Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Biden-Harris Administration, House Democrats working to attract more foreign students, workers for American technology jobs

Thursday, January 27th, 2022

American tech workers not happy, say policy change “destroys the career prospects of young American graduates”

By Allen D. Payton

President Biden and Vice President Harris issued a statement on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022, announcing actions and policy changes their administration is taking to make it easier to attract foreign scholars, students, researchers, and experts to ultimately fill American technology jobs. In addition, on Tuesday, Biden issued a statement announcing his support for the America COMPETES Act of 2022 (H.R. 3593).

In addition, according to an announcement issued today by the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor, tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 28, the Biden administration will make 20,000 additional temporary nonfarm, H2-B work visas available for hiring through March, delivering on a demand from business groups.

“The supplemental H-2B visa allocation consists of 13,500 visas available to returning workers who received an H-2B visa, or were otherwise granted H-2B status, during one of the last three fiscal years. The remaining 6,500 visas, which are exempt from the returning worker requirement, are reserved for nationals of Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras,” the joint statement reads. “The H-2B program permits employers to temporarily hire noncitizens to perform nonagricultural labor or services in the United States.”

Also, according to a Bloomberg Law article, published yesterday, Democrats have included a new entrepreneur visa in a House bill.

“Nonimmigrant visas for owners and key employees of start-ups as well as their family members and other STEM-boosting measures are part of legislation introduced by Democratic House leaders this week. The Senate last year passed its own version of the legislation, which President Joe Biden’s administration has identified as a key priority,” the article reads. “The bill, which also exempts immigrants with doctorates in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics fields from annual green card caps, is part of a broader legislative package released Tuesday that seeks to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with China in research and development.”

American Tech Workers Not Happy

But an organization of American technology workers, U.S. Tech Workers, which describes itself as a “nonprofit representing the voices of American workers harmed by the H-1B visa program and pushing Congress for reforms to protect workers”, are not happy with the Administration’s policies nor the Democrats’ legislation.

In a post on the group’s Twitter feed on Monday, Jan. 24, they wrote, “employers lobbied the US government for the ability to hire foreign workers via guest worker visa programs so they could rig the free-market in their favor.”

The group is also opposed to the changes in the H-2B visa and OPT programs. They said the changes will encourage companies to discriminate against American job applicants.

“This is exactly the kind of policy that destroys the career prospects of young American graduates,” the group posted on their Twitter feed. “USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) is incentivizing employers to discriminate against US grads because the OPT program provides employers who hire foreign students: – FICA tax exemptions – No wage standards.”

An article on the group’s website written by Joe Guzzardi, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist who writes about immigration issues, and joined Progressives for Immigration Reform in 2018, reads, “STEM OPT’s expansion…is significant since the thousands of new foreign-born workers entering the labor pool will adversely affect employed U.S. tech workers or recent U.S. STEM graduates whose prospective careers could be jeopardized.”

In addition, the U.S. Tech Workers tweeted, “Exempting a certain category of foreign workers counting towards numerical Green Card caps is a deceptive & crafty tactic of INCREASING overall immigration numbers. It basically means there’s an unlimited supply of GCs for PhDs & their family (spouse/kids).”

In another tweet about Biden’s statement on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022, the U.S. Tech Workers wrote, “House version of America COMPETES Act of 2022 sneakingly adds immigration provisions: – Exempts PhD foreign students & their family from counting towards Green Card cap – Creates new visas for entrepreneurs.”

According to a 2021 Bloomberg article, “Businesses that hire foreign students are exempt from paying Medicare and Social Security taxes, amounting to a discount of 7.65%.”

Biden-Harris Foreign STEM Talent Statement

The statement from the White House reads as follows:

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Actions to Attract STEM Talent and Strengthen our Economy and Competitiveness

JANUARY 21, 2022

“The Biden-Harris Administration believes that one of America’s greatest strengths is our ability to attract global talent to strengthen our economy and technological competitiveness, and benefit working people and communities all across the country.

In the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) – fields that are critical to the prosperity, security, and health of our Nation – our history is filled with examples of how America’s ability to attract global talent has spurred path-breaking innovation. This innovation has led to the creation of new jobs, new industries, and new opportunities for Americans across the United States. Our commitment as a nation to welcoming new talent has long provided America with a global competitive advantage, and we must continue to lead in this effort.

Today, the Departments of State and Homeland Security are announcing new actions to advance predictability and clarity for pathways for international STEM scholars, students, researchers, and experts to contribute to innovation and job creation efforts across America. These actions will allow international STEM talent to continue to make meaningful contributions to America’s scholarly, research and development, and innovation communities.

These announcements build on the Biden Administration’s efforts to remove barriers to legal immigration, such as under Executive Order 14012, Restoring Faith in Our Legal Immigration Systems and Strengthening Integration and Inclusion Efforts for New Americans, and to promote educational exchange, such as under the recent Joint Statement of Principles in Support of International Education issued by Secretaries Blinken and Cardona.

