Vallejo Schools Cannot Ignore their Adult Students

By Marty Stockard – former GED teacher Vallejo Adult School



As the school district with the lowest graduation rate in the county, Vallejo has an obligation to not only increase the high school graduation rate, but also to provide a better “second chance” to its citizens as an investment in the city’s future. Therefore the District cannot afford to concentrate only on the K-12 students. Many students “wake up and smell the coffee” after they turn 18, realizing that at a minimum they need a high school education or equivalent, a GED.

After 13 years of being committed to my GED students while teaching in the Vallejo Adult, I find the District’s lack of support, lack of interest, and lack of communication disheartening. All of this has come about since the death of our principal, Paul Jacobs, in February 2013.

Shortly after his death the District began to dismantle classes given at the Adult School. There were many speakers at school board meetings, but their pleas fell on deaf ears. Presently, the classes offered are a mere skeleton of what used to be available. A few of the classes were “farmed out” to GVRD, but many of them just ceased to be. When the teachers tried to coalesce, heads rolled. The name was also changed from the Vallejo Adult School to Vallejo Regional Education Center with Harper Rand offering some for-profit certification classes.

For a while we coasted along, offering fewer and fewer classes. It became extremely difficult for a student to earn a high school diploma because there were so few relevant classes offered. Since March 2014 the Adult School has been “led” by an administrator located in the District office on Mare Island, communicating through the school’s office manager. This administrator is seldom on site and does not always answer emails or phone messages in a timely manner.

In June of this year, we met with the Assistant Superintendent and were told that we would be moving our location because a charter school needed our Tennessee Street building. At that meeting there were a number of reasons given for the move, not one reason was presented in favor of the Adult School. In fact, the move to the old Davidson Elementary School on Del Sur Street in the Beverley Hills neighborhood of Vallejo is much more difficult for students to get to than the centrally located Tennessee Street location. In addition, we were told that the move would be during the one week break between the Adult School spring and summer terms so that the charter school would have all summer to prepare their new site.

The move was accomplished but the school on Del Sur was filthy and in some cases trashed. The Adult School teachers brought cleaning supplies from home and worked through the weekend in order to open classes the first day of summer, June 23.

School opened and there was NO copy machine. (The district leases copy machines and the owners of the machines need to be the ones to move the machines.) We kept hearing that it would be “soon” according to the Mare Island administrator. Over 2 weeks AFTER the move, our office manager finally called the person in charge of actually ordering the move and the response was: “Oh, did the Adult School move?”

Over the years many people have worked tirelessly to promote and maintain the Adult School’s quality offerings. These efforts have met with the District’s increasing apathy and disinterest. I find the District’s callous disregard for the adult students, the faculty, staff and the public astonishing.

I have resigned, but have been clear to my students that I am not abandoning them. They have my email address and my promise to meet them at the library to help them acquire the necessary skills to pass the four GED tests whenever they need me.

I urge the voters of Vallejo to question the School Board candidates about their commitment to including adult education in the mission of the Vallejo City Unified School District. We cannot afford to ignore those many students that have attended Vallejo schools and did not graduate.

'Vallejo Schools Cannot Ignore their Adult Students' have 27 comments

  1. August 12, 2014 @ 1:11 am Salty Dog

    It should come as no surprise if adult education gets short shrift from the school district. After all, the primary goal of public education is to prepare youngsters K to 12 to be productive members of society. That, in itself is a huge goal. Those that “don’t smell the coffee” are very much a secondary consideration or an after thought ( even if the budget allows some dollars thrown at second chance programs).

    Would it not be far more practical for Sonoma College to develop an Adult Basic Education program that offered GED as well as college prep courses that encourage further education. There is nothing to stop the VUSD school board from partnering and coordinating with Sonoma to make it happen.

    If I were a candidate, that is what I would recommend….K-12 for children in a safe encouraging child centered learning environment, College for adults in an adult environment that encourages further educational opportunities. Why? Because trustees must focus policy on what is best for kids. As a trustee I would develop a closer relationship with the college to serve those adults seeking a second chance.


