Berkeley School Board primer: Berkeley High redesign, Thousand Oaks’ bilingual program, BUSD budget and more

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer

The Berkeley school’s Board of Education meets today, Wednesday, June 14. On the agenda: a vote on the proposal to overhaul Berkeley High’s ninth grade; a look at the future of bilingual education at Thousand Oaks; public hearings on the 2017-18 budget and Local Control Accountability Plan before they head for final approval; and more. Read the full agenda.

Here are some of the highlights.

BERKELEY HIGH REDESIGN A vote at tonight’s meeting is the end of a long road for a proposal to significantly restructure Berkeley High School’s ninth grade. If the board approves the proposal, the ninth-grade program would become “universal” beginning in 2018-19. All freshmen would take the same four core classes, with others in their 120-student “houses.” The division into small schools would be postponed until 10th grade. Supporters say the ninth-grade redesign would decrease segregation, giving all students a shared academic foundation and teachers a chance to collaborate. Opponents say the plan threatens small school communities or does not offer anything to high-achieving students. The redesign proposal has been developed and amended over the course of two years, and board members have expressed support for the plan, which would cost $550,000 annually. See item 13.1 for details.

THOUSAND OAKS BILINGUAL PROGRAM Families at Thousand Oaks Elementary received a letter last month notifying them of plans to consolidate the schools’ bilingual program in 2017-18, due to the declining enrollment of native Spanish speakers in the program and the district. BUSD says the program as-is is no longer viable, given changing demographics and enrollment projections. Tonight the board will hear a proposal to replace the program in 2018-19 with a school-wide “heritage” curriculum including Spanish lessons and highlighting Latino culture and current events. Thousand Oaks bilingual program participants and parents turned out in force at the last School Board meeting to protest changes to their program. There will be a community meeting at the school on June 20 on the future of the program. See item 15.1 for details.


BUDGET AND LCAP There will be presentations and public hearings on both the preliminary 2017-18 BUSD budget and the latest draft of the 2017-18 Local Control Accountability Plan. The LCAP hearing is scheduled for 8 p.m. and the budget hearing for 8:30 p.m. Both items are slated for final approval on June 28, the board’s last meeting before summer break. See items 14.1 and 14.2 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.