Archive for April, 2016

Seven apply for Antioch School Board vacancy appointment, interviews Wed., May 4

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

By Allen Payton

The Board of Education of the Antioch Unified School District announced the appointment process for the vacancy on the Board caused by the resignation of Claire Smith on April 1, 2016.  Board members will appoint an individual to complete Smith’s term, which expires December 2016.

Seven district residents submitted applications by the April 20th deadline. District staff vetted them with the County Clerk to determine that they are each registered voters and live within the school district boundaries. They released the names and applications, today, Wednesday, April 27.

The applicants include:

Julie Young, who applied for and was the Board’s second choice for the vacant seat filled by Fernando Navarro in December;

Joy Motts and Gary Hack, both former School Board Trustee, who lost for reelection in 2014 and also applied for the vacant seat, last November;

Alonzo Terry, owner of an ATM placement franchise and senior investigator, worked with the County Sheriff’s Office in training and crime prevention, and is a former Board Member for a private charter school. He has lived in the district for five years;

Candida GonzálezAmigo, a mom, wife and professional volunteer who has served on the PTSA’s and School Site Councils for both Dallas Ranch Middle and Deer Valley High Schools. She has lived in the district for 25 years;

Edward Daviess, a project manager, who has a child who attends Holy Rosary School, and has served as a youth baseball, softball and soccer coach, but has not participated in any school committees or activities. He has lived in the district for 40 years; and

George Rehm, currently a photographer, who worked in the information technology for major banks. He’s a Navy veteran who served in various veterans organizations in East County. Rehm has no children in district schools nor has participated in any school committees or activities. He has lived in the district for 19 years.

The Board will interview candidates at their meeting on May 4, 2016 between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. and can vote to appoint one of the applicants, that night.

The appointment is provisional and subject to the petition process specified in California Education Code 5092, which allows for residents to call for a special election if a sufficient number of signatures have been gathered.

If not, then the new Board Member will be sworn in at the regular Board meeting on June 8, 2016.

For more information on the candidates, please see their applications here: Edward Daviess  Candida Gonzalez-Amigo  Gary Hack  Joy Motts  George Rehm  Alonzo Terry  Julie Young

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Get Moooving to enter an exhibit in the 2016 Contra Costa County Fair – deadline this week

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

County Fair 2016Imagine the thrill of winning a blue ribbon at the Fair for a special talent. Think you own the best pig, bake the most delicious apple pie, made a beautiful quilt, or have an uncanny knack for making crafts? Want to see who’s the best in all of Contra Costa County? Then be sure to enter the Contra Costa County Fair’s competitive exhibits. There’s something for everyone. Download our Exhibitor Handbook and find the best division for your special talent.

All entries must be entered online or postmarked by April 30th.  Walk in entries must be received by April 29th by 4pm at the fair office.

Check our website for entries instructions and more information on entry requirements.
Don’t wait, enter early, and often……..

http://contracostafair.com/become-an-exhibitor-today/

This year’s fair will be held Thursday, June 2 through Sunday, June 5 at the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds, 1201 West 10th Street in Antioch. For further information, please visit:

www.contracostafair.com

 

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Antioch Superintendent announces Classified Employee of the Year finalists

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

By Stephanie Anello, Interim Superintendent

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) is pleased to announce the four finalists for Classified Employee of the Year. These outstanding finalists were selected from amongst 23 classified employees nominated for this award. The four finalists are:

  • Lara Hiemforth, Belshaw Elementary Library Technician
  • Sandy McGee, Administrative Assistant II at Prospects High School
  • Marie-Josee Parayre, Special Education Occupational Therapist
  • Leslie Scudero, School Administrative
  • Assistant II at Dallas Ranch Middle School

The selection committee will meet with the four finalists on April 29th and further information regarding the selection of AUSD’s Classified Employee of the Year will be announced shortly thereafter.

Congratulations to these final four outstanding employees. They are a great representation of the hundreds of classified employees in the District who work tirelessly to support our students, our schools and our community.

