Category Archives: Schools

Berkeley school district places teacher Yvette Felarca on administrative leave

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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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After crash, Berkeley fifth-grader rides to school in style

Lillia Bartlow points to the fire engine arriving at her house to escort her to school on Tuesday Aug. 30. Photo: Kelly Sullivan
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Lillia Bartlow got to ride in style to her first day of fifth grade at John Muir Elementary School on Tuesday.

The 9-year-old, who was hit by a taxi in March while on a Claremont Avenue crosswalk with her mother after a PTA meeting at school, rode in a shiny red fire truck, courtesy of Engine Company 3 of the Berkeley Fire Department.

The unusual trip was arranged by the Berkeley Firefighters Random Acts of Kindness program, which also provided a pool membership at the YMCA this summer for Lillia and her mother, Khadija Bartlow.

See a photo slideshow of this morning’s BFD escort below.

Lillia said she was excited about the ride Tuesday morning as she waited for the fire engine to arrive. Before the engine pulled up in front of her family’s Ashby Avenue apartment, Lillie was dancing around, a huge smile on her face.

That was a huge difference from her homecoming from the hospital in March. The taxi that hit Lillia on March 8 broke both her legs. Rods were placed in her femurs and she had to use a wheelchair to get around, said her father, Darryl Bartlow. Her family at first feared Lillia would have to use a wheelchair for a year, but the girl, who loves gymnastics, was able to walk by June.
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Berkeley mourns death of teacher, Britt Badgley Alamo

Britt Badgley Alamo and her daughter, Elsa.
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Update, Aug. 30: A GoFundMe account has been set up to help support the family and put money into Elsa’s college fund. See Britt Badgley Alamo’s obituary on Berkeleyside.

Original story, Aug. 29: Britt Badgley Alamo, a Longfellow Middle School teacher with deep roots in Berkeley, died Friday unexpectedly in her sleep. She was 40 years old.

A passionate advocate of public education and a champion for her students, Alamo was active in the teachers’ union and “was beloved of many kids and BUSD colleagues,” one local parent told Berkeleyside. The sudden loss has left many people reeling. 

Everyone’s in shock,” said another community member. “She is BUSD through and through.”

An obituary from the family and fundraiser information are forthcoming.

Alamo and her brother, Jason, graduated from Berkeley High School. Their mother taught in the Berkeley Unified School District for 40 years. Alamo is survived by her husband, Steve, and 7-year-old daughter, Elsa Amelie, who is a Berkeley schools student.Continue reading »

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Schools

Students improve in literacy, lose ground in math

Community theater at Berkeley High School. Photos: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Berkeley students are showing gains in college preparedness and literacy, but math test scores are down, especially for black students, according to data presented Wednesday night to the Berkeley School Board at its first meeting of the school year.

Classes for Berkeley Unified students begin Tuesday, Aug. 30.

Wednesday night, School Board members got a report about the most recent assessment results, and reflected on the five Berkeley High graduates who died tragically this summer: four from fatal shootings in August, and one who drowned in June.

The board also voted to increase the budget, now officially at more than $3 million, for the John Muir Elementary modernization project, where the discovery of dry rot and structural issues with the foundation has required a $100,000 bump in the contract.

A major project to renovate Building A at Berkeley High — which includes the Berkeley Community Theater, the Florence Schwimley Little Theater, and the east classroom wing (primarily visual and performing arts classes) — can also begin now that the board has approved roughly $352,000 for design services that will serve to guide construction work down the line.  … Continue reading »

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Schools

Op-ed: Our extended family: An open letter from Berkeley Unified Superintendent

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This letter was first published on Aug. 21 by Berkeley Public Schools website. Read the letter in Spanish.

We should all be savoring the end of summer, looking forward to a new school year together, but right now we are in mourning for four members of our extended family.

We learned that 22 year old Alex Goodwin was murdered Thursday night near San Pablo Park. Alex is now the fourth of our recent Berkeley Unified graduates to … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students can get free school supplies Sunday

For more than a decade, City Councilman Darryl Moore has been teaming up with various organizations to give away back packs and school supplies. Photo: Darryl Moore
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As the summer winds down and kids prepare to head back to school, some Berkeley residents are pooling resources to ensure that students have the necessary supplies for success. The first of a number of backpack giveaways will take place this weekend, and those involved are hopeful their efforts can make a difference.

DeMaria Travillian, who was born and raised in Berkeley, will hold her first back-to-school giveaway Sunday at 11:30 a.m, at San Pablo Park. Her goal: to help as many students as possible.

For many kids, the beginning of a new school year represents a chance to reach new heights, an opportunity to learn and grow. What many may forget is that a number of kids who show up to that first day of school don’t have the proper tools to excel in the classroom. Travillian, 25, says she was reminded of this when her daughter started school.

“I noticed how many of her classmates didn’t have backpacks or crayons and it really shocked me,” said Travillian. “I always had school supplies growing up, so I was blind to the fact that there were kids who didn’t have them.” … Continue reading »

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Deer jumps into Berkeley pool, disrupts kids’ swim class

Deer in King Middle School. Photo: Jeff Johnston
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A deer leapt into the King Middle School swimming pool Thursday morning, narrowly avoiding landing on young children taking a swimming lesson there, according to a pool staffer.

