Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Antioch School Board to consider creating new K-8 virtual academy named for city’s first Black resident

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Antioch’s first Black resident, Thomas Gaines. Photo: City of Antioch

Special Friday noon meeting on Thomas Gaines K-8 Virtual Learning Academy, if approved will open Monday, June 14

By Allen Payton

During a special meeting, today, Friday, June 11, 2021, at noon the Antioch School Board will consider approving a new virtual learning academy and name it for the city’s first Black resident, Thomas Gaines (1821-1896). (See presentation, here)

In 2016 the City Council declared Feb. 9th as Thomas Gaines Day for the emancipated slave and Antioch’s only Black resident between the 1860’s and 1940’s. (See related article)

According to the staff report on the item, “The District is seeking approval to form and establish the Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy as an Alternative School of Choice (ASOC) to open in the fall of 2021. The Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will provide a virtual learning option for students and families who would benefit from such an instructional model. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will serve students in grades K-8. Enrollment is entirely voluntary. The school will be virtual in instructional delivery but will include opportunities for in-person experiences as well. The Thomas Gaines Virtual Learning Academy will be housed in a currently existing school location. Enrollment will open on June 14, 2021, and staffing will be assigned based on enrollment numbers. All families who wish to enroll their student(s) in the Thomas Gains Virtual Learning Academy will be able to do so.

Alternative schools of choice (ASOC) were established under California Education Code (EC) sections 58500—58512. Each ASOC must meet all the requirements of the law, including:

  • All students and teachers are selected entirely from volunteers (EC Section 58503).
  • The school is maintained and funded by the school district at the same level of support as other educational programs for the same age level operated by the district (EC Section 58507).
  • The district annually evaluates the school and forwards the evaluations to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (EC Section 58510).

From presentation. Source: AUSD

“I think it’s a phenomenal idea honoring the history of Antioch,” Board Vice President Dr. Clyde Lewis said when reached for comment. Asked if this is just for the summer, he replied, “It will be an ongoing academy.”

“It’s a perfect marriage between past and present, connecting Antioch’s history with the current state of student learning through a virtual learning space,” he continued. “Thomas Gaines was an upstanding African American who contributed to our city. I’m hoping our students will follow in his footsteps and contribute to the future of Antioch.”

An effort to reach Board President Ellie Householder, asking her what the focus of the academy will be, was unsuccessful before publication.

However, Trustee Mary Rocha was reached and said, “In the past three years, they’ve been working to change Black Diamond Middle School into an academy. At this time that distance learning has become a big issue, many students do well, but not everyone. We’re going to put a piece of that in there. The school will be both online and in person. They will work on the curriculum and part of it will be distance learning. Since it’s opening Monday, it’s just the distance learning that will be tied to it. We need to accommodate our students who want to learn that way.”

In addition, Superintendent Stephanie Anello said, “the focus isn’t going to be on a specific discipline, but because some of our students really thrived in distance learning and some of our parents want to continue their educational experience in that manner. We want to continue offering that choice. It’s completely by choice.”

The meeting begins at noon and will be livestreamed at Those wishing to make a public comment on the agenda item can submit their comments until 11:00 a.m. on the day of the meeting. Comments can be submitted via an online form at or by email Comments received by 11:00 a.m. will be read to the public during the meeting.

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Sponsor a Deer Valley High grad with a yearbook donation

Wednesday, May 26th, 2021

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Kiwanis Club of The Delta-Antioch holds successful annual tri-tip BBQ fundraiser Saturday

Monday, May 24th, 2021

Kiwanis Club members including event chair Antwon Webster (left), past president Kay Power and Katie Young honor Deborah Hicks (with certificate) for most ticket sales for the annual BBQ fundraiser on Saturday, May 22, 2021.

Chuck’s Wagon, led by owner Charles Smith, Jr., with the help of Dallas Ranch Middle School principal Bridget Spires (left) and Velma Wilson (right) served the dinners.

By Allen Payton

Kiwanis Club of The Delta Antioch hosted their annual tri-tip BBQ fundraiser at the VFW hall on Saturday, May 22, 2021.  The event pre-sold 140 tickets and the event sold out on the day of, serving 175 meals. This year’s event offered a drive-thru pick up, with the barbecuing provided by Chuck’s Wagon Catering, and dessert provided by RiverTown Sweets.

