Files Removed From Antioch School Campus Raise Concerns

(R-L) Antioch Unified School District employee Kim Atkinson speaks directly to Associate Superintendent of Business and Operations Liz Robbins and Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Christine Ibarra during the May 8 AUSD board meeting. Seated far left is AUSD Director of Technology Kris Lindquist. (Ray Saint Germain / Bay City News)

By Aly Brown
Bay City News

The Antioch Unified School District employee suspended for bullying his coworkers was recently seen on surveillance cameras removing files from his office, a concern for several staff given his appointment to oversee the schools’ bond dollars.

Liz Robbins, associate superintendent of business and operations, confirmed that she did escort Kenneth Turnage to his office on May 4 to retrieve “personal documents and items.”

Turnage is the AUSD director of maintenance, operations and facilities who is accused of several bullying incidents, including allegedly placing a coworker’s desk on the roof. He did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

“This is the same respectful practice that is given to district employees who are placed on paid administrative leave,” Robbins said, noting that he was under her direct supervision for the entire duration of his visit.

She did not, however, confirm whether she reviewed the files first to ascertain what was in them.

AUSD Board President Antonio Hernandez said that when he asked about the matter, it was unclear to him whether anyone checked the files retrieved by Turnage.

The issue was raised during public comment at last week’s board meeting, when the trustees voted to retain Superintendent Stephanie Anello. Employees have claimed that Anello’s friendship with Turnage was the reason she ignored complaints of bullying. Hernandez and Trustee Jag Lathan voted to remove Anello from her position, though they were outvoted by trustees Mary Rocha, Gary Hack and Clyde Lewis.

During the meeting, AUSD employee Kim Atkinson stood at the podium, voice shaking as she spoke directly to Robbins seated near the dais while sharing with the audience what she had seen on surveillance footage.

“I don’t feel safe, and you promised me I was safe,” she said. “You sent me an email and said, ‘You’re safe — everything’s been handled, no worries.’ And then you took him (to the office) without telling anybody, and you let him use his keys, and you let him disarm the alarm with his code. … What was in those files? What is going on?”

In an interview after the meeting, Kim Atkinson and her husband, Brian Atkinson, union president of the California School Employees Association’s Antioch Chapter 85, explained that for security reasons, staff are given alarm codes and can see who’s coming and going from the buildings.

Given her experience with Turnage, Kim Atkinson said she had previously expressed concerns about her safety and asked whether he still had keys and other means to access the building — to which she said Robbins assured her it was “handled.”

Yet on Saturday, May 4, the Atkinsons said they and other staff members watched remotely as Turnage used his keys to open his office and walk away with files, accompanied by Robbins.

“I was told that it was a lack of communication that Liz didn’t tell anybody that she was bringing him here to the office, and she was sorry for the lack of communication,” Kim Atkinson said. “I was physically shaking and crying, and they ended up telling me to go home for the day, that they were sorry that they assured me he did not have keys, which obviously wasn’t true.”

She went on to note that had Turnage walked away with a box of picture frames or coffee mugs, she wouldn’t have been as alarmed, but she pointed out that he’s now also the manager of the Measure B bond, a $195 million bond that narrowly passed in March this year. In an April 10 email to staff, Turnage announced that he would be overseeing all planning and construction on the bond.

When asked whether Turnage would retain his position overseeing the bond, Robbins said, “In general, an employee placed on paid administrative leave continues to hold all the job responsibilities that are contained within their job description and can be contacted at any time for information by their supervisor, under the approval of the Human Resources department.”

Brian Atkinson shared that there’s a push to bolster the existing bond oversight committee, which currently has three open seats and four members, including an AUSD-paid contractor. He expressed frustration that the last bond that was passed didn’t appear to be going toward fixing plumbing or other issues at some of the district’s oldest facilities.

“So the deep behind-the-scenes garbage that is going on, this is old-school Antioch good old boys stuff,” he said. “And even though I’ve been here since 1980, I’m not a good old boy. I don’t buy into their games.”

While the content of the files remains unclear, Hernandez said the general lack of trust within the community makes it easier to question and distrust. He is advocating for more transparency about how the bond dollars are being used and said the district’s decision to place Turnage in charge of the bond was not made in the public taxpayers’ best interest.

“I think it’s important for us to do as much as we can to prove to the community that we’re doing right by their tax dollars, that we’re spending them wisely, that ultimately we’re delivering the results for our students,” he said. “I will continue to push for systems of accountability, including updating our policies and evaluating our superintendent who has not been evaluated since 2020.”

Lathan said the call for transformative leadership in AUSD is urgent and unmistakable, as she highlighted the disparity in standardized test scores and suspension rates predominantly affecting students of color.

She said the current administration’s acceptance of failure is unacceptable.

“It’s time for a superintendent who champions justice and equity in education, ensuring every child receives the support they need to succeed academically and socially,” Lathan said.

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1 Comment
  • Patrick Saindon
    Posted at 07:36h, 16 May

    I have known Liz for 30 years she actually ran my aau program. Took care of all the books she is the most honest human I no Don’t have a crooked bone in her body. Leave her alone

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