Tag Archives: Berkeley schools


Elisha Davis: Determined to be great, on and off the court

Elisha Davis, a Berkeley High alum, is succeeding on the court and off. Photo: Sun Devil Athletics
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For a college student athlete, there is no season more important than your senior year. It’s the year when everything could soon be coming to an end: the long practices, the extra work on weekends, the countless hours in the library. For many, it is a bittersweet reality.

For Arizona State Sun Devil and Berkeley High graduate Elisha Davis, senior year is an opportunity to live out dreams she has worked for since she was a child. Through her hard work and dedication, Davis has become an honor roll student with WNBA potential. She enters this season with pro aspirations and graduation right around the corner.

Davis, who graduated from Berkeley High in 2012, was introduced to basketball at the age of 6 by her father, and has been in love with the game ever since.

“My first love was really football,” said the 21-year-old Oakland native. “My dad wouldn’t let me play because I was a girl. So he gave me a basketball and basically told me to stay off the football field.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board to get student residency update

There are about 300 students at Berkeley High who live outside the city but have received permits to attend BHS. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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After approving a new admissions and enrollment policy in June aimed to curtail the illegal enrollment of out-of-district students, the Berkeley School Board is set to receive a report at tonight’s meeting that sums up district efforts this year related to residency and inter-district permits.

According to the staff report prepared for the Nov. 4, board meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District has enrolled 9,880 students for the 2015-16 year. That includes 1,525 students who enrolled in the district for the first time and had to comply with the new rules.

The new board policy requires students seeking admission to BUSD to provide three “proofs of residency” and a declaration form stating that Berkeley is the family’s home district.

Earlier this year, the new policy required the families of all fifth-graders to prove their residency before being allowed to register for middle school, according to the district. This school year, eighth-graders will have to comply with the district’s admission policy before being allowed to register for classes at Berkeley High, according tonight’s staff report. … Continue reading »

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School Board considers name change at Le Conte

LeConte Elementary School. Le Conte. Photo: Nancy Rubin
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Berkeley school officials are considering changing the name of Le Conte Elementary after community members raised concerns about its namesake, Joseph Le Conte, a deeply respected UC Berkeley faculty member and a passionate conservationist who helped found the Sierra Club.

Le Conte was also, however, a slave owner and staunch supporter of the Confederacy who held views that, from a modern perspective, no longer reflect Berkeley values.

“When I did some research on Le Conte and found out that he was an unabashed, devout racist,” said School Board Member Ty Alper at a board meeting in August, “it made me really uncomfortable that we have a school named after him.”

School board members said they believe it is important that district facilities are named after people who symbolize equity and equality. The board met Aug. 26 and agreed, in concept, to work toward changing the name of Le Conte Elementary, though more discussion will take place before the official vote. The board is planning to reshape its overall naming policy, then come back to look at specific sites. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley School Board must take action on sexual harassment

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In Berkeley, a topic of concern is “disproportionality,” the discrepancy between how often students of color are disciplined compared to their population. One of the greatest deterrents to the school-to-prison pipeline is prevention. Education, training, and a culture of respect lead to a safer school environment, which in turn leads to fewer incidents. Stronger, safer policies coupled with a consistent response to bullying and harassment of any kind, lead to fewer suspensions.

Years ago, the federal government decided that every school district needed a Title IX Coordinator to handle complaints about discrimination (which includes bullying and harassment). School districts that receive federal funding must be in compliance with Title IX. Shockingly, and despite the BUSD’s latest PR campaign touting its achievements, the district continues to be out of compliance with the most basic federal requirements, thus creating a precarious situation for our students, where job #1 should be ensuring their safety. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Technology Academy starts semester with record low enrollment

BTA Principal Sheila Quintana. Image: BUSD
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Berkeley Technology Academy, the city’s alternative high school, was set to begin the year with record low enrollment, Principal Sheila Quintana told the School Board in late August.

Quintana gave the board an update on the school’s efforts at its Aug. 26 meeting, detailing recent successes and challenges since she was hired in 2011.

Quintana has worked to revamp BTA’s record keeping and data collection, upgrade campus infrastructure, and win accreditation for its coursework so the BTA diploma carries more clout for graduates. Graduation rates, too, have risen in recent years.

“There’s been considerable progress,” Superintendent Donald Evans told the board.

