Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

Op-ed: Equitable access to quality education has the power to transform society — Vote yes on Measure E1

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Berkeley has long been recognized for its diversity and openness to differences, intellectual curiosity and civic engagement.

The values of this city resonate with us as a family. A city that believes and stands for social good and gathers around each other for real collective action – be it opposition to the Vietnam War or equal access for disabled individuals – setting the stage for the country to follow its lead. A city that values equitable access to quality education … 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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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 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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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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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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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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Mother of homicide victim: ‘That bullet was not meant for my daughter’

Marne'e Causey (right) and her mom, Kenitra Love. Photo: Causey family
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The mother of a 23-year-old woman killed last week by gunfire spoke out Wednesday about her daughter’s innocence, her hopes for a music career and her devotion to her family.

“Marne’e did not like violence, she did not like arguing,” said Kenitra Love, mother of Berkeley High graduate Marne’e Maxine Karen Causey. “She wouldn’t argue with anybody. She would walk away first.”

The day Causey was killed, Aug. 9, she had just dropped off several of her younger siblings at her mother’s home. She’d watched them for a couple days to give her mom a break after the family had met up for a birthday party. She’d also dropped off her father at a job interview, and had planned to pick him up later. In the meantime, she was going to meet up with her brother, Bones, so they could go to the music studio together.

They made a stop at a cousin’s home in the 7400 block of Fresno Street in East Oakland. Police say someone opened fire on the home at 3:10 p.m. Causey was hit. She collapsed on the porch and was later pronounced dead at the scene. No arrests have been made.

“My daughter was not targeted,” said Love, who said Causey had no affiliation or involvement with gangs. “That bullet was not meant for my daughter.” … Continue reading »

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In loving memory of Terrence McCrary Jr., 1993-2016

Terrence "TMack" McCrary Jr.
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Friends and family gathered around the East Bay on Sunday to celebrate the life of Terrence McCrary Jr. (known to many as Terrence Mack).

Mack, who was 22 years young, was born and raised in Berkeley. Also known as TMack, Sweet T and Lil BadBadBad, behind he leaves a cohort of friends and family who are dedicated to ensuring that his legacy lives on.

Mack was shot and killed early Sunday morning, along with 20-year-old Craig Fletcher-Cooks, while attending a birthday party at Prime Development art gallery in downtown Oakland.

Friends worked quickly to organize memorials in Mack’s honor: a celebration at Lake Merritt in Oakland during the day, and a candlelight vigil in Berkeley’s San Pablo Park on Sunday night.

A fundraiser has been set up to help the family.

Mack’s longtime friends, Nicco Piña and Winn Child-Phillips, organized the Berkeley vigil to acknowledge and remember him.

Piña — also known as Neek Levy — and other friends and family of Mack, including his mother and father, Florence and Terrence McCrary Sr., met at San Pablo Park for the vigil.

Florence McCrary said she was overwhelmed by the love and support people have shown for her son, and that it was beautiful to see everyone come together in his name.

Terrence Sr. took a moment to address the crowd. He voiced his appreciation for all the kind gestures from the community, and finished his talk with powerful words: “My son was going to change the world.” … Continue reading »

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Another Berkeley High alum fatally shot Sunday

A tribute to Craig Cooks-Fletcher: "rip to one of the sweetest souls. Your presence, your heart, & that LAUGH will be missed."  Photo: carena torrissa
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Update, Aug. 20: Scroll down to the bottom of this story to see the memorial flyer created to honor Craig Fletcher-Cooks. Memorial information is included.

Update, Aug. 16: A fundraiser has been launched to help pay for funeral costs for Craig Fletcher-Cooks. A memorial is also being planned. Learn more on the GoFundMe page.

A fundraiser to help the family of Terrence McCrary Jr. has also been set up. Learn more.

Original story, Aug. 15: Another young man who attended Berkeley High School has been identified as the second person fatally shot outside a birthday party in downtown Oakland early Sunday morning.

Friends and others who knew him have identified the young man as 20-year-old Craig Fletcher-Cooks. He and 22-year-old Terrence McCrary Jr. were fatally shot shortly before 1 a.m. Sunday after disputes reportedly broke out between groups at the Prime Development art gallery at 322 15th St.

Police have said a third man with gunshot wounds was taken to the hospital for treatment. … Continue reading »

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2 BHS grads killed in separate Oakland shootings

Terrence Mack, a 2011 Berkeley High graduate, was shot and killed Sunday morning in Oakland. Photo: Azha Luckman
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Update, Aug. 16: A fundraiser to help the family of Terrence McCrary Jr. has already raised more than $12,000. Learn more.

A fundraiser has also been launched to help pay for funeral costs for Craig Fletcher-Cooks, and a memorial is being planned. Learn more.

Update, Aug. 15: Both young men killed Sunday outside a downtown Oakland art gallery during a birthday party were Berkeley High alumni. See the update.

Original story, Aug. 14: A 2011 Berkeley High graduate was shot and killed Sunday morning during an altercation at a birthday party, one of two Berkeley High School grads killed this week.

Another man also died in Sunday’s shooting and a third was seriously injured, according to Oakland police.

The names of the victims have not been released, but Berkeleyside has learned that one of those shot was 22-year-old Terrence McCrary Jr., a Berkeley resident and a 2011 Berkeley High graduate. McCrary was known to many as Terrence Mack.

Sunday at approximately 12:53 a.m., Oakland police rushed to the 300 block of 15th Street after a report that shots had been fired. Police saw a large number of people fleeing the area, according to a press release. When they arrived, officers found two men suffering from gunshot wounds. Officers conducted first aid until paramedics arrived, but both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Police found another man with gunshots a few blocks away, according to a statement released by OPD. He was taken by ambulance to an area hospital for treatment. … 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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