Author Archives: Mary Flaherty

Berkeley School Board primer: Discussion of overcrowding solutions continues

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Dec. 10) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. See the Dec. 10 agenda packet.

Ty Alper, elected in November, will be joining the board tonight. The board will continue its discussion of solutions to overcrowding in the schools.  See past coverage here.

Closed session

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss collective bargaining with the teachers union, as well as the hiring process for a Berkeley High principal and the appointment of an assistant principal at Malcolm X Elementary School. Public comment, up to 15 minutes, will be taken prior to the closed session.

Discussion items

Part 3 of the four-part discussion on enrollment and capacity is scheduled. The board is supposed to narrow the proposed solutions down to just two. The proposals can be viewed in the board packet online (pp. 50-76). Watch the board’s Nov. 5 discussion on this topic on vimeo (1 hours, 30 minutes). … Continue reading »

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Cal students make crowd-funding site for Berkeley schools

Tutors from the LEARNS Program, one of the school programs currently seeking a grant on the Friends & Family site, with students at Berkeley Arts Magnet. Photo: Diane Dew
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Crowd-funding has made its way to the Berkeley public schools, thanks to a group of students at Cal. Berkeley teachers can now use the Friends & Family Grants website through the Berkeley Public Schools Fund to raise money for everything from books to robotics kits.

Take John Fike for example. The Berkeley Technology Academy teacher is on special assignment this year, addressing intervention for the alternative school’s 100 or so students.

“Many have academic struggles because they have life struggles,” Fike said. Most of the students, he said, need mental heath care and emotional support.

Fike wanted funding for public speakers, field trips, training  for BTA teachers, and after-school activities, such as dance and music production classes.

Fike turned to the new Friends & Family Grants page and posted his request for nearly $10,000. He sent the link to the school’s families, but also to his own friends – many of them fellow graduates of Berkeley schools — and posted on Facebook. He also solicited family, and, “Mom was hitting up her friends,” he said.

Fike got his $9,500, and now the kids at BTA are taking dance and music classes, and planning their field trips. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: Soda tax panel, new personnel commissioner, recess restriction

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 19) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.  Follow along via the Nov. 19 agenda packet.

The board will vote on a recess restriction policy, appoint a new member of the BUSD Personnel Commission, and nominate candidates for the city’s new advisory panel on spending the Measure D “soda tax.”

Closed session

The meeting begins at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss anticipated litigation, a settlement agreement with an employee, collective bargaining and a student expulsion. Also, the board will meet with a Berkeley police representative and the Dean of Discipline at Berkeley High School to talk about campus security. Public comment, up to 15 minutes, will be taken prior to the closed session. … Continue reading »

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School board reviews recess restriction as punishment

Photo: Nick Kenrick
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Two years ago, Berkeley parent Sinead O’Sullivan got tired of hearing from her kindergartener that he was missing recess for misbehaving. She knew he wasn’t a saint, but she didn’t think taking exercise away was going to improve his behavior.

“It’s not effective,” O’Sullivan said. “ The kids who get (recess taken away) are the high-energy kids, who can’t control their bodies. It’s the last punishment they need.”

“Many kids who get recess taken away have behavioral challenges. I say, deal with a behavior problem the way you deal with a reading problem,” she continued. O’Sullivan complained to the school, which then tried other solutions to help her son manage his behavior, she said.  But the next year, he was losing recess again.

O’Sullivan did her homework. She found the following in California’s educational code:  “The governing board of a school district may adopt reasonable rules and regulations to authorize a teacher to restrict for disciplinary purposes the time a pupil under his or her supervision is allowed for recess.” … Continue reading »

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School Board considers options for tackling student surge

Photo: Pete Rosos
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With an extra 250 students projected to crowd into Berkeley schools in the coming three years, the school board considered a long list of options for creating space at its Nov. 5 meeting. The board will narrow down the choices at its Dec. 10 meeting, and decide on a plan of action in January.

After hearing a report on the options to add up to 12 classrooms, board members asked staff to more fully explore three possibilities:

  • Moving transitional kindergartens out of the elementary schools to a pre-school site;
  • Converting some, but not all, of the 12 “enrichment classrooms” around the district to regular classrooms. Enrichment classrooms are those used for art, dance, theater, science or other purposes.
  • Moving Berkeley Technology Academy and Independent Study to the Adult Education School on San Pablo Avenue, and using the BTA site on Martin Luther King Jr. Way near Derby as an elementary school.

“There’s no solution that has no downside,” said board president Josh Daniels after the presentation. … Continue reading »

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Challenger Ty Alper gets seat on Berkeley School Board; third seat too close to call

Ty Alper (second from left) on the campaign trail in September. Photo Ty Alper for School Board
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Ty Alper, a challenger, has won a seat on the Berkeley School Board with the most votes – so far — in a close race, while incumbent Josh Daniels received the second-to-most votes.

