ANTIOCH -- Implementation with fidelity.

Whether it's enforcing the student uniform policy, cracking down on tardies or consistency in enforcing discipline, that philosophy is a key part of what is needed to improve Black Diamond Middle School, according to longtime educator John Bernard.

Bernard, a senior adviser for district improvement and leadership at Total School Solutions in Fairfield, was brought in recently to find ways to check the school's pulse.

"Administration and staff do not appear to be on the same page when it comes to consistencies," he told trustees at a Feb. 26 meeting.

The report came after dozens of parents, teachers and classified employees from the southeast Antioch campus packed a December school board meeting and shared tales about the school's lack of discipline, including fighting, verbal and physical threats and intimidation against faculty, disrespectful language, bullying and a lack of security.

Since then, Bernard has been observing the campus, and retired Antioch administrators David Madrigal and Bill Bolio were brought on in January as part-time vice principals.

Among the problems Bernard said he found:

  • Site safety personnel reported they had not received training.

  • Students arrived at on-campus suspension without school work.


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  • Some students boasted that nothing will happen to them if they are referred to administration.

  • Greater-than-average absenteeism by teachers, often with no lesson plans for substitutes.

    Bernard said his recommendations include identifying the 30 to 50 students in most need of behavioral intervention and assigning them to a separate program. That "Opportunity Program" would be housed in vacant classrooms and have a modified schedule independent of the rest of the school.

    Trustees approved hiring up to two teachers for that program at the Feb. 26 meeting, and school administrators conducted interviews last week.

    The pair of positions could cost a maximum of $176,000.

    Other solutions include utilizing the underused REACH program, holding monthly coffee chats as a way to boost parent involvement, and revisiting the purpose of on-campus suspension and how it is implemented in other middle schools.

    "We're going to continue through on a step-by-step sequential basis, implementing one after the other," Superintendent Donald Gill said.

    "As we go through, I truly believe, there will be a collective spirit and support to bring Black Diamond back to what we knew just a short time ago."

    The district's African-American Male Achievement initiative, launched in the fall to help increase academic achievement and decrease suspensions among its African-American male students, can help address several issues on the campus, Bernard said.

    Teachers and parents who spoke in December said following the meeting that they were taking a wait-and-see attitude but were cautiously optimistic about the changes.

    Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

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