Lots of talk, but no action on BHS science classes

More than a dozen people spoke out Wednesday night against cutting science labs at Berkeley High School, but the school board took no action on the controversial proposal.

Parents and students, though, did get to hear the thoughts of BHS principal Jim Slemp, who has been publicly silent in the last few months  — after he played a rousing speech by the late Martin Luther King.

“Our community at Berkeley High School has failed the African-Americans,” said Slemp, according to the Oakland Tribune. “We need to bring everybody up — that’s what this plan is about.”

Slemp has proposed shifting the funds that pay for before and after school science labs to classes that will help close the gaps between BHS’ African-American and other students. African-Americans perform significantly lower on math and English proficiency tests than students of other races. He has not detailed what those classes might be.


Slemp presented a proposal to the Berkeley High School Governance Council on December 8 to eliminate funds for four science teaching positions to pay for the new classes. He also wants to create advisories to give all BHS students a sort of “home base” at the school. The SGC adopted his plan. Slemp contends that the school board does not have to ratify the changes.

Parents opposed to the cuts in science contend that the SGC is itself out of compliance with the law. They also argue that equity should not be achieved by eliminating classes for high performing students but by improving those offered to those who do less well in school.

A former member of the SGC, Priscilla Myrick, has filed a complaint with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office complaining that the December 8 meeting where SGC approved Slemp’s plan met in violation of the state’s open meeting laws.

Myrick also quotes a section of the California Education Code that says councils like SGC must be equally split between staff and the community, which it is not. There are 20 teachers and staff, four students, and four parents.

The BUSD superintendent hinted earlier this week that a compromise plan would be presented, one that might preserve science labs for APand IB classes. That plan was not presented Wednesday night.


The school board will formally consider the plan in a few weeks.

For additional information, read the Tribune article or one in the Daily Californian.