Antioch School Board hears bond measure spending, questions REACH program effectiveness

By John Crowder

At the March 11, 2015 meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education, the trustees approved sending four staff members to the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative. They also heard from a teacher at Marsh Elementary who was concerned about projectors not working, received a report from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee (CBOC) regarding Measure B and Measure C expenditures, and pulled from the consent calendar an addendum to the REACH Project Vendor Agreement.

Stanford Education Leadership Initiative

In a March 2, 2015 letter from the Co-Directors of the Stanford Educational Leadership Initiative, Dr. Donald Gill, AUSD Superintendent of Education, and three of his staff were invited to attend the one-year Executive Program for Education Leaders (EPEL). According to a report submitted to the board by Gill, the program, “includes a mix of on-campus and distance learning sessions incorporating case-study and research-based presentations, discussions, and exercises led by…faculty” from both the Graduate School of Education and Graduate School of Business.

Also according to Gill, the $84,000 cost of four administrators attending the program will be paid for by two grants, one from EPEL for $76,000, and the other from the James Irvine Foundation for $8,000.

After some questions from the trustees concerning the source of funds and choice of administrators attending, the trustees approved the request on a 5-0 vote. Attending the program will be Gill, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services, Stephanie Anello, Coordinator, Community Outreach and Engagement, Cheryl Domenichelli, and Director of Educational Services, Jason Murphy.

Broken Projectors

During public comments only one speaker came forward, a teacher from Marsh Elementary School. She said that projectors at the school were, “going out,” and, without them, teachers were unable to implement the curriculum as intended. Following her statement, board member Debra Vinson stressed the importance of having the projectors working, and Tim Forrester, Associate Superintendent, Business and Operations, said he would follow up on the matter.

Bond Measure Reports

The board received a report from the Dale Hudson, chairman of the seven-member CBOC regarding the expenditure of funds for Measure B and Measure C. The CBOC, established in accordance with the voter-approved Proposition 39, which lowered the voter approval requirement from 2/3rds to 55% for school district bond measures that meet certain conditions, is charged, along with other things, of ensuring that, “bond funds are used for legally authorized purposes.”

Measure B is a $56.5 million school bond, passed on November 6, 2012, for the purpose of renovating and modernizing Antioch High School buildings and classrooms, including the athletic stadium.

Measure C is a $61.6 million school bond, passed in June, 2008, “to address critical renovation and modernization needs at schools that have served Antioch for more than forty years.” Among other items, it provided funding to replace roofs, plumbing, heating and air conditioning units and upgrade the district-wide technology infrastructure.

According to Hudson, all requirements of Proposition 39 are currently being met with respect to the two bond measures.

REACH Program

After considerable discussion, the trustees decided to pull an item from the consent calendar, an addendum to the REACH Project Vendor Agreement on behalf of Marsh Elementary.

An affirmative vote from the trustees would have added another $15,541 to the contract, revising the total not to exceed amount to $199,716. Money spent on the program comes from “site restricted categorical state funds (Title 1),” and have, “no impact to the unrestricted general fund,” according to a staff report submitted to the board.

Trustee Walter Ruehlig was the first of the board members to address the item when it was brought forward. Noting that fellow Trustee Barbara Cowan, had in previous meetings questioned how the program was being measured, he asked staff, “Where are we with metrics?”

Vinson also questioned how the program was being measured.

There is no way to know what they’re doing,” she said.

Following her statement, Ruehlig said, “I agree wholeheartedly.”

Cowan addressed not only REACH, but other service providers in her comments.

The only thing REACH does is very vague,” she said. “I would really like to see some required metrics for all vendors that serve students directly.”

Board President Claire Smith then followed up on Cowan’s comments, saying, “My problem with REACH is exactly that. I have never seen a measurable outcome in twenty years. I don’t see any proof in the pudding.”

Board Vice President Diane Gibson-Gray, though, supported approving the addendum. Not wishing to deny Marsh Elementary the use of REACH when so many other schools were using their services, and concerned that the rules were being changed for one school mid-year, she suggested she would make a motion to approve. As it became clear, however, that at least three of the board members would vote to table the item, she decided not to follow through. The item was then tabled for a future meeting, and the board went on to pass the rest of the consent calendar on a 5-0 vote.

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the AUSD Board of Education will take place on March 25. Meetings are held at the school district office at 510 G Street, and begin at 7:00 p.m.

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