Today’s agency announcements include:

  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) is announcing an “Early Career STEM Research Initiative,” to facilitate non-immigrant BridgeUSA exchange visitors coming to the United States to engage in STEM research through research, training or educational exchange visitor programs with host organizations, including businesses. ECA is also announcing new guidance that will facilitate additional academic training for undergraduate and graduate students in STEM fields on the J-1 visa for periods of up to 36 months.
  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is announcing that 22 new fields of study are now included in the STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT) program through the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). The program permits F-1 students earning Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorates in certain STEM fields to remain in the United States for up to 36 months to complete Optional Practical Training after earning their degrees. Information on the new fields of study will be communicated to schools and students in a forthcoming Federal Register notice. The added fields of study are primarily new multidisciplinary or emerging fields, and are critical in attracting talent to support U.S. economic growth and technological competitiveness.
  • DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual related to “extraordinary ability” (O-1A) nonimmigrant status regarding what evidence may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria.
  • O-1A nonimmigrant status is available to persons of extraordinary ability in the fields of science, business, education, or athletics. In this update, DHS is clarifying how it determines eligibility for immigrants of extraordinary abilities, such as PHD holders, in the science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) fields.
  • The new update provides examples of evidence that may satisfy the O-1A evidentiary criteria and discusses considerations that are relevant to evaluating such evidence, with a focus on the highly technical nature of STEM fields and the complexity of the evidence often submitted.
  • The update also emphasizes that, if a petitioner demonstrates that a particular criterion does not readily apply to their occupation, they may submit evidence that is of comparable significance to that criterion to establish sustained acclaim and recognition. Additionally, it provides examples of possible comparable evidence that may be submitted in support of petitions for beneficiaries working in STEM fields.
  • With respect to immigration, DHS is issuing an update to its policy manual on how U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a DHS component, adjudicates national interest waivers for certain immigrants with exceptional abilities in their field of work.
    • The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that an employer can file an immigrant petition for a person of exceptional ability or a member of the professions with an advanced degree. The INA provides that USCIS may waive a job offer requirement, allowing immigrants whose work is in the national interest to petition for themselves, without an employer.
    • The USCIS policy update clarifies how the national interest waiver can be used for persons with advanced degrees in STEM fields and entrepreneurs, as well as the significance of letters from governmental and quasi-governmental entities. This update will promote efficient and effective benefit processing as USCIS reviews requests for national interest waivers. This effort is consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s priorities to restore faith in the legal immigration system.

Biden Statement on America COMPETES Act of 2022

Following is the statement by the President Biden on the America COMPETES ACT of 2022 issued on Tuesday:

Statement by President Biden on the America COMPETES Act of 2022

JANUARY 25, 2022

The House took an important step forward today in advancing legislation that will make our supply chains stronger and reinvigorate the innovation engine of our economy to outcompete China and the rest of the world for decades to come.

The proposals laid out by the House and Senate represent the sort of transformational investments in our industrial base and research and development that helped power the United States to lead the global economy in the 20th century and expand opportunity for middle class families. They’ll help bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and they’re squarely focused on easing the sort of supply chain bottlenecks like semiconductors that have led to higher prices for the middle class. Building on the historic investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that I signed last year – and on signs of progress like last week’s Intel announcement and today’s GM announcement – comprehensive competitiveness legislation will power our economy to create good-paying jobs for all Americans, no matter where you live or whether you have a college degree, and will help tackle the climate crisis.

I’m heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far, and its commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible. Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century – forged by the ingenuity and hard work of our innovators, workers, and businesses.”

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Analysis: Antioch School Board should scrap the maps for redistricting at Wednesday meeting

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Proposed Antioch School Board Trustee Areas Redistricting Map Scenario 2A. Source: AUSD

All 3 gerrymandered to protect incumbents, except for one trustee; very few changes from 2019 map based on 2010 Census with 13,400 fewer residents

Board should start over and allow more public input with online mapping tool

By Allen Payton

Official Notice

Subject: Post Census Redistricting

Date: Wednesday, January 26, 2022 (During the Regular Board of Education Meeting)

Time: Open Session 7:00 p.m.

Location: Deer Valley High School Theater 4700 Lone Tree Way, Antioch, CA 94531

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Governing Board of the Antioch Unified School District will hold a public hearing during its Regular Board Meeting on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, to receive community feedback regarding post census redistricting. To ensure Trustee Areas are in compliance with Education Code 5019.5, the District must review and potentially adjust its electoral map. This hearing will provide the AUSD Board of Education an opportunity to review initial draft scenarios adjusting the boundaries for trustee areas and to accept feedback from the community regarding the proposed changes. Proposed maps can be viewed at https://www.antiochschools.net/domain/3540.

