School Board hears mostly from supporters on Antioch Charter Academy II renewal

Sawyer-White re-enacts oath of office; Navarro, Terry given proper send-off

By Nick Goodrich

During their regular meeting on Wednesday, January 25th, the Antioch School Board saw a huge turnout from members of the public as they showed up to support the Antioch Charter Academy II’s (ACA II) petition for renewal.

The hearing was called only for public discussion and input, as the final hearing – during which the formal decision to renew ACA II’s charter or not – will occur at a later meeting, after residents’ input has been thoroughly weighed.

More than two dozen students, parents, and teachers at ACA II spoke in favor of the petition for renewal, including Antioch Mayor Sean Wright and Police Chief Allan Cantando, whose children attend the school.

Wright became emotional as he came before the Board, speaking of the difficulty he had had in finding a good fit for his children before ACA II.

“It allowed our family a successful opportunity to choose where they want to learn,” he said. “I encourage you to renew the charter.”

Cantando agreed, saying, “I feel extremely grateful to have my son in that school…When I leave him there, I know he’s getting a great education and has people that care for him.”

Vicki Willard, a second-year teacher at ACA II, spoke on the numerous programs that the charter school employs to reach students of all abilities and help them succeed.

“The school is able to incorporate programs that address student needs,” she told the Board. I am grateful for the school, and know that the students and parents are as well.”

She was certainly correct on that point, as half a dozen ACA II students from various grades stepped up to speak in support of their school, as well.

Even Gia Leone, a teacher who no longer works at ACA II, spoke in favor of renewing the school’s charter, because she remembers the impact it has had on its students. “It would be a devastating loss to this community to not renew the charter.”

The charter school’s performance in recent years certainly supports its bid for renewal. Todd Heller, Co-Administrator and Financial Director for ACA II, was on hand to present some key statistics for his school’s performance.

ACA II students, already performing higher than District schools in most categories in 2013, have only improved since then, he said. Math proficiencies increased from 31%-38%, and Language Arts saw a similar increase, from 46%-51%. Both of these numbers are higher than the statewide average in those areas.

Jeanie Dubinksy, a teacher and Code Administrator at ACA II, summed it up by saying, “The school has brought opportunity, choice, and equity to our students and to the surrounding community.”

Re-Enactment of Oath of Office, Recognition for Departing Trustees

New Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White, the lead vote-getter in last November’s Board elections, re-enacted her oath of office before Wednesday’s meeting, when more people could be in attendance to witness it. Her actual swearing-in took place at the December 14th board meeting at 6 p.m. before it was on the agenda and the public could convene to watch.

“I would like to thank my husband, my family, my friends, and my supporters for this opportunity to serve and to put our children first,” she said in a statement after the ceremony. “And I would like to thank all the teachers in the District for all their hard work and dedication. As a new Board Member, I do appreciate you.”

Former Trustees Fernando Navarro and Alonzo Terry were also recognized in a ceremony following Sawyer-White’s oath of office.

The two Board Members were finally given their portraits and recognized by the Board after their service ended last year. Normally, departing Board Members are given their portraits during their last meeting. An attempt was made to have that occur in November, before the special meeting for the Rocketship Charter school hearing and vote in December, but Navarro and Terry refused. That meeting was held off-site and prevented the former trustees from getting their portraits until Wednesday.

To view Sawyer-White’s oath of office re-enactment and thank you speech, it is available on the Antioch Herald Facebook page.

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