Antioch School Board VP Ruehlig offers reflections on 2015


As time marches inexorably forward and we approach the New Year, I find it a good time to pause and reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’re headed, at the Antioch Unified School District.

As 2015 came to an end, we saw change come in double step, with the retirement of our Superintendent and the resignation of a School Board Trustee.  Yet changes are nothing to moan over.  Change should be welcomed.

As the voters so decisively indicated in the last election, a course correction was desperately needed.  But, just as large ships at sea don’t turn easily, so it is with large bureaucracies; status quo driven inertia keeps them moving in old lanes, even when a change in direction is clearly called for.

Eventually, however, a ship will turn, and so it is with AUSD.  With the addition of new Trustee Fernando Navarro to our board, we are seeing less divisiveness and a renewed sense of purpose. The absence of friction allows us to address long-standing problems within the District.

Granted, positive behavior interventions, advanced placement class participation, overall high school graduation rates and career themed academy expansion are among the areas of district improvement. The fact is, though, that with all the initiatives that have been implemented over the last several years, we’ve seen little progress with our lowest performing students.

Our current Board does not find the achievement gap of English language learners, children of color, or low economic status acceptable; nor is it tolerable that 81% of our students fail to show proficiency in math.  We can’t have two tiers, haves and have-nots. We must do better by all the 18,500 students in AUSD. All, after all, means all.

We have now begun the search for a new Superintendent; a critical step, since the person selected will most likely be at the helm of AUSD for the next several years.  Bold leadership is clearly needed.  As a Board, we’re committed to a selection methodology that ensures the local community has input in the process, and that the individual we choose to lead our district has the courage to take the necessary steps to effect the changes needed.

I grew up in Great Neck, Long Island, New York.  As a child, I can remember people leaving notes by our front door encouraging us to call them if we ever decided to move.  Why did they do this?  Simple answer; because they wanted to buy into the area due to the quality of our school district.  The quality of the education available made living in our community that desirable.  That is my dream for Antioch…that it would become a city that people clamor to move to, because of the education their children can achieve.  Quality of schools is pivotal in civic promotion, so having kids or not, we all want a great school system.

The first necessary step in effecting change is to recognize that you have a problem.  As a board, we’ve done that and we are taking the steps needed to fix it. Our students, their parents, and our community deserve no less.

Walter Ruehlig

Vice President, Board of Trustees, Antioch Unified School District

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