Proposed Antioch School Board Trustee Areas Redistricting Map Scenario1. Source: AUSD

Analysis

During their next regularly scheduled Antioch School Board meeting tonight, Wednesday, January 26, 2022, the Antioch School Board will consider three maps that are very similar to their current map. That’s in spite of a population growth of 13,386 in the district during the decade of 2010 to 2020. The current trustee area map was approved by the board in 2019 based on the 2010 Census. (See related article)

The three proposed maps, drawn by a consultant and labeled Scenario 1, 2 and 3, all show where the current trustees live, which is a political matter and is not a required criteria for the board to consider, based on either federal or state law. The trustee area boundary lines don’t make much sense other than protecting incumbents. The only exception is Trustee Ellie Householder who moved from the current Area 2 to Area 1, last year. The map only uses major roads as boundaries between Areas 1 and 2. For example, both Trustee Mary Rocha barely lives inside Area 5 and Trustee Clyde Lewis, Jr. barely lives inside Area 3.

Plus, the maps don’t respect communities of interest, a basic principle of redistricting, splitting the Mira Vista Hills area south of James Donlon Blvd. into Areas 2 and 4. In addition, the maps don’t primarily use major roads as dividing lines, especially between Areas 3 and 4 and between Areas 2 and 3.

Also, the current map and all three proposed maps unnecessarily have the area bounded by Lone Tree Way, Deer Valley Road and Country Hills Drive, where no one lives, included in Area 4 instead of Area 2 creating a strange shape. That area is one Census Tract and can easily be moved between trustee areas.

Trust areas are legally allowed to have a maximum population deviation from average of 5% or 10% maximum between areas. Scenario 1 has a deviation of 8.3% between trustee areas, Scenario 2 offers a deviation of 1.2% and Scenario 3 has a deviation of 4.0%.

Scrap Proposed Maps, Offer Public Online Mapping Tool

What the board should do is scrap the three proposed consultant’s maps and start over by opening the process to the public – putting we the people in charge of choosing who it is will represent us, not the other way around – and provide an online mapping tool like the Antioch City Council and other cities have done. But the board should use the same tool as on the City of Brentwood’s city council redistricting website, since it’s the easiest to use of those in the county and BART’s that I’ve tried.

What the board and council should have done is form independent citizen redistricting commissions, like both the city councils of Brentwood and Martinez have done, to truly put the process in the hands of the public and take the politics out of it. (See related article)

While the board must have a final map approved by March 1, that gives them the two meetings in February, and if necessary, they could hold a separate redistricting workshop, to consider maps drawn and submitted by the public. They need to direct their redistricting consultant to get the online mapping tool up by Friday.

We shall see if they’re interested in doing what’s best for the people they were elected to represent or what will protect their own political interests.

The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. and can be viewed in-person or online at https://youtu.be/VFJxu3aBpYw. Public comments can only be made in person at the meeting by completing and submitting a speaker card.

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Contra Costa College Board votes for gerrymandered redistricting map protecting incumbents, splitting more cities

Thursday, January 13th, 2022

The approved new Contra Costa Community College Trustee Ward Boundaries Map showing the location of high schools in the county, except for Deer Valley High School in Antioch. The name of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, also located in Antioch, is misspelled. Source: 4CD

4-0-1 vote approves staff drawn map keeping boundaries significantly the same as current, politically drawn wards map from 2011; leaves portions of Antioch in same ward with most of the San Ramon Valley

By Allen Payton

The Contra Costa Community College board, on a 4-0-1 vote, approved a final redistricting, staff-drawn map that keeps the ward boundaries significantly gerrymandered, protecting each of the incumbents for re-election. Ward 5 Trustee Fernando Sandoval voted to abstain. During a public hearing on Ward Equalization Based on the 2020 Census at their regular meeting Wednesday night, the trustees reviewed three maps drawn by district staff, and only one member of the public, a former trustee, spoke. The new wards will go into effect for this year’s November elections, in which both Ward 3 Trustee Rebecca Barrett and Ward 4 Trustee Andy Li face re-election if they decide to run.

In addition, the board again discussed the “Public employee discipline/dismissal/release/complaint” of Chancellor Bryan Reece during a special meeting at 5:00 p.m. But no reportable action was taken during the closed session.

During the staff presentation on redistricting, Executive Vice Chancellor for Education and Technology Mojdeh Mehdizadeh said, “This is the fourth meeting we’ve held in order to achieve equalization” which was the main focus of the staff-drawn maps. Those include a Community Roundtable on Ward Redistricting on Jan. 6.

“You wanted to see more maps and interactive maps, you wanted to have the high school markers placed on the maps and more time for public input,” she continued. “We also asked the public for more input through an online survey…which went live on Dec. 17. We received a total of 12 responses.”

Three maps were offered to the public, two that are very similar to the current wards map, and one similar to the map that the county Board of Supervisors adopted, with a significantly gerrymandered Ward 2 which is very different than Supervisorial District 5. (See related article)

“Nearly 60% (7 people) indicated that Map 2 is the favored map. Map 3 was the least favored map. About 75% of respondents (8 or 9 people) said it was the least favorite,” Mehdizadeh stated. “We continue to offer Map 2 as the best map.”

That was the same map she and the district’s attorney recommended previously.

The three proposed maps show the locations of the high schools in the county except for Deer Valley High School in Antioch and misspelled the name of Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, also in Antioch.

