Antioch School Board to decide Rocketship charter petition at Wednesday meeting

Public comments allowed; district staff opposes; approval expected, eventually

By Allen Payton

The Antioch School Board will hold a special meeting, within the required time, to decide Rocketship Education’s petition to open a public charter school this Wednesday, December 7th. Although the board held and closed the public hearing on the proposed charter on November 9th, according to Superintendent Stephanie Anello, public comments will still be allowed at the meeting on Wednesday.

While AUSD has the lowest level of proficiency in both English and math among elementary students in all school districts in East County, Rocketship boasts of being able to help underachieving students in the districts they serve with their six schools in the Bay Area. They’re able to demonstrate that fact showing achievement statistics which outrank all of Antioch’s elementary schools, and many others, as well.

On Rocketship’s website, it states, “Nearly 9 of 10 Rocketeers in California were classified as ‘socioeconomically disadvantaged’ last school year.”

“In math, 49% of our disadvantaged Rocketeers met or beat the standard compared to 26% of similar students in the state and 28% in the local districts we serve.  Nearly twice as many Rocketeers are on the college and career ready path. In fact, our disadvantaged Rocketeers beat the state average in math for all students by 10 points! This is powerful proof that demographics do not define student achievement.”

In addition, their website also states, “In English Language Arts, 39% of our disadvantaged Rocketeers are on the college ready path compared to 32% of similar students in the state and 34% in local districts.”


With only 33% of Antioch students in grades K-5 proficient in English and 19% proficient in math, the private, non-profit organization’s success rate is appealing to many Antioch parents. Some spoke in favor of opening the school and wore purple shirts to show their support, during the public hearing.

Those statistics are even worse for Hispanic and African American students in Antioch elementary schools. Only 30% of Hispanic students are proficient in English and 16% are proficient in math, while only 22% of African American students are proficient in English and just 10% are proficient in math.

However, and although Rocketship pays their teachers more than AUSD does, many Antioch teachers oppose the charter school, speaking against it and wearing yellow shirts in opposition at the public hearing meeting. Although, Antioch High School teacher Sara Savacool, one of the leaders of the local teachers’ union, toured one of the Rocketship school sites with school board Trustee Alonzo Terry, she didn’t speak against the organization’s efforts to open one in Antioch at the public hearing.

If the charter school is opened, the district will lose 600 students who will transfer to the new school, continuing the decline in enrollment due to Antioch’s low performing schools, That will result in a loss of revenue from the state which is based on Average Daily Attendance of students in schools. Instead those funds will go to Rocketship to pay for their charter school operations.

The district’s staff is recommending a no vote on the petition. In the staff report, it states, “The Petition, as submitted, fails to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of several essential charter elements and suggests that the Petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program.  Accordingly, staff is recommending denial of the Petition.

The following reasons justify denial of the Petition prior to the commencement of the school’s operations: The Petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program presented in the Petition; and The Petition fails to provide a reasonably comprehensive description of all required elements of a charter Petition.”

To view the entire 23-page staff report, click here.

However, another effort by Rocketship to open a school in the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, last year met with the same opposition, there, with both the school board, as well as the county school board voting no. But the petition ended up getting approved by the state Board of Education, which included the vote of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, a former Antioch teacher and city councilman, who was backed for election by the state teachers’ union. He instructed his staff to help Rocketship with their petition for that charter school in order for it to be acceptable. The school is now in operation. (See article on that, here).

As a result, proponents, and at least one opponent, are making the claim that regardless of how the Antioch School Board votes Wednesday night, Rocketship will eventually get their proposed charter school approved and opened in Antioch.

This will be the last decision both appointed incumbents, Terry and Fernando Navarro, will make as school board trustees. They both lost for election, last month and their term will end at next week’s regularly scheduled meeting on December 14.

The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. and will be held off-site at Lone Tree Elementary School at 1931 Mokelumne Drive to accommodate the expected larger crowd, as attended the public hearing meeting on the petition.

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One Comment to “Antioch School Board to decide Rocketship charter petition at Wednesday meeting”

  1. RJB says:

    So depressing, but so very true.

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