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Play in the annual Antioch Rotary Golf Tournament, support local, community projects

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Rotary Golf Tourney

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Antioch School Board adopts slower-paced math courses for high schools, hears of solar energy improvements, seven apply for board vacancy

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Navarro: Wait to hire new superintendent until Board vacancy is filled

By Nick Goodrich

At their regular meeting on Wednesday, April 20th Antioch School Board approved slower-paced math courses for Antioch’s high schools, heard about the solar energy improvements to facilities and about the demotion of a vice principal to a teaching position.

Public comments opened with Antioch resident Shannon Ripoli speaking out against the recent demotion of Gil Armenta from Vice Principal of Mno Grant Elementary to a teaching position. More than a dozen Antioch parents and residents stood for the duration of her comments in a show of support.

Ripoli told the Board that throughout his time as Vice Principal, Armenta created an environment where students and staff could thrive.

“He brings many irreplaceable assets to our school,” she said, noting that he was known for developing strong relationships with students, families, and the school’s staff.

She said that the decision to reassign Armenta to a teaching position apparently came as a result of declining enrollment. However, Antioch Unified has suffered from a similar District-wide trend in recent years. Ripoli believes Armenta is not the reason for the decrease, and that he has much more to offer Mno Grant. “We believe a mistake has been made,” she concluded.

Other speakers, Chris Colkward and Dozier-Libbey High School Principal Scott Bergerhouse, spoke in support of Stephanie Anello for the vacant District Superintendent. Anello has served admirably as the Interim Superintendent as the Board tracks the progress of Leadership Associates, the search firm it hired to fill the Superintendent position.

“I think with the addition of Stephanie Anello as Superintendent, you can’t fail,” Colkward stated. “She’s going to bring some fresh and positive ideas to this District.”

Bergerhouse also spoke in favor of Anello.

“She has a passion for student achievement and quality production,” he said. “It is a needed decision and the correct decision for our schools.”

Facilities Update

The Board heard a presentation from Chris Learned, the District’s Acting Chief Business Official, offering a summary of capital improvements made in recent years.

The largest expenditure was on solar energy. Learned reported that solar panels have been installed at 20 school and District sites, for a total cost of $27,694,776.

The solar projects, which are projected to eventually pay for themselves and are already cutting utilities costs at the sites, comprise the majority of the expenditures of the Qualified Zone Academy Bond. This bond is a lump of money awarded to school districts to make improvements on facilities, such as solar energy generation, energy efficiency and STEM academic training. However, the entirety of the bond funds must be completely expended by a certain date: in the AUSD’s case, July 25th of this year.

Currently, the District has nearly $3 million remaining to spend by that date. Projects already underway include roofing improvements at Antioch High School, HVAC improvements at AHS, and HVAC improvements at Bidwell. Learned offered several projects that could be used to spend the remaining funds, including roofing at Mission Elementary and HVAC updates at Turner Elementary.

Another important aspect of the presentation involved the District’s deferred maintenance fund. Essentially, this fund is comprised of money set aside for “deferred maintenance” purposes: projects at school sites that are not urgent or emergency projects, but that may become problematic later on and will have to be revisited.

Learned reminded the Board that the AUSD has set aside little to nothing for such projects, and in fact has not formally created a deferred maintenance fund. “There’s a deferred maintenance problem in this District,” he told them. “We should create a deferred maintenance fund.”

Learned reported that District staff has identified about $35 million in deferred maintenance projects across the District. “It makes good sense for the District to have this fund, so it can start to tackle these issues,” he said. After some discussion, the Board seemed to agree, and moved to bring up a resolution in a future meeting that would create a deferred maintenance fund, worth about $800,000.

Math Courses

The Board then opened a discussion on math courses in Antioch high schools. Performance in Algebra classes by high school students have not been up to par in recent years, which is one reason for the creation of the new after school Math Intensive program at Deer Valley High School.

New Algebra courses for the upcoming 2016-17 school year were brought before the Board and approved on a 3-1 vote, with Trustee Fernando Navarro dissenting.

Julie Young, an Antioch resident that consistently tracks AUSD proceedings, spoke before the Board on the topic.

“Common Core isn’t working, and it’s dumbing down our students,” she said.

Young criticized the proposed courses, asking if slower-paced math classes, would really improve the situation. She went on to add that proficiency in elementary math classes -namely in fourth and fifth grade – would have to be improved to better prepare students for the courses they will take in high school.

