Antioch School Board approves spending $75,000 to improve district’s public image on split vote

Hires three local contractors for writing, photography and videography services

By Allen Payton

At their board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 25 the Antioch School Board voted 3-2 to hire three contractors to provide photography, videography and public relations services to help improve the district’s public image. Board President Walter Ruehlig and Trustees Diane Gibson-Gray and Gary Hack voted in support while Board Vice President Debra Vinson and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White were opposed.

Listed on the agenda under the Consent Calendar as item “Q. Vendor Agreements for Freelance Information,” district staff described it as follows: “As part of the Antioch Unified School District’s goal of community engagement, the District issued a call for freelance writers, videographers, and photographers. Applications were screened and the attached vendor agreements met the criteria established in the posting. These vendors will provide original content related to our District in the form of news and feature stories, informational and promotional videos, and photography of District events, etc.”

One contract is with local, self-described event photographer Beverly Knight, another one is with Melissa Hammack Photography, and both are not to exceed $25,000 and will last through next June.

The third eight-month contract is with Mike & Mike Media, LLC and is also not to exceed $25,000. Mike & Mike Media AUSD contract 10-25-17

The contracts are all the same for writing stories, videography and photography services and include the following: $250 for news stories of up to 250 words with photos, $500 for up to 500 words and $600 for stories up to 1,000 words; videography services of up to 10 minutes at $1,500; and photography services up to $1,300 for 50-100 photos at one location with significant editing.

But, the prices and the fact it doesn’t include either of their names just the name of the company, the contract with Mike & Mike Media is the most controversial because the company is partly owned by Mike Burkholder who is the owner and publisher of the local news website, His partner is local photographer Michael Pohl. Burkholder has been very critical of other media in East County over the years, posts articles with spelling and grammatical errors, was a candidate for school board in last year’s election critical of other candidates including Sawyer-White, and has been very critical of Vinson, as well.

However, before Wednesday night’s vote Burkholder said he now mainly publishes press releases on his website, no longer covers the school district in articles and was considering shutting down or selling his site.

Antioch Superintendent Stephanie Anello handles most communication with the media, as the district does not have a Public Information Officer.

“AUSD is the only district without outreach,” Burkholder explained to the Herald prior to the board vote. “Pittsburg and Mt. Diablo have PIO’s.”

“The more content sent out…the more you get,” he continued. “The more you know about and can share with your readers or do your own stories. Or heads up to events rather than last minute invites from board members.”

However, the contract with Mike & Mike Media is not for PIO services and Burkholder will not serve in that capacity. Anello and the Board President, currently Walter Ruehlig, will continue to be the individuals communicating with the media for official comment by the district.


the attachments to this post:

Mike & Mike Media AUSD contract 10-25-17
Mike & Mike Media AUSD contract 10-25-17

3 Comments to “Antioch School Board approves spending $75,000 to improve district’s public image on split vote”

  1. Gil says:

    Was there an RFP submitted on this? It would be nice to have a level field allowing other Antioch businesses to bid on this effort. At least, understand the value of services being obtained and by whom.

  2. Fernando Navarro says:

    To have a past previous ‘status quo’ school board candidate (Burkholder) that collaborated with the Superintendent (Anello) to publicly attack another reformer candidate in an election, and have him LOSE his seat. Then hire that same person to promote propaganda at 3x the amount if he had won SMELLS OF CORRUPTION AND PAYBACK!

  3. Fernando Navarro says:

    Let’s see what the dictionary has to offer:


    Practice of partiality

    Cronyism is the practice of partiality in awarding jobs and other advantages to friends or trusted colleagues, especially in politics and between politicians and supportive organizations.[1] For instance, this includes appointing “cronies” to positions of authority, regardless of their qualifications.[2]

    Cronyism exists when the appointer and the beneficiary such as an appointee are in social or business contact. Often, the appointer needs support in his or her own proposal, job or position of authority, and for this reason, the appointer appoints individuals who will not try to weaken his or her proposals, vote against issues, or express views contrary to those of the appointer. Politically, “cronyism” is derogatorily used to imply buying and selling favors, such as: votes in legislative bodies, as doing favors to organizations, giving desirable ambassadorships to exotic places, etc

    Where do I even start with this multi-layered dagwood sandwich. Oh, this is so wrong on so many levels!

    On the high roadside…it is a sickening example of how lopsided, tone deaf and disconnects the district is to its community. The LCAP plan sets aside 100’s of thousands to what amounts to spin and p.r. vs $79,000 for academics.
    The very fact that he would be making $25k per year (that’s 3x what he’d get if he was elected)
    This money could have been better spent on installation of video capture and replay of board meetings.
    Secondly, the Superintendent could spend 120% (i’m throwing in union pensions for good measure) on nothing but fake news and P.R. spin. And accomplish NOTHING! Why? Because we are not that stupid. On the other hand if the district were to spend the money on academics (as it supposed to) I’d wager the parents, teacher, community, media and even the janitors would spread the word of Antioch unified’s rebirth PRO BONO. at zero cost to the district.

    Now on the low roadside. this is an insult and a slap in the face of all who witnessed this last election cycle. This is out and out fraud. Corruption, cronyism and downright wrong.

    To have two sitting board member candidates that were part of the status quo four,
    vote on Burkholder ‘s payoff is wrong. To have as sitting Superintendent who injected herself into the election by allowing herself to be interviewed by another candidate (Burkholder) to slam yet another non-status quo candidate by promoting fake news. IS WRONG! This is QUID PRO QUO no matter how you slice it.

    But the worst of the worst part is that all these actors don’t get it. The Titanic is sinking and the band must play on. Our intelligence BE DAMNED!

Leave a Reply