Category Archives: Schools

Op-ed: Admin, students share blame for Rally Day mob

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I am a senior at Berkeley High School, I’ve been in school Leadership — a student government organization — for all four years, and I was present at Friday’s Rally Day mob scene. I know it got completely out of hand. It is 100% unacceptable for anyone to be physically hurt, and the firecracker that sounded like a gunshot was frightening. Reading through multiple articles, comments and responses from the administration, … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High staffer injured, 15 students suspended, due to 500-strong student mob involving bullying, drinking

Rally Day in 2012, the last one to happen after it was canceled due to what the district said was
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A Berkeley High staffer was sent to the hospital Friday with a head injury sustained during what the school describes as a mob scene involving an estimated 500 students “participating in hazing and bullying behavior,” chanting and throwing objects, including glass bottles.

Berkeley police were called to help BHS administration and safety staff control the crowd of mostly juniors and seniors that gathered on the campus quad at around 3:45 p.m. While trying to break up the mob, two additional staff members were hit, according to Jorge Melgoza, vice principal of Berkeley High, who sent an email to the school community about the incident that was delivered on Saturday.

Fifteen students were found to be intoxicated and were suspended Friday. None were injured and no arrests were made. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board: 3 seats contested by 5 candidates

The Berkeley School Board, at its August meeting. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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Three seats on the Berkeley Unified school board are being contested by five candidates in this year’s election. Three of the candidates — Josh Daniels, Karen Hemphill and Julie Sinai — are incumbents on the board (although Sinai was appointed, not elected, following the resignation of Leah Wilson). Ty Alper and Norma Harrison are the two non-incumbents running for the board.

Berkeleyside asked each of the candidates a number of questions about both their background and their views on some key issues facing Berkeley schools. The responses to the questions are provided in alphabetical order below.

One slightly unusual aspect about the school board race is that the three incumbents have endorsed each other and are circulating literature encouraging voters to elect them as a combined slate. Since school-board elections are citywide, building name recognition among voters is often particularly difficult for non-incumbents. … 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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Op-ed: School district overcrowding is an opportunity that begins as a problem

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Last week’s Berkeley School Board meeting kicked off a series of important community input meetings to address the issue of overcrowding in our schools. Parents from local elementary schools shared observations about how increasing demands on our teachers, classrooms, schoolyards and cafeterias undermine the quality education that we want for Berkeley’s kids.

Although our schools are overflowing, the school board meeting felt strangely empty. Four of our ten elementary schools were represented, and no middle school or high school parents … Continue reading »

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Noose at Berkeley High raised concerns over past suicide

Noose at BHS. Photo: anonymous
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Berkeley High administrators considered whether a noose found hanging in a tree earlier this month might have been in some way related to the suicide in February of a 21-year-old man on the BHS campus, according to Berkeley Unified Assistant Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi.

On Oct. 1 at around 2 p.m., a thin rope tied in the form of a noose was found in a tree on the campus green at Berkeley High School.

Berkeley police were called to investigate the incident, and worked with school safety officers.

Eight days after the discovery, on Oct. 9., Berkeley High Vice Principal Jorge Melgoza sent an email to the BHS community detailing what actions the school was taking in the wake of the noose’s discovery.

Melgoza described the noose as an “act of hate” and said it was “a clear and stark reminder that racism is alive and well in this country.”

Administrators also wondered whether the noose might be in some way related to the suicide on Feb. 17 on the campus of Michael B. Hamilton, who was not affiliated with the school, according to Scuderi, who, until last year, was principal of Berkeley High. … Continue reading »

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Noose hanging from tree discovered at Berkeley High

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High
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Berkeley police are investigating the discovery of a noose hanging on a tree on the Berkeley High campus.

A BHS safety officer discovered the noose on the afternoon of Wednesday, Oct. 1. It was immediately removed. The school said it appeared to be an isolated event. Nobody has been found responsible for what the school describes as a hate crime.

“This act of hate has never been, and will never be, tolerated on this campus,” BHS Vice Principal Jorge Melgoza wrote in an email to the school community on Thursday this week. “It is a reminder of a terrible period in our history that will never and should never be forgotten. This incident is a clear and stark reminder that racism is alive and well in this country and we as educators are the ones best suited to combat this ignorance. There are a variety of manners for this to happen and it all begins with us choosing to remain focused on the issue beyond this incident.” … 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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After 3 years of negotiations, Berkeley school district and union reach tentative agreement

Berkeley Council of Classified Employees demonstrated on Friday March 28, 2014 outside BUSD's HQ on Bonar Street. Photo: Ted Friedman
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A fact-finding panel brought in to assist with talks between the Berkeley Unified School District and one of its unions finally led to a contract breakthrough – after three years of negotiations.

The district and the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, which represents 590 employees, hammered out the details of an agreement on Wednesday. … Continue reading »

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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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