Antioch School District to face three years of deficits, Vinson gets consolation appointment, laptops approved for trustees

Visitors to the AUSD Offices are greeted with Christmas window decorations as part of a challenge by Superintendent Stephanie Anello to other government buildings located in Rivertown, and other district schools to do the same. Photos by AUSD

By Robbie Pierce

The main focus during the Dec. 13 Antioch Board of Education meeting was the election of the President and Vice President, however several other items were discussed by the board that night. Colorful and festive Christmas decorations created by local schoolchildren adorned the district office as deliberations went on. It included the mid-year budget report showing the district will face “manageable” deficits for the next three years.

In addition, Christine Ibarra, the new Associate Superintendent, was welcomed to her position by Superintendent Stephanie Anello during her report, in which she also congratulated music students and teachers for their recent “amazing concerts”, noting that the Board’s efforts to improve music education “really paid off.”

Martin Luther King Day Events & Essay Contest Announced

No student delegates offered reports due to finals, however three individuals spoke during public comments. Velma Wilson stepped up to congratulate Ibarra for her “passion” as well as to formally invite the trustees to and make a general announcement about a Dr. Martin Luther King Day event being held Monday, Jan. 15, 2018 by the AUSD and the City of Antioch at 1:00 p.m. at Deer Valley High School. The theme of the event is “The Power of One, the Strength of Many: Building a Better Community” and will feature local student skits and artwork as well as a middle and high school level essay contest, with the deadline for student work – which can be submitted at the district office or electronically – being Jan. 8. She also made announcements for an NAACP Prayer Breakfast the same day at 8:00 a.m. at Martin Luther King Junior High School.

Concerned Parents

Nina Yellama and Laurie Holly both spoke about two unrelated incidents regarding mismanagement of their children’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Yellama told of her experience of having to fight unrelentingly for her child to be taught with the rest of the class when not receiving specifically individual instruction. She asked the Board to consider changing some policies to make inclusion for children with IEDs easier and more of a goal.

Holly spoke about issues with her child’s required Occupational Therapy (OT) sessions, which they were not receiving due to understaffing problems. Furthermore, not only was her child not receiving as many sessions as they were supposed to, she was not even being informed of this fact. To make manners more complicated, a friend of hers who faced a similar issue was informed of it and given a resolution immediately. She asked the Board to investigate the therapist staffing issue in schools and try to find a solution to the problem.

Board Approves Various Contracts

Of the Consent Items, 11.P, the board split on approving a $195,000 “Master Contract with Bayes Achievement Center” regarding legally required services, including a residential nonpublic school placement and associated transportation costs, for a transfer student’s IEP. It was pulled for a separate vote, where it later passed without much discussion or issue with a vote of 4-1, with trustee Gibson-Gray voting no as she would have preferred more time to examine it.

The remaining 22 items were passed with a 5-0 vote after some minimal questioning about the following items: Item 11.J, a change order consisting of a near $50,000 increase to the projected cost for a project involving the “Modernization of Classroom Wing 1100 at Antioch High School” due to unforeseen issues such as bad plumbing as explained by an official on the project.

UC Davis Math, UC Berkeley Science Teacher Training

Also approved under Item 11.Q, was a contract for a professional development program for math teachers with the University of California, Davis.

“[Math is] definitely going to be an area of focus for us,” Ibarra said of the program, discussing the district’s recent problems, including low test scores in math and English.

Vice President Vinson stressed a desire to make sure the district is “getting our bang for our money” with the program, and that it will provide relevant information and techniques that teachers can actually use and apply, “not training just for training.”

“We have to find out what’s really going to work for our teachers,” she stated.

Anello pledged to gather and forward links for the contract and data relevant to it, such as the test scores of students who were enrolled in classes impacted by similar training programs.

The board also approved an agreement with the U.C. Berkeley, Lawrence Hall of Science to provide professional development training for district science teachers, focused on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

District Finances & Budget Report

The board also heard the First Interim Report on district finances and the budget, which showed, among other things, that the district expenditures were actually lower than originally projected. The report also included a multi-year projection for the district’s finances over the next two school years, predicting that the district will see a 4% increase in CalSTRS spending and a 5% increase in CalPERS spending, both forms of employee benefit, as well as a general reduction in teacher expenses due to factors such as contract expiration between now and 2020. The report also predicted that revenue would increase despite lower enrollment due to state-level government budgeting shake-ups.

