BHS science lab debate: What Shirley said

In the concluding moments of Wednesday night’s school board meeting, director Shirley Issel made a passionate statement urging an end to the divisive rhetoric used by some sides in the argument over equity grants and science labs at Berkeley High School.

Here’s some of what Issel said:

Many people in this community have stood up for science. Many board members have stood up for science. The science department has some responsibility here along with the administration of the school to look into the delivery of this curriculum.

The other thing that is bothering me terribly is how the high school has become polarized, how parents have become polarized, how conversations and assumptions about one another are getting kind of ugly and unflattering. And it disturbs me that this notion of equity grants again pits one small school against the next, competing for scarce resources. How can that have a good ending?…


I really cannot bear to see the learning environment of our wonderful high school devolve into polarized struggles when I know how passionate is everyone is in this community to see all students achieve and all students individual needs being met. And by that I mean the students at the top who are achieving at twice the level on their AP tests of other students in the US. I’m proud of these students. When I hear these students speak, as I did at the students’ governance council, and say they were willing to give up their AP labs to make things equitable for low achieving students, it actually broke my heart.

Because you know what? No one needs to give up anything here. We can find a way to meet the needs of our high achievers, our middle students and our struggling students.

We have a philosophy on this board that focuses on the whole child, all their needs, and all students. That’s one of the great challenges of Berkeley. That we’ve made a commitment to be aware of and be responsive to the incredibly diverse needs in our community. And I don’t want to see one group pitted against the other. I want to find a way to be there for all kids.

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]
D-Day for BHS science labs? [2.02.10]
Class sizes at BHS [2.02.10]
Amended school board agenda expected [2.03.10]
Superintendent puts proposal into context [2.03.10]
Lots of talk, but no action on BHS science classes [2.04.10]
BHS science lab controversy: a parent’s viewpoint [2.04.10]