Berkeley School Board primer: Collective bargaining, gender-neutral bathrooms, REALM audit, and more

The Berkeley School Board in 2015. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD

The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight, Wednesday, March 8. On the agenda: morning- and after-school programs; ranking the district’s financial health; collective bargaining kick-off; updates on Measure H maintenance spending; new uses for West Campus; gender-neutral bathrooms at all schools; and the findings from a REALM Charter Schools audit.

Discussion item

LEARNS AND BEARS The board will discuss new information on the district’s two extended learning — morning- and after-school — programs, Links Enrichment, Academics, and Recreation to the Needs of Students (LEARNS) and Berkeley’s Excellent Academic Road to Success. All elementary and middle schools operate at least one of the programs, and, so far, 2,717 students have participated this school year. But participation differs dramatically between sites — Rosa Parks is the most active, with 75% of students attending the program there, whereas only 18% of John Muir students are involved. See item 13.1 for details.

Action items

INTERIM REPORT County education agencies are required to report to the state twice yearly on the status of the financial health of their school districts. These interim reports rank districts based on their ability to meet their financial obligations. BUSD is expected to report a positive ranking to the county. See item 14.1 for details.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING A public hearing tonight will kick off contract negotiations between the district and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. Both parties will present their initial proposals for a new collective bargaining agreement, to succeed the current contract, which ends on June 30. A public hearing is required before collective bargaining can begin. See item 14.2 for details.


Information items

MEASURE H Staff will update the district on Measure H expenditures and projected expenses. Measure H passed in 2010, continuing a parcel tax supporting BUSD maintenance projects. According to the district, Measure H is expected to generate nearly $6 million in fiscal year 2017. The district has spent $3.2 million of a projected $6.2 million. Measure H funds are used to hire maintenance staff, equipment, and vehicles, and to complete repairs on district buildings and landscapes. See items 15.1  and 15.2 for details.

WEST CAMPUS Big changes are in the works for the West Campus at 2020 Bonar Street, where the School Board meets. Under a new district renovation plan, West Campus will serve as a “swing site” for classes displaced by construction at other schools, and will possibly be used as a new elementary school in the future. As the district works on equipping the site for its future uses, some programs will be immediately relocated to the West Campus, including Willard’s arts program and career technical education programs. REALM Charter High School currently uses part of the building, but its lease expires in June and the school will need to relocate for the 2017-2018 school year. See item 15.3 for details.

GENDER-NEUTRAL RESTROOMS Amid national discussion on transgender students’ access to school restrooms, the Berkeley School Board will receive an update tonight on the status of gender-neutral bathrooms in its district. In 2015, BUSD created a single-stall gender-neutral restroom at each school. A survey of students in fall 2016, however, found that some of the new restrooms had incorrect signage or were not appropriately located. The district plans to assemble a working group to consider the creation of multi-stall all-student bathrooms. See item 15.4 for details.

REALM AUDIT REALM comes up again: the board will receive a presentation of the findings from an independent audit of REALM Charter Schools. The findings reveal that REALM ended the 2015-2016 school year with an operating deficit of $1.1 million, which is less substantial than the previous year’s deficit. BUSD issued REALM a notice of violation in January, citing fiscal mismanagement, the negative fund balance, deficit spending, and failure to maintain adequate cash flow. See item 15.5 for details.

Meeting details

The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education generally meets twice monthly on Wednesdays at 2020 Bonar St. The entrance to the board chambers is around the corner on Addison Street. There is a large parking lot around the corner from Addison Street, on Browning Street.


The regular meeting is set to begin by 7:30 p.m. Public comment is limited to 30 minutes, with a 3-minute limit per speaker. Public comment takes place at the beginning and end of the meeting, rather than in response to each item.

Meetings are televised live on Berkeley Community Media channel 33, and rebroadcast the following Thursday at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Meetings are also recorded for radio and played after the meeting on KPFB 89.3 FM. They are also streamed live, and posted online after the meeting. Other BUSD-related videos are posted on Youtube.

Read more Berkeleyside coverage related to Berkeley schools. See the full agenda packet, and the Berkeley School Board website.