Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

Writer upset with AUSD budget cuts reducing library, other classified staff

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Dear Editor:

I would like to make the community aware of upcoming budget cuts at the Antioch Unified School District. This Wednesday (March 20) at 7:00pm there will be a School Board meeting in the board room at the district office. At this meeting, the district will propose cuts to be voted on.

Among these cuts will be $775,000 worth of classified staff. Around 29% of that will be Library Media Technicians (elementary school librarians). In the past when budget cuts were made, library techs were laid off. Full time school libraries were not staffed. Some schools only had a library open two days a week.

When this happened, there was a drop in reading scores, love for reading, and books in general. We are seeing the result at the middle school and high school level now. Since library services have been restored, reading scores have began to improve. Some of our students never hear a story read to them aside from in the library or the classroom. Others are not able to afford to purchase books because it is just not in their budget.

Books are treasures to students who sometimes need to escape the hard realities they are living in. Libraries are a safe place for students, and librarians in our district are not just librarians. We do not just read to kids. We participate in PBIS programs such as Tool Box or Mindfulness. We plan activities and stories to support what is going on in the classroom. We teach literacy. We feed the inquiring minds of students daily. We process books and keep open schedules to accommodate teachers and students. We do yard duty in the mornings and after school. We plan fundraisers, book fairs, and family events. Some of us participate in PTO’s/PTA’s at our school sites. Others sit in on School Site Council meetings, and more. We are valuable.

If, as a community, we can agree that reading is important and has a place in everyday life, how can we not then say that libraries are not just as important? Let’s face it, we all know that cuts need and have to be made because at the end of the day, the budget is the budget. However, why do the librarians have to feel close to 29% of that cut? Why aren’t there more cuts being made to the high paid employees at the district office? Why aren’t we looking into programs such as the organics program offered by Republic Services as the Benicia School District and many restaurants in the area have adopted to save money? Why do our students have to suffer?

Our students will lose instructional assistants, reading teachers, librarians, and more. Out of 92 classified classifications, librarians will take 29% of the hit?

Do not sit by and just watch this happen. Let your voice be heard at the meeting Wednesday night. Afterall, We are AUSD.

To view the agenda item (14-B), please visit the AUSD Website

Thank you,

Samantha Loza


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Writer shares concerns about unsolved Lisa Norrell murder case from 1998

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

Lisa Dianne Norrell

Dear Editor:

It is a downright disgrace what happened, as explained below.

In early November 1998 the 15-year-old Pittsburg teenager Lisa Diane Norrell left a friend’s party held at the Antioch Veterans Hall by the City Park. She decided to walk all the way home by herself, a two-plus miles distance to her home. Sometime that evening she went missing and never reached her home, was found about 8 days later Murdered, and her body dumped/hidden outside a local landscaping business yard. The actual responsibles have yet to be concretely identified or charged. (See related articles, here, and here.)

My Reliable Informant (RI hereafter) shortly contacted me and reported knowing who did it and gave further credible information. The RI agreed to meet with and to disclose the vital information to Law Enforcement I knew would act on it (or so I thought then). Lisa’s case was one of several Murders in a two-month period that occurred from Bay Point thru Antioch (a potential killing spree, not serial killings).

I in-person spoke to the then CCC District Attorney’s Chief of Inspectors at that time, Gene Greenwald, and passed on the information, name of the RI, the RI’s phone numbers, etc. He did not contact the RI, so I then again contacted the Chief and questioned why he hadn’t on such serious matters. He said he would and guaranteed me that he would asap. After a week or two the RI said that the Chief and no one from there had contacted the RI at all. The RI reported to us that he/she then personally went to the District Attorney’s Office and wanted to speak with the Chief, or another Inspector, and was there to provide the information he/she had that would help solve the case. He was questionably ignored and just told to go home! The RI reported that he/she was never contacted by the Chief or anyone else thereafter.

After I had personally informed the then Chief Greenwald I had also contacted one of the Pittsburg Police Department’s Detectives assigned to Lisa Norrell’s murder investigation, giving that Detective the aforementioned RI information, info I was told, RI’s contacts info, etc. Neither the RI nor I were ever contacted by that Pittsburg Detective or anyone else from that agency’s assigned Investigations personnel. I do not know if either Antioch PD or the Sheriff’s Department assigned Investigators were ever given the information, etc.