    • Monica

      August 12, 2014 @ 6:54 am Monica

      Thank your for your impassioned article, Ms. Stockard, and for your service to the students of our community. The problem to which you refer manifests throughout California, not just in VCUSD. In the local case, the bankruptcy in addition to the budget cuts caused by the Great Recession impacted our district twofold. Changing anything about schools, other than eliminating classes and programs, is a very slow process usually taking from 5-10 years to accomplish. Because of malfeasance that was never prosecuted, VCUSD has reduced services to all mandated programs.

      Remember that our local district continues to pay $1,000,000 per year to the State of California to repair the damage caused during the tenures of Rozanna Verder-Aliga and Hazel Wilson as school board members. Wouldn’t it be nice to have had that money for students?

      Best wishes to you, Ms. Stockard. Vote wisely, Vallejo.


    • August 12, 2014 @ 6:26 pm Chris

      I assume Salty means Solano Community College, not Sonoma College. But given the challenges and conditions of VCUSD, it really is a stretch to expect it to direct its strained resources to the ‘second chance’ when it has a difficult time dealing with the children in this town.

      This is, of course, about money. Someone perceives a need and wants someone else to pay for it. But in this town it’s a struggle because money is a scarce commodity.


  2. August 12, 2014 @ 8:20 am anon

    Vallejo’s high school dropout rate should be considered when it comes to funding for the Adult School. Even if the dropout rate has had very slight improvements over the last couple years, there are still years in which it was approximately 50%. Unless those young adults have moved on they are hanging around Vallejo, probably not in a productive fashion. What kind of jobs are they going to get without at least a GED — especially in a town that has few jobs to offer? Burglary & drugs then becomes one of the most viable ways to make money.

    Vallejo should look at offering GED courses close to the large complexes of subsidized housing, e.g., 201 Maine. It could thus help transition subsidized housing residents towards self-sufficiency, and offer an alternative to crime. Right now, those with housing subsidies do not ever face an endpoint — they can stay on the subsidy unless their income increases, so there is a built-in dis-incentive to becoming self-sufficient.


  3. August 12, 2014 @ 10:02 am Ravi Shankar

    Hi Monica,

    My knowledge of School Board/District history is minimal; I keep hearing for 2 years now some of these disappointments and ‘damages’ caused by Hazel & Rozzana and I AM CONFUSED/PERPLEXED. Will you help me unravel this mystery?

    Specifically, can you state 4 or 5 FACTS from Hazel’s and Rozzana’s actions when they were in-charge ? i.e., Actions they took, Votes they cast that directly and adversely affected the progress/finances of the School District? How did it all hurt the students/schools?

    This is for my own understanding and to remind the public …. I clarify that this is not being ‘tactfully’ presented on their behalf but my choice to go public and seek an answer!! People need to know the truth and facts — if there are blunders made by past/current people, we need to know before casting our next votes this November. I also invite you to come to the public forum when Candidates Shelee and 3 others would speak and answer questions.



    • August 12, 2014 @ 5:37 pm School Bored

      VALLEJO / Bankrupt school district to seek $60 million state loan
      Erin Hallissy, Chronicle Staff Writer

      Published 4:00 am, Saturday, April 17, 2004

      Vallejo school board members, stunned to learn earlier this year that their district has a $20 million deficit, will head to the state Capitol on Wednesday to ask for a $60 million bailout loan — the second largest ever in California.

      “I feel very distressed,” board President Rozzana Verder-Aliga said Friday. “Any time you request a state bailout, it’s not a good thing. It means that the district did not manage its resources and its finances the way it should have.”

      The entire board, along with other district and Solano County schools officials and the teachers’ union, will ask the Senate Education Committee to approve the emergency bailout, which is second only to the $100 million state loan made in 2003 to the Oakland school district.

      If the bill by state Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, is approved and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, then state schools superintendent Jack O’Connell would appoint an administrator to run the district.

