Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Taxpayers Association: Vote no on Measure E – missing a critical piece

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Op-Ed

Bonds are an expensive form of debt and, like a home mortgage, are repaid with interest over time. Since 2002, Contra Costa Community College District voters have approved construction bonds totaling $406.5 million that, with interest, will cost taxpayers over one billion dollars. 

Now, with Measure E, the District is asking voters to approve a $450M bond that would update school facilities and add much needed infrastructure.

There’s just one huge hiccup. Measure E is missing language that secures equal opportunity for your friends, neighbors and family members in construction. The district had the opportunity to add this language back in February, but chose not to seize it sending a strong message to 83.5% of contractors in the community they need not apply here for jobs.

83.5% is the number of California construction workers who were NOT affiliated with a union in 2013.

So your friends, your neighbors and young, aspiring construction professionals don’t get a fair shot at local work under Measure E – at their livelihood, yet have to pay for it on their property tax bill. 

For years, Contra Costa Community College District operated with a construction bidding policy that ensured a fair playing field regardless of labor affiliation and delivered quality workmanship our community could count on.

Unfortunately, that ended in 2011 when a Project Labor Agreement policy that favors construction unions was adopted, discouraging 83.5% of local workers in the community from bidding on District jobs unless they signed on to the onerous union work rules required by the agreement.

On June 3, vote NO on Measure E for the Contra Costa Community College District. Give our deserving construction community a fair shot at local work.

Alex Aliferis

Executive Director

Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

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Colangelo for Congress in 9th District

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

In the Republican Primary race for the 9th Congressional District, which includes about 70% of Antioch, there’s a clear choice.

Steve Colangelo, a long-time businessman in San Joaquin County is the only candidate who appears to be running a serious campaign to unseat incumbent Jerry McNerney.

His opponents include the former County Clerk of Stanislaus County, which isn’t in the district and who whose main claim to fame is that she’s received death threats for running.

The other is retired U.S. Marshall Tony Amador who is currently Chairman of the Republican Party of San Joaquin County.

Instead of fulfilling his role of recruiting and supporting good candidates, he’s running as one. Amador couldn’t even get the support of a majority of the members of his own Central Committee, which says a lot.

The top two candidates move on to the General Election in November. Colangelo should be one of them.

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Watchdog: Viewpoints on June ballot measures

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: Viewpoints on June ballot measuresBy Barbara Zivica

June is a busy month for voters. The Contra Costa County official ballot asks voters to decide on various candidates and two ballot measures. One is the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Bond Act which deserves a yes vote. The second is a ballot measure in regard to public records, open meeting and state reimbursements to local agencies. Vote no on this one as it just frees the state from having to reimburse cities and counties for complying with a state mandate and potentially will cost local governments tens of millions of dollars annually.

Two other local agencies, the Contra Costa Community College District and the Delta Diablo Sanitation District, are seeking more money from district residents. The difference is you get to approve or disapprove CCCCD’s June 3rd Measure E bond measure which requires 55% vote approval but you don’t get to vote on Delta Diablo Sewer proposed service charge increase although the district is accepting written protests and will hold a Public Hearing on the $17.86 service charge increase on June 11th at 5:30.

A little background on both:

CONTRA COSTA COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT’S MEASURE E: For the past twelve years the district has gone to voters time and time ago for more money and voters have approved bonds totaling $406.5 million that, according to the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association will cost taxpayers over one billion dollars. Now the district wants voters to approve another $450M in new bond debt.

In November 2012 the CCCCD asked voters to approve a bond measure to “maintain high quality education, support course offerings and instruction programs, including healthcare, technology and public safety, increase access to support services and prepare students for university transfer.” However, two months prior to seeking voter approval Los Medanos College put out a legal notice inviting pre-qualified contractors to bid on a $10 to $15 million student service remodel, project subject to a Project Stability Agreement (PSA) between the college district and the CCC Building and Construction Trades Council. Such agreements are discriminatory because they exclude non union workers and can raise the cost of a project by 12 to 18%.

