Category Archives: Schools

Berkeley 8th graders raise $80K to build their own library

REALM library
Print Friendly

A Berkeley middle school’s successful campaign to crowd-fund the creation of its first library is one for the books.

Still in its infancy, REALM charter school was lacking a library, so its eighth grade class launched a Kickstarter campaign in March. In one month they raised the nearly $79,000 that will allow them to realize their innovative design for a room full of books and multimedia tools. Quest Foundation, a grant-making organization in Danville, contributed $30,000 in matching funds to the campaign.

The ultramodern library, called “X-Space,” is the product of months of brainstorming and building in teacher Hallie Chen’s design class, Studio H.

“Because we’re a new school, the instinct for students is to look around and say, ‘These are the things we don’t have yet,’” said REALM’s creativity director Emily Pilloton. “My response is always, ‘Okay, well, let’s go build it.’” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Illegal enrollment is boon and burden to Berkeley schools

Students at King Middle School Photo:
Print Friendly

When Sarah James went to the first meeting for her daughter’s freshman crew team at Berkeley High School, she wanted to form a carpool for the 6 a.m. practices.

But James (not her real name) lived in Oakland and had enrolled her daughter using a false address. James did not think she would find any other crew members living near her Rockridge bungalow, but she needn’t have worried. That fall, there were four other girls on the team who lived in Oakland, James said.

The official freshman crew roster, however, showed that everyone had a Berkeley address.

That was nearly 10 years ago, but people haven’t stopped enrolling their kids illegally in Berkeley schools. Everyone seems to know a case: people using relatives’ addresses, friends’ addresses, or even rental property owned by the family who lives out of town. One recent gossip item on a local internet site: a man with a boat at the Berkeley marina, using that address to enroll his child, who lives in another city. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Berkeley school employees demonstrate for new contract

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 6.23.01 PM
Print Friendly

Around 100 Berkeley Unified School District employees — including instructional assistants, school secretaries, custodians, bus drivers, and some of their children — held a rally and demonstrated on the afternoon of Friday March 28 in front of BUSD’s headquarters at 2020 Bonar St.

The demonstrators, members the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) which represents 570 classified employees within Berkeley Unified, said that their top concerns were income inequality, affordable health care, and a stable learning environment. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Police activity puts Willard Middle School on lockdown

WMS
Print Friendly

Willard Middle School in Berkeley was on temporary lockdown this afternoon due to a police search in the area.

At 1 p.m., Berkeley Police received a call about a suspicious person on a property in the 2700 block of Regent Street, police spokeswoman officer Jennifer Coats said.

She continued: “The initial call was suspicious persons, who appeared to be prowling or casing a residence. An officer arrived in the area and observed an attempted burglary into a residence. The officer attempted to detain them and they fled on foot.

“Officers established a perimeter and conducted a yard to yard search. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley teachers, district, reach tentative agreement

Berkeley teachers protest
Print Friendly

Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers have reached tentative agreement on a 2013-2015 contract, subject to ratification by the school board and the BFT. Agreement seven months into the school year is rapid compared to some recent contract negotiations.

In the agreement, all teacher wages, including salaries, stipends, daily rates and hourly rates, will be adjusted to reflect a 1.5% increase backdated to July 1, 2013, and an additional one-time bonus payment equal to 2.0% of the teacher’s 2013-2014 salary. Each teacher will also receive a 2.0% increase effective July 1 this year.  … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley school board set to vote on slashed budget for cooking and gardening program

C&G photo
Print Friendly

UPDATE, 03.27.14: As expected, the Berkeley Unified School Board last night voted to commit $485,000 for the coming year to its gardening program, under the terms outlined it the proposal that called for gardening classes for pre-kindergarten through grade 7. [See the full proposal on the BUSD Board meeting agenda packet, starting on page 54.] Commenting on the move, Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center, said Berkeley was showing leadership in finding money from its budget for the pioneering program after losing nearly $2m in federal funding. “Who else is stepping up like that on their own dime?,” he said. “Berkeley is leading the way.”

ORIGINAL STORY: For the past few months the Berkeley school district has been struggling along with funding for its beloved cooking and gardening program. After some back-and-forth on proposals this winter, the board is now expected to vote March 26 to approve very reduced funding for gardening classes only in the 2014-15 school year.

Supporters – teachers, students and parents – pleaded with the school board at its March 12 meeting not to make further cuts to the cooking and gardening classes, which lost an annual $1.9 million in federal funding last fall. The program is already operating on less than half its former budget this year – about $850,000 — with bridge funds. Next year’s budget would be under $500,000.

“This has been a very difficult process for all of us,” Superintendent Donald Evans said. “This is a nationally recognized program. But that was when we had $2 million. We can no longer retain that type of program.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley High breathes easier with opening of new building

Building M Gymnasium
Print Friendly

 

Earlier this month, with little fanfare, Berkeley High students began using a brand new building on the east side of campus, part of a $46 million new construction project, which gives the school new classrooms, a new gym, a weight room, as well as a multi-purpose space for gatherings and events.

Take a tour of the new Berkeley High facilities in the slideshow above. Hover over photos for captions. Photography by Pete Rosos.

