strong will to see their students succeed.

It’s our observation that our wonderful teachers aren’t provided the full support they need. We, parents/guardians, district leaders and staff must fulfill our obligations, so our teachers can focus on teaching. We feel the demands placed on them are unfair and unrealistic. We are asking too much – that they uphold rigorous instruction; that they provide peer-like support; that they nurture their classroom like a household; that they become counselors and therapists … all of which we expect them to do equally and simultaneously. In addition, it’s important to note that Students’ familial background plays a major role on behavior and academic performance which further amplifies the demand on our teachers.

The troubles of our district aren’t its negative image, it’s the crumbling support from district leadership to teachers which then dominos to students-parents/guardians. Such discord creates negative narrative that spreads in the community and beyond. Chasing a positive image through social media will not solve the problem. The problem is what’s causing the negative image in the first place.

We urge you to kindly reconsider the allocation of the $75,000.00 amount, please if it’s not too late.

Here are some thoughts we had, but we’re sure our community also has pertinent suggestions on how $75,000.00 of school funds can be better utilized within our schools.

  1. Hiring a well-established firm to survey the needs of our teacher through anonymous polling.

1a. Pouring attention and continuing / building genuine collaboration toward a resolution.

  1. Offering a bonus to a current district office employee serving within the public relations department to manage photo and media updates.
  2. Offering parenting support to parents/guardians by a licensed mental health and family professional.
  3. Increasing teachers’ stipend and/or giving year-end bonus.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

April Ussam-Lemmons

Joshua Lemmons

Antioch

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Writer opposes community choice energy, warns people to not be fooled

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Editor:

Don’t be fooled by “green energy” or “renewable energy” groups like Marin Clean Energy and others. It’s simple economics. When you add “middle men” in to the mix, you add additional costs because you’ve not created any more customers nor produced any electricity. Not only that but their “Renewable Energy Credit” system is deceiving. Get the facts. It’s not easy but here it is. These are the facts.

Community Choice Aggregates (CCA’S) including Marin Clean Energy (MCE) are unwilling OR unable to sign the Power Purchase Agreements necessary to generate the renewable power needed by the State to reach our Renewable Portfolio Standards goals (RPS).  In fact, there are currently several solar projects that have been fully approved, permitted (with Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s)) that have not begun construction because nobody is signing the Power Purchase Agreement (PPA).  PG&E and the other Utilities, including public utilities like SMUD, have already bought all the power they need to meet the 2020 requirement of 33% RPS.

But the CCAs are NOT signing these agreements.

If we don’t build these projects now, as a State, we lose the benefit of the Federal tax credits (set to reduce to 10% in 2019) which means power costs go up.  It also means that MCE rates will go up noticeably while PG&E’s will remain moderate because of all the cheap long-term contracts they have signed the last 5 years.  MCE signed some of these, but the term is 3-5 years, not 15-20.

There was also a big conversation at the California Energy Commission about the Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA*), which is the cost sharing mechanism that the CCAs are supposed to pay to compensate PG&E for the power PG&E bought under long term contracts for its customers that the CCAs have stolen.  Everybody, including the President of the CPUC, acknowledged that this PCIA is not accurately apportioning that cost.  PG&E showed that MCE is paying only 65% of what it owes every month.  That means you and I are subsidizing MCE customers.

*The PCIA ensures that the customers who remain with the utility do not end up taking on the long-term financial obligations the utility incurred on behalf of now-departed customers. Examples of such financial obligations include utility expenditures to build power plants and, more commonly, long-term power purchase contracts with independent power producers.

MCE and the other CCAs will have significantly higher rates (as much as 25%) than there rates today.  This means some customers will leave and threaten the ability of CCAs to operate.  Plus, their promises of cleaner energy are being proven false.

Michael DuPray

Oakley

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Writer wants police to deal with Antifa, other radical groups that terrorize, injure, vandalize

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Editor:

The disguised and masked Antifa, other radical groups, and individuals must be dealt with immediately by the police when they appear to just terrorize, injure, vandalize, and overall break the existing laws.

They arrive united in purpose, similarly disguised, and with covered faces so they won’t be identified. Our California Penal Code laws clearly make it illegal to; Conspire together (PC 182), Wearing  Mask Or Disguise (PC 185), Assault (PC 240), Batter (PC 242), Assault With A Deadly Weapon (PC 245), to Terrorize/Threaten (PC 422 and/or 11411), Riot (PC 404), Incite To Riot (PC 404.6), Rout (PC 406), Unlawfully Assemble (PC 407), Participating In Rout Or Unlawful Assembly (408), Public Disturbance (PC 415), Threatening With Weapon (PC 417), Vandalize, Damage Or Destroy (PC 594), and so on.

And, it’s unlawful also for the police to willfully not suppress a Riot or Route (PC 410). In addition, any of their superiors who order them to not take action are guilty also.

So, the answer to all of their lawlessness is quite simple. Just enforce the laws immediately and shortly these things will cease considerably. There is your answer.

Ralph A. Hernandez

Antioch

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Stand Down on the Delta 2017 organizer thanks volunteers

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

Volunteers assist veterans during a visit by Assemblyman Jim Frazier (center) during the 2017 Stand Down on the Delta at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, Aug. 11-14. Photos by Genevieve Mann

Dear Editor:

Delta Veterans Group would like to thank all of the volunteers that served for Stand Down on the Delta, 2017.

With your help, our community was able to provide services for over 260 veterans and their families.

Over 1,150 volunteers came together over 10 days to set-up, serve and tear-down our encampment. Over 5,800 meals were served in just four days.

Veterans received much needed supportive services, medical services, dental care, vision care, and mental health services.  We also had barbers, beauticians, entertainment, spiritual guidance and much more over the four days.  Plus – their animals were cared for onsite by C.A.R.T. – the Contra Costa County Animal Rescue Team.

We were also able to take over 40 veterans fishing on our Delta Shoreline…and yes, they caught a lot of fish…The largest fish was caught by a female veteran for the second Stand Down in a row…

All of this could not have happened without you – the volunteer.

Respectfully,

Gerald JR Wilson, President/Executive Director, Delta Veterans Group – Stand Down on the Delta

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