PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University announced students from Contra Costa County have made the President’s Honor Roll for the 2015 Fall semester. Following are the students and cities in which they live.
Antioch: Mikah Erin Nunley
Clayton: Trista Danielle Vieira
Danville: Cole Trevor Furukawa; Emily Elise Geranen; Alyssa Nicole Gonzales; Brittany Elizabeth McIntosh; Sydney Elizabeth Melin; Taylor Ann Nixon; Colette Margaret Smith; Shannon Nicole Steffen; and Hannah Stewardson.
Martinez: Rob Noel Toney; and Brandon Cooper Townsend.
Orinda: Casey Coyle Harrington; and Allison Rae Kostecki.
San Ramon: Alexandra Siobhan Farley; and William Alan Roberts.
Walnut Creek: Courtney Margaret Fitterer; Olivia Josette Lowry; Allison Morgan Milligan; and Sydney Leigh Swenson.
The President’s Honor Roll recognizes students who stand above the rest with excellent academic performance. To be eligible for the honor roll, undergraduate students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine graded hours in a single term at WSU and earn a grade point average of 3.75 or earn a 3.50 cumulative GPA based on 15 cumulative hours of graded work.
The data displayed in the President’s Honor Roll may be affected by students who restrict the release of some or all information about themselves.
For more information on WSU, visit https://wsu.edu.Read More
CONCORD – On March 16, 2016, the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) Board of Directors unanimously approved Ernesto Avila to fill the Board vacancy left by the retirement of Board President Joseph Campbell. Avila will participate in his first Board meeting representing Division 3 on April 6, 2016. The Division 3 seat along with two other board positions will be up for election in November 2016.
Avila lives in Concord and currently is Vice President of a private engineering firm. His LinkedIn page states he is Owner of Avila and Associates Consulting Engineers, Inc. His background includes 32 years of engineering experience. Over a decade ago he was an employee of the CCWD, then accepted a position running a water agency in the Monterey area and finally started his own engineering firm. He has been a Planning Commissioner with the City of Concord for the past 10 years and is an active member of the Concord community.
CCWD received applications from ten highly qualified candidates, and from those, selected six individuals for interviews conducted at the March 16 meeting. Following interviews and deliberations, the Board appointed Avila to represent Division 3.
“Board members unanimously agreed that Mr. Avila will uphold the Board’s commitment to represent the needs of our customers and provide high-quality water service with enthusiasm,” said CCWD Board Vice President, Lisa Borba.
All applications and documents related to the selection process were made available for public review on the website and at the District offices.Read More
Join us Sunday, March 20th at 6PM for a viewing party of Open Roads with Doug McConnell featuring a segment on Marsh Creek. Friends of Marsh Creek Watershed invited our friends from Save Mount Diablo, the John Marsh Historical Trust & the Independence High School Outdoor Wetlands Learning (OWL) Program to participate in a quick look at Marsh Creek top to bottom.
We will have food and soft drinks for $10. This is a family event!
You can attend without eating just sign up for a free ticket.
When: Sunday, March 20, 2016 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM (PDT) – Add to Calendar
Where: Providence Bar & Eatery – 2085 Main Street, Oakley, CA 94561 – View MapRead More
Sign up for a FREE two-day workshop and paint a self-portrait as a way to self-understanding and self-expression
The Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County is offering two-day self-portrait painting workshops at no cost to all Contra Costa County Veterans. Workshops will take place in Martinez at ARTU4iA, a working art studio led by noted artist John Kleber. No art experience required. All painting materials will be provided.
MARCH 16 & 23, 2016
6:00 – 9:00 pm
If you are a Veteran living in Contra Costa County please register at AC5.orgRead More
Becomes sixth candidate to join District 3 race
Odessa Lefrancois, a 16-year resident of East Contra Costa County and a 12-year county health services employee, made her candidacy for District 3 Supervisor official by completing her filing on Wednesday afternoon, March 9th, as supporters and volunteers dressed in “Vote for Odessa” shirts looked on at the County Office of Elections and Registration.
Informally beginning her campaign last November, by riding in a car with signs announcing her candidacy in Antioch’s Veterans Day Parade, Lefrancois is undeterred to join a race with five other candidates seeking to replace Mary Piepho.