Under the direction of Antwon Webster, the event’s committee chairman, the club modified the event to accommodate the COVID restrictions to ensure the three annual scholarships for Antioch High School, Dozier-Libbey Medical, and Deer Valley High School are funded and can be awarded in July. Kiwanis’ continued support of Key Club members is the driving force behind this event’s success.

Club members Martha Parsons, who helped at the event and George Stewart who barbecued the tri-tip.

Deborah Hicks, Key Club Ambassador for Deer Valley led the ticket sales with 40 tickets.

“I want to say thank you to Deborah Hicks for selling $600 of tickets for the fundraiser,” said Webster.

Thanks to the generosity of Antioch community leaders 15 meals were donated to the Antioch Police Department, and several meals were donated to local veterans.

The Kiwanis Club of The Delta-Antioch, in Antioch, CA, is a group of local men and women who believe in their motto, “Serving the Children of the World”! They are one of 9 clubs in Division 26 of the Cal-Nev-Ha District of Kiwanis International. Their vision is to make a difference in our community through our service especially to the children of our community and the world.

To learn more about visit their website or Facebook page at

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Struggle at LMC: Black professor from Antioch questions her Black studies class being taught by non-Black professor

Friday, May 7th, 2021

Addresses other matter of Black students being told which colleges they should and shouldn’t apply to

Important issues of concern for the Black community

Iris Archuleta interacts with a student in her class at LMC.

By Iris Archuleta, J.D.

Following are the extended remarks of a statement I made during the Los Medanos College Academic Senate meeting on March 22, 2021. (Publisher’s note: This was received for publication in the publisher’s personal email, that day and was not seen until, today. However, the issue is ongoing and still timely).

First, I want to thank Willie Mims and NAACP President Victoria Adams for attending LMC Academic and Curriculum Committee meetings and making powerful statements about this madness.

At a time when the fight for equity and social justice should be embraced, and even as the new Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD) Chancellor, Dr. Bryan Reece, is promoting and instituting serious strategies for equity and inclusion and is a strong advocate for anti-racist policies and behaviors throughout the district, a disturbing attack is underway by a non-Black faculty member and her so-called “Ethnic Studies Council” to take over a highly successful class I have been teaching since 2015, and have a non-Black professor, herself, teach it this fall.

I am an Adjunct Professor in Social Science at Los Medanos College. Since 2014, I have taught several courses, including American Government, Social Justice, and Issues Facing African Americans. In fact, in 2015, because of my background and experience, I was asked to teach, Issues Facing African Americans (SOCSC 045), when the professor teaching it unexpectedly did not show up for class on the first day.

I developed the curriculum and study materials and have been teaching the course every semester since then. In my classes, I have a no-cost textbook policy to save students money, and instead, my students are able to access the study materials that I have developed through research and that I provide through PowerPoints and links to free material. In addition, my students are taught to do their own research and provide presentations to the entire class to enhance student learning.

My students are empowered, and as a Black professor, I infuse in them a sense and level of pride and teach them about the resilience and power of Black people in this society. I have stayed in contact with many students over the years and helped them attain goals they never believed they could. I get a message almost every day from former students who thank me for awakening their thirst for knowledge and for the truths they learned about the struggles and successes of Black people in America.

I also make it a point to bring in guest speakers with expertise and experiences in a range of struggles and concerns facing African Americans. For example, my husband, Keith Archuleta, who is Black and Chicano, is a community leader in his own right, with several degrees, including African and African American studies with honors from Stanford University, is a guest lecturer on several subjects during each semester.

Not only that, but my husband and I have encouraged Black students to apply for their colleges of choice and not to shy away even from schools such as Stanford. In our class, Keith is able to share with them that as a student at Stanford, not only was he “accepted,” but he started the Black Media Institute and the Black Community Services Center. He and thousands of other Black students over the years have made Stanford a better place.

We are attempting to counteract what many Black students are being told, by this professor and others who are attacking me, that Stanford is a “white” school where they would not be accepted, so don’t even try to apply.

I recently sent out a link to faculty celebrating the graduation of over 60 Black Harvard Law School students this year, and I did not even get a comment from this professor to indicate anything had changed about her low expectations of Black students going to some of the best universities in the country.