Quintana reported to the board in August, however, that only 50 students had enrolled in her program, compared to an average of 86 in prior years.

“I have a whole staff, but I only have 50 students,” she told the board. “There’s a lot of reasons why, but I know certain articles that hit the news, parents are kind of upset about that.” … Continue reading »

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BHS Stop Harassing takes campaign to Berkeley council

BHS Stop Harassing has been working to raise awareness about sexual harassment and other types of discrimination at Berkeley High over the past year. Photo: BHS Stop Harassing
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Advocates working to raise awareness about sexual harassment faced by Berkeley Unified students asked the Berkeley City Council for its support Tuesday night, saying the school district has not done enough to respond to ongoing problems faced by students, or comply with mandatory rules.

City officials said they were sympathetic to the group but could not take a position until the Board of Education has a chance to respond. Officials asked city staff to bring the matter to the School Board’s attention, and said they would consider revisiting the topic down the line.

On the Sept. 15 agenda was a resolution submitted to council by the city’s Peace & Justice Commission, which voted earlier this year to send the resolution to council and the board. The resolution was in support of the BHS Stop Harassing group’s work, and outlined the problem as described by the group.

According to the commission’s report, the Berkeley Unified School District did not adequately address the sexual harassment of a student by a school administrator in 2010, when allegations arose related to inappropriate touching and suggestive remarks made to a student by a BHS counselor.

In that case, the district settled in 2011-12 with the impacted family and agreed, among other remedies, to improve the language in the BUSD handbook related to sexual harassment, create an advisory committee to tackle the policy issue, and improve training for parents related to the subject. … Continue reading »

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Photo Gallery: First days back at school in Berkeley

BUSD first days back at school September 2015. Photo: Mark Coplan
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If you’ve got kids in Berkeley Unified you’ll have been hearing all about their first days back at school this week: what their new teachers are like, who they sit next to in class, what their friends have been up to over the summer. Berkeley Unified spokesperson and official photographer Mark Coplan has been dropping in on campuses across the city over the past two days to capture a host of ‘back to school’ moments.

On Wednesday Coplan visited 15 sites in this order: Washington Elementary; Berkeley High; Berkeley Arts Magnet (BAM); Willard Middle School; Longfellow Middle School; the BUSD admissions office; Independent Studies; Willard (with lunch); Emerson; Oxford; Thousand Oaks; King M.S.; Jefferson; Berkeley Adult School; Rosa Parks and King CDC. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Community Fund awards record number of college scholarships to Berkeley students

Photo: Berkeley Community Fund
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Twenty-seven Berkeley High students who were awarded scholarships to college by the the Berkeley Community Fund (BCF) were honored at the Berkeley City Club on Monday, June 8.

The winners of the High Hopes Scholarships represent a wide range of ethnicities, family backgrounds, and academic interests. Most are first-generation college students, and many are immigrants. They will all receive $16,000 over four years in need-based scholarships and one-on-one mentorships.

The Berkeley Community Fund’s High Hopes Scholarship Program has supported low-income, high-achieving Berkeley High School students since 2008. This year marks the highest number of students ever to receive High Hopes scholarships, up from 23 last year. The students have already been accepted to a four-year college; BCF ensures that they can attend and succeed. Continue reading »

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Remembering the Legacy of Mr. Norman C. Letcher, Berkeley Schools, 1933-2015

Screen shot 2015-06-09 at 1.34.28 PM
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By Natalie Letcher

Norman Cornelius Letcher, Dean of Students at Berkeley High School, passed away peacefully in his sleep on May 1, 2015, and had been continually surrounded by family and loved ones. Born June 11, 1933, he was just one month shy of 82 years old.

Mr. Letcher had a longstanding successful career in education that spanned 25 years, which included employment in the Berkeley Unified School District as well as the Parks & Recreation Department. For over … Continue reading »

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Soda tax brings needed cash to gardening program

BUSD's cooking and gardening program has been in need of financial support since federal funding was slashed in 2013. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley Unified School District’s beleaguered cooking and gardening program will see a welcome injection of funds as a result of revenues accrued from Measure D, the so-called soda tax, approved by city residents last November.

On Thursday, June 4, a panel appointed to allocate taxes collected from the sugar-sweetened beverage tax recommended $250,000 be advanced to the cooking and gardening program.