This June’s Measure E states that bond proceeds will generally be used to upgrade school sites, school facilities and support facilities but doesn’t guarantee that all of the projects listed in the Bond Project list will be funded or completed. The measure also states that all projects will fall under district construction policies – Project Stability Agreements (PSA) limiting completion and increasing project costs. Vote NO on Measure E.

DELTA DIABLO SANITATION DISTRICT PROPOSED $17.86 SEWER SERVICE CHARGE INCREASE: The current sewer service charge is $273.10 annually per single family resident. An additional $17.86 per year would bring the total amount to $290.96 for tax year 2014. (2015 to be discussed at the public hearing.) Frankly, I’ve become opposed to what’s becoming increasing large annual increases on all special taxes and assessments on my property tax bill.

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Watchdog: Antioch residents hoodwinked on use of Measure C funds

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Watchdog Logo 300x95 Watchdog: Antioch residents hoodwinked on use of Measure C fundsBy Barbara Zivica

Residents still don’t seem to comprehend that monies derived from the passage of Measure C, the half cent sales tax, are dedicated to the City of Antioch’s General Fund and can be used for any legal purpose.

Apparently, residents didn’t do their homework and were hoodwinked by the flood of mailers stating that passage of the ballot measure would enable the city to hire 22 more police officers. Now residents are asking “Where are they?”

The City Finance Director recently gave the council a budget presentation in which she hedged on the number of officers that might be hired with Measure C funds. The problem is projected revenues will be inadequate to meet projected expenditures like the hiring of more police officers.

The real problem folks is overly generous labor agreements. In fact there’s about $500,000 in pay raises/benefits for the current 82 sworn officers coming up in July that the City is going to use Measure C money to pay for rather than General Fund money. Fooled again.

Don’t be surprised if council members soon start trying to gather support for another tax measure, government’s easy solution to address overspending which results in budget deficits.

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Dozier-Libbey parents write about concerns, support for independent charter conversion

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

This February 23, teachers (88% of the teaching staff) from Dozier-Libbey Medical High School submitted a petition to the Antioch Unified School District to convert that school from one under AUSD control to an independent charter school. Since that time, AUSD administrative personnel have been working to prevent this change. They have frequently employed misleading statements in order to bolster their position. They have recruited school district personnel to speak against the teachers, and for the alternative “dependent charter” they created in order to keep Dozier-Libbey under their control. We, the undersigned, all parents of current Dozier-Libbey students, are writing to express our support for the dedicated staff at Dozier-Libbey in their efforts to convert the school to an independent charter.

As parents, we are concerned with the quality of the education that our children receive. This is our sole concern, not the politics of the issue. We want our children to have a rigorous educational experience, one that will prepare them in such a way that they will have a wide range of options available to them upon graduation from high school.

Dozier-Libbey was created as a college preparatory school with a medical theme focus. Students apply to Dozier-Libbey because they have a desire to learn and want to succeed at a high level. They make the decision to tackle the rigorous and challenging curriculum that Dozier-Libbey provides. That curriculum was established by the teachers of Dozier-Libbey. Indeed, some of the courses were developed solely by the teaching staff. We support the independent charter because we want to see these innovative programs continue for the benefit of our students, and for those who, in the future, will follow them.

As parents, we are concerned that the school that our children attend has all of the resources needed in order for them to have the greatest possible chance of success. As Mr. Jeff Weber stated in a recent newspaper article, Dozier-Libbey has not been treated equitably with respect to the resources that have been provided to like-size schools within the AUSD system. Dozier-Libbey is the only high school in the AUSD system that must make do with a part-time librarian. Under the independent charter proposed by the teachers, they would be able to employ a full-time librarian. The school only has one person dedicated to school safety, and only one administrator assigned. When the administrator is called away to District business, which happens frequently, teachers must use time that should be devoted to teaching in order to cover her responsibilities. Dozier-Libbey also has the highest student-to-clerical ratio in the district and only a part-time employee handling the career center. It is, quite frankly, astonishing that the teachers at Dozier-Libbey have been able to accomplish all they have in spite of these, and other, inequities. We support the independent charter because it will allow for direct funding of the school that will provide needed resources for student success.

