Former high school teacher, vice principal, and Director of Student Services
By John Crowder
Concord City Councilman and one-time mayor Ron Leone, a former vice principal at Antioch’s Deer Valley High School, confirmed today that he is running for the position of Contra Costa County School Superintendent in the June 2018 election. Incumbent Karen Sakata, serving in her first term, has not yet indicated if she will seek re-election.
Leone, who is also a former Teacher of the Year and was the Director of Student Services for the Antioch Unified School District (AUSD), has been involved in education for over forty years. In an interview with this reporter, Leone said he is running because, “education is my passion. Everything I’ve done over my career has led me to this point, and I want to use my experience to ensure our students achieve academic success.”
According to his bio on the City of Concord’s website, “Ron Leone, a resident of Concord since 1978, was elected to the City Council in 2010, re-elected in 2014. He served as Mayor in 2012 and Vice Mayor in 2014 and 2016. Leone served 35 years in education as a high school teacher and principal. He was the teacher of the year in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and teachers’ association president. He coached high school baseball, and several championship mock trial and constitutional academic teams.”
“I believe that I have the vision our schools need now,” he continued. “In many ways, our schools throughout the county need help. For example, last year the Grand Jury delivered a report on truancy that was very troubling. Our county is one of the worst in the state for truancy, but I know first-hand that we can turn this around. I served as the Director of Child Welfare and Attendance in Antioch some years ago, and was the first to conduct truancy sweeps, coordinating with local law enforcement. Students who were truant were given Saturday school, and phone calls went home to parents. In subsequent sweeps, we found that, by having real consequences for the students who skipped school, we dramatically reduced the number of repeat offenders.”
Leone also mentioned the financial challenges he plans to address.
“Another potentially serious problem is the County Office of Education’s unfunded liabilities,” he stated. “They continue to grow, and this will undoubtedly impact our ability to keep dollars in the classroom, if it continues. We faced the same issue in Concord, but by exercising the leadership needed to tackle the matter, we were able to pay down the debt and create a $30 million reserve.”
Vocational training is strongly advocated by Leone. He described a Regional Occupation Program (ROP) his students used during his tenure in Fremont.
“The Mission Valley ROP Center that was developed was part of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) with three school districts,” he said. “I believe this approach would work for our County, as well. I’m proposing a vocational training center in Central Contra Costa County. Students from several school districts would be able to attend after school hours.”
Leone wants to work closely with the local school districts in the County. As of today, he’s already met with twelve of the County’s local school district superintendents.
“One of the things that I’m seeing is that the County Office of Education can help our local districts through expanded support of teacher training,” he said. “In addition, we want to encourage school districts to implement programs that advance academic achievement, and to help engage parents in their students’ success.”
Prior to being elected to the Concord City Council, Leone served for 16 years as an elected member of the Mt. Diablo Hospital District Board, as well as Chairman of the Board of the John Muir Hospitals, and the City’s Planning Commission.
Leone invites anyone interested in learning more to contact him at RonaldLeone@comcast.net.