      “We’re clearly already trying to identify someone who would be appropriate,” said O’Connell’s spokeswoman, Hilary McLean.

      The district is now being run by an interim superintendent, 32-year employee Cliff Solari, who was appointed after the board ousted Superintendent Gladys Phillips-Evans last month without explanation.

      Although the deficit is $20 million, the 20,000-student district must ask for a far larger bailout to get through the next few years of trying to repair a financial free fall first reported in February by consultants who audited the district’s books at the request of the Solano County Office of Education, Solari said.

      “It’s a huge number,” Solari said. “It’s a take-your-breath-away number. For this school district, it will mean it will have years of state administration. People think this will take a long time to fix, and I think they’re right.”

      The deficit grew unnoticed through years of miscalculating revenues and overspending. In February, the district’s chief financial officer, Frank Remkiewicz, abruptly resigned.

      The district has cut spending for next year, eliminating some elementary school vice principals, cutting back on counselors, librarians, gardeners and custodians and increasing sports participation fees from $25 to $75.

      The financial mess has hurt teacher morale, said teachers’ union president Janice Sullivan, especially since many spend hundreds of dollars a year out of their own pockets to buy classroom supplies.

      “We do all those things and then have administrators who can’t even add and subtract correctly,” Sullivan said. “It’s going to be very difficult in the next few years because we’re looking at more cuts.”

      William Innes, who teaches a combined third and fourth grade class, said many teachers were looking forward to an outside administrator taking over.

      “Hopefully, some confidence and faith will be restored when there is state-appointed superintendent,” he said. “I think all of us are hoping he or she will give equal priority to the needs of the students.”

      Vallejo will be the seventh district to ask for a bailout loan since the Richmond Unified School District, which later changed its name to the West Contra Costa Unified School District, received a $29 million emergency loan in 1991 after declaring itself bankrupt and threatening to close schools six weeks early before a judge ordered them to remain open.

      Verder-Aliga said she believed the state would pay the bailout, but she knows the district will have to prove it needs $60 million.

      “Nothing is a done deal,” she said. “We’re not counting our chickens before they’re hatched.”


    • August 12, 2014 @ 5:45 pm School Bored

      Audit rips Vallejo schools bosses

      By Matthias Gafni/Times-Herald, Vallejo
      Posted: 03/30/2005 06:37:00 AM

      Former Vallejo school district administrators could face criminal prosecution and the district itself could face state fines following a scathing audit released Tuesday.
      The audit was called for by Dee Alarcon, Solano County Office of Education superintendent and conducted by MGT of America, a firm specializing in audits of school districts.

      It details officials distorting numbers, hiding legal notices, violating proper bidding procedures and even nepotism.

      The fallout could be substantial. The 37 pages of findings led auditors to recommend that the Solano County District Attorney investigate possible criminal wrongdoing by former Superintendent Gladys Phillips-Evans and former assistants Frank Remkiewicz and Kevin Hanks in connection with their roles in the Vallejo Unified School District’s financial morass.

      Auditors confirmed details of apparent nepotism that some teachers had complained about last year.

      The disclosures likely will be costly to the district. The audit determined that the district could face a state fine of more than $430,000 in connection with using teachers who did not have proper credentials, including Phillips-Evans own daughter.

      The audit, under the provisions of Assembly Bill 139, was necessitated after the Vallejo City Unified School District received a $60 million bailout loan from the state last summer. The district became only the seventh district to be taken over by the state, and the loan was the largest per-student total in California history.

      The auditing firm announced its findings Tuesday at the County Office of Education in Fairfield. In attendance were Richard Damelio, the state-appointed administrator to the Vallejo school district, Vallejo Mayor Tony Intintoli, Alarcon, and Al Garza, District Attorney Dave Paulson’s chief of investigators.

      All five Vallejo school board members also were present.

      “We certainly believe there is sufficient cause for a district attorney to take a look at the evidence and take a look at whether criminal prosecution is warranted,” said Fred Forrer, a senior partner in MGT’s Sacramento office.

