Category Archives: Schools

Want to know about the Grateful Dead? Go back to school

Grateful Dead play Greek Theatre Berkeley. Photo- Ken Friedman
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References to the Grateful Dead are everywhere — on pints of Cherry Garcia ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s, or at the San Francisco Giants’ Jerry Garcia Night.

The late lead singer has “become this sort of cross between Santa Claus and Smokey the Bear, this kind of patron saint in many ways,” said Peter Richardson, a lecturer in humanities at San Francisco State University.

But behind these watered-down homages and caricatures is a complicated and unlikely story — one that Richardson explores both in a book due out in January, and at a new course beginning October 1 at UC Berkeley’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Less shoot-from-the-hip, more planning for schools

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In the past fourteen years, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) has authorized $327 million in capital improvements. That represents approximately $15,000 in taxes per household, or about $35,000 per student, a generous investment by Berkeley residents. Most people are surprised to learn, however, that BUSD has allocated these resources without a Facilities Master Plan.

A Facilities Master Plan gathers and analyzes information from various sources to provide a comprehensive study of the district’s facility needs. Projections of student enrollment, an … 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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Op-ed: Berkeley schools are victims of their own success

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I am a proud graduate from, and enthusiastic supporter of, the Berkeley public schools. I am a lifelong resident of Berkeley, and have chosen to raise my family here. I love the school that my children attend, and have had nothing but tremendously positive experiences with all of the teachers and staff that have been involved in their education and care.

But Berkeley elementary schools are experiencing unprecedented problems with student population growth. In recent years, the number of students … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley program, teens learn the law, leadership

Meea Sheard spent her summer interning at the General Counsel's Office of the Peralta Community College District. Photo: Nancy Schiff
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Jay-Z and Beyoncé are working out their relationship problems. The celebrities — impersonated uncannily by two 17-year-olds — are pretty angry at each other. But eventually they restore their romance, thanks to the help of an articulate 16-year-old mediator.

Mediation role-playing is just one sliver of the Summer Legal Fellowship Program at the Center for Youth Development Through Law. Each summer, the non-profit offers 30 disadvantaged youth from Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond paid internships and training in law and leadership.

This year’s program ended with a graduation ceremony last week. The teenagers worked hard until the end, juggling their internships at various government agencies and non-profits, attending college prep and constitutional law classes, and preparing their resumes for mock job interviews. … Continue reading »

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Mediation between school district, staff union fizzles

The BUSD school board meeting at its new meeting space on Bonar St. in March headquarters. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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After failing to agree on a new contract despite three years of talking, the Berkeley Unified School District and a union representing 570 Berkeley school employees will now turn negotiations over to a fact-finding panel.

A mediator that has been working with BUSD and the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees union (BCCE) since February decided on July 29 that mediation could not bring the two sides any closer and turned the process over to a three-member panel. The main sticking point is the question of involuntary transfers. The district and union have reached agreement on many other issues, including salary raises. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley teen, recent grad, shot to death in Oakland

Ayana Dominguez (right) at a Berkeley Youth Alternatives Graduation program on June 6, 2014. Jamee Harris, her counselor, is on the left. Photo: Berkeley Youth Alternatives
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Ayana Dominguez, an aspiring hairstylist and 18-year-old recent graduate of Berkeley Technical Academy, was gunned down last week in a Wendy’s restaurant parking lot in Oakland, according to police.

Officers responded Thursday, July 10, to reports of gunshots in the Fruitvale district of East Oakland at 8:45 p.m. When they got to Wendy’s, at 3111 International Blvd., they found a man suffering from gunshot wounds. He refused an offer by police to take him to the hospital and went instead with a friend. He was Dominguez’s 22-year-old boyfriend, according to the Oakland Tribune. 

Police learned that a Berkeley teenager also had been shot and was taken to the hospital by friends. She later died of her wounds. Police identified her as Dominguez.

On Monday, friends and business associates of Dominguez were reeling from the news. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley 7th graders present 3-D project at White House

Sam with Brook Drumm, founder of Printrbot, at the San Mateo Maker Faire. Photo: Tales of a 3D Printer
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Berkeley 7th graders Jane Yarnell and Sam Schickler and their Black Pine Circle School science teacher Christine Mytko will attend the first-ever White House Maker Faire today as “honored guests.”

The three were invited after the BPC Maker Club showed its 3D-printing projects at the Bay Area Maker Faire, held in San Mateo in May.