Board Member Walter Ruehlig agreed with Young’s idea of earlier intervention. Interim Superintendent Stephanie Anello noted that AUSD’s students’ math performance drops in half when they hit fifth grade. Board Member Debra Vinson stated that other Districts employ math coaches in high school and even middle school, which could be an option for AUSD.

Navarro offered a different view.

“Common Core underestimates the intelligence of our kids,” he said. “Math Intensive proves otherwise. It proves that they can do it.”

Nonetheless, the Board approved the slower-paced math courses for the high schools in the District, for the 2016-17 schoolyear.

Navarro: Wait on New Superintendent until Fifth Board Member appointed

After the vote, the School Board wrapped up its regular agenda and put forth several items for discussion or voting in future meetings.

Vinson, continuing from an earlier meeting in which the idea was discussed, asked that the Board look into establishing petty cash funds for school sites in the District, as there are currently none. She also brought up the issue of omitting names from Board meeting minutes, which Young had previously expressed concern about, as an obstacle to transparency. Board President Diane Gibson-Gray, also concerned with this issue, agreed with Vinson to revisit the topic.

Navarro had several comments on the ongoing search for a new superintendent. Noting that the Board was down to four members after the recent departure of Claire Smith, he suggested that the Board hold off its vote for a superintendent until a new board member was found. In the meantime, he suggested Julie Young as a viable candidate to replace Smith, noting that she is always involved in District proceedings, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience that would be an asset to the Board.

The Board will discuss the possibility of postponing the hiring until after the board vacancy is filled, when it meets again with its search firm, Leadership Associates.

At its last meeting, the Board adopted the procedure for appointing a new board member, which is the similar to the one they followed last November when Navarro was appointed. Seven people have applied, including Young and former Board Member Joy Motts who both confirmed they had applied. The names of the other applicants were not yet released to the public by District staff, at press time. Interviews of the applicants and a possible appointment will be held Wednesday, May 4.

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Residents question Antioch Council on transparency, use of Measure C funds, hear about homeless shelter

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Council approves new Code Enforcement Manager position

By Nick Goodrich

At the Tuesday, April 12th meeting of the Antioch City Council met for its regular meeting. The main event of the night was a presentation by the Antioch Shelter Project. The Council also approved a new Code Enforcement position and awarded bids to numerous contractors for city services. First, they heard complaints from residents about Measure C, including one former member of the oversight committee for half-cent sales tax for police and other city services.

Public Comments

During public comments Antioch resident Dave Redford told the Council that he has not been satisfied with the transparency of the measure’s implementation, as only a small part of the funds received are thoroughly tracked. He requested that the  Council open a public discussion to hear more input from residents.

Redford was followed by Sal Sbrante, a former member of the Measure C Citizens Oversight Committee. Sbrante’s concerns centered on the fact that a portion of the funds received – called the Citywide Allocated funds – has risen 77% since Measure C was adopted, while the overall Antioch Police Department budget has gone up only 27%. Sbrante ended his remarks by saying, “I voted for Measure C, I will not vote for any Measure put forth by this Council again.”

Council members, however, disagreed with Redford and Sbrante, expressing confidence in the effectiveness and transparency of the Measure, which was put into effect in order to aid an overburdened Antioch Police Department.

Antioch Shelter Project

Antioch’s Council Chamber was packed to the brim on Tuesday as dozens of residents and proponents showed up to support the Antioch Shelter Project. Gary Kingsbury, the driver behind the project’s effort to create a shelter for homeless women and children in Antioch, was on hand to present the project’s efforts to the Council.

Women and children are the fastest growing and most vulnerable homeless population in the County, says Kingsbury, and currently there are no shelters geared toward them in the East Bay.

The nonprofit organization New Life Dream Center has aided a coalition of churches, private foundations, and community groups as they strive to locate and build a shelter, in Antioch. They have looked at City property on Delta Fair Boulevard, between Los Medanos College and County offices, as a good location for the shelter, but the Council’s approval will be needed to make that a reality.

