Antioch School Board hears about African-American promotion ceremony, LCAP, Kids’ Club, again

by John Crowder

Once again, it was standing room only at the regularly scheduled meeting of the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) Board of Education, held on June 10, 2015. The overflow crowd in attendance addressed two main concerns, a recently held promotion ceremony for African American students and the on-going saga of Kids’ Club Preschool.

Also on the agenda were public hearings on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the budget for the District.

African American Promotion Celebration

AUSD Superintendent Dr. Don Gill wasted no time in addressing those present about the African American promotion ceremony that has generated so much scrutiny and concern on social media.

Reading from a prepared statement, Gill said, “I wanted to address recent concerns by some community members regarding an African American cultural celebration sponsored by an employee in his capacity as a community member. We acknowledge that there were some procedural errors that occurred regarding communication. We are looking into this so that we can ensure we are effectively communicating procedures for employees. However, I hope that this will not cloud or taint what was truly a well-intentioned positive event for our students. While we did not sponsor this particular event this year, we do see the value in holding such cultural celebrations as they are a chance for students to be recognized and honored and for all of us to learn more about the rich cultures of our students and our community.”

Some of those speaking during public comments, however, did not feel that District staff had gone far enough in supporting Dr. Lamont Francies, the organizer of the event, who recently took a leave of absence from his work as a counselor with AUSD.

This sentiment was most succinctly put forward by Lawrence Rasheed, Founder of Greatness Rediscovered In Our Time (GRIOT), a mentoring and advocacy group focusing on young African American males.

Rasheed stated that all of the Board members, and Dr. Gill, had been notified in April of the African American promotion ceremony that Francies had organized. He said that they should apologize to Francies for not supporting him when the controversy over the event began.

Kids’ Club

Representatives of Kids’ Club Preschool have been attending both Antioch City Council and AUSD School Board meetings in recent months, making various requests for assistance. The lease for the building used by the preschool (and owned by AUSD) is due to expire next month, and, among other things, the group has asked for a lease extension or land upon which to place modular buildings.

While several speakers spoke in support of the Kids’ Club program, as has been the case at each meeting where they have been present, this time one resident, Julie Young, spoke out in opposition to the requests they have been making.

Young began her remarks by saying that Kids’ Club was, “a good program.” But, she said, their requests for land and/or buildings were inappropriate, and, if granted, would be, “against good public policy.”

Pointing out that the program was given a year’s notice to find a new location, she called their demands for land, “a bold request.” “What they are really saying is, we are a private group that does a good thing, and you [AUSD] owe us…”

Young continued, “As a school district, you do not have the authority to give away land…funded by the taxpayer, to a private entity.”

Expressing her sympathy for those in support of the preschool, and looking for alternatives, Young concluded her remarks by telling all in attendance that other preschool options were available, including The Child Day Schools, located at 112 East Tregallas Road in Antioch, which recently announced an award of state funding that would allow them to take 87 additional preschool students.

LCAP Presentation and Hearings

AUSD staff gave a presentation on the Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) for the 2015-2016 school year, and it was followed by a public hearing later in the meeting. A separate hearing was also held, on the 2015-2016 budget for the District.

Only a handful of people came forward to speak during the hearings.

Sharon Vela spoke in support of restoring and expanding the music program. Others spoke about continuing to engage parents in the process, and the importance of supporting cultural events.

Only one speaker, Willie Mims, Education Chair of the East County NAACP, questioned any of the spending that had been outlined, telling the Board that funding Vice Principal positions from money coming from supplemental funds was not permitted.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 p.m. Meetings take place in the School Services Building, located at 510 G Street.

Alia Bickham contributed to this report.

One Comment to “Antioch School Board hears about African-American promotion ceremony, LCAP, Kids’ Club, again”

  1. Reginald Jamal Brown says:

    AUSD and Vinson just wish this would go away. LMAO. citizens of Antioch, I implore you to not let this go. Show them that their carelessness, selfishness, and hypocrisy will not go unnoticed.

    Remember, you as hard working tax payers have paid lots and lots of money for their salaries, schools and equipment. And all we have gotten is their garbage of a school district and racism.

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