The most notable part of the report was the prediction that the district will engage in three school years of deficit spending due to voluntary choices and programs, though an official tied to the report described it as being at a “manageable” level, with the district’s fund balance reducing from $16.5 million now to $12.6 million at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

Vinson stated that she appreciated the inclusion of the ending balance numbers, and Gibson-Gray remarked that the deficit spending was not an issue for her as “if we have money, I’d rather spend it than save it.”

The board eventually gave the district a Positive certification, meaning that, in their eyes, the district will be able to meet financial obligations for the current as well as the next two fiscal years, by a vote of 4-1. Vinson voted no, stating that she “just [needed] more time to look at it.” (Please see the forms the district is required to submit to the state, here.)

Vinson Appointed as Liaison to County School Board

Aside from the tumultuous President and Vice President elections previously covered by the Herald, Gibson-Gray and Vinson were elected unanimously to the positions of “Board Representative to CFD (Community Facilities District) 89-1” also known as the Mello-Roos District, and “Board Member Liaison to Contra Costa County School Boards” respectively.

Laptops Approved for Board Members

The last major items were discussion on providing laptops for board members and creating a new nutrition program for the next school year, with both topics raised by Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White. The former was approved via consensus after an overview of the implications, with board members allowed to check out the same laptops they had in front of them at the meeting for take-home use, though strictly for business purposes only and with the taker of the laptop personally liable if it is lost or damaged. Trustees would not be allowed to install any programs on the laptops, however full suites of Microsoft Office would be provided, as well as email services.

Creation of Healthier Nutrition Program Discussed

For the latter, the board discussed creating a new contract with Revolutionary Foods to create a new nutrition program that would be healthier and less expensive than the current one – according to Sawyer-White, the San Francisco Unified School District saved money when they switched to a contract with Revolutionary Foods. No immediate action was taken, however Anello volunteered to provide several reports on the current program to aid any future deliberation.

11 Schools Pass Annual Williams Site Visits

The Board approved the annual Williams Settlement Site Visits Report, in which the 11 district schools visited were found compliant with standards for academic sufficiency. According to the staff report, at the beginning of each school year, the Contra Costa County Office of Education visits all schools within the County that rank in deciles 1 to 3 on the Academic Performance Index.

The visits are to determine the sufficiency of standards-aligned instructional materials in all four core subject areas; that there are no facility conditions that post an emergency or urgent threat to the health or safety of pupils or staff; and to ensure that accurate data is provided on the school’s accountability report card related to instructional materials and facilities.

According to the ACLU website, Eliezer Williams, et al., vs. State of California, et al. “was a lawsuit filed by the ACLU against the State of California because of the terrible conditions in many of its public schools. Parents, students, and teachers argued that the State failed to provide thousands of public school students, particularly those in low-income communities and communities of color, with the basic necessities required for an education.

They argued that the State’s failure to provide these bare minimum necessities to all public school students in California violated the state constitution, as well as state and federal requirements that all students be given equal access to public education without regard to race, color, or national origin.”

The case was settled in 2004 and as a result five bills were passed to implement the terms of the settlement known as the “Williams Settlement Legislation” and included an increase of almost $1 billion in state education spending.

The following district schools were visited in August and found to be in compliance: Belshaw, Fremont, Jack London, Kimball, Marsh, Mission and Turner Elementary; Antioch Middle and Park Middle, and Antioch and Prospects High Schools.

Revise Board Development Policy

In final action, a revision to the Board Policy 9240 for Board Development strongly encouraging that every member of the board attends at least one training conference annually, with costs covered by the district, was passed by consensus after brief debate. The maximum expenditure agreed to earlier this year is $3,000 per trustee. It was the fourth time the policy was on the agenda and discussed by the Board over the past year.

President Walter Ruehlig ended the meeting by wishing everyone in the district a “blessed holiday season.” The next school board meetings will be held Jan. 24 and Feb. 21.

To read the entire Board Meeting Agenda for Dec. 13, click here. To hear the audio of the meeting, please visit the District’s YouTube Channel.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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AUSD Offices Christmas Window Decor

2 Comments to “Antioch School District to face three years of deficits, Vinson gets consolation appointment, laptops approved for trustees”

  1. RJB says:

    Gotta loooooove Antioch!

  2. Julio says:

    These people don’t even understand the word deficit. Spend spend spend Diane G-G. That is what you have done every year.

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