And that appears not to be an issue. After the presentation, every member of City Council took time to separately voice support for the project. City Council’s overwhelming sentiment of goodwill for the Antioch Shelter Project will undoubtedly lead to it’s success at next month’s City Council meeting, when it will be up for a formal vote.

Following that presentation, the Council moved through its regular agenda, visiting topics such as awarding bids to contractors for city services, a Mosquito and Vector Control Committee vacancy, and the ongoing Brackish Water Desalination Project -which the Council unanimously approved for a loan in order for it to continue the process.

New Code Enforcement Manager position

A new Code Enforcement Manager position was also approved on a 5-0 vote. Code Enforcement, and its job is to prevent and eradicate blight in Antioch. However, Antioch’s Code Enforcement department has long been understaffed, and currently is untested and new to the work: five members of the team are starting just this month.

Code Enforcement’s struggles with blight in the city were highlighted when Antioch resident Steve Huddleston spoke about the new position. He said he’s has seen vandalism and homelessness become a serious problem on Delta Fair Boulevard for years, being cleaned up only to spring up again later. Huddleston called on the City to take more permanent action on the issue.

“I’ve been here for 26 years, and it’s time for somebody to actually step up and get it done,” he said.

The City Council has been approving the hiring new Code Enforcement Officers and laborers as the city budget allows, and the Council members assured the public they will continue to do so in their efforts to address the issue.

The next Council meeting will be held Tuesday, April 26 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall, located between West Second and Third Streets at H Street in downtown.

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Lynn House Gallery to host free exhibit in May: Antioch “Through My Lens”

Sunday, April 24th, 2016
Antioch Lumber Company, downtown Antioch, by Jeff Strawther.

Antioch Lumber Company, downtown Antioch, by Jeff Strawther.

The 2nd Annual “Through My Lens” exhibit, at the Lynn House Gallery in Antioch, begins May 7th and runs through May 21st. There is no admission fee and the free opening artist reception will be held on Saturday, May 7th from 2-4 PM.

This year, the exhibit focus is our Antioch community and the digital images may be used for promotional efforts by the Arts & Cultural Foundation of Antioch (ACFA), City of Antioch and the Antioch Chamber of Commerce.   ACFA’s volunteer photographer, Beverly Knight, has had her beautiful Antioch photos used in the City of Antioch’s Community Newsletter and on the Antioch Chamber of Commerce’s publications and website, along featured photos on ACFA’s website and monthly E-newsletters. The exhibit creates the opportunity to have a catalog of photographs, from many photographers, to help promote the beautiful landscapes, scenery, buildings, people and more that can be found every day in Antioch.

Photography has become one of the fastest growing hobbies, with many beautiful photos captured on cell phones, which makes it easy to share and print.  Participating photographers at press date are: Beverly Knight, Carla McCrea, Carla McCrea, Constance Chevalier, Dianne Curtain, Jeff Strawther, Jerome Gibson, Laurie DiMaggio, Marcella Favaloro, Michael Partain, ick Felix, Robin Ruport, Tina Rouse, Tyler De Vincenzi.

There is a prize pool of $200 for Best of Show, $150 for 1st Place, $125 for 2nd Place and $100 3rd Place. The exhibit is for amateur photographers whose work captures the beauty of our town.

The exhibit is open to the first 35 artists who sign up. If you are interested in participating in the exhibit, please contact Diane Gibson-Gray at Diane@Art4Antioch.org or (925) 325 -9897. Don’t miss this opportunity to share your photos or enjoy photos of Antioch people, places and things. There is no submission fee to participate.

The Lynn House Gallery is located at 809 West 1st Street in downtown Antioch (across the street from AMTRAK) and is open from 1-4 PM on Wednesdays and Saturdays during exhibits. For more information email Diane@Art4Antioch.org or call Diane Gibson-Gray at (925) 325-9897.

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Man who attempted to buy Kelly’s Card Room license in Antioch, sentenced to four years in prison for bank fraud, money laundering scheme, Friday

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

OAKLAND – Anthony Keslinke, 48, of Danville, was sentenced to four years in prison today for his leadership role in a large-scale bank fraud conspiracy and a separate money laundering conspiracy, announced United States Attorney Brian J. Stretch, Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge John J. Martin, and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge Michael T. Batdorf.