“I’ve not only lived in the district for a long time, I’ve also worked (and still do) for the County for over a decade,” she said. “I’ve seen County governance both from the inside and the outside. More importantly, I’ve experienced, firsthand, the effects of Supervisor decisions as a resident as well as an employee. I have something unique that the other candidates don’t have – a dual perspective and experience.”
Recent decisions from the Supervisors have led Lefrancois to her run for Supervisor.
“For nearly a decade, we have seen the County reduce or completely cut services, close down health care facilities, roll back employee salaries and benefits, and insist residents do more with less,” she said. “Supervisors preached sacrifice.”
But one decision in particular concretized Odessa Lefrancois’ determination to run.”
“When the Supervisors, minus Candace Andersen, voted to raise their own salaries by an unbelievable 33% while preaching sacrifice to everyone else, I knew this County needed new leadership,” she stated. “That decision was incredibly self serving. Leaders serve the public interest, not their own interest.”
On her priorities for the County, she said, “I am neither a career politician nor a political opportunist chasing the next office. I am a mother, a resident, a County health services employee, a retired Navy veteran, and a community volunteer.”
As a mother and resident, Lefrancois’ priorities are improved public safety and the preservation of green spaces and wetlands for families to enjoy.
As an employee, Lefrancois’ priorities are better regional transportation infrastructure and County leadership that will treat their employees fairly, and to lead by example.
As a Navy vet, Lefrancois’ priorities are better health care delivery to all, especially our men and women in uniform who served honorably but now have mental and/or physical health needs to heal.
According to her bio on the NAACP East County Branch website, two weeks after graduating from Lincoln High School in McClellanville, she joined the United States Navy.
During her military career she was trained as a hospital corpsman and a respiratory therapist. Training led to a military career that took her to over thirty-five states in the United States and five foreign countries (Japan, Korea, Philippines, Canada and Mexico). She retired from the military after 21 years of honorable service at the rank of Chief Petty Officer (E7). After retirement, she went on to complete a Bachelor of Arts degree in Organizational Leadership and Management from Chapman University, in Orange County, California. Community involvement includes but not limited to Health Chair for Antioch Church Family and the current President of the East County National Association for the Advancement of Colored (NAACP) Branch.
Lefrancois is a proud mother of two children, Shane (28) and Lorraine (20) and three grandchildren. She enjoys bicycle riding, reading, traveling and most important, living a life of service to others. She is currently employed as a respiratory therapist at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center and Kaiser, Walnut Creek Medical Center. Lefrancois resides with her husband, Louis in Antioch.
The election is June 7th. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, the top two candidates will face off in the General Election in November.Read More
Antioch City Councilmember and community advocate Monica Wilson announced she had added the endorsement of State Controller Betty Yee to a growing list of support for Contra Costa Supervisor.
“Monica is a champion for Contra Costa in improving the economy and quality of life for its residents and businesses,” Yee said. “Her demonstrated leadership and experience in the business and public sectors will serve Contra Costa County well. I wholeheartedly support Monica Wilson for county supervisor.”
Controller Betty Yee, of San Francisco, currently serves as the state’s Chief Financial Officer. She chairs the Franchise Tax Board and serves as a member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards, which have a combined portfolio of nearly $500 billion. Yee was elected to the seat in November 2014, defeating the Republican Mayor of Fresno Ashley Swearengin in 2014 with 54% of the vote.
“I am thrilled to have the support of our State Controller, Betty Yee.” said Wilson. “We both share the same goal of making sure California’s working families receive their fair share.”
Prior to serving as State Controller, Betty Yee served on the Board of Equalization since 2006 until 2015, representing 21 counties in northern and central California. Yee’s 30 years of experience in public service include serving as Chief Deputy Director for Budget with the California Department of Finance.
Yee also serves on the Board of Directors for the Equality California Institute, the nation’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender civil rights organization. She is a Co-founder of the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project, which engages California high school students in public service and politics.
