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Nearly 100 candidates seek school board seats in Contra Costa County

As the election filing deadline neared in Contra Costa County on Friday, nearly 100 candidates had taken out papers for more than 20 school board races.

The filing deadline will be extended to 5 p.m. Wednesday in 11 districts where some incumbents are not seeking re-election. These include: The Acalanes, Brentwood, Byron, John Swett, Lafayette, Moraga, Mt. Diablo, Orinda, Pittsburg, Walnut Creek and West Contra Costa districts.

Just before the filing deadline, it appeared that nearly all of the races would be contested, with most incumbents facing challengers. Here is a list of the races and candidates who had qualified for the ballot by 5 p.m. Friday, followed by potential candidates who had taken out papers, but had not yet completed all the ballot requirements.

County Board of Education, Area 2: Incumbent Christine Deane and Ray Andersen.

County Board of Education, Area 4: Incumbent Richard Asadoorian and Mike Maxwell.

County Board of Education, Area 5: Incumbent Cynthia Ruehling and Jeff Belle.

Community College, Ward 1: Incumbent John Marquez and Cheryl Sudduth.

Community College, Ward 3: Tim Farley and incumbent Matthew Rinn.

Community College, Ward 4: Incumbent John Nejedly (unopposed).

Acalanes: Incumbent Susan (Susie) Epstein, incumbent Nancy Kendzierski, Kristen Correll and Robert Hockett.

Acalanes (short term): Incumbent J. Richard Whitmore (unopposed).

Antioch Unified School District: Incumbent Joy Motts, Incumbent Gary Hack and Debra Vinson and Walter Ruehlig.

Brentwood: Incumbent Emil Geddes, incumbent Heather Partida, John A. Fjeldstad, Scott S. Dudek, Susan Wallace, Johnny Rodriguez, Christina Bell and Marci Lapriore.

Byron Union: Incumbent Jill Marlene Sprenkel, Felicia Schweller and Tania Salinas. Not yet qualified: Karri Jo Murayama.

Byron (short term): Incumbent Betty Sanchez. Not yet qualified: Gina Larmar Parish.

Canyon Elementary: Incumbent David James Smith, incumbent Ian Llewellyn and incumbent Geronimo Bernard.

John Swett: Incumbent Brian Colombo, Michael Kirker and Deborah A. Brandon.

Knightsen: Incumbent Liesel Williams, Patrick Hulleman and Kristen L. Fuller, incumbent Ralph Adam McMeans and Robin Denise Pastor.

Lafayette: Incumbent Teresa Gerringer and incumbent David Gerson and Suzy Pak.

Liberty: Incumbent Roy Ghiggeri, incumbent Daron Spears, incumbent Joanne Louise Byer and Pauline Allred.

Martinez: Incumbent Deidre Siguenza, incumbent Roberta “Bobbi” Horack and Ronald Skrehot.

Moraga: Incumbent Parker Colvin, Heather O’Donnell and Jonathan Nickens.

Moraga (short term): Not yet qualified: Heather o’Donnell.

Mt. Diablo: Incumbent Linda Mayo, incumbent Cheryl Hansen, Michael Langley, Herbert Lee, Debra Mason and James Ryan Egnor-Keil.

Oakley: Incumbent Gloria Jean Lott, incumbent Mark Jordan and incumbent Arthur Fernande.

Orinda: Incumbent Juliane Rossiter, Hillary Shayne Weiner, Carol Brown and Jason Kaune. Not yet qualified: incumbent Christopher Clark Severson.

Pittsburg: Incumbent Joe Arenivar, incumbent Duane Smith and De’Shawn Woolridge. Not yet qualified: Daniel Borsuk.

San Ramon Valley: Incumbent Ken Mintz, incumbent Rachel Hurd, incumbent Denise Jennison and Jerome Pandell.

Walnut Creek: Incumbent Barbara Pennington, Stacey Schweppe, Aimee Moss, Heidi Hernandez Gatty and Sherri McGoff.

West Contra Costa: Incumbent Madeline Kronenberg, incumbent Elaine Merriweather, Elizabeth (Liz) Block, Chester Stevens, Raquel Donoso, Otheree Christian, Mister Phillips and Peter Nicholas Chau. Not yet qualified: Charlene W. Harlan-Ogbeide, Valerie Cuevas and Giorgio Cosentino.

