Newcomer King faces longtime Antioch officeholder, incumbent Rocha in school board race

Dominique King is challenging Trustee Mary Rocha for Antioch School Board Area 5 in this year’s elections. Sources: King campaign, Rocha campaign

King backed by Garamendi, Becton, Thorpe, Wilson, Torres-Walker, Hernandez

Rocha backed by Torlakson, DeSaulnier, McNerney, district teacher, employee and other unions, APOA

By Allen D. Payton

In the only race for the Antioch School Board in this year’s elections, incumbent Trustee Mary Rocha is facing challenger Dominique King for the Area 5 seat. Rocha has served on both the Antioch School Board and Antioch City Council, including one term as mayor, for 36 out of the past 51 years, while this is King’s first run for public office in Antioch.

King’s Background

Dominique and Kenneth King with their daughters. Source: King campaign

A member of the Antioch Parks and Recreation Commission, according to her campaign website, King was homeless and dropped out of high school at age 15 but “graduated from Job Corps at 16 and immediately went to work”. She is married to Kenneth, a deputy sheriff, and they have three children including two attending Antioch Middle School where she serves on the site council. According to her LinkedIn profile, the Kings  are business owners having started Lean In With The Kings in 2019 in which their “mission is to educate couples and families on how to foster healthy relationships”. She used to own 2Spoons, LLC which was started in 2014 and since 2016 King has been a consultant with Arbonne, a natural health supplements and skin care products company. Since last October she has worked  as a columnist for the Concord Clayton Pioneer newspaper and as of April, is also as a freelance columnist for the online PR Now Magazine. In addition, King earned an Associate’s degree in International Business from Los Medanos College.

King’s Issues

King says she will “fight to make sure: (1) children have safe, supported learning environments and access to high-quality education; (2) teachers and staff have the tools to meet the growing demands of our diverse community; (3) families feel connected to our neighborhood schools; (4) we embrace technical training and education, not just college preparation; and (5) we build appropriate support systems for all at-risk youth.”

She is quoted saying, “As a community, we have the opportunity to change the narrative and conditions of our schools. Antioch Public Schools should be the first choice for families.”

King’s Endorsements

King touts the backing of Mayor Lamar Thorpe and Councilwomen Monica Wilson and Tamisha Torres-Walker, AUSD Area 1 Trustee Antonio Hernandez, Congressman John Garamendi, District Attorney Diana Becton, Contra Costa College Board Ward 4 Trustee Andy Li, Antioch Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Marie Arce, Contra Costa Water District Board Member Patt Young and the East Bay Women’s Political Alliance. She’s also endorsed by the Democratic Party of California and Contra Costa and the Contra Costa Young Democrats – interjecting partisan politics into a local, non-partisan race – and Our Revolution East Bay, the local chapter of self-avowed democratic socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sander’s Our Revolution. In addition, King was given the label of Gun Sense Candidate 2022 by Moms Demand Action.

Questions for King Go Unanswered

King was asked about her background, including “Where did you grow up and experience homelessness? When were you appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission? Is this your first run for public office? If not, what else have you run for previously, and where?”

She was also asked, “As part of your platform that ‘children have safe, supported learning environments’ do you support having police serve as School Resource Officers (SRO’s) at Antioch’s middle and high school campuses? As part of your platform that, ‘we embrace technical training and education, not just college preparation’ and as a business owner, yourself, do you also support teaching entrepreneurship in the high schools? What specifically do you propose for improving math and English test scores, mainly for Black and Hispanic students in the district?”

Regarding her endorsements, King was asked, “why have you chosen to interject partisan politics into a race for what is supposed to be non-partisan office? Also, in light of the recent settlement of the sexual harassment lawsuit against Mayor Thorpe, why do you still tout his endorsement and the endorsement by Patt Young who claims his two former female employees were not credible? What message do you think that sends to the female students in the district’s schools and the women who work for AUSD? Regarding your endorsement by Our Revolution East Bay, which is part of self-avowed democratic socialist U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders’ national organization, do you consider yourself a socialist? If so, what does that mean to you?”

Regarding concerns expressed by some Antioch residents King was asked if she supports the teaching of Critical Race Theory and/or the 1619 Project version of U.S. history in Antioch schools, and does she have any plans or made any commitments to make a change in the position of superintendent.

Finally, King was asked if she supports charter schools and school choice in general to bring competition to public education, which in the private sector results in improved products and services.

After multiple attempts to reach King by phone call, email and text for this article she did not respond.

See a video by King about herself, her family and campaign on her Facebook page.

Rocha’s Background & Accomplishments

AUSD Trustee Mary Rocha with her son, then-Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha during this year’s graduation ceremony. Herald file photo.

Rocha’s campaign touts her experience as one reason to re-elect her. Having first started out as a volunteer in the Antioch school district in the 1970’s she was first elected to the Antioch School Board in 1971. Through her efforts the Special Education Department expanded from 100 to 1,200 students. Governor Jerry Brown appointed Rocha to the Special Education Commission and served for four years. She was the founding member of the Mexican American School Board Association and the National Hispanic School Board Association serving as president for both.