With the opening of Building M, it’s also time to say goodbye to the decades-old portable classrooms that have most recently been used to teach world languages, and say hello to two new basketball courts, an independent storage facility, and new landscaped outdoor space. By late August, construction on what’s known as the South of Bancroft Project will be complete with a newly laid softball field, ready for use by late November. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , ,

Berkeley sets speed limit at 15 mph around 13 schools

Many drivers near Cragmont Elementary were found to be among the fastest motorists around local schools during a city speed survey. Photo: ELS
Print Friendly

Drivers will be asked to slow down near 13 Berkeley schools after the adoption by the City Council of a 15 mph speed zone around them, despite a police officer’s analysis of injury collisions near schools that showed speed was not a factor in those accidents, and another officer’s assertion that enforcement would be “difficult, at best.”

According to an analysis completed by a city traffic analyst of 327 documented injury collisions in Berkeley from August 2010 to July 2013, 23 took place near school zones. None of those accidents were caused by unsafe speeds, he said.

Most of the accidents — 73% — resulted from drivers who failed to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Another 23% were due to pedestrians who failed to yield to drivers in the roadway, police wrote.

Thirteen of the collisions near schools took place during the school day, and four involved juvenile pedestrians. The juveniles were found to be at fault in all four of the cases. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , ,

‘Beloved’ Berkeley schools leader to retire after 25 years

Neil Smith will retire after 25 years of service. Photo: Berkeley Unified School District
Print Friendly

A 25-year veteran of the Berkeley public school system will retire later this year, officials announced last week at the Berkeley School Board meeting on Wednesday.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans announced the upcoming retirement of Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith, who is set to step down in four months. Smith may continue on in a consulting role with Berkeley Unified, though details on that have not been released.

Evans said he had received the news from Smith reluctantly.

“This has been very, very difficult for me,” said Evans, “because he has been my right hand, and I truly do not know what I would have done without him as I transitioned into Berkeley. He’s always been there.” … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Construction company fined $23K after employee death

A Cal/OSHA inspector speaks with members of the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Unified School District during a fatality investigation involving a construction worker at King Middle School on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Print Friendly

The San Jose-based construction company that employed a man killed during a work-related accident last August in Berkeley has been fined more than $20,000 for two related safety violations authorities said led to the man’s death.

The state Division of Occupational Safety & Health, OSHA, concluded its five-month investigation into the man’s death Jan. 30, Berkeleyside learned Wednesday.

OSHA issued two citations totaling $23,200 to the Robert A. Bothman Construction in connection with the alleged safety violations, which include not keeping under “positive control” the three-axle dump truck that crushed 62-year-old Oscar Marquez of Livermore on Aug. 27 while he was working on the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School track renovation project. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Berkeley High suicide victim’s family mourns

Michael Babe Hamilton. Courtesy: Family photo
Print Friendly

The family of the young man who died of an apparent suicide at Berkeley High School on Monday told Berkeleyside this week they were not sure how he had ended up there, and said he had been struggling in recent years with drug addiction.

Authorities identified the 21-year-old as Michael B. Hamilton, whose last known address was in Placerville. Police said Hamilton’s family is based in Oregon.

Hamilton’s mother, Erma, shared a photograph of her son with Berkeleyside on Thursday.

She said his family in Oregon is struggling with his death, and isn’t sure why he chose Berkeley High as the place to end his life.

She said he had been dealing with drug addiction over the past few years, adding, “He had an extremely hard hand of life. He was my shining star filled with some darkness!” … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Update: Man who committed suicide at BHS identified

berkeley high
Print Friendly

UPDATE, Feb. 18, 3:55 p.m.: Berkeley Police say the young man who committed suicide on the Berkeley High campus was 21-year-old Michael B. Hamilton. There is nothing to suggest that the death wasn’t a suicide, said BPD Officer Jennifer Coats. Hamilton does not appear to be have connection to BHS, she added. Hamilton’s family, who are in Oregon, have been notified of the death. Hamilton’s last address was in Placerville.

ORIGINAL STORY: A man was found dead on the Berkeley High School campus on Monday, Feb. 17, when the school was closed for Presidents Day holiday.

Berkeley police said they responded to a report of a possible suicide at Berkeley High at approximately 2:14 p.m. on Monday.

BPD and the Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene. A male, who appeared to be in his early 20s was discovered and it appeared he had hanged himself, according to a statement released by BPD at around 8:30 p.m. Monday. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

40 years after death, school installs life-saving AEDs

Screen shot 2014-02-10 at 10.57.12 AM
Print Friendly

This time of year is always hard for the Berkeley High class of 1974 boys basketball team.

“A Valentine’s day doesn’t go by without me thinking about those 15 guys I played with,” said Kenny Walter, former guard.

Forty years ago in February, 17-year-old Greg Brown, the leading scorer on the team, died from sudden cardiac arrest in the middle of a game.

It was in honor of Brown — and the installation of seven automated external defibrillators (AEDs) at Berkeley High that might have been able to save the athlete’s life — that members of the ’74 team gathered together on the court once again, during the varsity boys victorious Feb. 7 game against San Leandro High. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,