Which candidates do you support?

Posted on Friday, August 8th, 2014
Under: Contra Costa Community College District, Contra Costa County, Contra Costa County Board of Education, Education, Election, John Swett district, Lafayette school district, Liberty district, Martinez school district, Moraga, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Orinda, Pittsburg school district, San Ramon Valley school district, Walnut Creek School District, West Contra Costa school district | 5 Comments »

A closer look at graduation and dropout rates in Contra Costa County

The state released dropout and graduation rates for districts throughout California last month, showing that on average, 80.2 percent of students in the class of 2013 graduated in four years after starting as freshmen in 2009-10. This was up from just under 79 percent in 2012.

Meanwhile, the statewide average dropout rate fell from 13.1 percent in 2012 to 11.6 percent in 2013. In Contra Costa County, seven districts surpassed the state average graduation rate, while two fell below it. County dropout averages were not quite as stellar, with five districts posting lower dropout rates, three higher and one mirroring the state.

Here’s a rundown of the countywide results, showing the 2012 graduation and dropout rates followed by 2013 graduation and dropout rates.

2012 Grad. Rate 2012 Dropout Rate 2013 Grad. Rate 2013 Dropout Rate

State 78.9 13.1 80.2 11.6
Contra Costa County 83.9 10.1 85.8 8.3
Acalanes 97.7 1.1 97.8 0.9
Antioch 74.4 16.8 77.6 11.6
John Swett 87.7 8.5 88.8 7.2
Liberty 86.3 3.5 86.4 4.5
Martinez 87.2 6.7 88.4 9.7
Mt. Diablo 81.2 14.2 82.6 12.4
Pittsburg 70.2 21.6 71.3 2.5
San Ramon Valley 97.0 1.6 98.4 0.4
West Contra Costa 75.7 18.2 79.9 13.2

The San Ramon Valley district had the highest graduation rate and lowest dropout rate in 2013, inching past Acalanes, which held that honor in 2012. More than 98 percent of San Ramon Valley seniors graduated on time last year, while less than 1 percent dropped out during their four years in high school.

San Ramon Valley spokesman Terry Koehne said his district’s impressive numbers were the result of “a quality teaching staff that truly cares about kids and a very engaged parent community.”

The tiny John Swett district also made gains, increasing its graduation rate by more than 1 percentage point to 88.8 percent, while reducing its dropout rate by about the same percentage to 7.2 percent. Superintendent Rob Stockberger credited the growth to teachers and administrators at John Swett High as well as alternatives for students who need more support.

“I think staff does a good job working with teens, but if the student becomes at risk, Willow Continuation High School becomes a really viable alternative,” he said. “And in some extreme cases, we work with the county’s Golden Gate Community School to come up with other viable options for students who are struggling in a larger environment.”

The Liberty Union district saw slight improvement in its graduation rate, growing by one tenth of a percentage point to 86.4 percent. But, its dropout rate for students in the class of 2013 compared to the class of 2012 rose 1 percentage point to 4.5 percent.

Superintendent Eric Volta said these percentages don’t tell the whole story because the class of 2013 was larger than the class of 2012. Even though more students dropped out, he said, more students graduated. In the class of 2012, 1,487 students graduated after four years and 60 dropped out. In the class of 2013, 1,573 students graduated on time, while 82 dropped out.

“For whatever reasons, we lost more seniors last year,” he said. “Had we kept the same number of seniors, our dropout rate would have gone down.”

Most of the students who dropped out were enrolled in independent study or continuation high schools, he said.

Although the Antioch district’s overall graduation rate fell below the state average, it showed significant improvement from 2012-2013, growing more than 3 percentage points. Its dropout rate plummeted more than 5 percentage points to 11.6 percent, equaling the state average.

“It’s been a real concerted and focused effort,” said Superintendent Donald Gill.

State, county, district, and school graduation and dropout rates are available by visiting http://www.contracostatimes.com/data/ci_25654370/data-center-california-graduation-and-dropout-rates-2012.

