Category Archives: Schools

72K people participate in Berkeley’s ‘Great ShakeOut’

Kids participate in the Great Shakeout at LeConte Elementary School. Photo: Daphne White
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The principal did it. The janitor did it. The students did it. At 10:20 a.m. last Thursday, everyone at LeConte Elementary School in Berkeley participated in the Great ShakeOut earthquake drill. They dropped under the nearest table, covered their heads, and held on tight.

The purpose of the annual ShakeOut event is to raise awareness of the need for preparedness and to remind people to practice actual earthquake survival behaviors.

“Your past experience in earthquakes may give you a false sense of safety,” the ShakeOut website notes. “You likely have never experienced the kind of strong earthquake shaking that is possible in much larger earthquakes: sudden and intense back and forth motions of several feet per second will cause the floor or the ground to jerk sideways out from under you, and every unsecured object around you could topple, fall, or become airborne, potentially causing serious injury.”

Read more about disaster preparedness.

Berkeley had 72,000 registered participants in the Great ShakeOut, including the city of Berkeley, UC Berkeley, Berkeley National Lab, Alta Bates, seven schools and 18 neighborhood groups.

“The event gave us an opportunity to test out the Berkeley Emergency Notification System (BENS),” said Dave Brannigan, the Berkeley Fire Department’s assistant chief for special operations. “We don’t get to use the system very often, and it’s a fairly complicated system. The more we practice using it, the better.” … Continue reading »

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Address verification work continues for Berkeley Unified

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley Unified School District has continued its stepped-up efforts to cut down on enrollment fraud during its second year of widespread home visits and address verifications prompted by a new policy adopted by the School Board last year.

Wednesday night, the board got an update from BUSD admissions manager Francisco Martinez about how enrollment and address verifications have gone so far in the 2016-17 school year.

Martinez was charged by BUSD last year with keeping a closer eye on school enrollment. As part of the new board policy, students in certain grades are required to provide proof of residency — such as a utility bill and additional documents — before being allowed to re-enroll.

This year, the families of all students heading into middle and high school had to provide proof of Berkeley residency if they wished to continue to attend BUSD.

Of nearly 700 students who attended fifth grade in Berkeley last year, 33 did not provide the documents, and went elsewhere for middle school, according to Wednesday night’s enrollment update. Of approximately 740 rising ninth-graders, 28 did not submit documents and they, too, left for other districts.

District staff also visited 503 homes as part of the address verification process “when the staff believes this is necessary to ensure compliance with the Berkeley residency requirement.” As a result of that process, 89 students were not enrolled in Berkeley for the current school year. According to the report, home visits took place in Berkeley, Oakland and West Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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12 Berkeley measures will determine city’s infrastructure, education budget, campaign financing and more

Berkeley students carry Yes on E1 signs during the Solano Stroll. Photo: Yes on E1 campaign
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As a presidential campaign colored by controversy inches ever closer, local races and campaigns struggle to be heard amid the cacophony. But Berkeley’s ballot is packed with measures that will determine the near-future of the city’s infrastructure, affordable housing stock, education budget, and campaign finance system.

We’ve rounded up the 12 measures that will be on your ballot Nov. 8, taking a look at what they would change and who is gunning for them to pass.

Click the links to jump to the section of interest.

Measure T1: Infrastructure bond

What it would do: Measure T1 would authorize the city to issue up to $100 million of general obligation bonds to fix and rebuild Berkeley infrastructure over a 40-year period. Initially, property owners would be taxed at a rate of $6.35 per $100,000 of assessed value. That amount would increase as new bonds were issued, up to a high of $31.26 per $100,000. The maximum interest rate that could be paid on the bonds would be 6 percent.

See complete 2016 election coverage on Berkeleyside.

The proceeds from Measure T1 would go toward the repair or renovation of sidewalks, streets, storm drains, parks, city senior and recreation centers, and other facilities. One percent of the proceeds will be used for public art incorporated in the infrastructure. The measure also requires a public input process. … Continue reading »

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Election 2016 Berkeley: Spotlight on the School Board

From left: Abdur Sikder, Judy Appel, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler and Norma Harrison. Photos: Courtesy
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Berkeleyside wants to help you get to know your 2016 candidates for Berkeley mayor, City Council, School Board and Rent Board. We are publishing questionnaires with the candidates daily at 11 a.m. through Monday.

We’ll also have stories on all the key Berkeley races and initiatives on the ballot, and hope to help readers make informed decisions about the potential leaders and policies that could help shape Berkeley’s future.

See all local 2016 coverage on Berkeleyside.

