A Change.org petition urging residents not to elect candidate Christina Dalton to the Liberty Union High School District (LUHSD) Board has logged nearly 1,300 virtual signatures since its inception three weeks ago, and proponents of the grassroots movement are hoping it will be enough to keep the retired educator from securing a seat they say she is unfit to hold.
“I care about my children’s foundation and their right to be treated as equals,” said petition organizer Chantae Orozco. “I can’t look them in the eyes and say I didn’t fight for their right to an abuse-free education.”
Opponents of Dalton’s bid for the school board said the retired math teacher and guidance counselor was verbally abusive to students over the course of her nearly 40-year tenure with the Antioch Unified and Liberty Union High school districts.
Dalton said she was never disparaging to students during her time as an educator, and maintains she is qualified to serve on the LUHSD board of trustees — claiming the virtual campaign is just dirty politics.
“This is nothing more than a smear campaign to keep me from being successful in my run for the school board,” said Dalton. “I had a perfect record, no complaints … If there was really something so evil, then why did I last 39 years?”
Orozco, who was a student in Dalton’s (then Zahn) class in 2001-2002, said the accusations are real.
“There was a time I had been home sick with the stomach flu, and my peers had 50 minutes to take the class test,” Orozco recalled. “When I went in for a makeup, she only allowed me to do so during lunch period, without a lunch, for about 25 minutes. When I failed (the test), she asked me in front of my peers to call my mom and let her know I had failed. She had my class watch me — that broke me into tears. To a teenager, that is mortifying and degrading. That’s when I finally told someone about the treatment. I was removed from the class and placed in an alternative class and passed.”
Jasmine Sherrill, had Dalton as a guidance counselor at Heritage High School in 2009. She stated that Dalton was verbally abusive and told her she would never graduate because she was not smart enough. She claimed Dalton blocked her from getting the classes she needed. Sherrill eventually ended up transferring and graduating from Independence High School.
“I did not have a good experience with her; I could not graduate on time because of her,” said Sherrill. “ … It is mental abuse; it’s abuse of power.”
Dalton said she does not specifically remember Orozco or Sherrill, adding she saw thousands of students over the course of her career. But she did offer that her approach to education has always been truthful and forthright.
“Over the years, I have had to have heart-to-hearts,” she said. “I was always honest. I don’t sugar-coat things, but I was never abusive.”
Dalton said there were no complaints filed against her during her tenure and that she was never written up. LUHSD Superintendent Eric Volta declined to comment on the situation, as did Heritage High School Principal Carrie Wells, citing personnel privacy issues. But former student Becki Porcella, who was a student at Park Middle School in Antioch in the late 1990s, recalls her experience with Dalton as a positive one.
“She was very open and helpful and positive, and she always helped everyone in my class,” said Porcella. “I don’t remember her ever saying a negative thing to the students. It’s disheartening to hear because she was such a positive influence on me, so hearing all these comments, it’s hard to believe. I don’t want to discredit what they may have gone through, but I just can’t see that happening because I never saw that side of her. I really hope she moves forward and continues because she has been an influence on so many other kids than the ones who have spoken out.”
With less than four weeks until the election, Dalton said, despite the movement against her, she will continue to stay the course.
“The way politics is, you really don’t have a choice but to keep going,” said Dalton. “A lot of people have supported me, and they know who I am. I’m not into destroying people and bringing them down. I am in for the long haul.”