I have received excellent performance reviews in all the courses I teach, and have earned preference, a designation meaning first choice when scheduling classes among adjuncts.

I work continually to improve my teaching methods and bring in new research, data, and issues to keep the course fresh, relevant, contextual, and interdisciplinary.

So, last year, when the new full-time professor in Social Justice, who is not a Black professor, asked to meet with me to discuss updating the curriculum for the Issues Facing African Americans course, I was happy to meet with her. We worked together to do a few updates, with the bulk of the curriculum that I created over time remaining intact.

She said she wanted to change the name of the course to Introduction to Black Studies. I saw no problem with that. However, she failed to mention at the time that not only did she plan to change the name, but that she was planning to take over teaching the course and discontinue my teaching of the course.

So, until fairly recently, I believed that in the fall semester I would be teaching the same course I am teaching this semester, Issues Facing African Americans, just updated and retitled Introduction to Black Studies, with the curriculum that I created.

However, just a few weeks ago, that professor approached me and asked if I would teach an additional class, Race and Ethnicity (SOCSC 150). Since I and other Black faculty and others had written the curriculum for Race and Ethnicity, that made sense. So, then I thought if I accepted the Race and Ethnicity class, that in the fall I would be teaching that course and Introduction to Black Studies.

However, later she informed me that she would be teaching Intro to Black Studies because the course now requires someone with a degree in Ethnic Studies to teach it. She feels she is more qualified because of her full-time status and her Doctorate in Chicana Studies. She is not, nor does she claim to be African American or Black.

It is ironic that in the name of Ethnic Studies, a class taught by a Black woman would be eliminated and the same course, now under a different title, would be set up to be taught by someone who is not Black.

When I think of racism it reminds me of our history of dealing with people who feel they are superior to others and have the inherent right to take from those they designate as inferior, which in this case happens to be me.

This is not acceptable. It is not acceptable to me; it is not acceptable to Black students; and in fact, it is not acceptable to any students of all backgrounds who have taken this course or plan to take it in the future. It should not be acceptable to the college.

Furthermore, her claim that only someone with a degree in Ethnic Studies is qualified to teach Intro to Black Studies makes no sense and in fact makes a mockery of the CCCCD Anti-Racism Pledge, which says, in part:

“Resolved, that the Academic Senates of the CCCCD encourage all CCCCD employees to commit to professional development, hiring practices, and/or curricular changes that work to dismantle structural racism.”

By excluding a Black professor from teaching a course she has been qualified to teach for over five years and allowing a non-Black professor to take over a course called Intro to Black Studies, would actually be strengthening structural racism.

Black in the context of Black Studies is a socio-political term defined as: “the collective struggle/experience of people of African descent to gain power and influence in the processes and institutions of government as a way of securing and protecting a diverse array of issues as American citizens.” Black Studies is typically associated with politics and law in the fight against racism.

Just as my background, training, and life experiences have more than qualified me to teach Issues Facing African Americans, my Political Science degree with honors and my Juris Doctorate (Law) degree with honors more than qualify me to teach Intro to Black Studies.

It has been courageous Black leaders such as Charles Houston, Thurgood Marshall, and other world-changing Black lawyers, such as Bryan Stevenson – the attorney responsible for getting more than 100 wrongly convicted African American and other prisoners off death row – that continue to inspire my life’s work and drove me to earn a degree in Political Science and an advanced degree in Law in the first place.

To rub salt into the wound, as this affront has been allowed to continue, this professor and her committee have doubled down on personal attacks and insults toward me and others at the college who support my position; and are now adding more false justifications for taking the course from me.

One of the things that they are promoting is what they refer to as “engagement in the African American community” as a prerequisite along with an Ethnic Studies degree for teaching Intro to Black Studies, implying that this is another requirement that would bar me from teaching this course.

Not many others at LMC have had anywhere near my experience in Black community engagement. First of all, my very life is rooted in the Black community and the solid relationships I have built in Eastern Contra Costa County and the Bay Area. I’ve really been blessed to grow up in San Francisco where I lived in a home that welcomed SNCC organizers and Black Panthers.