Yee is the newest high profile endorser for Wilson’s supervisorial campaign, which recently announced it had also received the backing of Board of Equalization Chairwoman Fiona Ma. Yee served as Vice President of California Women Lead, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization for women holding or interested in running for political office. Ma currently serves as that organization’s Treasurer.
Wilson lives in Antioch and received her M.B.A. from the University of Phoenix and her B.A. from Howard University. She is currently an Antioch City Councilmember. The seat is being vacated by outgoing third district Supervisor Mary Piepho. Contra Costa County’s third supervisorial district includes Antioch, Oakley, Brentwood, and Discovery Bay. The primary election is June 7, 2016.Read More
Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord) recognized Collette Carroll as the 2016 Assembly District 14 Woman of the Year during the annual floor ceremony, on Monday, March 14, which honors outstanding women making an impact in their local communities and across the state.
Collette Carroll, a resident of Clayton, California is a 2015 CNN Hero and the President and Executive Director of California Reentry Institute (CRI), a nonprofit organization that prepares and supports men through the transition from prison to freedom. Through her Empowered Reentry Program based out of San Quentin State Prison, Collette provides inmates with the tools and assistance to become contributing members of society, proving that with preparation and support, the cycle of incarceration can be broken.
“It is an honor to recognize Collette for her courageous work and its impact on California,” said Bonilla. “Her dedication, passion and commitment has transformed the lives of CRI graduates. The work she has accomplished inside and outside of our prisons for over 16 years proves that change and rehabilitation can happen when given the opportunity and support.”
In 2008, Collette created CRI when she realized the work she was doing was simply scratching the surface and that in order to make a successful transition from incarceration to freedom, men needed a solid and seamless pre-and post-release program. The comprehensive program which Collette runs inside San Quentin is a minimum 20 months and has had a remarkable, zero percent recidivism rate for all graduates of the program.
This past February, Collette held a graduation for a class of 43 and will begin a new class in late Spring. For more information about Collette and CRI, please visit: http://californiareentryinstitute.org/.
Assemblywoman Susan A. Bonilla (D-Concord) was elected in November 2010 and represents California’s 14th Assembly District, which includes Contra Costa County and Solano County.Read More
Mental Health Systems held a ribbon cutting and open house to officially open Contra Costa Health Services’ Assisted Outpatient Treatment program (AOT) located at 2280 Diamond Blvd. #500, Concord on Thursday, March 10, 2016.
MHS’ Contra Costa ACTiOn Team – delivered through an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) model – provides AOT to individuals that qualify for AB1421 known as Laura’s Law. The California state law was named after Laura Wilcox, a mental health worker who was killed by a man who had refused psychiatric treatment. It allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. To qualify for the program, the person must have a serious mental illness plus a recent history of psychiatric hospitalizations, jailings or acts, threats or attempts of serious violent behavior towards self or others.
The Contra Costa ACTiOn Team is designed to help consumers that face mental health challenges find the support they need to live safely and productively within the community. The program will offer treatment to individuals who meet all nine criteria described in Laura’s Law when requested from family members, cohabitants, law enforcement, or mental health providers. While AOT can be a court-ordered process for treatment, the overall goal of this program is to make treatment available on a voluntary basis, where court order will be brought in as a last resort.
Participants of the program will collaborate with ACTiOn Team members to develop individualized treatment plans and receive 24-hour access to services. Services for this program may include outreach, engagement and support, group therapy, individual therapy, case management, employment and housing assistance, medication management, wellness coaching, independent living skills and community engagement. The program will eventually have the capacity to deliver care to up to 75 eligible adults for the first year.
“This program provides the evidence-based, highly effective practice of Assertive Community Treatment with intensive supportive services provided by a multi-disciplinary team,” Mental Health Systems Vice President Dr. Laura Otis-Miles said. “It is a valuable resource in Contra Costa County to help our clients and their families break the cycle of repeated hospitalizations, incarcerations, and homelessness.”
The Contra Costa Action Team is designed to help consumers that face mental health challenges find the support they need to live safely and productively within the community. This is the first Mental Health System’s program to come to the Bay Area.