Within other matters I had later communicated with and passed on formally to a Federal Agent (in early 2011) the aforementioned information, along with additional unrelated reported Police misconduct. Due to that agency’s secretive and confidential regulations whatever was or was not done in reference to those things I am uninformed of.

Recently there was a newspaper article published wherein a Pittsburg PD Detective, Jacob Stage, was assigned to pursue some cold cases – including the highlighted Lisa Norrell 20 years old Murder. I was very happy to see such and contacted him and provided to him the above information. I have come to know that he is actively pursuing the new and previously unknown potential leads and related information. I encourage anyone else who may have any information or leads that may finally help solve Lisa’s and/or anyone else’s still unsolved Murder case to contact that Detective and to provide whatever they can to help him in his pursuit of justice for the Victims, their families, friends, etc. His contact number is with the Pittsburg PD communications center. Do it, now!

NOTE – I have repeatedly called and left phone messages, and my contact info, for the East Bay Times Reporter Nate Gartrell (who co-authored the recent cold cases 12/28/18 article) and he too has failed to contact me in any way whatsoever! I suppose he is no longer interested!

Yes, I am more than angry! It is a tragic set of circumstances that very poorly reflects upon them and their apparent uncaring demeanors, ineptness, etc., that we all are exposed to in our daily lives. Kudos to PPD, Detective Stage, and the Antioch Herald’s Allen Payton for providing their obvious time, space, and interests in these matters.



Editor’s Note: We don’t usually publish letters from anonymous sources. But, due to the nature of this matter and on-going investigation the letter writer has chosen not to be identified.

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Letter writer unhappy with new City Attorney’s race being mentioned by Councilman Thorpe and in headline

Saturday, March 2nd, 2019

Dear Editor:

I am disappointed that the Antioch City Council has decided to move back in time and judge someone on the color of their skin, rather than the content of their character. Antioch Council hires first African American as City Attorney, the headline above the fold (in the March print edition as well as on this website, here), was such a disservice to both Mr. Smith, and Lamar Thorpe’s comments were equally degrading.

We have lived in Antioch for 31 years and have never run anyone out of town. We really don’t care what color someone’s skin is, but we don’t want to be categorized as someone that would act like Lamar Thorpe.

It just blows my mind that something as trivial would have any impact on the decision. Is he educated? Is he qualified? Does he have the demeanor and manners to be an asset to Antioch? These are more important questions than the color of his skin.

Susanne Larson


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Commentary: Sawyer-White offers her side of the story as an Antioch Unified Board Trustee

Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

Crystal Sawyer-White. Photo courtesy of AUSD.

As an Antioch Unified School Board Trustee since November 8, 2016, I am compelled to share my side of the story. My tenure has been a total abyss of despair that is impacting our Antioch student’s education with racially intimidating practices. The day that I was elected on November 8, 2016, I was humbled and excited to serve as School Board Trustee for the students of Antioch Unified School District. I never thought I would experience deceitfulness to undermine my good intentions to fulfill my fiduciary responsibilities.

As an educator and a proud parent of a young adult who graduated from the district in 2007, I am very passionate about education and felt I was ready for the challenge. I looked forward to attending the first board meeting. However, almost every board meeting for the past two years has been stagnated by a lack of collaboration to accomplish goals. The progress of the board to work as a collaborative body was impeded by other members who use their position as a “bully pulpit” for workplace racial intimidation. In addition, my authority as Vice President was constantly challenged, overruled and outright disrespected in this role. I was elected as Vice President a year ago and was considered for the role of President on December 12, 2018.

The role of the President is to enforce the conduct of the Board meetings. President Hack has not enforced Mrs. Velma Wilson’s conduct who is an African American parent of students in AUSD. Mrs. Wilson has continuously spoke in a disrespectful manner during public comments badgering the African American female Board Trustees. Mrs. Wilson exhibits premeditated hostility and bias toward African American female Board Trustees intentionally. Mrs. Wilson publicly stated that I was absent from the most recent Brown Act training. To clarify the Brown Act training invitation that was sent to all Board Trustees, Superintendent Stephanie Anello specified, for new members to attend. Once again, Mrs. Wilson does not know what she is talking about. I have attended two Brown Act trainings thus far.