My husband and I are the founders of Emerald HPC International, LLC, a consulting company active, locally and globally, in community and economic development consulting, specializing in the design and implementation of systems change strategies and outcomes-based collaborative efforts through our trademarked, High Performing Communities Framework (HPC).

We invested our own funds and organized the Youth Intervention Network that served Antioch youth and families, with a 92% reduction in police calls for service, an 83% reduction in truancy, and an improvement in student GPA by an average of two grade points. Ninety-six percent of the students participating in YIN graduated from high school. Of these, 99% went on to postsecondary education. YIN was featured as one of three global best practices and a model urban anti-violence and peace building initiative at the 2012 opening celebration of the United Nations Peace University at The Hague and recognized by Attorney General Eric Holder during the Barack Obama administration with the U.S. Justice Department’s National Best Community Involvement Award.

We have also worked with Hispanic leaders on important projects such as Brentwood’s One Day at a Time (ODAT) and sponsored youth, including LMC students, to attend the international Corrymeela Peace and Reconciliation Center in Northern Ireland, to study racial and ethnic struggles worldwide.

We are currently working with Dr. Clay Carson, the Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research & Education Institute, who has been entrusted with the original writings, letters and speeches of Martin and Coretta King, to continue the study of the unfinished work of the Civil Rights Movement and the on-going racist backlash to the anti-racist movement and the successes of the Black struggle for freedom.

We brought Rev. Jesse Jackson to Antioch for a talk with officials and citizens about social and economic justice. We have worked with Keith’s fellow Stanford BSU leader, Steve Phillips to launch PowerPac and Vote Hope that supported Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, and we brought California and Bay Area Black clergy to Antioch to organize their support for that campaign and Black voter registration.

We don’t have space enough here to talk about most of our work locally and the myriad of local leaders, artists, and activists who are engaged in making life better not only for Black residents and young people, but all people here in Eastern Contra Costa County, especially those most impacted by racism and inequity. Students in my classes have access to these and other local, national, and international Black community leaders, who have been and still are on the frontline of the struggles facing Black people.

Before I close, let me show you how absurd this situation is by giving you the following scenario:

What if I, a Black woman, had majored in Ethnic Studies, and was recently hired at a community college as the new full-time professor to head up the Ethnic Studies department, that has no other full-time professors. I find out that a Chicana has been teaching a course in that department called Issues Facing Mexican Americans for five years as a part-time adjunct professor.

What if I, with all of my power as a full-time professor who is the nominal head of the department, then decided to change the name of the course to Intro to Latinx Studies, and because I have an Ethnic Studies degree, I am now automatically more qualified than a professor who is Chicana and has both a J.D. and a Political Science degree? What if I made this unilateral decision with no accountability either to that college or that community?

Still, I need to make sure you know this:

Even if I do not teach this class, it is important that someone else be hired who has the appropriate qualifications to teach Intro to Black Studies. It is my hope that LMC will recognize other brilliant brothers and sisters, especially the younger ones, with doctorates in African American studies and who are Black. If I am not to teach this class, I want LMC to respectfully hold off on posting this course until someone qualified is hired.

Finally, I appreciate all those who are willing to speak up, speak out, and distribute this information. I also appreciate all those who are making sure this information gets out to the community, including Laurie Huffman, my colleague and ally, who has also spoken out against this issue.

Please feel free to voice your concerns to:

  • Nikki Moultrie, LMC Dean of Career Education & Social Sciences:
  • James Noel, Chair of LMC Academic Senate:

Academic Senate meeting dates:

  • Name, Chair Curriculum Committee:

Curriculum Committee meeting dates:

Thank you all for your support and your time and attention.

Iris Archuleta is Vice President of Community Engagement for Emerald HPC International, LLC and Adjunct Professor in Social Science at LMC.

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Middle, high school students in Antioch return to campus at Learning Centers

Thursday, May 6th, 2021

A substitute teacher gives instructions to students in one of the Learning Center classrooms at Antioch High School.