Mental Health Systems (www.mhsinc.org) is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1978 to provide innovative and cost-effective behavioral health and drug and alcohol recovery services. Currently, MHS operates more than 80 community-based programs throughout California. Leading the field of nonprofit behavioral health services, our expertise and scope is unparalleled. MHS offers culturally appropriate, client-centered and strengths-based services in its programs for children, transition age youth, adults, older adults and families. While some services are available through private insurance or self-pay, most MHS programs are publicly funded and available to those who cannot afford privately paid services would be otherwise unable to receive them. All services are provided in a client-focused, compassionate manner that underscores MHS founding values of Integrity, Excellence, Hope, Action, Innovation and Dignity.
County Issues Requests for Proposals Tied to Public Safety Realignment
Matching the formerly incarcerated with jobs, housing and other support services is seen as key in keeping them from going back to a life of crime. With that goal, Contra Costa County’s Board of Supervisors is soliciting proposals from qualified agencies to provide a range of services to bolster the transition for those released to County supervision following California’s Public Safety Realignment.
The Board is making available a total of $3,530,000 for services in specific program areas. Four Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were released Tuesday, March 1, to deliver services in the following amounts: $2,000,000 for Employment Support and Placement Services, $1,180,000 for Short and Long-Term Housing Access, $200,000 for Peer Mentoring and Family Reunification Services, and $150,000 for Civil Legal Services.
Supervisor Candace Andersen, Chair of the Board and of the County’s Public Safety Committee, notes Contra Costa has been a leader among counties in its approach to implementing Realignment.
“Partnering with experienced, innovative, effective agencies will ensure we’re tackling recidivism with the right tools,” Andersen added.
Private, not-for-profit organizations, for-profit organizations, and public agencies that offer programs serving the needs of the target population, with demonstrated effectiveness in providing evidence-based and research-informed services aimed at reducing repeat offenses, are invited to submit proposals.
A mandatory Bidders Conference for interested responders is scheduled at the following locations and times: March 7, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the Pittsburg City Council Chambers; March 8 from 10:00 a.m. to noon in the Zoning Administrator’s Room at 30 Muir Road in Martinez; or March 9 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Richmond City Council Chambers. Potential bidders need only attend one conference.
Proposals are due by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, April 1, 2016. Additional information and RFP copies are available at website: www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/2366/Services-Programs or by calling (925) 335-1097.Read More
By Allen Payton
The California State Board of Education (SBE), at their meeting on Thursday, March 10th, voted to approve the charter school petition by Rocketship to open a privately operated charter school in the Monument Boulevard area of Concord. The decision reverses the unanimous vote of the Board of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) on August 10, 2015 to deny the petition of Rocketship Mt. Diablo (RSMD). It also reverses the unanimous vote by the Contra Costa County Board of Education (CBOE) against the appeal by the charter school on October 21, 2015.
“The path to college starts in elementary school. The new Rocketship public elementary school in the Monument Corridor means more of the youngest students in the community will get on the right track and graduate prepared to succeed in college and beyond,” said Cheye Calvo, Rocketship’s Chief Growth and Community Engagement Officer. “The California Board of Education made the right decision to give families a choice to send their students to a new Rocketship public elementary school in Concord.”
According to the state board’s agenda, “Pursuant to California Education Code…petitioners for a charter school that have been denied at the local level may petition the State Board of Education (SBE) for approval of the charter, subject to certain conditions.”
The California Department of Education recommended a public hearing be held and then the conditional approve of the charter school for five years, from July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2021, with nine technical amendments, and under the oversight of the SBE.
The state board listened to arguments for the charter school from Calvo and Rocketship’s Chief Program Officer, Lynn Liao, and arguments against it by the Superintendent of MDUSD Dr. Nellie Meyer and Deborah Cooksey, the district’s Associate Legal Counsel, as well as a few others.
Each side was given 10 minutes to speak before public comments were received.
According to the slideshow and presentation by Calvo and Liao, “Rocketship Education is a non-profit network of public elementary charter schools serving primarily low-income students in neighborhoods where access to excellent schools is limited.”
The San Jose-based company has 10 schools in the Bay Area, with nearly 5,500 Pre-K through 5th Grade students, of which 86% are socioeconomically disadvantaged, 56% are English language learners, 7% are special education students and 81% are Hispanic.
