Antioch School Board votes to close RAAMP, Carmen Dragon teachers voice concerns

By John Crowder

The Trustees of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) voted 4-1 at their April 9th meeting to close the RAAMP Charter Academy of Math and Science (RAAMP) at the end of this school year. According to RAAMP Board Chair Cheryl Cooper, there are no plans to appeal the decision.

The mood at the meeting was more somber than on previous occasions, where teaching staff, supporters, and parents of students at RAAMP had made impassioned pleas to keep the school open.

Karla Branch, one of the founders and the Executive Director of the school, spoke briefly prior to the vote being taken. Seemingly resigned to their fate, she nonetheless extolled the virtues of the program that she had worked to develop.

The disenfranchised student population needs something different,” she said. “That is what RAAMP has always been about. I am for disenfranchised students. I know what they need, and I know RAAMP gave it to them.”

Branch, expressed her appreciation for the AUSD Board, the administration and, in particular, Assistant Superintendent Stephanie Anello, for their support and the opportunity they had given her to begin the school five years ago.

I will walk away knowing RAAMP did amazing things…for a lot of people,” she concluded.

Following public comments, each member of the board spoke briefly about the decision they were about to make. While most expressed appreciation for the work Branch had done and for her passionate advocacy of the RAAMP program, nonetheless had determined that the data, specifically low academic performance scores, supported its closure. Trustee Gary Hack, who ended up casting the lone vote not to close the school, expressed how conflicted he was over the issue.

Dr. Don Gill, AUSD Superintendent, promised to work to assist those students displaced by the move, and emphasized the district’s African American Male Initiative as an avenue to help in the transition.

In another matter, teachers continued to voice their concerns with the level of violence in the Antioch schools. The situation at Dallas Ranch Middle School was brought up, as it has been for the past few months. Specific incidents were referenced, including a student having her hair caught on fire and a student being kicked in the face during another incident at the school.

Adding to the complaints regarding Antioch middle schools, for the first time in recent months, teachers from an elementary school, Carmen Dragon, came forward as a group to voice similar concerns regarding unruly students.

Patti Baggett, a fourth grade teacher at the school, read a statement outlining the problems while backed up by several teachers standing at the podium with her, and about a half-dozen more in the audience.

I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues at Carmen Dragon Elementary and throughout the entire district,” she stated. “We have become increasingly fearful for our students’ safety and our own ability to successfully provide for a positive learning environment…We are extremely concerned for our own personal safety…”

She went on to characterize a “lack of clearly defined district policies” as a major factor that “has led to many students becoming empowered with a rebellious attitude which endangers everyone in our district community.”

Baggett then referred to a specific incident in which she claimed that a student had “pushed a well-respected, experienced substitute teacher, then went straight to the office and reported that she had pushed him.”

These bullies, whose actions remain unchecked by your ineffective behavior policy, are stealing the rights of the majority of our Antioch youth to learn and be safe in our classrooms,” she added.

In other education news, teachers and supporters of the Dozier-Libbey Medical High School independent charter petition attended the Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting where several spoke in support of the teachers’ petition. That board is expected to take up the matter in early May.

Future meetings of the AUSD Board are scheduled for May 14th and May 28th and are held at the AUSD office at 510 G Street.

11 Comments to “Antioch School Board votes to close RAAMP, Carmen Dragon teachers voice concerns”

  1. Ann O'Nim says:

    Say, isn’t Carmen Dragon Elementary the school that Mr. Bergerhouse just left and now the AUSD is trying to install him at Dozier-Libbey? Sounds like there are problems brewing at Carmen Dragon that we would NOT want to spill over to Dozier-Libbey! Hmmmm, what a clever thought.

    • Concerned Citizen says:

      Yes, Mr. Bergerhouse was principal of Carmen Dragon until he was chosen last week to be the new principal of Dozier-Libbey Dependent Charter High School. Carmen Dragon has a “substitute” administrator filling in for the remainder of the year. There is no reason he could not have finished the year at Carmen Dragon, especially if the staff are this concerned about safety. Another brilliant move by the district.

  2. Julio says:

    This school district cannot continue the let the inmates run it. Teachers having to go to court to get restraining orders against parents is just the tip of the iceberg. Need to replace Mr Gill. He and the board are a disaster.

  3. Rochelle says:

    What was the school board’s response when the teachers voiced their concerns? School safety needs to be a top priority.

  4. Julio says:

    I don’t believe they have to respond to comments just like the city council. However, in the past when these things have been brought up they always say safety is their #1 priority but it clearly never is.

    • eileen says:

      Julio, why don’t they have to respond to comments, do you know? Why doesn’t the city council have to respond? Is it some kind of ordinance they don’t have to answer to us in public?

      • John Crowder says:


        This has to do with the Brown Act, which essentially requires that public businss be conducted openly. Section 54954.2 (a)(2)reads in part, “No action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not appearing on the posted agenda…” It goes on to talk about exceptions related to asking questions, if a board member so desires, for clarification and the like.

        The public is given a chance to make statements about things not on the agenda at both the school board and city council meetings. A lack of response should only be seen as a board member complying with the law, nothing else.

  5. Rochelle says:

    I agree the School Board is such a disaster. It’s pretty clear what we need to do then as voters come the next election: vote them out! Two of them have terms ending at the end of this year. We need to get fresh new faces who actually can get something done and make our schools safety a top priority, not just talk a big game. The other three board members have terms ending in 2016, but we cannot afford to have any more of this inept leadership to continue. Any new candidate could easily point to the lack of leadership and the matter of safety in our schools and point out what Ms. Baggett mentioned “the bullies remain unchecked (by board’s) ineffective behavior policy”. One board member in their bio even mentioned that she would work to make schools safe. Well, clearly that has not happened. No student or teacher should EVER fear for their personal safety in our schools….period.

  6. Amber says:

    Not only should parents be held responsible for these kids behavior but also the schools. It used to be that when a kid was bad at school they went to detention, now they just send them home. Parents have to leave work or sitters run down to find out a kid didn’t listen and is now home for a few days taking a vacation from school. What was so wrong with enfourcing discipline at school? Why did these polocies change? I remember the bad kids having garbage duty, scraping gum off the black top, in school detention and required homework clubs. Is the school board a paying position? Cause I need work and would love to get paid to straighten these kids up with the old system I saw working as a kid and also throw in some bootcamp and community service. Leaving school should be a last resort, when safety is a serious issue, otherwise put these kids to work and make them wish they were in the classroom. Free education is a privilage taken for granted and most don’t realize that until they are struggling to pay for college if they are lucky enough to afford it at all or paying student loans for years on end.

    And for the parents of these kids, can you make their little time outs from school miserable please? No tv and video games. Make your kids clean the house, do yard work, offer free services to the neighbors, walk around the block picking up trash off the street, etc. Don’t reinforce bad behavior or one day you”ll be visiting your baby in prison, in debt from bail bonds, or robbed by your own kid.

  7. Julio says:

    The school boards generally are so afraid of court, specially in Antioch. The ACLU gives them a little heat about discipline and they fold. The ACLU is the driving force anymore. If little Johnny is a bully then it must be someone other than a parents fault. Most kids who are bullies I have known over the years get it from examples at home. Daddy bullies them and they go to school and bully someone. I agree Amber, these kids need to work around the house or a neighbors like we used to do.

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