October 8, 2008

Antioch Unified School District Has a Big Communication Gap

By Sean Wright

Did you know that Antioch Unified School District is going through education reform? Dr. Deborah Sims, superintendent, and the Antioch School Board have embarked upon an aggressive plan to reform the district according to national trends and best practices as stated in the first and only published copy of the Antioch Unified School District's quarterly reform update.

Does this reform sound interesting, scary, or exciting? It depends on who you are and how you might be impacted by these "aggressive" changes.

However, the majority of Antioch residents are unaware of the changes that are taking place and many of our teachers are feeling unsupported, overwhelmed and disenfranchised. There is also a huge communication gap between our administrators and teachers and parents. As an example, one of the teachers from Carmen Dragon School said that she has been hearing about this great vision for a year and a half and still does not know what it is.

This great communication gap is threatening our schools, our teachers and the future of our children. Recently, I was asked by a teacher at Park Middle School how I planned to keep some of our fine teachers from leaving the district. One of the many problems is that the teachers have not been involved enough in the process of creating the new vision for our district. They have been told that change is coming, but how can the teachers be expected to "buy in" into change and reform when they don't actually know what the changes and reform are going to be?

I believe that you keep great teachers through great communication among all concerned. Through this give-and-take process, you must then allow these same teachers to utilize their experience, knowledge and talents to help create and bring about the changes. If teachers were allowed to be part of the creative reform process, they would gain ownership in the reform and want to be involved.

As an example, let's look at the business world using two very different kinds of companies: top-down companies and bottom-up companies. A top-down company has upper management discuss, decide and then tell the employees what to do. A bottom-up company offers opportunities for employees to contribute to the discussion, share their ideas and creativity. Then when decisions are made they feel a part of the great strides that occur.

Antioch Unified has already introduced some fantastic new programs, such as the new Dozier Libby Medical School and The Delta Academy for the Performing Arts. The two-principal Deer Valley High School has energized the teachers and incorporated the students into a fun high school community. The first K-8 school has just started and more innovative changes are on the horizon. The future is bright for our district, but we must become a unified district.

The district must also give the teachers a feeling of empowerment by bridging the gap of communication regardless of who caused the gap. Everyone involved in the education process needs to focus on changes ,which will improve the educational health of our schools for the betterment of our children. Remember, teachers are the ones working directly with our children in the classrooms. If they are feeling unsupported and disenfranchised it can't be good for the students.

Change for the good must happen! Let's make it a team effort.

Sean Wright is a candidate for Antioch school board.

Originally published by Sean Wright , Guest Columnist.

(c) 2008 Oakland Tribune. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.