My focus has been on our students from day one. Here is a list of agenda items to be placed on the agenda that were ignored or disregarded:

1) Safety-Sandy Hook’s Promise-Presentation (asked three times pertaining to student and staff safety)

2) Revolutionary Foods-Nutritional breakfast and lunch programs that are a decrease in cost

3) California Dashboard-To be transparent of our homeless and foster youth.

4) Facility Fees-primarily African American parents and Antioch residents of color pay higher fees.

The following listed below exhibits lack of support, disrespect, and mistreatment:

1) The first month of my term (November 2016), then-Board President Diane Gibson-Gray called me on my cell phone to encourage me to be sworn in by the superintendent, privately. I refused. All public officials are sworn in publicly.

2) In November 2016 I was given a binder of the AUSD 9000 Board Bylaws. I informed the public within a couple of weeks that the new Board Bylaws were revised without Board adoption. The California School Board Association is the key component pertaining to applicable and foundational It is important to update the Bylaws that are 39 years old. Board Trustee Debra Vinson agreed.

The California School Board Association informed me that 30 Board bylaws and policies have been revised. 100 bylaws and policies are outdated since 1989.

3) It’s a steep learning curve, without training, to be a board member. I asked the board to attend the Master of Governance training for Board Development once elected in November. I didn’t attend the first workshop for New Board Trustee training until April 2017 in Anaheim, California.

Here is a list of the trainings:

MIG Course 1 Resources

COURSE 1: Foundations of Effective Governance | Setting Direction

MIG Course 2Resources

COURSE 2: Policy & Judicial Review | Student Learning & Achievement

MIG Course 3 Resources

COURSE 3: School Finance

COURSE 4: Human Resources | Collective Bargaining

MIG Course 5

COURSE 5: Community Relations and Advocacy | Governance Integration

For the past two years all Board Trustees have voted against my attendance to attend professional development except for Debra Vinson. What is wrong with this picture? The Antioch Board of Education is not about educating their students nor Board Trustees to meet their full potential.

4) Superintendent Stephanie Anello recently replied to my text message. She replied to me within minutes by accident sending it to the wrong person. This gave me great insight into her thought process. The text stated, “Should I reply to Crystal’s text or should I ignore it?”

The last Board meeting on December 12, 2018 was the most hostile meeting I ever attended. As Vice President, I was continuously disrespected and intimidated during the meeting. The attendees in the front row were the ex-Chief of Police for the of City of Antioch and Mrs. Velma Wilson, an African American parent of two Antioch Unified School District students. Mrs. Wilson stated I was not worthy of becoming President. I motioned to move up the Action Items A President Elect and B Vice President Elect one the Agenda in front of consent items. Ellie, the new Board Trustee, seconded my motion. It was voted down 2-3. I felt the hostility more than ever after the final vote.

Hearing Mrs. Wilson’s statement coming as an African American woman was intentionally staged. Her conduct during the meeting should have been enforced by President Gary Hack, but he continues to sit idly by.

I have decided to inform my constituents, parents of the City of Antioch, and friends the truth pertaining to the Antioch of Board of Education Board meetings. I believe justice will prevail. Based on Board Bylaw 9100 that states that the Presidency is based on rotation and I was the Vice President for one year, I am deserving of the Presidency of the Antioch Board of Education.

It is obvious that I have experienced racial practices and intimidation as a fear tactic to embed on my human psyche. This tactic is intentional to imply that as an African American woman is not worthy and not qualified is clearly base on race. The public needs to know the truth and advocate for the students of Antioch Unified School District. If given the opportunity to be President, I will continue to lead with integrity and follow the appropriate Board Bylaws that will lead our students for a better education.

Crystal Sawyer -White, MS

Board Trustee, Antioch Unified School District

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Writer says public school alternative programs take time to succeed

Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Dear Editor:

After attending a few board meetings, it has become more apparent that the parents who want charter schools simply want options for their students to learn. Unfortunately, some people may not realize that when you change something it takes time because there is no instant switch that automatically changes something.