Splits More Cities

While the new trustee ward map has a total population deviation of just 1.7% between wards – which is closer to the intent of the Constitution of ensuring one-person-one-vote – it keeps things pretty much the same as the 2011 map. It continues to split Antioch, Brentwood and Pittsburg in East County, Martinez, Concord, Walnut Creek and now, one of the county’s smallest cities, Clayton, in Central County, and in West County, instead of splitting Pinole, as the current map does, the new map splits Hercules.

Public Comments

Former board trustee Greg Enholm was the only person to speak during public comments saying, “as a Trustee for 2012 to 2020 I did not participate in the ward equalization process for the 2000 and 2010 Census data. But I was affected as a candidate for the subsequent 2006 and 2010 Ward 3 elections created from the 2000 Census Data and the 2012, 2016, and 2020 elections created from the 2010 Census Data.”

“I have been a candidate in five contested elections being elected in two,” he continued. “I have had many opportunities to interact as a candidate with the approximately 200,000 4CD constituents each in Wards 3 and 5 as well as eight years being accountable to all one million 4CD constituents. I believe that the voters must select their representatives not the reverse. I hope that all five trustees agree with that statement and will ask that staff prevent or at least reveal any inappropriate effort by any current or prior trustee to use ward equalization to primarily improve their opportunity to be re-elected or affect any current or prior trustee’s opportunities to be a successful candidate using the 2000, 2010, and/or 2020 ward equalization process.”

Enholm provided each of the trustees with a copy of his comments on the three maps proposed by staff.

“Please read my comment below on all three proposed maps and ask staff if they have assured that the 2000 and 2010 ward maps were created in full compliance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations in effect when they were adopted,” he said.

Trustee Comments

Ward 3 Trustee Fernando Sandoval was the only member of the board to speak, asking, “Can you tell me the implications for adopting each map? Can we respond to Mr. Enholm’s question…if the maps were created fairly.”

All three maps comply with population balance, Mehdizadeh pointed out.

“Map number 1 is a slight variation of the first one we presented you,” she said. “As it pertains to the second map, we attempted to keep as many cities as tight knit.”

However, both proposed Maps 1 and 2 split more cities than the current ward map.

“The third map was a request that came from the December meeting…that the Board of Supervisors had adopted their map…that was a consideration, as well,” Mehdizadeh stated.

In response to Sandoval she said, “Your question about the 2000 and 2010 process, I personally was not involved in the 2000 process.”

Mehdizadeh again spoke of population balance.

“In 2010 I can tell you I was directly involved,” she stated. “We worked closely with our legal counsel…we spent quality time with our governing board to get public input.”

“Our county Office of Education chose to adopt the same map,” Mehdizadeh added. “That showed a reduction in costs” for printing and mailing ballots during elections.

“I do know they have a meeting on the 19th,” Sandoval said referring to the county Board of Education. “But this year they hired their own demographer. I don’t know why. Is there a reason we wouldn’t wait for them to come back? We want to make sure the alignment is consistent. Would it be prudent to wait until they vote on a final recommendation?”

“That could be our challenge,” Mehdizadeh responded. “Our maps have to be approved by the end of February. It really is who ultimately who votes and makes a determination of their maps. They have been working closely with us, as staff. They are very well apprised of the timelines. It really is up to the board.”

With no other comments by the trustees Board President and District 2 Trustee Judy Walters closed the public hearing.

Board Adopts Map 2

Then later during the meeting, under NonConsent Agenda – Action Items – Miscellaneous, on a motion by Trustee Li and seconded by Ward 1 Trustee John Marquez, the board voted 4-0-1 to adopt Map 2. Sandoval voted to abstain. Student Trustee Austin Green also voted for the motion, but the vote is advisory, only.

However, the resolution signed by both Walters and Marquez, who is the Board Secretary, incorrectly shows Sandoval voted for the map and Marquez voted to abstain. 4CD adopted Ward Equalization Resolution 0122-20B-MI – incorrect

When reached for comment about the mistake Sandoval said “that’s wrong. I’ll call John Marquez.”

When informed of the mistake, Marquez said, “I’ll call the staff member who handles that, Pat (Kaya) and get it corrected, right away.”

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Antioch MLK event postponed due to COVID-omicron surge

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Due to the current Omicron surge, the Dr. King Celebration event scheduled to be held at Deer Valley High School’s Theater on Monday has been postponed.  Student submissions for the contest are being scored and winners will be announced next week.

It is our hope to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King during Black History Month.  More information will be shared once finalized.

Thank you for your flexibility and understanding.  The health and safety of our students, staff, volunteers, and guests are always our priority.

Velma Wilson, Event Organizer

 

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Antioch school district receives almost $500,000 from U.S. DOJ “STOP School Violence Act” grant

Friday, December 24th, 2021

More than $125 million in grants nationwide

SAN FRANCISCO –The Department of Justice announced, Thursday, nearly $126 million in funding to advance school safety under the STOP School Violence Act. The grants, awarded by the Office of Justice Programs’ Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), will help institute safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools, support school violence prevention efforts, provide training to school personnel and students, and implement evidence-based threat assessments.

