Firstly, the district navigated off the county fiscal watch list and hitched itself to building a healthy reserve and triple A bond rating. Though we are now under siege, our balance sheet survived three years of devastating state budget cutbacks and a loss of three thousand plus student enrollment precisely because we acted soberly and conservatively.
Secondly, we have not run from the challenges of societal permissiveness, transient populations, latch-key homes, stressed single parenting and an overnight shifting to an urban demographic. We have instituted teacher diversity and behavior training, the nationally awarded Youth Intervention Network, Character Counts and Challenge Day programs, an innovative two-principal model at Deer Valley High, contract-based suspensions, and uniforms. Obviously, the battle for a safe and conducive learning climate is an ongoing constant.
Thirdly, we put before the voters a bond measure and let democracy speak. By a resounding 64 percent, the citizens voted for health and safety renovation of our older schools, some going into their sixth decade. Improvements in parking lot safety, ADA access, code-approved playground equipment, fencing, roofs, modern heating and air, and natural light mean we have extended the life of these schools, improved comfort and safety, and helped better level the playing fields between the newer and older Antioch facilities.
Fourthly, we ran with the torch of smaller learning communities anchored on career-based education. Rigor, relevance and relationship banner the success of our linked-learning centers, which now include the medical-themed Dozier-Libbey, the Performing Arts, Law and Criminal Justice, Business, EDGE (Environmental Design for a Green Environment) and Space and Science Academies.
One piece, though, kept nagging us: while we were increasing test scores on average of two points a year, which is better than a kick in the rump, the progress was too slow for us. With this week’s release of the API results, the last piece of the puzzle takes dramatic shape. In one fell stroke Antioch’s 16-point advance virtually matched its combined growth of the last 10 years.
Strikingly, five schools topped the magic 800 marker. Dozier-Libbey led the pack at 826, joined by Grant, Lone Tree, Muir and Orchard Park in that rarified atmosphere. A bunch of other schools came close. Delta Performing Arts earned the distinction of most improved, boasting a staggering 78-point increase.
Kudos, then, to the community at large: students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, campus security, custodians, crossing guards and secretaries. To anyone and everyone who comes into contact with our kids, thank you. You played a part as an everyday hero.
Of course, we have miles and miles to go before we sleep. Our scores are now at 732. Livermore, though, is at 815 and Orinda at 850. We want to run with the wolves through another year of double-digit growth, then another and another. People are already starting to move here because we are a district of choice and engaged education. We want families to move here as well for excelling test scores.
I was fortunate to grow up in Great Neck, Long Island. At the time it was one of the top 10 districts nationwide. People used to ring the bell of our handsome but modest Tudor home and leave their number to call if we ever decided to move. That’s because it was that hard and that desirable to get into that community and school system.
My prayer for Antioch, and I hope its prayer for itself, is that it becomes such a place of destination.