Returning from a day toiling the field should always be as fun and inspired as it was on Sept. 27, when I stopped from work for Back to School Nights at Antioch and my son's Deer Valley High.
Both schools had overflow audiences, the largest in a good decade. More on Deer Valley to come, but suffice it to say it is ablaze with unbridled enthusiasm via its newly minted and dynamic duo co-principal model of Scott Bergerhouse and Clarence Isadore.
First stop - Antioch High - set the evening's upbeat tone. The student greeters were incredibly polite and the photo ID lanyards looked great. The fencing was aesthetically pleasing, not the feared prison look. Having seen a quad oak cut down and having a prized personal poster stolen from a trophy case two years ago, I know vandalism.
Closing the campus will also greatly improve on- and off-campus safety and reduce an after-lunch truancy rate tenfold that of Deer Valley.
Last year's impressive 26-point API test spike and gains in sub-group populations, particularly the breathtaking 46-point jump in African-American scores, has set the year's expectations high.
High school reform, a national issue, is alive and kicking at Antioch High with systemic innovations in varying stages of implementation, including the College-Going Initiative that brings institutions of higher learning to campus to demystify the admissions process; intervention programs that now meet as pull-out programs rather than the too oft no-show traditional after-school program; increased over-all academic rigor, with the bar raised to U.C. admission standards; trained reform coaches to share best instructional practices; administrators pulling away from desks to visit classrooms; increased Advanced Placement offerings and concurrent enrollment with LMC; a summer Algebra Academy collaboration with U.C. Berkeley, where 70 kids transitioned from middle school into the potential academic deal-breaker, Algebra I; and the FINO (Failure Is No Option) program led by Ed Manley to help close the achievement gap for African American students.
Not, though, to bypass the extreme makeover of the campus. We learned from Rudy Giuliani what stressing basics can do, as New York was revitalized by first addressing grafitti and broken windows. Kudos, AHS, the murals, repainting and litter awareness truly make a difference.
The sports facilities share this makeover. Principal Rocha used $90,000 from cell tower rental fees to install top-shelf grass and redo the abysmal track, which for years was too rock hard for competitive meets. The new look gets unveiled at the Oct. 12 Amador Valley game. Remaining, though, on the wish list is pool restoration, urgently overdue. It's undersized for usage; not deep enough for water polo meets and, unbelievably, must be refilled every few days from leakage.
Principal Rocha, vice principals Katie Curry, David Johnstone, Bukky Oyebade, Sylvia Ramirez and Cardenas Shackelford; the 170-member staff; and PTSA leaders Joy Mott and Maria Myers have brought Panther pride roaring back. Our high schools are doing good things in spades. Excitingly, the best is yet to come.
Antioch School Board Trustee