The people in favor of charter schools don’t take the time to realize what the public schools have to offer. Plus, the reason so many charter schools probably fail is because they don’t take time to put together these programs like the public schools do.

While attending these meetings, I have noticed that these people who are in favor of the charter schools attend the meetings to get their public comment out there. While this is all fine and dandy, it did not seem to me that many of them stayed long enough to hear the options that AUSD is trying to put in place. Also, these options take time because, remember there is no instant switch to make these options happen. Just like with the academies at the high school level, they did not just roll out overnight. These academies took time to roll out at the high school level, like years to become the greatness that they are. Now, because of the successful implementation of these options, oh, I meant academies, there is starting to be more options at the middle school level for students to take classes that give them options to learn.

I know a lot of parents want their students to learn how to code or learn other skills, but those programs take time to develop and these programs also take time to implement. Also, what parents may not realize is that there is this thing called expanded learning and during LCAP meetings (which all parents who want to know what’s going on should be involved in) there was a large discussion on what should we offer our AUSD students for expanded learning. Coding, engineering related skills, and other computer skills were mentioned; but what was not mentioned was anything about charter schools. Parents that want to give their students a different learning opportunity should get involved in PTSA or LCAP, which help and support all students and takes in ideas on how to improve learning and the betterment of all students.

Also, after being lied to once and then your director not knowing what he was talking about I would be skeptical about wanting to send my child to this school.

Deanna Rundall


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Letters: Writer defends East Bay Tech Academies as necessary for Antioch students

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

Dear Editor:

I am a strong supporter of all public schools. The proposed East Bay Tech Academies approved by the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board earlier this year are free, public, charter schools. All of us who worked on bringing this choice to Antioch also support improvement at our current AUSD schools. Even so, we need high performing schools now so that our current students have the chance for success that they deserve.

As a longtime resident, it has saddened me to see many great families with school-aged children move out of town, primarily to get their children into higher performing school districts. I agree with the comment posted by Ken Turnage (on a previous letter to the editor) that it is possible to get a great education in Antioch. My children had some outstanding teachers. However, at the same time, the great majority of children attending the AUSD perform below grade level and are not meeting State Standards in either math or English. This can’t all be a result of bad parenting. After all, where high quality charter schools are established in a community, most of the same children who were failing begin to excel.

The nationally recognized model that the East Bay Tech Academies is offering Antioch families has taken a school in a neighboring community from a poor performing school to one of the best in the state. Fifty-two percent (52%) of their students were proficient in Math in 2016 versus only 15% at Antioch High School and 32% at Deer Valley High School. Which school would you choose to send your children to if you had a choice? The opponents of these schools never argue on the performance numbers because these facts are indisputable.

In fact, almost all of the opposition to charter schools comes from the teacher’s unions. Ironically, I know of many teachers and politicians who send their own children to charter and private schools, while fighting to prevent school choice for others. Parents at the local middle schools signed the East Bay Tech Academies petitions at an astonishing rate. Eight out of ten parents that I spoke with signed immediately when presented with the petition. Parents clearly support choice.

The unfounded fear is that these charter schools will hurt the district by attracting children from the district schools. The reality is that parents and students have already left the district in droves because they want options. The AUSD student population has declined by over 5,000 students from twelve years ago when my children were in the AUSD schools. At the same time, the population of Antioch has risen by over 20%. The student population should have increased significantly over this same period. Performance numbers, not charter schools, are the threat to the AUSD.

I want to thank the AUSD Board of Education for challenging the status quo in order to give the parents and students of Antioch more options.

The American Dream is a set of ideals which includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility. Education remains the best tool for achieving this dream. As a community we should support multiple venues for our children to succeed, including charter schools.

Tom McNell


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Letters: Founder of Antioch’s East Bay Tech Academy charter middle school offers other side of story

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Dear Editor:

For those who may not know me, let me introduce myself. I’m Jareem Gunter, an Antioch parent and the leader of the East Bay Tech Academy middle school. (We call it Tech Antioch for short.) Antioch is my home. My mother worked at Live Oak High School in the Antioch Unified School District for over 20 years until she retired last year. I was part of the opening class at Deer Valley High School, my alma mater. Now, a father with two young children, I was excited for my family to buy a home and set up roots back in Antioch.