The Antioch Unified School District (AUSD) received $492,451 in COPS funds and was the only district in the county, and only one of 10 in the state to be awarded a grant.

AUSD will use the funds “for safety and security infrastructure, upgraded cameras, radios, lighting and more,” said Superintendent Stephanie Anello. “This grant will free up funding that would have gone to safety and security infrastructure so that we can hire private security.”

The Students, Teachers and Officers Preventing School Violence Act of 2018 (the “STOP School Violence Act”) gives the Justice Department the authority to provide awards directly to states, units of local government, Indian tribes, and public agencies (such as school districts and law enforcement agencies) to improve security at schools and on school grounds through evidence-based school safety programs. It also provides grants to ensure a positive school climate by helping students and teachers recognize, respond quickly to, and help prevent acts of violence.

The COPS School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP) is a competitive award program that provides up to 75% of the funding for school safety measures in and around primary and secondary schools. The COPS Office received 285 applications from jurisdictions in 47 states. COPS SVPP Awards Fact Sheet

The 153 SVPP awards, totaling almost $52 million, are statutorily obligated to be used for coordination with law enforcement; training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence; locks, lighting and other deterrent measures; technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency; and other measures that provide a significant improvement in security.

The 78 BJA annual awards, totaling $73.7 million are intended to support training and education for school personnel and students on preventing violence against others and themselves, including anti-bullying training and specialized training for school officials to respond to mental health crises. Funds also help develop and implement multidisciplinary threat assessment or intervention teams and design technology solutions such as anonymous reporting systems, hotlines and websites.

“The Justice Department has no greater responsibility than protecting Americans from harm,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Schools must be safe places to learn, and today’s investment of more than $125 million under the STOP School Violence Act will help ensure that they are.”

The full list of SVPP awards can be found here:  https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp-award.

A list of BJA awards, as they are made, can be found on the OJP Grant Awards page.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 135,000 officers.

The Office of Justice Programs provides federal leadership, grants, training, technical assistance and other resources to improve the nation’s capacity to prevent and reduce crime, advance racial equity in the administration of justice, assist victims and enhance the rule of law. More information about OJP and its components can be found at www.ojp.gov.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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College board trustees ask for more public input on ward redistricting, staff offers workshop, two more gerrymandered maps, online survey

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021

Proposed Contra Costa Community College District Ward Realignment Map 3 balances populations using the county Supervisor’s newly adopted map as a guide and includes the locations of the high schools (the name of Deer Valley High in Antioch added by the Herald). But Trustee Ward 3 in this proposed map is significantly different than the new Supervisorial District 5. See the other two proposed maps at www.4cd.edu/gb/redistricting/. Source: 4CD

Sandoval pushes for more community input, transparency; he and Barrett ask for more maps; Walters asks for informal, round table meeting; one new proposed map similar to Board of Supervisors’ new map; Community Roundtable on Ward Redistricting during special Zoom meeting Jan. 6 for community input; second public hearing on redistricting during regular board meeting Jan 12.

By Allen Payton

In response to public pressure, the Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) Governing Board is seeking additional community input to adjust trustee ward boundaries and ensure population balance based on county demographic changes identified in the 2020 Census. During the Dec. 8 board meeting, (see 36-minute mark) Ward 5 Trustee Fernando Sandoval and Ward 2 Trustee Rebecca Barrett pressed for more public input, and wanted to review more than just the one map provided by the district’s staff and attorney David Saldani. They only provided slight changes to the current, gerrymandered map. (See related article)

Board Calls for More Public Input

At their December 8, 2021, meeting, (see item 10.A.) the Board reviewed only one staff-recommended map that highlighted how trustee area boundaries could change and received community input on the proposed map before determining the need for additional community input. In 2010, both the college board and the Contra Costa County Board of Education adopted the same exact maps, according to Saldani. The 4CD staff is expected to collaborate with the board of education, again, this year.

Only two members of the public offered comments during the hearing, including former college board trustee Greg Enholm who said “I hope the trustees agree that voters should choose their representatives not the reverse.  He also said he agreed with this reporter “regarding his concerns about the proposed ward map,” referring to the current map being drawn based on political considerations to protect incumbents at the time it was adopted.

“I also hope that Board Vice President Walters and Board Secretary Sandoval will explain why they are not advocating for an independent redistricting body to redraw the wards as they pledged to do,” Enholm stated.

“The map must be the best one possible meeting all requirements,” he concluded and said he provided to the trustees a copy of the 1990 map.

“We support a good governance model which includes community meetings. We are a little surprised that…the college district did not engage in a community participation process,” said Maria Alegria, representing Latinx for Inclusion. “It looks like you’ve done this in-house for the past three decades.”

Barrett had questions about the process, including the FAIR Maps Act.

“Certainly, this year, more than ever, the politics surrounding redistricting is greater,” said Executive Vice Chancellor, Education and Technology Mojdeh Mehdizadeh. “This is the first year that the Census data was released six months later than usual.”