As parents, we want to be involved in the education of our children. Under the independent charter, Dozier-Libbey would be headed by a board of directors which will be made up of parents of Dozier-Libbey students as well as other community members who have experience in areas such as education, fund-raising or accounting. For parents to have a direct voice in the direction that the school will take is an exciting opportunity that many of us wish to take advantage of. In contrast, while the AUSD has stated that they are the ones who will listen to parental input they immediately discredited themselves by appointing a new principal for their dependent charter without a single community meeting. We support the independent charter because it will allow for meaningful parental involvement in the school, leaving the Dozier-Libbey teachers free to do what they do best – educating our students for college and careers by living the Dozier-Libbey vision: “Every student valued, every student challenged, every student prepared to succeed in a changing world”.

In summary, there are many parents who support the teachers converting Dozier-Libbey to an independent charter school because it will so clearly benefit the students. At the end of the day, that is what matters, not politics, but the quality of education that our children will be able to receive.

Lara Lindeman, Jeanne Stuart-Chilcote, Angela L. , Lisa Backlund, Julie C., Robin M., Michelle Adams, Silvia Huerta, Duane & April Padilla, Lori Bonwell , Carol Monaco, Anna Morris, Janet McDaid, Jean Ruelas, Christine Loomis, Arthur & Ifeoma Metu

 

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Letter writer offers thoughts on Dozier-Libbey charter debate

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Dear Editor,

I have been following the Dozier-Libbey story in the Antioch Herald and have read every article and all of the comments that have populated under each one. I have noticed that about 99% of the comments strongly support the teachers and their Independent Charter Petition.

FACT: 1. The Independent Charter Petition came first.

FACT: 2. The Independent Charter Petition was developed by teachers, not administrators and is almost twice as long as the district counter-proposal. The Independent Charter Petition provides many more details and aligns with the existing programs since it was created by the people who made Dozier-Libbey what it is today.

FACT: 3. None of the people who signed the Independent Charter Petition were coerced into signing.

FACT: 4. The Deer Valley signers of the Dependent Charter Petition from the district, who signed that they were meaningfully interested in teaching at DLMHS were promised they would NOT have to go there to teach if they signed the document. (This was related to me by a teacher who was at that meeting).

FACT:5. The Dozier-Libbey teachers have the full support of the California Charter Schools Association and their Independent Charter Petition aligns with the California Charter Schools Act.

FACT:6. Principal Nancie Castro was the top candidate, selected by a committee for her Science background, two years before the school was even built. She designed the model from the ground up and built her team. Each person was chosen from a pool of candidates because they were a good fit for the school.

FACT:7. Principal Scott Bergerhouse, the newly selected Principal for the district dependent charter, according to his bio was an English teacher and was appointed “in house” by the Superintendent and the Board, without any input from parents or community groups.

FACT:8. The whole “sports” issue has been fabricated by the AUSD since they could choose to let the Dozier-Libbey Independent Charter students continue to play sports under CIF regulations at DVHS and AHS as they do now, simply by creating a MOU (memo of understanding) between schools. By choosing not to create an MOU, they have artificially created a situation that could easily be fixed should they choose to fix it.

FACT:9. The AUSD has already given Principal Scott Bergerhouse an office at Dozier-Libbey and he was introduced to the students as their “new Principal” on a room by room tour last week, in front of the current Principal, Nancie Castro. They also posted a banner on the front of the school stating his new role.

FACT:10. The DLMHS students staged a thirty-minute walkout last week in response to the disrespect shown to Mrs. Castro by the AUSD and teachers wore black as a way of “silent protest” since they cannot talk about the charter situation with students.

FACT:11. The teachers have established a Facebook page where they welcome all comments, pro and con. As of today, most of the comments have been supportive of the teachers. The district has also created a Facebook page where several parents and students posted critical comments yet all of the comments were removed and a disclaimer now sits in their place. That is their version of transparency.

FACT:12. DLMHS Parents had established a table outside the school with a sign about signing up for the Independent Charter for next year. They were giving out forms for parents to fill out and return. They were told to remove their tables and had to go stand outside of school property on the roadside to give out their forms. Almost immediately the AUSD administration set up their own table with an expensive banner and began giving out their own forms in the location vacated by the parents. Parents were led to believe that if they did not respond by 4/7, their students would lose their spot and it would be filled by someone else on the waiting list. Due to the next hearing in superior court, that date was extended to 4/28.

