Outgoing Antioch School Board trustees receive praise, offer a few digs in their parting remarks

Diane Gibson-Gray and Crystal Sawyer-White received praise and offered their farewell thoughts Wednesday night, Nov. 18, 2020. Herald file photos.

Board unanimously re-appoints Tony Tiscareno to district Personnel Commission

Allen Payton

During the Antioch School Board meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 18, 2020, outgoing Board President Diane Gibson-Gray and Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White offered their good-byes and received messages of thanks for their service. Both lost their races for re-election, this year. (See related article)

Gibson-Gray is completing three terms for a total of 12 years on the board, and Sawyer-White is completing her first. The winners in the election, Antonio Hernandez and Dr. Clyde Lewis, Jr. will take their seats during the first board meeting on December 16.

“I would like to thank Trustee Sawyer-White for her four years of service and Trustee Gibson-Gray for her 12 years of service. We wish you the very best,” said Superintendent Stephanie Anello. “It’s sometimes a thankless position. I know both of you have faced some very difficult decisions during your terms. So, I commend you.”

That was followed by several public comments, almost all thanking Gibson-Gray for her work as a board member.

“I’m overwhelmed by the comments,” Gibson-Gray responded.

The board members spoke, next.

“I would like to say thank you to each of you for being on the board and all that you’ve done. I’m a better board member for you being on the board and the kids are better in Antioch,” said Trustee Gary Hack.

“I feel the same,” said Trustee Mary Rocha. “It’s hard because I haven’t been here, that long. I appreciate you, Crystal for your commitment to special education.

“To Diane, we’ve been together a long time. When we’re leaving a position, as I have, it seems something is lifted off our shoulders. Head Start, Antioch-Pittsburg Head Start wanted to thank you for all the time you’ve given…for the families in this community. We were able to expand thanks to you.

Trustee Ellie Householder then read from prepared remarks, “I want to start off by thanking President Gibson-Gray for her service of 12 years to our school district. We haven’t always seen eye to eye. But that’s the beauty of our democracy. I wish you the very best.”

“I am so incredibly thankful to Trustee Sawyer-White,” Householder said. “She then spoke of “her lifting up marginalized voices…and lastly her warmth and compassion.”

“Trustee Sawyer-White, I want to add that we didn’t always agree on items, but during the meetings I believe we always treated each other with dignity and respect,” Gibson-Gray shared. “I wish you all the best, sincerely.”

“I agree we didn’t always meet eye to eye but it’s always about the students,” Sawyer-White responded. “Your 12 years on the board are to be commended.”

Staff then shared their thanks to both board members.

That was followed by Sawyer-White’s final response.

“I want to thank my husband, my mom, my dad, my family members and the community members who supported me during my entire term,” she said, and then congratulated the winners in the election, Dr. Clyde Lewis and Antonio Hernandez. “I recommend you always stay true to yourself.”

“Our effort to seek transparency will not be in vain,” Sawyer-White continued. She said her term has been “rewarding, humbling and tumultuous.  Some of the incumbents continue to allow the superintendent to disregard her accountability at the detriment of best interests of AUSD students. Based on the California School Boards Association, Superintendent Anello should have had four performance reviews and currently there’s only been one from, for the last four years, each year.”

“Although I didn’t have the opportunity to serve as president, but I would publicly like to state, Trustee Householder should fill my shoes,” she added.

“After 12 years of service, I am leaving with more knowledge of how school boards work on all levels and many more friends,” Gibson-Gray said in her farewell remarks. She mentioned her last four years were difficult and “the last two being the hardest,” “having my personal character and values attacked. I can assure you I am not a racist.” She then referred to a previous comment by Householder about her age.

“To those who disagreed with my decisions, I apologize,” Gibson-Gray continued. “But every one of my decisions were in the best interest of the Antioch Unified School District. I’m proud to say I attended every graduation during my 12  years. Antonio Hernandez and Clyde Lewis will do a great job replacing myself and Trustee Sawyer-White. They are younger, enthusiastic and have ideas to be explored.”

“Like Elvis, I am leaving the building and the school board will be in good hands,” she concluded.

Gibson-Gray later responded to Sawyer-White’s comments about Anello’s performance reviews explaining, “She received a performance review each year as is required. Crystal wanted us to give her four performance reviews each year.”

Other Board Action

The board then discussed the re-appointment of former Antioch City Councilman Tony Tiscareno to the district’s Personnel Commission to a three-year term.

Rocha made the motion and Householder seconded it. She then asked to hear from Tiscareno. How are we going to move forward without having people talk?”

“We had interviews, the last time because it was an open seat,” said Assistant Superintendent Jessica Romeo.

The motion passed on a 5-0 vote.

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Diane Gibson-Gray & Crystal Sawyer-White

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