Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

Berkeley School Board may levy new fees on development

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley School Board is set to vote Wednesday night on whether to collect new fees from building projects in Berkeley to raise money for facilities needs.

School districts are allowed under state law to collect those fees, though Berkeley Unified has not done so in the past.

The board announced its intention to investigate what kind of fees it could levy back in October 2015.

Tonight, Nov. 16, it is set to vote on whether to put those fees in place.

If approved, the fees would go into effect Jan. 16, said BUSD spokesman Charles Burress. Projects that have submitted an application to the city before then would not be subject to the fees. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High grad remembered at vigil; mother, former BUSD teacher, was also killed

Photo: Benny Wright/Facebook
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A recent Berkeley High graduate who was killed last week in Oakland along with his mothers was remembered Monday during a vigil on campus.

About 100 people came together to remember Benny Wright, 19, who graduated from the BHS Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS) learning community in June. Benny’s mother, former BUSD teacher Patricia Wright, and her partner, Charlotte Reed, were also killed.

Monday, vigil organizers passed out candles and invited attendees to share their memories and thoughts about Benny Wright.

“Benny’s brother (home from school in Mississippi) spoke first for nearly 15 minutes about Benny’s spirit of love and joy and about how he had already forgiven the assailant,” said teacher John Tobias, who helps run AMPS, along with Claudia Gonzalez.

Tobias said Benny, according to his brother, had been deciding whether to become a hairdresser or a nurse.

“He always wanted to make people feel better. Other students and teachers spoke about Benny’s unwavering smile being able to light up a room,” Tobias said. … Continue reading »

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Schools

Longtime BHS math teacher drowns in Russian River

Heidi Boley. Photo: InnovateEd (Featured)
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A long-time Berkeley Unified School District employee drowned Friday when the canoe she and two friends were riding in overturned on the Russian River near Healdsburg.

The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department found 69-year-old Heidi Boley in the river under some tree limbs around 1:30 p.m., according to a press release. She was airlifted to shore but could not be revived. She was wearing a life jacket.

Boley and her two friends had set out earlier in the day in an inflatable canoe southwest of Healdsburg, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. The river was moving fast but was not treacherous, according to the paper. Somehow the canoe accidentally overturned. Boley’s two friends managed to swim to shore. They alerted a vineyard worker that their friend was missing and he called authorities.

Charles Burress, spokesman for BUSD, released a statement from the district: “We are deeply saddened at the loss of long-time BUSD employee, Heidi Boley.” … Continue reading »

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BSEP renewal would fund small class sizes, libraries, music in Berkeley schools, but with big tax hike

Berkeley students carry Yes on E1 signs during the Solano Stroll. Photo: Yes on E1 campaign
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Since 1986, Berkeley public schools have benefited from smaller class sizes, libraries, music and arts instruction thanks to the infusion of funds from the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP). The parcel tax has been renewed with voter support in 1994, 2004 and 2006. If past elections are any guide, Measure E1 to renew BSEP should pass the two-thirds majority hurdle with ease at next Tuesday’s election.

E1 has no organized opposition, but a California appeals court ruling has forced a significant change in the design of the tax this time. Previous BSEP measures had higher tax rates for commercial property than for residential property. Differential tax rates on a parcel tax are no longer allowed, so Berkeley home owners will see a steep tax increase from the current 29 cents per square foot to 37 cents per square foot if E1 passes.

Check out Berkeleyside’s Election Hub and Voter’s Edge voting guide.

“The BSEP campaign is a once in a decade coming together of the community to say we know the state has been divesting in public education for years,” said Ty Alper, a Berkeley School Board member and one of the leaders of the campaign. “We’re going to come together to make sure that kids in the Berkeley schools have small classes, have support for struggling students, have music, even if the state doesn’t provide that. People understand the increase. They know that we didn’t have a choice in terms of the court ruling. This isn’t a money grab.”  … Continue reading »

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Yvette Felarca to return to Berkeley classroom today

Yvette Felarca during Wednesday night's board meeting. Image: BUSD
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Six weeks after the Berkeley Unified School District placed Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School teacher Yvette Felarca on administrative leave “pending an investigation into concerns that have been raised,” the teacher will be returning to her classroom.

BUSD Spokesman Charles Burress confirmed Tuesday that Felarca would be back teaching on Wednesday, Nov. 2. He would not say who reached that decision or why, citing “personnel issues.”

“I’m back to work tomorrow!” Felarca posted Tuesday on her Facebook page. “Thank you, everyone and congratulations to all — this victory belongs to all of us!”

Felarca said in an email that her restitution came after a Tuesday meeting between Shanta Driver, her attorney from the group BAMN (By Any Means Necessary), Cathy Campbell, the president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, Superintendent Donald Evans and other members of the administration. … Continue reading »

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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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Schools

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

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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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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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