Q&As with three of the four School Board candidates follow (the other candidate did not fill out the form). We asked why they were running, what sets them apart, what the city’s biggest challenges are and how they hope to solve them. Learn what each candidate thinks is his most inspired idea, and how each candidate plans to be accountable and accessible to constituents. Each questionnaire includes complete campaign info, including social media pages, to help readers connect.

The deadline to register to vote in Alameda County for the Nov. 8 election is Monday, Oct. 24. … Continue reading »

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Election 2016: Who is Beatriz Leyva-Cutler?

Photo: Courtesy of Beatriz Leyva-Cutler
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Name: Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

Age: 60

Job: Executive Director of BAHIA Inc.

What office are you are running for? Berkeley School Board

What is the main reason you are running? I am running for Berkeley School Board to solidify the focus through policy and practice the expectation of always holding equity and academic excellence of all our students to be a priority. In my work as a board member I have looked at data, programs, results and strengthening and amplifying the programs that are successful; … Continue reading »

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Election 2016: Who is Abdur Sikder?

Photo: Courtesy of Abdur Sikder (featured only)
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Name: Abdur Sikder

Age: 48

Job: Scientist/entrepreneur

What office are you are running for? Berkeley School Board

What is the main reason you are running? I want Berkeley School District to be a place where all children have an equal opportunity to have high quality education, all students are taught to enjoy learning not that they have to. As a parent I know what kind of environment requires for students to become lifelong learners. I attended Schools in Bangladesh, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and USA including UC San Diego, being founder of a nonprofit research institute and a for profit Software company in Berkeley I have the diverse background to understand all the stakeholders in BUSD. My two children currently attend Berkeley public institutions.

Why are you qualified for the position? Having a Ph.D. in Computer Science and training in Teaching & Learning in higher education I have the skill, experience and commitment to ensure that we use our resources efficiently. I will listen to all stakeholders and will incorporate their suggestion in the decision making process. Together we can achieve impossible. If elected I will work to have a safe, fun and friendly environment for our children to be successful including special need students. My goal is to facilitate practical oriented curriculum for our children to be ready to go to college or enter into workforce and live a productive life. … Continue reading »

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Election 2016: Who is Judy Appel?

Berkeley School Board candidate Judy Appel. Photo: Courtesy of Judy Appel
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Name: Judy Appel

Age: 51

Job: Executive director, California School-Based Health Alliance

What office are you are running for? School Board Director

What is the main reason you are running? Every child deserves the opportunity to be seen, valued and challenged at school. This is the kind of society I have been working to create for the last thirty years – as an activist, civil rights attorney, executive director, social justice leader, elected official and the proud parent of two BUSD students. It has been an honor for me to serve on the Berkeley School Board, where I have been driven by my belief in our students and my deep commitment to assuring that every one of them has access to a quality education and appropriate resources.

Why are you qualified for the position? I am currently an elected member of the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education, and served as Board President in 2015. In this role I have been a strong and consistent advocate for quality education for all of our students, with a particular focus on equity within BUSD, to assure we address the needs of our students of color, students with disabilities, and English Language Learning students. … Continue reading »

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School on alert, students on edge about ‘evil clowns’

Pennywise the Dancing Clown: thought to be an influence for the 'evil clown' phenomenon that put a Berkeley school on edge Friday Oct. 7. Photo:
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The principal of King Middle School in Berkeley contacted the police Friday after becoming concerned about a threat posted on social media about ‘killer clowns’ coming to the campus, as well as to two other local schools.

Principal Janet Levenson sent an email, labeled ‘important message,’ to the school community around 2:45 p.m. explaining that many students had been “on edge all week for fear that these evil clowns will come to King or kidnap students on their way home.”

Levinson said one of King’s students showed her an Instagram posting that stated they “were going after BHS, Longfellow and King on Friday.”

Levinson said the rumor spread on campus that the clowns would arrive during fifth period. Erring on the side of caution, she contacted BPD. … Continue reading »

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Felarca supporters shut down School Board meeting

Yvette Felarca during Wednesday night's board meeting. Image: BUSD
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A roomful of supporters of Berkeley teacher Yvette Felarca — who was placed on paid leave by the district last month — demanded during Wednesday night’s School Board meeting that she be returned to her classroom immediately and taken off leave.

Supporters, including young students as well as parents and other adults, took turns at the mic during public comment for items not on the agenda. Their message was unified: “We stand with Ms. Felarca.” When the board president attempted to move on to other items, supporters shouted her down and insisted the board take a stand.