The deer ran across the pool deck and jumped into the deep end, said Jasper Solomon, a lifeguard at the pool, who said the children, around 3-6 years old, were attending a summer camp swim class. Solomon and his boss, Adonis Boyd, both leapt into action as soon as the fawn landed, he said. They asked everyone to leave the pool and then, using a lifejacket and a floater as buffers, they steered the animal to the shallow end. The fawn then scrambled out of the water and ran away.

Solomon said the incident surprised the kids, but that fortunately nobody was hurt. He described the deer as small and male, probably a fawn.

“The kids got a kick out of all the excitement!” Jeff Johnston, whose son was part of the swim class, wrote us.  … Continue reading »

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After initial stumble, police and schools aim to team up

Representatives from BUSD and the School Board — Superintendent Donald Evans, Susan Craig and Ty Alper — ask the community for feedback about its policy related to sharing information with police. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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It wasn’t exactly “Kumbaya,” but Monday night’s meeting between Berkeley residents, police and school officials was described by several in attendance as a significant step, and the culmination of more than a decade of grassroots work by parents and neighborhood activists.

The goal of the meeting was to begin to hash out how the Berkeley Unified School District will approach sharing information with the Berkeley Police Department to keep the community safe while also protecting the rights of those on campus.

The school district currently has no board policy to guide those decisions. Two members of the Berkeley School Board, Ty Alper and Josh Daniels, began trying to outline a policy earlier this year.

In May, when a draft version of the policy came to the attention of the Berkeley Police Department, sparks flew. Officers said at that time they felt the board’s approach looked like an attempt to block police efforts to solve crime, and prioritize the rights of those on campus suspected of committing crimes over the rights of victims. In several cases toward the end of the school year, police said teachers and the district refused to share important information with them about active cases, including a reported sexual assault involving students. … Continue reading »

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Petition to fire Berkeley teacher garners 500 signatures

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A petition to oust a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who was involved with a counter-protest against a white supremacist group in Sacramento has gathered more than 500 signatures

The middle school teacher’s involvement at the protest prompted threats of violence against students at King.

Yvette Felarca — the middle school teacher and a member of the group By Any Means Necessary, which says it’s “building a new civil rights movement” — was filmed in Sacramento on June 26 taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending a rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. The violent altercation made headlines across the U.S. after seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized during the pandemonium.

Robert Jacobsen, a former student at King Middle School, launched a petition drive on Change.org after learning about Felarca’s involvement in the Sacramento altercation. The petition demands that the Berkeley Unified School District fire Felarca. It argues that citizens of the U.S., regardless of their political views have the right to free speech. Felarca’s interference with those rights are grounds for dismissal, according to the petition. Continue reading »

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Anonymous email threatens students at Berkeley school after Sacramento rally tied to local teacher

A police cruiser was parked outside Martin Luther King. Jr. Middle School on Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Local and federal authorities investigated threats Monday targeting youth at a North Berkeley middle school by a group that demanded the termination of a teacher who protested against a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento over the weekend.

The rally Sunday made national headlines due to violent clashes between the white supremacists who took out a permit to rally at the state capitol and the counter-protesters who showed up to confront them. According to some news reports, members of the counter-protest appear to have initiated the violence. The LA Times reported that seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized.

Read Berkeleyside’s July update.

One of the people who took responsibility for helping organize the counter-protest was Yvette Felarca, a teacher at North Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, at 1781 Rose St. Felarca is an organizer with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which helped lead a series of Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley in December 2014.

Parents of day campers were told Monday morning that one of the counter-protesters from Sacramento had been linked to the Berkeley school where the camps were located. The public outing had prompted an influx of emails to the principal demanding that the teacher be fired. … Continue reading »

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Schools

Hundreds hold vigil in Berkeley to remember Efe Ustenci

Saturday's vigil for Efe Ustenci drew hundreds of people. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Several hundred community members came together at Berkeley High School on Saturday evening to remember 17-year-old Efejon Ustenci, who drowned Wednesday in Placer County less than a week after he graduated from BHS.

The theme of the vigil, said photographer Ted Friedman, who attended the event on behalf of Berkeleyside, “was to ‘live Efe’s legacy.'”

One friend told Friedman that Efejon, known to many as Efe, would be remembered as someone who was nurturing, humorous and fair-minded. Others have described him as a natural leader looked up to by many, a talented athlete, and a kind and loving young man.

A fundraiser to help collect money for burial costs has raised more than $16,000 since it was created Friday evening.

Wrote Chris Young on the memorial page, “In my work with BIHS [Berkeley International High School] I see students names a lot and meet most of them as seniors. After visiting me once, I noted that Efe carried himself with maturity and kindness. At graduation he thanked me, though I hadn’t done much to directly serve him. Efejon Ustenci! His name jumps off my list of graduates. Yes, Efejon Ustenci. That’s that humble young man who stands out as a beautiful example of strong character for his peers and teachers. Surely, he will inspire us into the future.”

Several photographs from the memorial appear below. … Continue reading »

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