      Forrer said Phillips-Evans, Remkiewicz and Hanks should be investigated more closely.

      “We just received the report,” Garza said, “and it will take some time to review it and after we review it we will make a decision.”

      Garza added that his office, which had a preliminary meeting with Alarcon months ago, will remain in contact with the auditors.

      Forrer said of the findings,”It’s pretty bad on the scale of things.”


      • August 13, 2014 @ 8:45 am wow

        “The district became only the seventh district to be taken over by the state, and the loan was the largest per-student total in California history.”

        Anyone else notice this quote — largest per student bailout in state history? The Oakland school were bailed out at $100 million, but at the time, they had 48,000 students. Vallejo was bailed out for $60 million, and at the time had 20,000 students.


      • August 13, 2014 @ 8:50 am wow

        Anyone know why there was no criminal investigation of Phillips et al?

        Also, I heard that when the Board first got the news, they tried to cover it up by meeting in closed session because a school board election was on the horizon. Anyone have the details on that?


    • Monica

      August 12, 2014 @ 9:02 pm Monica

      Ravi, someone beat me to it, and I thank SchoolDaze for presenting the articles below. School board members are to a) serve the students by b) making certain that funds are spent efficiently to serve those children, and c) be the eyes and ears for the public at large. Clearly the board in 2004 failed on all three responsibilities. The superintendent is not in charge of the success or failures of a school district; rather, it is the school board who has the final decision making power.


      • August 12, 2014 @ 10:12 pm Salty Dog

        @ Monica: point of clarification

        The school superintendent most certainly IS in charge and charged with the successes and failures of a school district having been hired for that purpose. The school board hired her to run the distict efficiently and effectively to that end. They did not instruct her in her leadership style ie autocratic top-down or bottom up inclusionary, or humanistic or systems approach. She owns all of that.


        • August 12, 2014 @ 10:17 pm Salty Dog

          …moreover, the Board, has a corporate responsibility to create and implement educational policy and regulations, often ,if not always, upon the advice of senior staff.


    • Monica

      August 12, 2014 @ 9:07 pm Monica

      “I feel very distressed,” board President Rozzana Verder-Aliga said Friday. “Any time you request a state bailout, it’s not a good thing. It means that the district did not manage its resources and its finances the way it should have.”

      Perhaps the most obvious “No shit!” comment ever published…and now she’s a city council member…as I said earlier, PLEASE VOTE CAREFULLY.


  4. August 12, 2014 @ 4:55 pm Bong Hit

    Why not explore the possibility of a joint school that combines GED continuing education and the incorrigible students from the high schools that have serial disciplinary problems. My feeling is if these incorrigible students were placed along side more mature adults, their behavior would improve; the older students would not stand for mayhem in the class. If we continue with the status quo we are simply condemning more young kids to a life of misery and poverty.


  5. August 12, 2014 @ 5:55 pm Vallejo4Vallejo - No on 'E'

    It is time for change with respect to the Vallejo School Board. Wilson has been there over a decade and was there prior to the state takeover. Ubalde was responsible for the oversight of the last bond — Measure A – to the tune of $133 million. To wit: taxpayers still owe some $30million and the monies were never spent as the people advocated.
    Thank the lucky stars that Waterman is out of the running. Please look carefully at the upcoming new candidates: Cayangyang, Lewis, Loughmiller, Pucan and Worel. Some say that Porter is far too right and conservative and quite frankly, we need better balance. Racism exists now within the district and school board, we need no further zealots!
    Whatever you do, vote a resounding NO ON MEASURE E; that is a $239million bond. No amount of money will fix our schools until we fix the internal problems of accountability, transparency and safety both at the Administrative and School Board levels. Citizens deserve better. Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.


    • Monica

      August 12, 2014 @ 9:29 pm Monica

      V4V: Dr. Bishop is doing an excellent job of remedying the many personnel issues with as little disruption as possible. If you have been watching, first central office and now school sites have had staffing changes that continue to promote one goal: improve student performance and thereby improve our city.