The public outcry prompted the board to move into closed session for more than 30 minutes before it returned to the dais to continue its meeting.

A video of the disruption appears below.

More than a dozen people spoke before the board Wednesday night to say Felarca is an excellent teacher who focuses on helping students learn how to stand up for themselves and stand up for their rights.

Speakers told the board the district should support Felarca, not punish her.

“We will not let Donald Trump run this district,” said one woman. “Stop conceding to these racist attacks.… She needs to be back now.

And Felarca herself addressed the board: “Return me to my classroom tomorrow because I want to teach,” she said, adding that the board needs to act fast to reverse the “grave errors that have been made.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Community Fund celebrates 25 years of supporting young scholars with party at UC Theatre

The 27 Berkeley Community Fund High Hopes scholars. Photo: Courtesy BCF
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Saturday Oct. 8 the Berkeley Community Fund will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a big party at the UC Theatre in downtown Berkeley.

“We wanted to do something really special to mark the anniversary,” said BCF Executive Director Joleen Ruffin.

The evening includes a sit-down dinner prepared by Chef Dov and California Rose, wines curated by Narsai David, live music and an awards ceremony.

Read more about the Berkeley Community Fund on Berkeleyside.

The BCF certainly has much to celebrate: its principle mission is to provide $16,000 needs-based scholarships to motivated Berkeley youth from lower income families. In June, it honored its latest cohort of 27 Berkeley High seniors with scholarships. A total of $432,000 was awarded to the students who will receive the funds over the course of the next four years. In all, the BCF has given out $2.68 million in scholarships between 2008-2016, and has 107 active scholars as of this Fall.  73% of its scholars come from families earning less than $50,000 a year, and 90% of them are first-generation college students. … Continue reading »


Berkeley school district places teacher Yvette Felarca on administrative leave

yvette felarci featured
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The Berkeley Unified School District has placed Yvette Felarca, a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who is also a controversial anti-racist activist, on administrative leave “pending an investigation into concerns that have been raised.”

Felarca was placed on leave Wednesday, according to Charles Burress, district spokesman, who declined to be more specific because it was a personnel matter.

But Felarca and members of a group in which she serves as a political organizer, BAMN, or By Any Means Necessary, said the investigation is connected to her actions at a counter-protest against white supremacists in Sacramento on June 26. A television station filmed Felarca taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending the rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. Felarca, along with a number of others, was injured in the confrontation. Film clips show her with a head wound.   … Continue reading »

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Willard Middle School at 100: Film captures memories

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Willard Middle School is getting ready to celebrate its centennial this year. Former students, staff, and parents are planning a huge gathering for Sunday, Oct. 16 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

As part of the celebration, Berkeley filmmaker Kim Aronson has made a 19-minute film that features 13 current and former Willard students reminiscing about their time there. Starting with Paul Grundland, a 1939 graduate, and continuing to Nakalia, who will graduate in 2017, the film highlights some enduring memories and the cultural context in which students attended the school at 2435 Stuart St. Check out a timeline of the school.

Some highlights:

Harold Hayashi attended Williard in 1941 and half of 1942 – when he and his family were sent to internment camps. He remembers how Willard teachers (unknowingly) helped prepare him for the three years he spent at the Topaz internment camp.

Jane Wallace talks about how the entire school watched the Richard Nixon – John F. Kennedy presidential debate in 1960 on small screen, black and white television sets. The occasion felt monumental, she said. … Continue reading »

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Britt Badgley Alamo: Beloved educator and mother, a fierce and fervent fighter

Britt Badgley Alamo, holding her daughter, Elsa, who is now 7. Photo: Courtesy
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Fiercely outspoken at times, at other times unmoved by the ring of the phone, Britt Badgley Alamo was underestimated. She could spit fire. She was a doting mother and a caring wife; a child, herself, who carved a way in a world that she struggled to make sense of. 

Born into a world of complexity and strife, she was smart and heady; and, she became studious at an early age: reading, questioning, exploring. Somehow she set out on one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, paths a woman in her shoes could follow: She became a public school teacher in a setting where some students are undernourished, abused at home, or cannot read and write. 

She knew her students’ parents and called them to task when needed; she called Child Protective Services when a child looked like she hadn’t eaten enough; she was also, as her colleague Martha Cain puts it, the sunshine club at Longfellow Middle in Berkeley, known for her energy and enthusiasm.

See the GoFundMe page.

Britt was active in the school district’s union as site representative. She traveled to other cities to canvas on college campuses for union support and she walked in protests. Britt believed fervently in the right to quality, free public education for all students regardless of where they come from or who they are. Continue reading »

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