Also according to the presentation, the results of the 2014-15 California State Assessment show the percent of students grades 3-5 classified as socio-economically disadvantaged who met or exceeded new Common Core standards in the Rocketship schools were in the 99th percentile for math and 86th percentile for the English language arts, both exceeding the students in the surrounding districts where their schools are located, and by double or more in math.
They had over 1,100 signatures of parents in support of the petition for the Mt. Diablo charter school.
Meyer stated that parents had been misled and caught in the grocery store and in church, and told if they sign the petition their children would be able to stay in Mt. Diablo School District and if they don’t they won’t be able to.
Cooksey told the board that “two local boards found it flawed. It doesn’t honor our community because the board of directors is so far from the school and that the parents would have to drive 50 miles to board meetings.”
During public comments Jeff Belle was the first of 44 speakers on both sides of the issue, who were each given one minute. Belle said he was speaking as a private citizen but that he was also a member of the Contra Costa County Board of Education.
“I can assure you we were very prudent in terms of our decision making,” he said.
Belle then spoke of his team of four advisors, including an attorney who is a former prosecutor, and special education, civil rights and English learner specialists.
“In terms of myself and my team, we did three things. First we had the wisdom to listen to the individuals,” he continued. “We visited Rocketship and Meadow Homes [Elementary School] and spent…more than eight hours at each place. The second thing we did was, we had the courage to lead and it takes wisdom and courage to do both.
However, before he could finish speaking and share what his team learned, the timekeeper said “Time.” Belle then finished with “I would ask you, that you would vote, vote no.”
He was followed by Ken Burt, the Political Director for the California Teachers Association, who was also opposed to the charter school.
One man, whose children are in Rocketship schools, spoke in Spanish and used an interpreter.
“Our children don’t have any time to waste,” he said. “We will get better education for our cities. Please approve the school.”
Another Spanish speaking parent said through an interpreter, “Because of lack of communication I don’t believe I am adequately supported. I ask your support of the approval of Rocketship.”
“This school has more communications,” she continued. “The teachers and the parents communicate better and there are more services for special needs children.”
Jonathan Eagan, Assistant Superintendent for MDUSD spoke about STEM education.
“Looking through their application, I’m not sure I see a lot of that,” he said about Rocketship. “Please vote no.”
Concord resident, Rich Ebert, spoke in favor of the school, blasting MDUSD.
“This discussion has very little to do with education. It’s all about politics,” he said. “The Mt. Diablo School Board is bigoted and prejudiced against charter schools of all kinds. Rocketship is no exception. They’ve been negative completely against the award winning Clayton Valley Charter and opposed the application at every level for the school of performing art. This is really about what they want for themselves.”
Barbara Oaks, a Board Member for MDUSD also spoke against the petition.
“I speak on behalf of a district with a proven record of success,” she said. Mt. Diablo is a high quality school district, offering a high quality education to every child. We teach the whole child with an emphasis on English learner students.”
One parent in support of Rocketship, Christina Gutierrez said she had worked over the last eight months to bring the school to Concord. She brought 60 letters of support from working families who could not attend the meeting, some handwritten, which she gave to the board.
“I helped gather signatures on behalf of Rocketship, and I habla Español very well, and there was no deception on our part,” she added.
Colleen Coll, a former Mayor of Concord, who teaches bilingual education to adults said some of her students signed the petition. She spoke of the 1,100 parents who had signed it.
“I ask you to honor it and bring Rocketship to our community,” she said.
Merle Hall, who owns property in the Monument coridor spoke in support.
“As the former Chair of the Board of Realtors I can tell you the relationship between education and property values,” he stated. “We have parents who are leaving because the schools are lousy. Please approve Rocketship.”
Some opponents wore bright yellow shirts with the words “No Rocketship” on them, including teachers from Meadow Homes Elementary School.
“Our students are doing great,” said one of the teachers. “We have a strong bilingual program. We have experienced and very qualified teachers. We are one of the turn-around schools. We are increasing our numbers every year. So I’m going to ask you, if we have all of this, what more can we do?”
“Our students are doing great. The community didn’t ask them to come,” he continued. “This gentlemen who wants to make money is the one who asked them to come. He wants to make money.”
