Schools

D-Day for BHS science labs?

Superintendent Huyett and Principal Slemp

It’s increasingly looking like the debate over the future of science labs at Berkeley High is coming down to political maneuvering and brinkmanship.

When BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett met BHS parents on January 19, there was a clear impression that some acceptable compromise had been reached that would both safeguard extra science lab time at the high school and find resources to improve the school’s bad achievement gap. There were suggestions that a letter would go out soon. BHS Principal Jim Slemp, who is pushing for the elimination of 0 and 7th period labs, was not at the meeting.

On January 21, Huyett did issue an alternative proposal. Huyett’s proposal suggests continuing the 0 and 7th period labs for AP and IB science classes. He also proposes extra science labs for the s0-called college prep science courses for “any student who requests it”. The plan reckons those two provisions can be accomplished with two full-time equivalent teaching posts (FTE), compared with the five used for the current system. Four FTEs will be used for “expanded course offerings”, to be determined by the high school — presumably something equivalent to Slemp’s idea of equity grants.

Fast forward to this week. The BUSD board meeting is tomorrow night, and the agenda is now available. Scroll to page 4 and a single information item:  Berkeley High School Action Plan for Re-Design in 2010-11. That’s the principal’s plan, unamended from when it emerged in December. The full plan is in the board packet (apparently: I keep getting an incomplete document when I attempt to download it). There is no alternative proposal from the superintendent, according to an email from the campaigning group Science & Equity. Further, as Slemp has maintained throughout, the item is presented to the board for information, not decision.

Is this a mistake? Is it that Slemp proved more agile at school politics than Huyett? It’s unclear right now.

  • The Science & Equity campaign is understandably up in arms. Their email, which went out this morning, calls for mass attendance at tomorrow night’s school board meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. It goes on to state: “Tell the school board just how tired you are of being yanked around by a Principal who disregards parents, and an SGC that is unfair, packed with small school teachers, and out of compliance with state law.”

Any Berkeleyside readers who attend the board meeting tomorrow night are encouraged to send in their reports.

Catch up on the story so far with Berkeleyside’s coverage:

Endangered science at Berkeley High School [12.11.09]
Science at BHS: An open letter [12.14.09]
Science and equity: BHS parents weigh in [12.16.09]
BHS Board meeting dominated by science issue [12.17.09]
The BHS science flap — the ripples are spreading [12.30.09]
BHS science/equity debate: The latest [1.06.10]
Next on the BHS agenda: Meeting with superintendent [1.11.10]
Listen live now to BHS science flap on KQED [1.13.10]
When Huyett met the BHS PTSA [1.20.10]
L.A. Times reports on BHS science lab issue [1.25.10]

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  • laura menard

    Jim Slemp’s idea of school “redesign” in reality is school “meltdown”

    Clearly this political charade has gone on long enough! Along with the tactic of pitting community members against community members while the bureaucrats still get paid on Friday.

    Folks are gonna have to stomach yet another Slemp hour long “dog and pony show” tomorrow night. Last year I watched the new Supt intensely study Slemp as Slemp told lie after lie during one of his rare board performances. Seemed pretty obvious from the Supt facial messages he was starting to wonder just how mentally unstable Slemp is.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    A little history quiz. Who said:

    “Too often, the parents of these successful students have regarded any reform aimed at furthering equity at BHS as a threat to their student’s interest, and because they are more powerful, their interests have determined the direction of the school,” he said, urging the board to approve the superintendent’s recommendations, explaining that the changes proposed were “sound and supported by a wide body of educational research.”

    and when? Probably Slemp, right?

    Ms. Menard,

    I’m a little bit skeptical that you read Mr. Huyett’s face correctly for this reason:

    As nearly as I can tell, a redesign has been a back-burner agenda item inside the administration for (Mr. Slemp says) pretty much his entire tenure. When an initial redesign plan was put forward in early 2009 it was quite similar in many ways to the current “Principal’s Plan”.

    Critically, that initial plan was put forward by Mr. Huyett and Mr. Slemp acting jointly. This suggests that, perhaps, Mr. Huyett does not in fact “wonder just how mentally unstable Slemp is.”

    The plan approved back then was to proceed with a plan from earlier discussions of a redesign, but with some changes. One change is that implementation would be sought for 2010-2011 rather than 2009-2010. This extension of the time-line was for the purpose of conducting more community outreach (which has been done) and collecting better evidence of the need (which has been done). Another change, taking advantage of the extra time, was to back away from the goal of a block-scheduled day and consider alternatives (which has been done).

    In those senses, at the very least, the recent “Principal’s Plan” is simply the promised follow-through on the Huyett/Slemp initiative, approved by the board with but one dissenting vote in early 2009.

    You could be right, of course. Perhaps Mr. Huyett has lost confidence in Mr. Slemp or has for some other reason decided at this late date to distance himself from the effort. I don’t see evidence of that beyond your claim to read that in Mr. Huyett’s facial expressions but I also don’t think it would be right to glibly dismiss your claim. As I said: you could be right.

    references:

    daily cal article, feb 2009

    http://www.dailycal.org/article/104320/berkeley_school_board_approves_compromise_redesign

    daily planet, feb 19, 2009 issue

    http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2009-02-19/article/32299?headline=School-Board-Approves-BHS-Redesign-Plan

    A part of which I think is especially worth quoting more fully:

    Berkeley High math teacher Jessica Quindel read out a statement from one of her former professors at UC Berkeley, Pedro Noguera, who is now a professor and the executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Urban Education at New York University.

    In his statement, Noguera recalled leading a study at Berkeley High called the Diversity Project from 1996-2000, which identified the underlying causes of the achievement gap and recommended changes that might help to reduce it. He said that relatively few of the recommendations were implemented by the district or the high school largely because the school already worked well for some students, particularly high-achieving white and Asian students from affluent backgrounds.

    “Too often, the parents of these successful students have regarded any reform aimed at furthering equity at BHS as a threat to their student’s interest, and because they are more powerful, their interests have determined the direction of the school,” he said, urging the board to approve the superintendent’s recommendations, explaining that the changes proposed were “sound and supported by a wide body of educational research.”