The Maker Faire, described on the Maker Media website as “the greatest show (and tell) on earth,” is a gathering of hobbyists and professionals interested in hands-on, do-it-yourself crafts, often involving technology. … Continue reading »

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Glenchur named Berkeley High interim principal

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Kristin Glenchur, vice principal at Berkeley High for the last six years, has been appointed interim principal of BHS for the 2014-15 school year by the BUSD superintendent and board.

Glenchur’s appointment comes after a brief search for a replacement for Pasquale Scuderi, who was appointed assistant superintendent for educational services for Berkeley Unified at the start of May. When the Scuderi appointment was announced, superintendent Donald Evans said he expected to hire a new principal by the end of May.

“There wasn’t a sufficient number of applicants,” said Mark Coplan, spokesman for BUSD.

Coplan said the school district would advertise the position and seek applicants from across the country next year. … Continue reading »

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Bridge Program helps narrow Berkeley’s achievement gap

Some of the kids in the Berkeley HIgh Bridge Program are (from left): Armando Maravilla, Jared Scott, Jacari Trent-Pontoon (in green shirt), Karina Juarez, Aia Abushareefh, Yakira Evans, Michelle Resendiz and Ariana Tamayo.   Credit: Jessie Luxford
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Four years ago Armando Maravilla came out of Longfellow Middle school a C-student.  Due to graduate from Berkeley High School next week, Maravilla is now heading to San Francisco State University, planning to study psychology.

How he got from there to here has a lot to do with the Bridge Program at Berkeley High, he believes.

The Bridge Program takes C-students from middle school – about 30 every year — and offers them summer programs, afterschool homework support, and lots of advice, nagging and hand-holding by dedicated teachers. The goal is to keep those C students from slipping, and hopefully make them B and A students.

“It felt helpful – all the advice, the summer programs, the information — how you’re supposed to talk to teachers,” said Maravilla. … Continue reading »

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4 new principals appointed to elementary and middle schools, search continues for new head of Berkeley High

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Four new principals have been appointed to Berkeley elementary and middle schools, and the Berkeley Unified Board has decided to conduct a second-round search for a candidate to replace Pasquale Scuderi who is leaving his post as principal of Berkeley High to become Assistant Superintendent.

The board also approved last week the appointment of a new vice-principal at Berkeley High and a program supervisor for its Extended Learning Program.

There follows information on all the new appointments, provided by BUSD.

Hazelle Fortich is the new principal at Cragmont Elementary School

Hazelle Fortich has deep roots in our district community. She has served as Coordinator for Early Childhood Program, summer school principal, interim principal at Washington, literacy coach at Washington, after-school teacher at LeConte, and teacher at Malcolm X. One of her references states: “She lives and works in Berkeley and is a committed parent, teacher and community member. Those experiences mean that she will bring the importance of family and community to any school district. As a parent, she knows the value of strong ties to families and the value of fostering all forms of diversity in our schools.” … Continue reading »

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23 Berkeley students awarded BCF scholarships

The 2014 Berkeley Community Fund High Hopes scholarship winners. Top row, l to r: Junming Li, Kayla Garrett, Katherine Acosta-Hernandez, Monte Metal, Merewan Jemal, Julia Maciel. 2nd row: Evangelina Sanchez, Tehan Ketema, Refugio Gonzalez, Amanda Medina, Michelle Shannon, Jake Hao Ma. 3rd row: Nuha Al Ammari, Raekwon Dallett, Priyanka Jindal, Yakira Evans, Sophia Liu, Lyheng Phey. Bottom row: Derek Spears, Suyi Zhu, Alejandra Alas, Alfonso Alonso, Nora Jang. Image: Berkeley Community Fund
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The Berkeley Community Fund has granted a record number of scholarships to students from the class of 2014 at two Berkeley high schools. Twenty-three Berkeley High and Berkeley Technology Academy graduating seniors who are now college-bound will receive support to help them succeed in school and beyond.

The students, who are all in the first generation of their families to pursue a college degree, will be honored at a High Hopes scholarships awards ceremony on June 9 at the Berkeley City Club, which is open to the public (see details and register.)

Each scholar will receive $16,000, paid over four years, and important services that help them succeed in college and graduate: a volunteer mentor to help them better navigate the challenges and demands of higher education, financial literacy training, transition-to-college workshops, and support from BCF’s College Success Coordinator. … Continue reading »

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