Antioch School Board candidate Burkholder takes Trustee Navarro to task at board meeting, for negative comments about the district

By Nick Goodrich

During the regular meeting of the Antioch School Board on Wednesday, September 14th, Mike Burkholder, the publisher of and a candidate for school board in the November election, had some particularly harsh words for appointed Board Trustee Fernando Navarro.

Toward the end of the public comments section of the meeting, Burkholder entered the room and stated his desire to make a comment. Board Vice President Walter Ruehlig, who was running the meeting in President Diane Gibson-Gray’s absence, allowed it.

Burkholder then proceeded to take issue with a statement that he said Navarro made at a debate last week for the school board candidates, hosted by the Friday Morning Breakfast Club.

According to Burkholder, Navarro said that the AUSD provides “services equivalent to the DMV.” Burkholder also said that he had been told by a local elected official who had met privately with Navarro to discuss the state of the schools, that Navarro had said, “If the District were to be graded, it would receive an F minus minus.”

Burkholder went on to say that, as a member of the School Board, Navarro should be “promoting the District and building it up, rather than shedding a negative light on it.”

“It’s simply bad rhetoric,” Burkholder said of Navarro’s comments.

With Antioch Unified already facing problems such as a high transfer-out rate, he said that one of the Board’s primary concerns should be to always promote the District in a way that attracts new students and those that are already here.

Burkholder called for Navarro to issue a formal apology to the District and the Board Members, while citing Antioch’s recent college fair – in which dozens of scholarships were issued and students accepted to schools – as a sign that the District is seeing some notable successes.

“When a member of the School Board is that negative,” he said, “It makes the District look bad and makes these problems worse.”

9/19/16 UPDATE: Burkholder did not participate in the candidates’ forum on Thursday, September 8. But, he did provide an audio of Navarro’s comments during the forum, which was surreptitiously obtained. The forum moderator, Ann Flynn of the League of Women Voters of Diablo Valley specifically stated that no unauthorized recording of the forum would be allowed. On Monday, September 19, Don Freitas, the leader of the Friday Morning Breakfast Club which sponsored the forum stated, “I didn’t authorized an audio recording. If there is one, it was done without the FMBC’s permission.”

Burkholder was asked how he obtained the audio, but didn’t respond.

Following is Navarro’s complete statement at the forum, which can be heard, here:

“Well I’d like to start with what I’m not. So, I’m not a politician. I’m not a polished orator. But, what I am, as I’ve stated before, I’m a parent with two children in the district, which gives me skin in the game. I’m a business owner, like I said for 20 years. I know customer service and I know quality control. Demographically, we’re losing 900-plus students between last year and the end of this year, projected. We’re dropping the ball on quality service to our customers, which are the kids and their parents. We’ve lost 25% of our student population in the last dozen years. If we were a for profit business, we’d be shuttered and closed down, by now. But because we are subsidized by the taxpayers we’re becoming a little tone deaf and we’re becoming equivalent in customer service with the DMV. For God’s sakes, let us not become the DMV.”

When asked for comments following the school board meeting, Navarro said that, although his comments were taken out of context, he stands by his assessment of the District’s condition. Noting that over 900 students have left the District in the last two years, and the exceedingly low state test scores by Antioch students in math and English, Navarro said the AUSD was failing the majority of its students.

“My point as a business owner was to underscore the dangers of not respecting where the incoming funds originate. We talk about the funds coming from the feds, or from the state. Ultimately, though, all funds come from the taxpayers,” he said. “Whenever a government body loses that perspective, becomes tone deaf, and suffers no consequences, we become just like the DMV. My actual statement during the debate was, ‘Folks, let’s not become like the DMV.’”

Navarro also said that he was surprised that the private conversation he’d had with Antioch Mayor Wade Harper had been passed on to the public, but that the statistics on student outcomes supported that statement, as well.

“When over 80% of our students are not proficient in math, and 70% are not proficient in English,” he said, “That certainly seems like a failure to me.”

Despite the backlash to his comments, Navarro was also appreciative. “I am open to any criticism, comments, and suggestions that can help improve the District,” he said. “This isn’t fun and games. We must be serious about it for the sake of the kids and the District…If we’re simply going to conceal our issues, we’re never going to solve them.”

When reached for comment to explain if and why he shared what Navarro had told him with Burkholder, Harper said he had “no comment.”

Allen Payton contributed to this story, specifically providing the 9/19/16 update, including Navarro’s complete comment at the forum.

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13 Comments to “Antioch School Board candidate Burkholder takes Trustee Navarro to task at board meeting, for negative comments about the district”

  1. RJB says:

    I think Navarro was being straight up regarding the real issues with AUSD. No fluff or sugar coating the situation.

    Navarro is top on my vote list.

  2. Beverly Knight says:

    I attended the forum. Mr. Navarro’s comment was not taken out of context.

  3. Nancy Fernandez says:

    This district is in the worst condition I have seen in years though it has never been good. I was at the forum and support Mr. Navarro’s comment.

  4. Vote NO on Burk says:

    I was also at the forum, and Mr. Burk has completely misunderstood the comments. As with his blog site, he is inciting issues that just aren’t true. Mr. Burk has ZERO experience – posting narrow minded articles on Facebook doesn’t give him any credibility. His little minions won’t stand up for what is right because they get a few likes to a blog post featuring their business. I will vote for the experienced Mr. Navarro and I sure hope you will too.

  5. Seemingly says:

    Sadly, I believe, the vacating student population is a direct reflection of the state of Antioch. If I had kids period, I would not have them in Antioch. Some creep trolling and groping young girls – any intelligent parent would not want to subject their kids to the possibility of that. Not to mention all of the other lovely happenings around East County. We are in a mess. The police can attest to just what a state we are in. I can’t imagine what they think when they have to go out and protect us from these thugs who run rampant around this city. I had my own neighborhood situation and it was scary to say the least. Never in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought I would need to deal with what has moved in. We need to take a look at every infrastructure of Antioch. Sure, we need to be positive and build our community up, but we also need to have our eyes wide open to what is going on.

  6. Publisher says:

    Please see the update from today, with Fernando Navarro’s complete statement at the Friday Morning Breakfast Club’s candidate forum.
    Allen Payton, Publisher

  7. Nancy Fernandez says:

    Of course Mr. Harper had no comment that is his MO. Thank you to Allen and Mr. Navarro for going to the trouble to clear this up. Mr Navarro is correct in his assessment of the district. There are certain people doing their best to discredit Mr. Navarro. I could name names but we all know who they are, both involved in the school district and the city. They are afraid of someone with a back bone who has integrity which is a word none of them understand.

  8. RJB says:

    Navarro all they way! I, and about 30 voters will vote for him. Awesome update Allen! You’ve been doing an excellent job on the election coverage. Thank you very much.

    • Publisher says:

      Thank you, RJB.
      The update to the article was in response to Mike Burkholder stating in a comment on Facebook that the article was wrong. He then provided the audio and I updated the article to reflect the complete comment by Fernando Navarro. Now there is no misunderstanding what he said at the candidates’ forum.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

  9. Nancy Fernandez says:

    How did Burkholder come by the audio? He was not at the meeting as he was at Back to School Night and it was stated before the meeting there could be no electronic recording. I’m pretty sure I heard that statement at both forums and you your self, Allen frantically took notes not a recording.

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