It was announced May 18 that the soda tax had raised $116,000 in its first month of operation.

The Berkeley City Council is set to vote to approve the panel’s recommendation by June 30, while the Berkeley School Board is slated to finalize its budget June 10 with the knowledge that the funding is essentially secured. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: BTA teacher asks, how can we support our kids?

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The lengthy piece published Wednesday on Berkeleyside about Berkeley Technology Academy has certainly caused a wide array of reactions and emotions throughout our school, district and community. 

Rather than cast blame, point fingers and re-count unfortunate anecdotes of past and current students in crisis situations, I’d like to take this opportunity to provide additional context about the challenge of our school, and how some of us think and hope we might become better and more … Continue reading »

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Teachers at Berkeley Technology Academy raise the alarm

Berkeley Technology Academy. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Teachers at Berkeley’s alternative high school have raised concerns about the state of affairs on campus, citing “extreme behavior” among students, chronically low attendance, a lack of academic rigor, and a generally unsafe campus environment due to deficient security resources and limited district support.

Berkeley Unified School District officials and the school principal have repeatedly declined to speak in depth about safety at Berkeley Technology Academy, the district’s lone continuation high school. The campus serves the district’s highest-need students, many of whom are minorities who come from challenging home environments. Data reviewed by Berkeleyside paints a stark picture of increasing suspensions and dangerous activity at the school site in recent years, including a spike last year in suspensions related to assault or battery on school staff.

Read more about school safety issues on Berkeleyside.

The difficulties have come despite district efforts to improve the school by hiring a new principal — acclaimed in her previous district for outstanding leadership — who has worked to revamp BTA’s record keeping and data collection, upgrade campus infrastructure, and win accreditation for its coursework so the BTA diploma carries more clout for graduates. Graduation rates, too, have risen steadily in recent years.

Teachers say these changes have not been sufficient to address a slew of significant problems that remain widespread. They say school and district administrators have failed to respond adequately to concerns teachers have tried to resolve internally, and that the campus receives more of the highest-risk students than it can handle. Berkeleyside spoke with five BTA teachers and agreed to grant them anonymity — particularly because the campus has only about a dozen teachers on site — in response to fears they expressed about retaliation by the district.

As an alternative school serving what is for the most part a high-needs population, some of its problems may not be unique when compared to other alternative campuses. More than 90% of the students at BTA who were screened by a Berkeley mental health counselor found them to score high enough on a spectrum to be diagnosed with complex traumatic stress disorder. “That’s repeat exposure or daily exposure to extreme poverty, homelessness, harassment from police, drug addiction, domestic violence, or some combination of those factors, that take place in a lot of our kids’ lives,” one teacher said.

But teachers who have worked in other districts say they’ve never seen the issues to the degree they see them in Berkeley. They attribute the scale of the problem not only to the student mix, but also to what they believe to be an inconsistent, unpredictable enforcement of the rules. In the past three years, one teacher reported seeing everything from a student swinging a stick at people to fist fights, and students throwing books, chairs and waste baskets around the classroom: “They’re cussing constantly. They threaten you. I never saw that kind of stuff before, not anywhere.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley schools, police, city join forces on youth crime

A tree outside the Berkeley Zen Center has become a memorial to Nancy McClellan. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Berkeley school officials, police and the city are gearing up to work more closely on juvenile crime issues, both to improve information sharing and try to get services to youth who need them.

A small group of residents — part of the Berkeley Safe Neighborhoods Committee (BSNC), an umbrella organization for neighborhood watch-type activities — got an update on the fledgling effort Monday night, though it had been announced for the first time in November.

Since then, Berkeley Police Capt. Andrew Greenwood said he has met with the city attorney to figure out what type of information can legally be shared. Greenwood also met a couple times with Susan Craig, director of Student Services for the Berkeley Unified School District — briefly, and in the context of other discussions — to figure out some of the logistics of the endeavor. But there have not yet been any official meetings of what had been pitched as a “working group,” and Greenwood left it an open question Monday as to whether those meetings will actually take place.

Former Mayor Shirley Dean, who runs the neighborhood group, told Greenwood that BSNC believes monthly meetings will be a critical component of the working group’s success, and said BSNC will continue to include the item on its agenda, and watch closely as the effort unfolds. … Continue reading »

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