Staff writers Joyce Tsai and Paul Burgarino contributed to this report.

How do you think schools could improve graduation and dropout rates even more?

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014
Under: Antioch school district, Education, John Swett school district, Liberty district, San Ramon Valley school district | No Comments »

A closer look at Academic Performance Index scores in Contra Costa County districts

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

Students work quietly in a Richmond College Prep classroom. The school received an API score of 828 this year, soaring 33 points.

When it comes to test scores, the Academic Performance Index, or API, is considered by many to be the most important rating a California school receives. Based on standardized tests scores taken by students in grades 2-11 in the spring, the API is a composite number between a low of 200 and a high of 1,000 that shows how schools throughout the state compare to each other.

Since the scoring system was created, schools and districts have tried to reach a score of 800, considered by the state to mean most students are working at grade level. This year, 11 Contra Costa County districts achieved this goal.

But the federal government’s No Child Left Behind law measures schools according to a harder-to-reach bar. This year, 90 percent of students were required to score proficient on math and English language arts tests to meet this standard.

Those who fail to meet the standard for two years in a row are placed in federal Program Improvement and required to implement interventions. This year, 10 Contra Costa districts were in Program Improvement.

Here’s a side by side comparison of county district API scores in 2012 and 2013, showing growth or decline:

DISTRICT 2013 2012 CHANGE PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT
Acalanes 904 908 -4 No
Antioch 740 746 -6 Yes
Brentwood 861 859 +2 Yes
Byron 846 836 +10 No
Canyon 874 876 -2 No
John Swett 745 751 -6 Yes
Knightsen 816 840 -24 No
Lafayette 934 938 -4 No
Liberty 794 785 +9 No
Martinez 836 844 -8 Yes
Moraga 955 964 -9 No
Mt. Diablo 791 794 -3 Yes
Oakley 799 816 -17 Yes
Orinda 958 967 -9 No
Pittsburg 733 738 -5 Yes
San Ramon 923 928 -5 Yes
Walnut Creek 906 915 -9 Yes
West Contra Costa 717 715 +2 Yes
CALIFORNIA 789 791 -2 N/A

Districts that failed to meet the state API score of 800 were Antioch, John Swett, Liberty, Mt. Diablo, Oakley, Pittsburg and West Contra Costa. Stephanie Anello, associate superintendent of educational services in Antioch, said the district’s dip in scores came as a surprise, after teachers had been assessing students every six weeks throughout the year and principals increased classroom observations.

“It’s very disappointing, we felt we were headed in the right direction,” she said. “We’re trying to look for patterns to see what happened, but we don’t see one. For now, we are just going to have to use it to strengthen our resolve and focus on the quality of teaching that happens every single day.”

No schools in the John Swett district surpassed the state’s target of 800. In the Liberty district, one of four comprehensive high schools met that goal.

Mt. Diablo’s API score dropped three points to 791. Interim Superintendent John Bernard sent a message to the community saying the district is continuing to train teachers and administrators in the new Common Core curriculum standards, which focus on critical thinking and problem-solving.

Oakley’s API score dropped 17 points and nearly all schools in the district also saw double-digit declines, with the exception of Vintage Parkway Elementary, which posted a 14-point gain to 831. Anne Allen, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, said the district has assigned a second teacher to work as a full-time math coach at elementary grades and another to serve as a part-time middle school literacy coach.

The Pittsburg district’s score fell five points to 733, with only three of 12 comprehensive schools reaching the state’s proficiency target. The West Contra Costa district was one of four in the county to improve its API score, rising two points to 717.

“We’re happy to show improvement,” said Nia Raschidchi, assistant superintendent of educational services.

Here’s a link to the Contra Costa Times’ searchable database of API scores for all schools and districts in the state: http://www.contracostatimes.com/data/ci_23965432/2013-school-ratings?source=pkg

Staff writers Paul Burgarino and Rowena Coetseee contributed to this report.

What do you think lower-performing districts should do to improve student achievement?

Posted on Friday, August 30th, 2013
Under: Contra Costa County, Education, Liberty district, Mt. Diablo school district, Oakley district, Paul Burgarino, Pittsburg school district, Rowena Coetsee | 63 Comments »