“Can you explain the California FAIR Maps Act of 2017 and how it impacts the way cities and counties conduct their post-Census redistricting?” Barrett asked.

“We don’t have to comply with the provisions. It gives more direction with the criteria,” Saldani responded. “The FAIR Maps Act requires cities and counties have…two pre-map hearings then two post-map hearings. It doesn’t apply to the college district.”

“We used traditional redistricting criteria,” he added.

Sandoval said “you spoke about population balance. You guys really didn’t talk about communities of interest. What Mr. Enholm stated…there was some work that was done for political boundary changes in the past and I’m concerned those still haven’t been addressed.”

“It’s not just population balance, it’s communities,” Sandoval continued. “We’re here to make sure the maps represent the communities of interest as they go forward.”

“The other thing I’m concerned about is, the map itself that we have in there, is not an interactive map. You should be able to show that,” he stated. “The fact that we only have one map says that we only have one option. I’m all about transparency. When I talked about the independent commission it’s really about transparency and making sure that the public has an opportunity to weigh in and put a comment…so the board can go ahead and try to understand what the concerns of the community are. We don’t know what they are, right now. I think we need to do more.”

“From my perspective there’s not have enough transparency and we need to ensure we go ahead and take care of the public interest,” he concluded.

“In fact, we heard public feedback, tonight,” said Saldani.

“I think we haven’t done enough,” Sandoval responded. “Give them more of an opportunity. Publicizing it and just having it on our website is not enough. We should have more than one map.”

Barrett then said, “I do have some concerns. I would like to have a more detailed map. Are the politicians giving feedback? Because it’s self-serving. The staff and demographer have worked to keep this away from board input. In some respects, I would hope the board and public could get a more detailed map with geographic markers…things to help identify. I would appreciate a little more detail and understanding. I think the board could give you more input that communities of interest don’t fit nicely…in your statistical analysis. I do think multiple maps would have been helpful. It would give the public a sense that there are choices.”

“I think most of us won’t be here, in 10 years on this board,” she continued. “So, one of the things we can do as a board is to codify our expectations around the redistricting process. Do we want to look at an independent redistricting commission or some kind of hybrid? But that’s a more long-term project.”

“Your free of the accusation that you’re trying to benefit yourself,” Barrett added.

“Would it be possible to have, I’ll use the word workshop, or gathering?” asked Board Vice President Judy Walters.

“Certainly. I thought that’s what we were doing, here, tonight,” responded Mehdizadeh.

Walters suggested a meeting that is “less formal…more of a roundtable kind of thing.”

“On a personal level, I’m happy with the work done, tonight,” she said. “I’m concerned that we have to meet our deadline and we don’t spend a jillion dollars doing stuff.”

“We’re happy to answer any additional questions and do a deeper dive from an interactive perspective,” Mehdizadeh responded. “While we would love to do that, we’re not resourced to do that.”

“We tried to keep it in-house. Let them do their independent work,” Board President Andy Li said. “I’m supportive of some open, community input.”

“The document…that’s…showing racial demographics is wonderful,” Walters added. But she didn’t call for an independent citizen redistricting commission as she committed to do during her campaign, last year.

“I heard some requests to follow the county in drawing our districts,” Li said. “But I found that there are three trustees in the same ward.”

However, where incumbents live is not a requirement that must be considered when redrawing ward boundaries.

“I appreciate the work done by the county. But they have different communities of interest than we do,” Barrett said. “We could be drawing our maps off of the school district boundaries.”

“We tried to keep as many as communities together as possible,” Mehdizadeh said.

Staff agreed to consider offering more public meetings and has since offered two more maps and post all three on the district’s website.

January 6 Community Roundtable on Ward Redistricting

The public can review three mapping options of how trustee boundaries could be balanced on the 4CD website located at www.4cd.edu/gb/redistricting . Community members can use a new interactive mapping feature that will help identify how each mapping option could change your trustee representation. The website also gives the public the opportunity to provide online comments and feedback that will be considered by the Board. In addition, 4CD will conduct a Community Roundtable on Ward Redistricting during a special Governing Board meeting via Zoom on Thursday, January 6, 2022, beginning at 5:00 p.m. to conduct a community roundtable to review the different mapping options and receive additional community input. Zoom details can be found in the official Governing Board meeting agenda for this community roundtable.

January 12 Second Redistricting Public Hearing

The Board will review the additional community input and hold a second redistricting public hearing at their regularly scheduled public meeting on January 12, 2022, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The public is invited to attend this meeting in-person at 500 Court Street, 2nd Floor Board Room, in Martinez or via Zoom. Zoom details for this meeting are contained in the official Board meeting agenda located on the 4CD website.

“Based on the community input we received so far, the Board decided it was prudent to expand the redistricting choices available and provide more opportunity for the public to weigh in on this important decision,” said Walters. “The additional steps we are taking, which are beyond what is legally required, are appropriate and convey to our community we are rebalancing our trustee wards in a transparent way, and is being completed in a fair, objective, and non-partisan manner.”