      WE SHOULD VOTE YES YES YES ON MEASURE E! Spend some time at the school sites, and you will see dilapidated facilities, buildings in disrepair due to decades of deferred maintenance, broken furniture, missing ceiling tiles, bogs where there should be playgrounds, and deserts where there should be playing fields. Would you like to go to work every day in a place where the lighting doesn’t work, the plumbing is unreliable, and where internet and intermittent are partnered words? How do you get your job done if there aren’t enough desks, and you have to wait in 20 minute lines for an Automat (packaged food) lunch on a 30 minute lunch break? Our students deserve better. Our city deserves better. There will be a citizen’s oversight committee to ensure that the funds are spent appropriately and those frequent reports are made public and written without jargon and in clear language.

      Please drop the racism issue. It is counter-productive and expends energy that should be used to support school improvement WHICH IS HAPPENING.

      What you can do is volunteer at a local school. Our kids of all ages need adult mentors. The vast majority of our students don’t need a special school for disciplinary punishment; they need a hug, and help without embarrassment, and consistent reinforcement for any improvement they make. Only a sociopath does not respond positively to such treatment. I ran all my schools that way, and they all made great strides academically, culturally, and behavior. There is research to back it called Applied Behavior Analysis. Restorative Justice is one of the methods to nurture success. Please volunteer, everyone! Our kids, and they are ours, not someone else’s, need you. If you need one more reason to help them become the best citizen they can be, just remember: someday they will be pushing your wheelchair.


      • Monica

        August 12, 2014 @ 9:35 pm Monica

        Marc, where the hell is the edit option? I find my grammatical errors after they are published. “…funds are spent appropriately and THAT those frequent…”, “…academically, culturally, and BEHAVIORALLY.” Oy…


      • August 13, 2014 @ 12:29 pm School Bored

        There was an oversight committee for the previous $133M bond too, which trustee Tony Ubalde proudly notes his involvement with. Hazel Wilson was part of that fiasco too. Turns out there was improper spending of that Measure A money and instead of getting our schools fixed, VCUSD bought themselves a new administration building, for $19M, while the previous property sits dilapidated and an eyesore. But the new administration building is on an island with no public transportation, so that serves the administration’s goals of as little parent and public input as possible.

        Don’t give anyone more money to waste until there is reform of VCUSD.


        • August 15, 2014 @ 9:46 am School Bored

          If you ask Ubalde and Wilson where the money for the brand new administration building came from, they’ll tell you that Fund 21 was holding the $133M from Measure A AND Matching funds from the State as well. Then the Administration building was paid for by the State matching funds and NOT the Measure A money. It’s a sneaky shell game and they can’t even see how disingenuous their answers are. Fact is, they used the Measure A money (and the state matching funds which were part of reason folks voted for Measure A all along) on things that made no difference to the schools or children, and the same problems that were supposed to get fixed with Measure A are still in disrepair while the administration sits in offices with AC, plumbing, heating, and full amenities while our students suffer.

          You can’t trust these people with money like that. Don’t allow them to use up tax dollars until there is reform at VCUSD. They’re not using it to educate children.


  6. August 12, 2014 @ 9:40 pm Salty Dog

    @ Chris and Bong:

    Yes, I meant Solano College which has a Vallejo campus and, yes, funding is always an issue. But impossible.

    Consider this: the role of trusteeship is the guardianship of k-12 children and, because it is public education, the role does not discern between race,ethnicity, economic standing, sex or sexual preference. It is public education for children. Children. Adults don’t require guardians. Encouragement perhaps. Providing alternate options is advisable and progressive to be sure. A legitimate role of trusteeship is also to seek out alternatives that might assist those who, for a variety of reasons, cannot or will not suceed in the K-12 environment and who may undermine or interfere with children’s learning in the school district.