The race for the third board seat, between incumbents Karen Hemphill and Julie Sinai is so close — about a half of a percent — that it is too close to call, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters office. Vote-by-mail ballots dropped off at the polls on Election Day are still uncounted.

More information may be available by Thursday evening, but the registrar has 28 days to tally the results.

See Berkeleyside’s live election night blog for the latest vote tallies.

Alper was reached while cleaning his house today.

“Campaign HQ was my living room, and I had promised the family I would put it back to normal,” Alper said. “I’m sure we’ll celebrate, but I want to wait to see how these last votes come in before really celebrating.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: enrollment and capacity, recess restriction, emergency preparedness

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Nov. 5) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.  Follow along via the Nov. 5 agenda packet.

The board will discuss possible solutions to overcrowding in the schools and will hear the first draft of a policy on using recess restriction as a punishment. The board will also hear presentations on emergency preparedness and planning for the BSEP ballot measure in 2016.

There are no action items on the agenda; the board will not be voting on anything.

Closed session

The meeting will begin Wednesday at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss anticipated litigation, the high school principal position, and evaluation of Superintendent Donald Evans (p. 1 of the agenda). Public comment, up to 15 minutes, will be taken prior to the closed session. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: BCCE union contract, compensation report on the agenda

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 22) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.  Follow along via the Oct. 22 agenda packet.

The board is scheduled to approve a contract for a staff union that has been under negotiation for three years. The board will also approve new compensation levels for classified staff, based on comparisons with similar districts.

In addition, the board will discuss reports on indicators of student progress and adult-school benchmarks.

Closed session

The board will begin its Wednesday meeting at 6 p.m. with a closed session to discuss collective bargaining and the evaluation of Superintendent Donald Evans. Public comment, up to 15 minutes, will be taken prior to the closed session. Details are on page 1 of the regular packet. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: English Learner master plan and increasing enrollment are on the agenda

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Oct. 8) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Follow along via the agenda packet.

The board will discuss the district’s English Learner Master Plan. It will also begin a four-part process of addressing the challenges of increasing enrollment. (Read more about school enrollment issues on Berkeleyside.) … Continue reading »

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Outcry after Berkeley High abruptly cancels physics lab

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The physics lab class at Berkeley High School started out this year with a big bang – a sudden burst of students. And then it collapsed, when the course was cancelled without a word.

In the first week of school, teacher Matthew McHugh recruited 43 students in his college-prep physics classes to sign up for the separate lab that meets one day per week. Quite a feat, for a class that begins at 7:23 a.m.

For the first lab session, the students went out to Milvia Street, stationed themselves 15 meters apart, and plotted the positions and times of cars, calculating velocity to see if anyone was speeding. The next week they were to study acceleration and mass by rolling balls down the “Galileo ramp.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Andy Samberg gives back with a burger

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Thanks to comedian Andy Samberg, a Berkeley native, every time Umami Burger sells its new creation, The Samberger, Berkeley’s Center for Early Intervention on Deafness (CEID) will get a dollar.

The new Samberger comes with Chicago-style hotdog toppings: peppers, roasted tomatoes, dill pickles, a kombu relish, roasted garlic aioli, poppy seeds and yellow mustard. It sells for $13 and can be enjoyed in the East Bay at Oakland’s Umani restaurant at 2100 Franklin St.

The Saturday Night Live and Brooklyn Nine-Nine star, who apparently has no connection to Chicago other than liking its hotdogs, pointed out in a press release that the burger “has literally nothing to do with me. But it tasted really good so we went with it.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: Leadership at Malcolm X and BHS, career training, common core, more

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight (Wednesday, Sept. 17) for a closed session at 6 p.m., followed by its regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. Follow along via the Sept. 17 agenda packet.

The board will consider adding an assistant principal at Malcolm X Elementary School. The board is also slated to discuss career training efforts in the district and get an update on common core standards, including progress so far, expenditures and challenges. … Continue reading »

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State-mandated kindergarten program explains perceived student numbers squeeze at Berkeley schools

BUSD First Day 2014-15 0050
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When the Berkeley school district added two new kindergarten classes – one to Cragmont school and one to Malcolm X — just before school began, some parents were concerned about what impact the move would have on the schools, which, they said, were neither spacious nor overstaffed. In an opinion piece published on Berkeleyside, Joshua Room, former President of the PTA at Malcolm X, asked why the district couldn’t plan ahead better. Quite a few readers agreed with him.

In fact, this year’s incoming kindergarten class is smaller than last year’s class. The squeeze is instead coming from the fairly new – and growing — transitional kindergarten program, required by state law. And the BUSD admissions office said it was well aware of the crunch coming.

“I knew we needed more classrooms back in February,” said Francisco Martinez, district admissions director. But over the course of the spring, plans about where to put the transitional kindergarten classrooms went through several shifts. … Continue reading »

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