It does not seem fair that parents have to stand outside school and give out their forms on the roadside when AUSD officials can do it right next to the school building. What are they afraid of? It does not seem fair that the teachers cannot talk about the charter with students provided they present both sides of the issue. Again, what are they afraid of? What happened to freedom of speech?

Andre’ Epstein

Mr. Epstein is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, a 36-year veteran teacher (23 years with AUSD) and was the AUSD Teacher of the Year 2003-2004. He most recently taught Spanish at DLMHS until retirement.

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Former Antioch academy administrator writes about Dozier-Libbey charter conversion

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Dear Editor,

Thank you for your continued well-balanced reporting of the contentious issue of the Dozier-Libbey charter conversion.

I know there are some issues where you and I do not, and probably will not ever, see eye-to-eye. However, the need for public school reform has never been one of them. I write today no longer a constituent of Antioch, but as a citizen of California and a school reform advocate. Mr. Crowder hit the nail on the head with his analysis earlier this week. This issue is far greater than Antioch and has the potential to stop the charter-movement, and the school-reform movement, dead in their tracks. Antioch politics have not given rise to an issue with greater state and national significance since I first moved there over ten years ago.

Charter school law is an example of the great power of political compromise. It accords parents and teachers the opportunity to take a direct role in the policies and procedures that govern their local schools while ensuring equal opportunities under the law to students regardless of class, race, or net worth. By vesting the power of school control in those who work with students on a day-to-day basis rather than a district office that needs to find some way of educating students with a disparate set of interests, needs, and motivations, charter schools can overcome the “Harrison Burgeron” effect of many district schools while remaining in the public sphere.

That said, charter school law is not a panacea. Plenty of charter schools fail – some from corruption and some from incompetence. Some commentators suggest that predicting charter school success requires some sort of precognition. This is why the conversion charter is such a strong model. A charter conversion typically requires a dedicated team of professionals with a proven track record of success. Districts (or counties when districts fail to do so) are encouraged to put their faith in a talented group of professional educators and release the reins on successful programs. By allowing self-governance by trusted leadership, school boards, and by proxy voters, are assured they will have successful, cutting edge opportunities for their students.

There could not be a better candidate for this type of success than Dozier-Libbey. Nancie Castro and her tireless, dedicated team have created a truly innovative and successful program—one that has shown excellence working within the confines of a district framework, but could truly soar if those regulations were lifted. There has been a great deal of press paid to specific policy decisions (for example the “no D” policy) that are rooted in research and best practices, but the real power of charter law is not in specific policies, but in the educators’ abilities to shape that policy quickly and efficiently as the need arises.

Even under an independent charter, there are checks and balances. The school must regularly return to sponsoring board to report on its progress and seek a continuation of its charter. A board of directors still has fiduciary duties and oversight responsibilities, and many meet Brown Act style public meeting requirements. Most charters are WASC accredited and require the continuous oversight that an accreditation board offers. Finally, charter schools are subject to state audits to ensure taxpayer money is being well spent and appropriately accounted for. Under this rigorous framework, there is certain to be accountability for public funds.

There has been much discussion in social and mainstream media regarding the equity and access issues to charter schools, specifically to the proposed Dozier-Libbey charter. One of the elements of a charter petition, and one of the most heavily scrutinized elements, is its plan to maintain balance and diversity. No doubt that oftentimes charters do not succeed in this regard. Maintaining true balance in a school of choice is a difficult undertaking and requires a great deal of planning and organization. Even then, it is not always possible.

With the conflicting data being thrown about, I am not comfortable saying whether or not Dozier-Libbey has entirely successful in maintaining a perfect racial/cultural balance in the few years since it has opened. What I can say is that there is no reason to suspect this data would be affected negatively by charter governance. A charter school can react quickly to demographic shifts and recruiting needs than a district school. I can remember many instances when Nancie was trying to get recruiting materials out more quickly, hold more parent meetings, and offer various times of day for parents to sign their kids up for Dozier-Libbey. Oftentimes the attempts were met with the lethargic complacency

of school district policy making. I firmly believe any perceived inequities have been exacerbated, rather than alleviated by district oversight.

