Four school board candidates refuse to participate in Herald forum, answer questions

Angel Luevano, speaks representing candidate Alonzo Terry, as the other candidates, Fernando Navarro and Crystal Sawyer-White await their turns to answer the question at Friday's forum sponsored by the Antioch Herald.

Angel Luevano, speaks representing appointed Trustee Alonzo Terry, as the other candidates, appointed Trustee Fernando Navarro and challenger Crystal Sawyer-White await their turns to answer the question, while panelist and Associate Publisher Connie Woods looks on and City Clerk Arne Simonsen keeps time, at Friday night’s forum sponsored by the Antioch Herald. photo by Allen Payton

By Connie Woods, Associate Publisher

The Antioch Herald hosted a forum for the Antioch School Board candidates at the City Council Chambers, on Friday evening, September 23rd, to inform the public of their choices for in the upcoming general election.

The twice-rescheduled forum – to accommodate the schedules of a majority of the seven candidates – featured three of the candidates running in November’s election, including  appointed incumbents Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry, who was represented by Angel Luevano, and   tutoring business owner Crystal Sawyer-White.  All candidates were invited to the forum and given opportunity to send a surrogate to speak on their behalf, if they could not attend, and to submit answers to the questions emailed to them the Monday prior.

But four candidates, incumbent and Board President Diane Gibson-Gray, former school board members Joy Motts and Gary Hack who had stated they had previous commitments, and news website publisher Mike Burkholder, later refused to attend or answer the emailed questions. They cited a “perceived bias”, claiming that Herald Publisher and Editor Allen Payton had endorsed Navarro and they didn’t think it was fair that their answers would be used as the basis for determining the Herald’s endorsements. But, Payton stated he had not endorsed any candidates and wouldn’t until the publishing of the October issue of the paper.

The videotaped forum included  opportunities for the candidates to ask two questions of their opponents and offer two rebuttals, as well.

Questions of the evening from both the panelist and audience, ranged from the budget and deficit spending to retaining students, increasing graduation rates, and campus safety The event was upbeat, friendly, non-antagonistic, with lots of ideas about what could be done to take Antioch’s educational system forward.

Navarro, a husband, father of two, bilingual and bi-cultural says he can assist with “demographic changes” facing the district. An entrepreneur and business owner of 20 years, he wants to improve education, have safer schools, and higher graduations rates for students. Since his appointment Navarro has had the opportunity to see how the district works, and said he is “critically concerned”.

Crystal Sawyer-White says she has “a new vision that will meet college and career readiness and prepare them [students] for a global economy.”She has lived in Antioch for 12 years, and is a parent of a fourth grader in the district.

“Decrease of student enrollment is not acceptable,” she said. “Antioch has not been transparent.”

“Budget funds have been appeasing to the status quo,” Sawyer-White continued, then mentioned retaining teachers is crucial, and she “will advocate for teachers.”

Luevano, reading Terry’s statement, said he had19 years of service for the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Department,  primarily working with youth and a former substitute teacher. The changes he wants are to make decisive action for academic achievement, teacher retention and mutual respect between students and teachers.

The forum can be viewed on TV in October, beginning Sunday, October 2nd on Delta TV (Comcast Channel 24 and AT&T U-verse on Channel 99) and the schedule is as follows: Sundays at 1 pm, Mondays at 11 am and Thursdays at 6 pm.

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3 Comments to “Four school board candidates refuse to participate in Herald forum, answer questions”

  1. Rjb says:

    Navarro all the way. Actions speak louder than words. It seems the people who didn’t attend are taking notes from Harper.

  2. Eric A. says:

    “The event was upbeat, friendly, non-antagonistic, with lots of ideas about what could be don’t to take Antioch’s educational system forward.”
    “don’t” should be “done” …. – Eric (Editor in Chiefless)

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