Keslinke pleaded guilty in May of 2015 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  In pleading guilty, Keslinke admitted that he used straw buyers to purchase real estate throughout Northern California between 2011 and 2014.  Keslinke identified properties, including his own properties, that were potential candidates for a “short sale.”  A “short sale” is a sale of real estate in which the sale proceeds are less than the balance owed on the mortgage loan pertaining to the property and often occurs when a borrower cannot pay the mortgage loan.

In furtherance of the scheme, Keslinke submitted offers to the financial institutions on behalf of straw buyers.  In order to induce a bank to accept a short sale offer, Keslinke would draft fraudulent financial hardship letters and submit them on behalf of the seller of a property.  In addition, in order to give the appearance to the financial institutions that the properties were worth significantly less than true fair market value, Keslinke often altered engineering and pest reports associated with the properties.  Moreover, in furtherance of his scheme, Keslinke often altered bank account documents to create the appearance that the straw buyers had sufficient funds to purchase the properties in cash.  Once a financial institution accepted a particular property for a short sale, Keslinke used his own funds to purchase the property in the name of the straw buyer.  After a short sale was completed on a particular property, Keslinke maintained control of the property and often sold the property for a significant financial gain.  Keslinke admitted using this mortgage fraud scheme to orchestrate the short sale of properties in Danville, Walnut Creek, and Kings Beach, California.

Keslinke also admitted that between August of 2013 and February of 2014, he met on multiple occasions with an undercover agent purporting to be a drug dealer.  Keslinke accepted a total of $550,000 from the undercover agent.  In an attempt to conceal the true source of the funds, Keslinke repeatedly deposited the money received from the undercover agent into business bank accounts under his control.  Keslinke then attempted to launder the money by wiring it from his business bank accounts to an account controlled by the undercover agent.  Keslinke routinely kept 8-10% of the money provided to him from the undercover agent as a fee for his services.

The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Jon S. Tigar.  In addition to the prison term, Judge Tigar also ordered the defendant to pay a forfeiture judgment in the amount of $2,086,405 and a fine of $50,000.  Keslinke also agreed to forfeit $1,722,426 in cash seized from his residence and his bank accounts.  Judge Tigar also ordered Keslinke to pay $1,427,916 in restitution to the victims of the charged crimes.  Judge Tigar also sentenced Keslinke to a three-year period of supervised release.

At the time of the investigation, Keslinke was in the midst of trying to buy the card room license from the owners of the closed Kelly’s in Antioch. He was seeking approval from the California Gambling Control Commission, after receiving conditional approval from the Antioch City Council in November, 2013.

However, the City and council members were unaware of the FBI investigation at the time and weren’t informed until after Keslinke’s arrest.

Antioch Councilwoman Mary Rocha, who attended Keslinke’s sentencing hearing on Friday, submitted a letter on his behalf, telling the court of the things he had done in Antioch, including buying and renovating the ABC Building on A Street and the Friendship Care Home on Cavallo. She didn’t speak, but said about 30 others did in support of Keslinke.

Also in attendance was Linda King, the daughter Al Cianfichi, the  owner of Kelly’s. For years, she worked in the restaurant and bar part of the family-owned and operated business, which is named after King’s daughter and because her mother, Mrs. Cianfichi is Irish. She said the family didn’t know Keslinke when someone brought him into their place in 2013 and he decided to buy it. However, King stated “there has never been a purchase and sales agreement” for the business from him.

“Keslinke’s money laundering scheme had nothing to do with his interest in buying Kelly’s and his attempt to buy the card room license,” she added. “What he did was separate from him trying to have business dealings with us. All he did was apply for his gaming license. We never entered into negotiations.”

“The local level cleared him on his background check and even the state level approved him, so they weren’t aware of the FBI investigation, either, to my knowledge, ” King continued. “We found out about his arrest in the newspapers.”

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Aaron Wegner and David Countryman are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Vanessa Vargas and Carolyn Jusay.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the DEA and IRS.  The Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office and Livermore Police Department also provided assistance during the investigation. The investigation was conducted and funded by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF), a multi-agency task force that coordinates long-term narcotics trafficking investigations.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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