“it’s been great having them, here” – Park Middle School Principal John Jimno

By Allen Payton

As of Tuesday, April 27 Learning Centers have opened at the middle and high schools in the Antioch Unified School District giving students the opportunity to return to the classroom and receive help with their online classes. The school board voted in March to open the Learning Centers instead of reopening Antioch schools fully or using a hybrid model in response to over 60% of parents surveyed not wanting their students to return to class. (See related article)

Antioch School Board Vice President Dr. Clyde Lewis and this reporter were provided tours of the Learning Centers at both Antioch High School and Park Middle School. The other middle and high schools in the district have opened one, as well. Learning Centers at the district’s elementary schools opened the previous week. (See related article)

The students participate in regular classes with their teachers, like their classmates who are distance learning from home. But they’re in a classroom with support from on-site substitute teachers and aids.

Antioch High School Tour

Antioch School Board VP Dr. Clyde Lewis (left) and AHS Site Safety Coordinator Lynn Bailey speak with Principal Louie Rocha (right) during the campus tour.

At Antioch High School there are six classrooms, four regular ed and two special ed for a total of 160 students, Principal Louie Rocha shared during the tour of his campus.

“Here they can use the WiFi and have support. Some are having trouble at home without private space,” he explained. “We have a Tuesday and Wednesday A group and students on Thursday and Friday in the B group. Special ed students are able to attend Tuesday through Friday.”

Like the elementary schools, the middle and high schools also have a process for students to enter the campus which includes having their temperature checked by a thermographic scanner.

“It can scan five people at a time,” Rocha stated. “This is something we’re going to do when we open in the fall.”

If a student has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more, they aren’t allowed to stay for the day.

Dr. Lewis gets his temperature checked by the thermal scanner inside the Beede Auditorium at Antioch High School. His was 98.6 – just right.

Lynn Bailey, Site Safety Coordinator continued as the tour guide, explaining that “the day starts at 7:45 for those with Zero Period. Otherwise, they start at 8:30 and stay until 1:30. All students attend all six of their classes. One day they’re in classes 0-3 and the second day they’re in classes 0-6. The kids get meals for the day and breakfast for the following morning.”

“Each student is assigned a classroom and no talking in the classes,” she continued. “There are substitute teachers in each.”

“I think it’s running really well. The kids seem to like it,” Bailey shared. “We have a lot of freshman who had never been on campus, yet. All of our aids are back, and we’ve put them in the classrooms with the substitutes.”

The classrooms are located in the 400 Wing which was recently renovated using Measure B funds.

“If we have more students we will probably open another hallway. We have the capacity,” she added.

Students get help from the substitute teacher in one of the Learning Center classrooms at Park Middle School.

Park Middle School Tour

Park Middle School Principal John Jimno (left) speaks with Dr. Lewis during the tour.

Principal John Jimno led the tour of the Learning Center at Park Middle School.

“We have five rooms, total going right now and a waiting list for another room which we are trying to get open in the next week,” he said. “Two days on and two days off. We have one full day room four days a week for the special needs students. There are 20 students per classroom. We’re getting more coming each day.”

The students are divided alphabetically by last name and then by grade.

“I wanted to have some normalcy for the students, so it’s been great having them, here,” Jimno continued.
A student named Malachi said he was happy to be back in school to see some of his friends.

“I’m getting so many emails from parents saying their student came home like a different kid,” Jimno stated. “It’s been a fun week being with the kids. Hopefully we will get a few more students so we can fill it up.

“For P.E., the kids walk the track and play basketball. I’m the PE teacher this week,” he added.

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Antioch School Board approves contracts with 3% raise for teachers, district management

Thursday, April 29th, 2021

Mirrors raise for classified staff approved previously, approves call for bids on modernization projects at four older schools

By Allen Payton

During their meeting on Wednesday, April 28, 2021, the Antioch School Board voted 5-0 to approve a 3% pay raise for both teachers and district management staff. That matched the raise the board gave to the classified staff during their special meeting on April 7. The board also approved a call for bids for more school improvements using the remaining funds from Measure C’s bonds.

