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Calling out Mrs. Jekyll & Dr. Clyde

Updated: Sep 26, 2021

On the evening of Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 a special meeting was called by Antioch Unified School Board President Ellie Householder. The objective of the meeting was to motion the removal of Stephanie Anello who has been employed as the AUSD superintendent since 2016. According to Householder, “The academic performance under Anello has worsened”. This sad reality is objectively true across all racial and ethnic lines and especially for African Americans students attending AUSD schools. Householder cited well known statistics that according to (2018-19) CAASP scores, 67% of African American students are not testing at proficiency in reading and writing while 79% of Black students do not meet state standards in mathematics.

She also mentioned the well-known AUSD discipline disparities; African American students are three times as likely to be suspended than their White counterparts. These statics are criminal and this “Psycho-Academic Holocaust of Black Minds” must cease and desist. The healing process for AUSD students, parents and the city of Antioch will begin when Stephanie Anello (who serves at the will of the publicly elected board) is removed from her position as superintendent. Under her tenure the AUSD board meetings have become a reality show production filled with backbiting, gossip, racial discrimination and strife. School board meetings under Anello have become no better than an adolescent operated Tick Tock, Instagram or Snapchat site. The reality is for years Anello has mismanaged and misallocated LCAP funds, engaged in racial tokenism and weaponized her position to institutionally punish those who refuse to bow down to the throne of “Queen Stephanie.” The narrative of ‘Anello vs. Householder’ is another carefully constructed district distraction to keep the public’s attention from the fact that AUSD average testing ranking is 1/10, which is in the bottom 50% of public schools in California. The ethnic minority population of AUSD is 86% and after six years of poor student outcomes, we KNOW unequivocally that Stephanie Anello is not what is best for the district moving forward. She is culturally unresponsive and out of touch with the needs of a diverse student population.

What was most disappointing to many in the African American community was not the outcome of the special board meeting (which ended in a 2-2 tie and kept Anello on as superintendent). What was most disheartening was the absence of the only African American board member Dr. Clyde Lewis. According to Board Vice President Dr. Clyde Lewis, he confirmed that he was consulted about the meeting, but stated no time or date was set. He later stated that he was not available at the time, citing a previous engagement and when asked if he supported removal of the superintendent, the question went unanswered.

Dr. Clyde Lewis is a brilliant, highly educated and articulate scholar who was supported by many in the Antioch Black community during his campaign in November of 2020. He defeated the African American incumbent Crystal Sawyer-White, who during her tenure suffered intense racial harassment and discrimination under Stephanie Anello. Other Black residents in Antioch were skeptical of his political conservatism and his ties to local organizations that are not committed to racial justice and have a history of ‘curating Black leaders’. The majority of African Americans who supported his candidacy had hopes that he would be the one who stood up for all students but especially the four thousand plus African American students in a non-superficial manner.

We were not looking for more co-opted MLK programs, failed Black student/parent interventions, or online schools named after our ancestors without understanding the true historical significance. The Black community was looking for an objective school board member who could racially identify with the suffering of our students. Someone who would hear the grievances of African American students in AUSD and would seek to liberate them by removing anyone who consistently ignored their cries. We were hoping to have in Dr. Lewis an equity champion who would hold Superintendent Anello for her mishandling of the Antioch High School police brutality incident, her failure to address student racial disparities and her inability to increase the number of AUSD African American teachers (only 7%).

Dr. Lewis, how can you disappear when 86% of Black students who receive an AUSD diploma are NOT eligible to attend a four-year university? Dr. Martin Luther King once wrote in the 1963’s Letter in a Birmingham Jail that, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others.

What was even more disheartening is that Dr. Lewis left two board members of non-African descent to advocate for the suffering of Black students. We KNOW how former AUSD Trustee Crystal Sawyer-White would have voted but Dr. Lewis remains an enigma to so many. A Dr. Lewis vote in-favor of Anello would have been appalling, but a no-show is absolutely unacceptable. Many Black Antioch residents showed up to vote for him in November 2020, and now it was time for him to show up for their students in September 2021. But his response was not affirmative when our suffering students needed immediate action. Dr. Lewis must understand that he does NOT work for Superintendent Anello. She is an at-will employee who serves at the will of the school board. Therefore, at any time with a 24-hour notice, Dr. Lewis does have a chance at redemption. The question is, will history remember him as one who was audacious or one who was absent. To be clear, this article is not a reflection on his character, but a challenge for him to respond to a higher calling. Dr. Clyde Lewis Jr. this article was written not only to call you out, but to call you up!

By: Dr. Lamont Ali Francies, PPSC

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