It is important at this juncture to discuss the difference between elite and elitist. An elite school creates excellence; an elitist school requires it at admission. Dozier-Libbey is an elite school. Anyone can apply, and anyone lucky enough to be selected in the random lottery can attend. Once that student is on campus, it is up to him or her to succeed. A recent editorial in another publication mocked Dozier-Libbey’s “Cure” program. This program (that I believe no longer operates under this controversial acronym) is exactly what most parents and teachers want – additional one-on-one instruction and support for students who need it.

This is one of the many ways in which Dozier-Libbey is elite, rather than elitist – anyone that chooses to succeed is given every opportunity to do so.

I could go on-and-on about the virtues of the Dozier-Libbey charter petition (perhaps you think I already have). But I wanted to write this to you, personally.

While we disagree on some ideas, we have always respected each other’s minds and hearts. This is a good move for students, a good move for the community, and a good move for the state. I hope you will come out in support of Dozier-Libbey’s charter conversion petition.

Jason Miller

Miller is the Founder and former Administrator of the Delta Academy of the Performing Arts, which is part of the Antioch Unified School District, and is now located at Deer Valley High School.

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Why Dozier-Libbey Medical High needs to be an independent charter school

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Guest Commentary

By Jeff Weber

The ongoing effort to convert Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, a high-performing pathway school in the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), to a public charter school has swelled into a highly publicized, and at times ugly, battle in the court of public opinion.  Emotions are running high on both sides.  If there is a positive side to this political fight, it may be that the people of Antioch now have a much better understanding of their school district and of the wider charter schools movement in America.  Yet many are still asking, why is this all necessary?  Is this really in the best interest of our kids?  The answer is, it could be, if given the chance.  This article will attempt to explain in a rational way how Antioch could be better served by independent charter schools, and how we could get there with minimal disruption to our students.

Today more people in Antioch understand that an independent charter school is still a public school.  The general community will really see little change after a school converts from a district school to a charter.  The school will continue to serve the same students and meet the same state standards.  What will change is the governing board of the school.  A true charter school is independent and governed by a dedicated board of parents and community members that serve only that school.  A charter school’s board will not be distracted by the plethora of issues that the AUSD board of trustees must deal with in its 25-school district. 

It is also clear to most Antioch residents now that Dozier-Libbey teachers are not “stealing” their school.  In fact, the teachers are exercising their rights granted by the California legislature to convert a school to a charter if they feel doing so would better serve the students of that school. 

So why did the teachers of Dozier-Libbey take on this fight?  It was clearly going to be a David versus Goliath match-up from the start, with the district using its vast resources of public money and public employees, while Dozier-Libbey teachers worked extra nights and weekends and paid expenses out of pocket.  It was most certainly not so that teachers could stop giving ‘D’ grades to their students—a suggestion that has been highly publicized, but in fact does not exist in the charter petition objectives. 

The truth is, Dozier-Libbey teachers are risking a lot.  Most have decades of service behind them, and some are well within reach of a comfortable retirement.  They are giving up district tenure and seniority for an uncertain future and salaries that will stay on par with their previous district amounts, at best.  It would be impossible to argue that teachers are pushing the charter conversion for any reason other than the benefit of their students.

And their students do stand to gain a great deal from a charter conversion.  Here are some hard facts and numbers that show where Dozier-Libbey sits as a district school, and where it could be as an independent charter.  These are small examples among many that together represent a current system of educational management that is simply broken.

Early last year Dozier-Libbey teachers used grant money to purchase 15 new laptop computers to serve economically disadvantaged students.  Because of bureaucratic bumbling (an adequate cart could not be found), these brand new computers sat in a school district storeroom for over five months, despite repeated pleas from teachers, and have yet to reach the students who need them.  If Dozier-Libbey were a charter, this educational time would not have been lost.

This year, 20 students at Dozier-Libbey lost their job-shadowing opportunities with Sutter Delta Hospital because insurance forms were inexplicably held then mismanaged by the district bureaucracy, despite repeated calls from the Dozier-Libbey coordinator.  These valuable educational experiences would not have been lost if the necessary paperwork could have been handled in-house by a charter school.