In addition, the district received the Annual Performance Review for Rocketship Delta Prep charter school. That showed an average growth for all students of 1.24 years in math and 1.03 years in English language arts.  Rocketship Delta Prep – Annual Performance Review – 2020-21

According to the district staff reports, the Board of Education and the District Administration have been engaged in contract negotiations with the California School Employees Association (CSEA), for 2020-2021. The parties reached a tentative agreement on all outstanding matters on or about March 12, 2021. Since then, CSEA ratified the tentative agreement. The new, agreed-upon language changes and provisions were presented to the board for final approval. CSEA Agreement

The Antioch Management Association (AMA) is comprised of certificated and classified management, supervisory, and confidential employees in the District. Because it is not an exclusive bargaining representative like the Antioch Education Association and the California School Employees Association, all matters regarding compensation, work year and hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for these employees are determined exclusively by the Superintendent and the Board of Education.  AMA Agreement

The District recently completed negotiations with the Antioch Education Association for the 2020-2021 school year. The terms which were agreed upon between the parties included increases in compensation and increases in the District’s monthly contribution to employee health and welfare benefits. Staff requests that the Board of Education approve equitable increases for employees in the AMA on the Certificated and Classified Management Salary Schedule with the same effective date.

That board voted that:

1) All salary schedules and associated stipends listed on those schedules be increased by 3.00% effective July 1, 2020.

2) The District’s annual contribution to health and welfare benefits be increased to the following levels effective January 1, 2021.  Employee Only: $12,096   Employee Plus 1: $17,520   Family:  $21,300

School Projects Call for Bids

The board voted 4-0, with Trustee Gary Hack unavailable during the vote, to call for bids for modernization projects at four school sites as per the Measure C – Series E Board of Education Approved Project List.

At the Board of Education Meeting held on June 24, 2020, staff submitted a list of projects to be undertaken following the sale of the Measure C bond issuance of $10,750,000 on May 12, 2020. Staff reviewed the Antioch Unified School Facilities Improvement District #1 Project List to determine project priorities and recommended the list in prioritized order. The Board approved Project List is as follows with the total estimated cost:

Antioch Middle School – HVAC to the 100, 200, and 400 wings – $1,087.210

Park Middle School – HVAC – $621,533

Muir Elementary School –Roofing – $2,803,822

Kimball Elementary School – Roofing – $2,750,492

The project list approved at the meeting on June 24, 2020, also included the Modernization of Wings 300, 500, and 900 at Antioch High School. The District bid for that project separately which was approved at the Board of Education Meeting held on August 26, 2020. That project is now underway.

Each project listed above will be bid separately and staff will request the Board to approve and award the lowest responsive and most responsible bidder for each project.

“The bids may come in higher, especially for the roofing costs, due to the increase in lumber costs,” said consultant Chris Learned.

In response to a question from Trustee Mary Rocha, he said, “You have to take the lowest, responsible bidder. There is a little leeway, but it’s hard to reject a bid.”



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Sex ed transparency bill resurrected to be heard Wednesday after being rejected by Senate Education Committee

Tuesday, April 27th, 2021

Contra Costa’s Glazer is a committee member

By Greg Burt

This Wednesday, April 28, the Senate Education Committee is again considering approval of a bill to require school districts to put their sex education material online for easy parental access. The same bill, SB 217, failed in March, even with the support of the committee chair Senator Connie Leyva (D-San Bernardino). The author Senator Brian Dahle (R-Redding) is hoping that removing the requirement that sex education lessons be translated into various languages, will guarantee passage this time. Senator Steve Glazer is a member of the committee.

The President of the California Family Council Jonathan Keller commended Senator Dahle for working hard to resurrect the commonsense proposal. “Whether they vote Democrat or Republican, all parents believe in government transparency, especially regarding the education of their children,” Keller said. “We urge elected officials on both sides of the aisle to set aside partisan politics and support these reasonable protections for kids and families.”

Senator Dahle believes the need for the bill has increased because of the pandemic. “Given the new structure of our schooling system as changed due to COVID-19, we should encourage that parents actively participate in their child’s development and instruction,” Dahle wrote. “The shift to internet-based and technology heavy education has forced schools to prevent parents from physically accessing the school campus during the pandemic. … As such, we need to ensure that parents and students have access to all of the material and curriculum being taught by the school.”

The idea for this bill came from a Bay Area mother named Denise Pursche several years ago when her elementary school resisted showing her the new sex education curriculum to be used for her twin 5th graders. After being sent on detours, and then asking again and again, Denise finally got a chance to look at the actual lessons being used, but she could only review them at the school district office for a limited period of time. Once she saw the graphic, age-inappropriate content, Denise realized why school personnel tried to hide the curriculum from her.