Rocha was elected to the Antioch City Council in 1984 being the first elected Latina in Contra Costa County. She served as a council member for eight years and was elected Mayor of Antioch in 1996 and served for years during which Rocha was elected by the Contra Costa County Mayors Conference of as the chairperson. In 2000, She was the top Primary Election candidate in the race for District 5 Supervisor but lost to Federal Glover in the General.

Rocha was elected to the city council, again in 2012 and served one term. Rocha was then elected, again to the school board in 2018.

She has over 30 years’ experience as a community organizer and activist concerning family and children’s issues in East County. Mary was the founder of Brighter Beginnings and coordinator of the Antioch First 5 Center facility providing services to families with children 0-5 years of age.

In her biography on the school district’s website Rocha writes, “While education is my platform – it is also my passion. I’m driven by my admiration for students and their families. I’ve raised three children in Antioch. They all attended Antioch Unified District schools. And now, my grandchildren are following in their successful footsteps. I want the same for your children.”

Rocha’s Honors

Rocha was a recipient of the “Maya Citizen of the Year”, the Los Medanos College Cesar Chavez Award and the League of United Latino American Citizens (LULAC) “Eagle Award” for her hard work with the Latino community. She was recognized as one of the “Women of the Year” by the CCC Commission for Women.

In recognition of her over 30 years of services as an advocate for low-cost day care, the “Mary H. Rocha Child Development Center” was dedicated in honor. The center houses 150 children with state funds run by the YWCA.

Rocha was recently selected to be honored in a book entitled, “Mujeres de Conciencia” (Women of Conscience) about 68 Latinas who have successfully impacted the wellbeing of California Latinos.

Rocha’s Issues

In a video posted on her campaign Facebook page Rocha said, “I continue to be committed to parent engagement, your involvement, safety for our children and teachers, and social and emotional health, and academic support for our children.”

She voted in 2020 for the six School Resource Officers to work at the district’s middle and high schools, before the current council majority voted to rescind the acceptance of the federal grant. Rocha still wants them.

Rocha voted against the Rocketship charter school and the middle and high school charter schools that considered opening in Antioch and shows another video on her campaign Facebook page by a teacher and union member touting her opposition to “corporate charters”.

In yet another video Rocha claims Rocketship is costing the district $35 million because “our administration has to oversee the policies and their budget”. Besides the budget her other top issues are campus safety and parental involvement.

Rocha’s Endorsements

Rocha says she has the endorsements of former state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, Congressmen Mark DeSaulnier and Jerry McNerney, Antioch Teachers AEA, Antioch School Employees CSEA, Antioch Principals and Administrators AMA, Contra Costa Central Labor Council, Contra Costa Building and Construction Trades Council, SEIU Local 2015 and the Antioch Police Officers Association.

Rocha Responds to Questions

Rocha was asked for her main accomplishments as a school board member. She responded, “First of all I was elected in 2018 and in my four years we dealt as a Board with the COVID virus making sure we provided enough computers for distant learning and helping staff gear up to a different way of teaching.  My key priorities were to ensure the health and safety of our students and employees, provide social, emotional counseling and academic intervention services with the goal of improved student outcomes for all students while maintaining a fiscally responsible school district budget. I was able to support the replacements of vice principals and increase counselors.”

Rocha was also what will she specifically do to improve the math and English test scores, of mainly Black and Hispanic students in the district. She responded, “The District’s 2021-22 Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) aligns resources to meet students’ needs which spells out, retain teaching staff, and attract staff in math, science and special education; expand programs for wellness and reading intervention. Their goals are put together with parents’ involvement to reduce the achievement gap for high needs students and ensure all students are accessing learning at the highest levels. The Board reviews their outcome.”

Asked if she supports teaching entrepreneurship in AUSD high schools “Yes. We have 20 academies in our district that include Career Technical Business Education. In media, they learn as a business, web-based and mobile applications, games, films and other integrated media,” Rocha shared. “Business Tech Academy curriculum is focused on a business theme that integrates standard based classes and career technical education classes.”

Finally, Rocha was asked what other plans she has for her next term if re-elected. She responded, “The extra money that we have received from the state will sunset with in the next three years I want to be there to continue to fund those programs that have made a difference for our students. I would also like to hire Reading Specialists in the middle schools. My hope is to establish community schools linking resources so the whole family can be addressed and support family engagement.”

“I have valuable knowledge and experience in developing fiscally responsible budgets for the Antioch Unified School District and City of Antioch as an elected official. I am committed to keeping students and families at the forefront of all decisions. I invite you to join me in working together for improved outcomes for all students,” Rocha added.

For more information about Dominique King and her campaign visit www.dominiquelking.com and for or more information about Mary Rocha and her campaign visit www.facebook.com/MaryRocha4Antioch. The election is November 8th.

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Dominique & Kenneth King & daughters outside cropped


Dominique King & Mary Rocha


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