Francisco Rios also spoke in Spanish and through an interpreter said, “I come to support the teachers and staff in general of Mt. Diablo and I want to say please vote no on Rocketship. I am a parent of three children who are in district schools. I am an involved parent and I have the chance to grow academically and personally with my children. I have been able to take advantage of the programs for parents offered by the district…to become a better parent, such as health classes, cooking classes…I have participated on a variety of committees.”
“Please vote no on Rocketship,” he added in English.
Following the public speaking period, the Board, including State Superintendent Tom Torlakson, took up the agenda item and asked questions about the conditions proposed by the CDE staff as part of their recommendation.
In response, CDE staff stated that Rocketship had agreed to have their board meetings or teleconferencing at the school, as well as Spanish language translators at their board meetings. There will also be an advisory board and 50% would be populated by parents of current students of Rocketship.
Torlakson further asked about online learning, monthly phone calls between CDE staff and school staff, as well as annual site visits.
Rocketship got a bit of a lecture from one of the board members.
“You can’t change the petition after the school board denied it…before the county school board could vote on it,” said Board Member Patricia Ann Rucker. “It was not political. They actually looked at what the petition said. That’s not racist. It’s not political. It’s fortunate in our appeal process, we have staff who are able to work with applicants, to close the gaps so that the petition can be approved.”
“I have to tell you frankly, I don’t think you know how to fix…the flaws in your petition,” she continued. “But I have to say it’s rather unusual, with the agreements the Superintendent has offered, in my time on the board, that we have done this much work to fix the situation which is what the staff allowed to do in this appeal process.”
“I understand that going forward, that this petition will be fixed and corrected and meet the quality of petitions that this board has approved,” Rucker said. “You just made a promise, today that you will pay attention to the flaws in your ELD [English Language Development] program. I’m holding you accountable for that because your petition is going to be approved.”
“Probably by the time you come back to have your charter renewed, I won’t be on the board,” she added. “But I hope your conscious of…how you tore a community apart, because of these very important facts I hope they will make you pay attention to these issues.”
Board Member Bruce Holaday stressed his point to the parents in attendance that “I do want parents to understand that if this charter petition is approved…and this charter school does exist, you do not have to attend it. And if you’re happy…you can stay in your district school.”
One more board member spoke before the vote.
“The ACCES has recommended a vote for approval. CDE is recommending approval. In my five years I’ve been on this board that’s rare.
It increases my confidence that this petition has met the requirements for being authorized.
She moved approval for the charter school with the additional conditions including a second visit during the year.
A few final speakers were allowed on the motion. The first was CTA Political Director Burt who spoke about fraud in the gathering of the 1,100 signatures on the petition and asking for the Board to look into it.
Another spoke thanking Member Rucker for addressing the ELD issue and said “Rocketship must have a dedicated ELD time.”
The man who used a Spanish interpreter, earlier in the meeting, said in English, “Please let us make a decision and put the political things aside. We need the best education for our kids. That’s why you are here for us.”
One final speaker wearing a “No Rocketship” T-shirt said, “This is about equity and serving our Latino parents.”
The Board then voted to approve the petition of the Rocketship Charter School with nine members raising their hands to vote in favor and one abstaining.
Following is the information for the item on the state board’s agenda, for the March 10th meeting:
Petition for the Establishment of a Charter School Under the Oversight of the State Board of Education: Consideration of Rocketship Mt. Diablo which was denied by the Mt. Diablo Unified School District and the Contra Costa County Board of Education.
The California Department of Education (CDE) recommends that the SBE hold a public hearing regarding the petition, and thereafter to conditionally approve, with nine technical amendments, the request to establish RSMD under the oversight of the SBE, for a five-year term effective July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2021, under the oversight of the SBE, based on the CDE’s findings pursuant to EC sections 47605(b)(1), 47605(b)(2), and California Code of Regulations, Title 5 (5 CCR) Section 11967.5 that the petitioner is likely to successfully implement the program set forth in the petition and the RSMD petition is consistent with sound educational practice.
For more information about Rocketship, visit their website at www.rsed.org.Read More