    Adult education programs at colleges that offer GED and college prep courses is nothing new and may alleviate the abysmal drop out rates and behavior issues that are currently rampant. As Bong points out, an adult environment and adult peer pressure can have a very positive influence. Moreover these students enter into and are immersed in an environment where future possibilities, options are prominantly featured that would not have been,otherwise. How do I know? I have personally and professionally witnessed these surprising transformations.

    A potential trustee with leadership ability would be looking for enhancing the security and safety of the learning environment, not through more draconian behavioral rules but rather through exploring options for those who don’t “smell the coffee” and who, being nasally challenged,interfere with the right of every child to a safe,secure,inviting quality learning experience. A college focused strategy is worth the exploration.


    • August 12, 2014 @ 9:42 pm Salty Dog

      ooops…”not impossible” first para above.


      • August 13, 2014 @ 12:26 am wharf rat

        Yes Salt ….. Perhaps … But . .. Not, Really There is a whole Scocietal , crowd that controlls a major ellement , as inthe Underground Community … They live Underground .,In the tunnels
        Far , beneath the surface , of the street !! ! They are the people of the night !!!! As A major Opera So exlempified by Their operactic ,,, performance , Amazing!!!!


  7. August 13, 2014 @ 4:57 pm Salty Dog

    Much of this thread is devoted to past failed leadership and to what trusteeship ISN’T. All well and good and provides post mortum discussion but does not draw us any closer to what “good” trusteeship IS.

    Again, I implore those seeking viable candidates to consider the long standing elements of public education and to seek out those who understand those tenets and who be able to convincingly articulate that understanding within the context of trusteeship.

    That isn’t a trick question. Hint: not even remotely related to municipal representation.


    • August 13, 2014 @ 5:31 pm Publicus

      Its also all about the money. The good citizens of Vallejo have stepped up time and again to fund bonds with nothing to show for it. The school district wants MORE even though we still owe millions on the last bond. What happened to all that money that was supposed to pay for fixing up the same physical plant that they are now telling us is in horrible condition with years of deferred maintenance that was all supposed to be covered last time around. Unfortunately, although I get it that things are bad, I am not voting for any more bonds because the VUSD has proved time and again that they cannot be trusted. Sorry. Heard of “tough love”?????


      • August 13, 2014 @ 6:43 pm Salty Dog

        I agree. Trusteeship is also about the efficient and effective use of public funds for the betterment of students. If it doesn’t already occur, a public comprehensive review of budget with public feedback is in order. Perhaps that aspect of public accountability needs to be strengthened and better emphasized.

        That isn’t tough love, just good best practices to rebuild public trust in the guardians.


  8. August 14, 2014 @ 11:31 am Publicus

    It is called a “vampire government” when the very dire conditions are perpetrated for the purposes of sucking MORE money. These types of governments are common in Africa where the photos of starving children on TV elicit a flood of humanitarian aid that ends up in Switzerland in the bank accounts of the “leaders”. In Vallejo, the horrible test scores, graduation rates and condition of the physical plant are paraded around to get MORE money from Sacramento, the Feds and us plus the demand that the citizens step up and volunteer so that the work load can be spun off to the “free” category so that there is more money for the paid category. Remember the comment from someone after the disastrous Earthquake in the Philippine Islands warning potential donors that sending money would just end up in the pockets of the elite. Only those with NO moral compass would actually create and then pimp poverty for their own gain. This is NOT the teachers doing; it is a cabal of bureaucrats paid way to much money and hiring their friends, family and incompetent contractors.


    • August 14, 2014 @ 12:25 pm Sajty Dog

      Again, I agree with the elements of your opinion. Just throwing more money at perceived deficits,without a well thought strategy does not, in itself, address the failures in public education.

      Again, I suggest that it is crucial that effective elected representative trustees are able to specifically articulate strategies that put children first; that unlocks the professional leadership in the district. These are trustees that understand their policy leadership roles as guardians of the rights of children to a safe,secure and conducive public education.

      If they can’t do that or are unwilling to get past the usual general bromides in electioneering, their resumes, experience and othe bona fides are meaningless. imo


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