Special districts like 4CD are legally obligated to follow Education Code Section 5019.5, which highlights the process to follow, ensuring the population of trustee wards is balanced based on the changing demographics of the community. Legally, the population can be as great as 10% between districts. Despite receiving the 2020 Census data six months late, 4CD is still required to complete this process by February 28, 2022.

After receiving the 2020 Census data in September 2021, staff began working with legal counsel to analyze and prepare its ward redistricting recommendation. The Board received a report outlining the plan to rebalance the ward boundaries at their November 10, 2021, meeting, including a review of the population changes throughout Contra Costa County.

Public Participation

Should you wish to make public comment in person, please fill out the yellow public comment card (sample attached) that will be available at the meeting and give it to the Executive Coordinator.  For those attending remotely, the Governing Board President will ask for general comments or those specific to a certain agenda item.

  • Please note that submissions of public comments will be considered a public record under the Public Records Act and are therefore subject to public disclosure; submissions must either address an item on the agenda or be within the subject matter jurisdiction of the Governing Board.
  • If a translator for the speaker is needed, please contact the Executive Coordinator at pkaya@4cd.edu or leave a message at 925.229.6821, the Friday prior to the meeting so appropriate accommodations may be made.

According to Government Code Section 54954.2(a), when responding to public comment, Governing Board members and staff may respond as summarized below.

  • Briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by persons making public comment;
  • ask questions for clarification or make a brief announcement;
  • provide a reference to staff or other resources for factual information;
  • request staff to report back to the body at a later meeting; or
  • direct staff to place the matter on a future agenda.

Timothy Leong, 4CD Public Information Officer, contributed to this report.

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Kaiser partners with Food Bank to support Antioch High’s Warm for the Holidays event Friday

Monday, December 20th, 2021

Antioch High School Principal Louie Rocha (center) joined Antioch Medical Center Chief Operating Operator Dante Green, FACHE (left), Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area Physician-in-Chief Sharon Krejci Mowat, MD, FAAP, and Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Program Coordinator Jamie Diaz (far right) at the Warm for the Holidays event on Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. Photo: Kaiser Permanente

By Antonia Ehlers, PR and Media Relations, Kaiser Permanente Northern California

The line into the Antioch High School gymnasium was long, last Friday afternoon, as local families queued up on a chilly day for the annual Warm for the Holidays event, a joint effort of Kaiser Permanente, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, the high school, and other community organizations. The school district invited K-12 students of all ages, along with their families to “shop” for food, clothing, books and toys.

More than 2,000 pounds of food was distributed to families in the community.

“The Antioch High School Warm for the Holidays annual event has been a heartwarming experience for our students and staff, who have discovered the power of service to community,” said Antioch High School Principal Louie Rocha. “Despite the recent COVID-19 restrictions, we continue to provide our school community with necessities and gifts to share with their loved ones.”

Kaiser Permanente and the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provided the food portion of the distribution. The Antioch Rotary Club, Holy Rosary Church and the Antioch Woman’s Club donated clothing, toys, books and games.

Through a $550,000 grant to the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Kaiser Permanente is helping fight food insecurity in the community.

“In order for children to learn in school, we need to increase access to healthy food in our communities,” said Sharon Krejci Mowat, MD, FAAP, Kaiser Permanente Diablo Service Area Physician-in-Chief. “This has been a particularly difficult year for so many families, and partnerships like these in our community our critical to ensuring families have the food they need to lead healthy lives.”

Food insecurity has been an increasing concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has distributed more than 50 percent more food than the previous fiscal year and has served 80,000-100,000 more people each month over last year.

“With generous funding from Kaiser Permanente, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has been able to purchase fresh produce along with nutritious shelf-stable food for distribution at schools across the community,” said Lindsay Drakeley, leadership gifts manager at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. “The Food Bank is thankful to have strong community partnerships that make events like this possible.”

 

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Lewis declines Antioch School Board presidency, Hack elected instead

Thursday, December 16th, 2021

AUSD Board Trustee Clyde Lewis, new Board President Gary Hack and new Board Vice President Antonio Hernandez.

Hernandez appointed vice president; board declines public online mapping tool for redistricting process, will make “tweeks” to current trustee area map

By Allen Payton

In a surprise move, Wednesday night, during the Antioch School Board meeting, Dr. Clyde Lewis, District 3 Trustee and board vice president chose to not accept the promotion to the one-year, rotated position of president. Instead, District 4 Trustee Gary Hack was nominated by Lewis and voted in as board president. District 1 Trustee Antonio Hernandez was voted in as board vice president. The board reviewed two proposed maps for the redistricting of trustee areas. Lewis and Trustee Mary Rocha pushed for more public participation and input in the process. But the board declined to include an online mapping tool for the public to use and submit alternative maps. However, the proposed maps are now available on the AUSD Redistricting page.

The school board briefly honored outgoing City Manager Ron Bernal and will provide him with a proclamation, Superintendent Stephanie Anello stated.