It is common practice for school officials to require parents to come to the school or district offices during school hours if they want to review the sex-ed lessons, a difficult prospect for single parents or homes with two working parents.

With the help of the California Family Council, she got former Senator Mike Morrell to introduce SB 637, a bill not only required sex education materials to be translated into various languages and put online, but required schools to get parental permission before teaching comprehensive sex education to children in elementary school. Currently, parents can opt their children out of classes, but they must initiate the process.

The Senate Education Committee heard Morrell’s bill, SB 673, in January of 2020, but it died along party lines. The committee chair Senator Leyva said at the time she supported the transparency part of the bill, but not the opt-in procedure. So this year, Senator Dahle took Leyva at her word and introduced SB 217 that only included the transparency part of the bill, plus the costly provision that required the curriculum to be translated for parents who didn’t read English. Unfortunately, the bill died 3 – 3, with Senator Richard Pan not voting.

Hopefully, with the cost-prohibitive translation provision removed, at least one of the four Democrats on the education committee, Senators Richard Pan, Dave Cortese, Steven Glazer, or Mike McGuire, will change their minds and vote for the bill. SB 217 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education Committee on the morning of Wednesday, April 28.

Take Action

CALL your State Senator and tell them to vote “Yes” on SB 217!

Burt is the Director of Capitol Engagement at the California Family Council.


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Mission Elementary’s Crystal Van Dyke is Antioch Teacher of the Year

Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

Runner up is Nicole Matsutani of John Muir Elementary

Crystal Van Dyke 2021 AUSD Teacher of the Year. Photo: AUSD


The Antioch Unified School District 2021 Teacher of the Year is Crystal Van Dyke.  Mrs. Van Dyke was nominated by a fellow Mission colleague who opened his recommendation with, “Crystal is the straw that stirs the drink, the glue that holds everything together for us.  She has been a godsend for us during this distance learning, not only keeping us together and focused with our teaching but also troubleshooting all of the technical issues that we and our students have.”

As amazing as Mrs. Van Dyke has been in supporting the Mission staff, she goes above and beyond her own classroom and school walls to support the district at large.  Mrs. Van Dyke actively serves as a mentor in our pre-induction programs, and she is an outstanding professional developer who always steps up to the plate and provides engaging and relevant workshops and support sessions for all AUSD teachers.  She leads our elementary SETLs with grace and confidence, has been the key person for Seesaw support for the entire district, and will undoubtedly be the go-to for state testing this spring for all elementary teachers and administrators.

Beyond her incredible support skills, Mrs. Van Dyke is an incredible classroom teacher.  She makes lifelong connections with her students, with many coming back to visit her years after leaving her classroom and Mission.  Crystal never gives up on students and is a shining example of an educator who truly believes “all students can learn.” She is rigorous, caring, engaging, and most importantly she’s the role model so many of our students need in their lives.

Nicole Matsatani 2021 AUSD Teacher of the Year Runner Up. Photo: AUSD

This year’s runner-up for Teacher of the Year is Nicole Matsutani.  Ms. Matsutani is a K-2 Special Day Class Teacher at John Muir Elementary.  Nicole Matsutani began at Muir as a Resource Teacher.  During the 2019-20 school year, Nicole moved over to become Muir’s K-2 SDC teacher.  Nicole grew as a teacher during this time, adjusting to working with students across the spectrum, including mild/moderate students to students with extreme learning difficulties.  With the arrival of COVID-19, Nicole continued to engage deeply with her students and families.  Nicole goes above and beyond what is required of her.  With empathy and love, she makes sure her student have the supplies, work, and other necessities designed to meet the students’ IEP goals.  Nicole is caring, hardworking, and extremely dedicated to her craft.  Each student’s success is her number one priority, so much so that Nicole spends long hours lesson planning, developing IEPs , and reaching out to families daily.  Nicole’s sweet and outgoing demeanor brings warmth to all who encounter her.  She is always optimistic and seeks positive outcomes in any situation.  Nicole’s knowledge and passion for the classroom and students with disabilities truly make her a valued member of Muir’s staff and a proud AUSD employee.

There were so many wonderful nominees, it was extremely difficult to narrow down the list of finalists and even more difficult to select the Teacher of the Year and Runner-Up.  Please join AUSD in congratulating these exemplary educators!


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