Efforts to open Tech Antioch have raised questions about the connection between our school and Clayton Valley Charter High School. Since these concerns were first raised in the spring, numerous steps were taken to ensure Tech Antioch is completely separate from Clayton Valley. Our board was formed and includes experienced leaders in the charter school sector and a local Antioch resident, Fernando Navarro. I was named the school leader. And, we entered into a legal agreement with Clayton Valley creating a clear separation while also establishing a plan to reimburse Clayton Valley for the original investment it made into the school.

To be clear: I have no ties to Clayton Valley. Our board has no ties to Clayton Valley, my ties are to Antioch and Antioch public schools.  All my life I have attend public school, and care deeply about public school education.

We as a community, need to be honest. We need to look at the outcomes of Antioch schools and ask ourselves: Is this good enough? Last year, nearly 69 percent of students didn’t meet state English standards and 81 percent failed to meet math standards. While 80 percent of our students graduate high school, only 35 percent of those students are prepared for college. That means about two out of every three graduates leave with a diploma but not the skills they need for success if they want to pursue a career that requires a college degree. What we’re doing is not working for most children.

We are leaving too many children behind. All our children deserve and can be successful if we provide them the right opportunities. As a charter school, we can bring new ideas to our community. Our world is continually changing. We need to invest in new methods and ideas within our educational offerings.

Tech Antioch can provide an opportunity for innovation in our community and help our public schools become better. In other communities–such as Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, Houston and San Diego–forward-thinking leaders have focused on what children need and incorporated charter schools into their solution.

We need to spend time focused on what children in our community need. They need the right opportunities, and that can include giving them another public school option through Tech Antioch.

As a community, our current approach is not working for too many children. Our traditional school options are allowing too many children to graduate without being prepared for life. We need to try something new. My vision for Tech Antioch is to be another option for those children. Parents need to have access to another public school choice for their children. Providing our families with more opportunities for their children will only improve our district.

I want to work with the district to give children a choice. And, I want to work with other school leaders. Let’s work together to redefine how we support our children. Together, we can raise the expectations for our children and ensure they are positioned to achieve whatever dreams they have.

We can only work together if we stop political posturing and start having actual conversations. I ask that you honestly consider what our children need and welcome a partnership with our school.

Jareem Gunter, Founder/Director, East Bay Tech Academy

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Writer blames Frazier for gas tax increase, supports Romero for Assembly

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Dear Editor:

AB-1, Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017 (The Gas Tax Increase) was introduced by Assemblyman Jim Frazier (District 11).  His press release stated, “My commitment to passing a comprehensive funding plan that addresses California’s failing transportation system will not waiver.” He was right in identifying California’s system as failing, but how could he expect that more of the same failed treatment would help?

California is rated 46 comparing all states for pavement condition and congestion.  While Caltrans spends 4.7 times as much per mile as average of 49 other states, why did Mr. Frazier plan a tax increase?  If he had worked to decrease the ludicrous waste of Caltrans, no tax increase would be necessary.

The people knew better so the legislature panicked and developed Prop 69 to improve their image. If you believe that is a cure, I want to sell you my bridge in Brooklyn.  Be aware that it directs fuel tax not to only roads but to any form of public transportation.  It forces 50% to cities which is good because cities will spend it wisely, but where will the other 50% go?  Will bridges and broken pavement be improved? Taxpayer advocates have offered an alternative solution to fix our roads without a tax hike – the Road Repair Accountability Initiative.

Why didn’t Mr. Frazier’s Transportation Committee research the absurd waste of Caltrans?  If Caltrans is unable to become 400% more efficient, why not outsource road repairs or experiment with turnpikes? Some states outsource 50-85% of their work, California does 10%.  A contractor under competitive bidding will provide quality roads and control maintenance cost for fear of losing his contract.

Mr. Frazier is graded letter “F” by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers.  Is it not time to get a legislator who understands business principles.  Elect Lisa Romero. See

Earl Heal


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