“Tweeks” for Redistricting of Trustee Areas

The school board received a presentation on redistricting of trustee areas from Scott Newell, from consultant Cooperative Strategies, hired by the district’s law firm, and Larry Schoenke, the district’s attorney. The board members reviewed two proposed maps that offer very minor changes to the current trustee areas

Newell suggested the Board “adopt the tweeks” his firm made to the map the board approved in 2019 for last year’s election based on the 2010 Census. The new map is based on the population from the 2020 Census. (See related article)

“We must balance the population and consider the protected classes,” he said, referring to Black and Hispanic residents.

“I am leaning more to Scenario 2,” said Board President Ellie Householder.

“My initial question is how much public input has happened with this.

Under redistricting we haven’t had any. Under districting we were required to have plenty. Under redistricting we aren’t

“My consideration is that we have public input around where these lines are drawn.

Public input is not required,” said the district’s attorney. “Your next board meeting isn’t until Jan. 26. You also have the ability, on Jan. 26 we’re going to here

“We’ve also included an interactive page on our website,” said Anello.

“I want to make sure the public is included,” Lewis stated.

“I believe it’s important to have the public input,” Rocha said in agreement.

“We plan to go to all our parent meetings to get public input,” Anello explained.

“Now we’re going for the next 10 years, and we need to be very careful,” Rocha continued.

Hernandez asked about citizen voting age population differences between the scenarios.

“We haven’t looked at it because we’re required to look at total population,” Newell responded.

“I’m comfortable with the presentation made, today and I look forward to the revisions,” Hack said.

“We had a lot of rich discussion around communities of interest. The City has a mapping tool. But for this we don’t have a mapping tool,” Householder said. “What would be the best way for folks to give input?”

“We provide some survey links for the public to use,” Newell said and mentioned “the interactive tools, we create for other clients, are in development.”

“By law it says you can revisit what you’ve already adopted. You can always go through an entire creation process,” Schoenke said.

“As you know, soliciting feedback it’s always hard to get out,” said Newell. “We have an email link. Sometimes they take a photo and submit a marked-up map.”

Lewis asked for the details from the public input from the 2019 process in which the current trustee area map was created.

Only one member of the public spoke, Lindsey Amezcua, who asked for an online mapping tool.

Householder asked for more data on the maps for the next meeting on Jan. 26 and asked for preferences from the other board members.

Board President and Vice President

Trustee Rocha made a motion to appoint Hack as board president which Lewis seconded, surprising almost everyone watching. Lewis was expected to be promoted from his position as board vice president. After the meeting, Lewis told the Herald he had only spoken about his decision to not accept the presidency to a few people prior to the meeting.

One member of the public spoke, with the last name of Hernandez, Antonio’s sister, urging the board to not elect Rocha for one of the two positions. However, Velma Wilson spoke in support of Rocha and what she’s done for the community as a trustee.

“I was under the impression that Trustee Lewis as board vice president would step in as board president” Hernandez said.

“I would hate to see another Black trustee passed up,” Householder said, referring to both Crystal Sawyer-White and Debra Vinson, who are Black and were vice president, but passed over for the position of president. But that was against their wishes. Lewis chose not to take the position for personal reasons.

“This is a very difficult decision for me,” he said. “I have some family challenges.”

“Not my immediate family,” Lewis said with a chuckle to clarify the issue. “It’s family caregiving that came up.”

“So, you’re saying that if you were nominated for board president you wouldn’t accept it?” Householder asked.

“I would likely decline,” Lewis responded. “It’s not that I don’t want the position. It’s simply that we have a familial care issue.”

“You would still entertain being the vice president?” Householder said to which Lewis laughed.

“Hearing your laugh, I will take that as a ‘yes’,” Householder responded.

Amezcua spoke during public comments. “Dr. Lewis, I’m very saddened you are not taking the position,” she said. “But I believe Trustee Hack will do a phenomenal job.”

“I’m not going to be supporting this,” Householder said. “I would like to see someone else in the position.”

Hernandez then offered himself for the position, arguing against Hack’s appointment.

“I don’t think what this school district needs is stability, we need progress forward,” Hernandez said. “Something that pushes us forward. I would like to take the position of board president. It’s important that we keep moving forward. As a Latino male I’ve been underestimated my entire life. That is the context that I take my next vote, not that Trustee Hack can’t do the job.”

“It takes three to move things forward. It’s not the chair,” Rocha said in response. “The chair is only the one who takes care of the board meetings.”

Householder then made a substitute motion to elect Hernandez as board president, seconded by Hernandez. But it failed on a 2-3 vote.

“My vote was not that Trustee Hernandez cannot do the job,” said Lewis. “He’s a brilliant, brilliant leader. Brilliant young man. I’ve struggling with this. I’m struggling with it, now.”

The original motion to appoint Hack as board president was then voted on and passed on a 3-2 vote with Householder and Hernandez voting against.

Lewis then nominated Hernandez as board vice president, and it was seconded by Householder. Without discussion the motion passed 5-0.

 

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