Untold other educational opportunities have been lost to Dozier-Libbey, including real-time interactions with working doctors and nurses around the world, because district-wide policies could not be tailored to fit the needs of this unique school.  By their very nature, school districts like AUSD must operate on a “one size fits all” mentality in order to control such vast numbers of students and schools.  Dozier-Libbey was never designed to be a cookie-cutter high school.  It was created to be innovative.  Dozier-Libbey has numerous new programs ready to be implemented that address mastery learning of core subjects and credit recovery for struggling students, however these programs are not possible under AUSD, either because the other two high schools are not willing to embrace them (one size must fit all), or there is simply no funding to do so at Dozier-Libbey.

The state funding of public schools is based on the daily attendance at that school (known as “ADA”).  Schools like Dozier-Libbey with large percentages of economically disadvantaged students also receive additional federal funding, commonly referred to as “Title 1.”  All of this is taxpayer money that has been earmarked for educating our children.  However, school districts as large as AUSD have many layers of expensive bureaucracy that siphon off much of that student funding.  The combined salaries of the AUSD administrators (Don Gill, Tim Forrester, Stephanie Anello, Mike Santos, Louis Rocha, and Kenneth Gardner), who have spent so much of the past few months fighting the conversion charter, total over a million dollars.  That’s enough money to hire more than 20 librarians (DLMHS currently has one part-time librarian).  And there are literally scores of other administrators in Antioch being paid six-figure salaries who rarely venture near a classroom.  The more that schools operate independently, the less these central administration positions can be justified to the public—and that’s a very scary prospect for those individuals who enjoy them.

Dozier-Libbey receives from the district only a fraction of its ADA entitlements and none of its Title 1 monies.  The school site principal was given control of only $29,000 last school year, and of that funding amount $5,000 went toward paying a district-negotiated lease for the school’s copy machine.  Another $8,000 went toward paying the school’s librarian to stay an extra hour each day beyond the four hours for which she is contracted by the district.  Fortunately, many Dozier-Libbey teachers have been prolific in writing grant requests for their special projects.  Yet, even such grant money directed to Dozier-Libbey is occasionally siphoned off by the district for other uses.  And Dozier-Libbey suffers because of its own highly efficient fiscal management.  Antioch High School, a school only three times the size of Dozier-Libbey, receives eight times the operating budget from the district!  As a charter school, far more funding allocated by the state and federal government for Dozier-Libbey students would benefit Dozier-Libbey students.

So how does the charter conversion all turn out, and more importantly, what does it do for the kids?  At this point, there are two possible paths that the school district could take.

The first is for AUSD to continue with their current strategy.  The counter petition the district filed to make Dozier-Libbey a “dependent charter” stands on only the shakiest of legal ground, but it will serve to drag the conversion into the courts for possibly months or years—a stated objective made by the district at the school board hearing on their proposal.  They will spend untold thousands from public funds on litigation—money desperately needed by their own students.  (Dozier-Libbey charter petitioners are now receiving legal support from numerous pro-education organizations throughout the state.)  The district will undoubtedly also use this time to make staffing changes at the school, hamstringing a dedicated and highly professional team that has been years in development. 

However, another course of action could be for the leaders of AUSD to put the needs of the students of Antioch ahead of their own egos.  Allow the teachers of Dozier-Libbey, whom they’ve recognized as highly competent professionals, to run with their grand experiment unfettered and unchallenged.  If the charter succeeds, it will benefit not only the students at Dozier-Libbey, but will bring forth innovations and new ideas that can be shared with the entire district (as has been seen in numerous other charter-to-school district relationships).  But if Dozier-Libbey fails to meet its ambitious objectives as a charter, then the charter is simply revoked and the school returns to AUSD management.  These conversions, in either direction, do not need to be messy or expensive.  It is the district that is choosing to make it so. 

And so one can only wonder, what is the district really afraid of?

Jeff Weber is an 18-year veteran of AUSD, and currently teaches world history at Dozier-Libbey Medical High School and one of the organizers of the charter petition.

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