Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

Op-ed: BUSD Board — Take action now on developer impact fees

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State law allows school districts to collect fees from new residential and commercial development projects to mitigate their impact on school facilities.  New construction and new residents mean new students and new classroom space requirements.  Most school districts in the state collect these fees.  Berkeley does not.

Berkeley is losing out on money that is desperately needed to house its ballooning student population. Since 1998, approximately $10 billion dollars have been collected by various school districts throughout California from developer fees, according to a recent report by the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO).  In addition to state funding and local bonds, the LAO calls developer fees one of the three legs holding up the stool of school construction funding. Without these fees and with state funding drying up, we are teetering on a one-legged stool in Berkeley. … 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 School Board primer: Restorative justice for BHS, news on new BSEP tax, LCAP goals, council move

The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight, Sept. 30. On the consent calendar: a contract to hire a restorative justice consultant to work with Berkeley High’s most at-risk students.

Two discussion items will focus on the local tax known as the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program, which is set to come before voters for an update in November 2016. Also up for discussion, the district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan, and the plan’s goals. The board is also set to discuss again the Berkeley City Council’s request to use the board’s meeting room to get out of its own seismically unsafe quarters.

The board is slated to receive an informational update on its facilities plan, too.  … 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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Vandalism, crime cause problems at Allston Way Garage

The Allston Way Garage has reported an uptick in students loitering, graffiting, and engaging in sexual activity in the garage area. Photo: Franchesca Paris.
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When lunchtime at Berkeley High rolls around at 11:38 a.m., the gate on the Allston side of the Allston Way Garage comes down. Security guards stand sentry. The gate is not pushed back up until the lunch hour is over at 12:18 p.m.

Even though the closed gate is an inconvenience for potential parkers, the owners of the garage have resorted to such extreme measures because the garage has been trashed by students in the past.

In the spring, groups of high-school students loitered in the garage, painted graffiti, gambled with “large wads of cash,” smoked marijuana in the stairwells, and engaged in sexual activity with other students and occasionally prostitutes, according to Heather Scott, property manager at the Allston Way Garage. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley schools on alert after 2 abduction attempts

Willard Middle School
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Berkeley schools, and the local school community, are on alert after reports of two separate attempted abductions Friday morning as students made their way to classes at Willard Middle School on 2425 Stuart St.

This morning, just before school, two BUSD students were approached by a male individual in a dark green minivan near the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Oregon Street, very close to the school, according to Pasquale Scuderi, BUSD Deputy Superintendent. Scuderi sent an email to the school community at around 12:20 p.m. today.

The man tried to convince the two students to get into his van. The students refused, and continued walking, according to Berkeley police. The man then pulled up to them and once again told them to get into the van. The students declined and then made their way to the Willard Middle School campus, and notified staff who in turn called the Berkeley Police, according to Scuderi. … 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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The Bread Project returns to Berkeley this fall

The Bread Project has moved to 1615 University Ave. (at California). Photo: Kate Williams
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The Crayola-blue storefront at 1615 University Ave. has stood empty for three years, slowly collecting window graffiti and dust. But this June, signs of life began to appear. Baking racks appeared in the windows. Long wooden work tables filled the room. Soon, a sign appeared on the front door: The Bread Project is moving in.

Founded in 2001 by Lucie Buchbinder and Susan Phillips, The Bread Project trains low-income individuals in food service skills — specifically baking —  and helps them find and retain jobs across the service and culinary industry. Its students come from many walks of life. About 30% are formerly incarcerated individuals, 20% are refugees and new immigrants and others that have other significant barriers to employment. “Everybody is starting over, starting anew,” said Valerie Afroilan, the senior director of programs. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board Primer: Projects over budget at King and Willard, district priorities and finances

The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight, Sept. 9, beginning in closed session at 5:30 p.m. The regular meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. See the full agenda packet here.

The regular meeting is set to begin by 7:30 p.m. Public comment is limited to 30 minutes, with a 3-minute limit per speaker. Public comment takes place at the beginning and end of the meeting, rather than in response to each item. There are two action items, related to district finances, and two discussion items. The discussion items will focus on the priorities and initiatives in the 2015-16 school year, and the board policy priorities. On the consent calendar, two district construction projects, at Willard and King middle schools, have run into challenges and must get more money from BUSD to do the needed work. … 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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City Council seeks to move meetings to West Berkeley

The BUSD Headquarters on Bonar Street. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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Update, Sept. 15 The neighborhood meeting has been moved to Sept. 24 because of a scheduling conflict, district spokesman Mark Coplan told Berkeleyside today. Coplan explained by email that “It is a neighborhood meeting like we conduct when there is going to be construction or something that will have an impact on the surrounding area. We are not posting it or encouraging a larger audience so that our neighbors have ample opportunity to discuss the impact.” The district will be posting fliers in the neighborhood, and inviting residents in Daryl Moore and Linda Maio’s districts around the West Campus “to come and share their questions, concerns and expectations with Daryl and Linda, facilitated by the superintendent and board president.” Added Coplan: “The impact of the city’s proposed pilot on our neighbors is the only issue that involves BUSD. Any town hall or larger discussion about the COB’s plans to move their meetings would be conducted by the city.” (See a meeting flier here.)

Original story, Sept. 2 The Berkeley City Council, set to resume its meetings later this month after summer recess, is exploring a potential move to West Berkeley to the Berkeley Unified School District’s meeting room on Bonar Street.

Last week, the School Board considered the request, and voted to hold a town hall meeting Tuesday, Sept. 15, to allow community members to give feedback about the proposal.

Council has been looking for a new meeting space since 2011. Its current meeting space at Old City Hall, the Maudelle Shirek Building at 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, is lacking in a variety of ways.

According to a June 23 staff report, “The physical condition of the building is very dilapidated and poses significant dangers. The capacity of the hall is not adequate to accommodate the public on nights when there is significant interest in agenda items. In addition, the safety of the elevator is precarious, the toilet facilities are not adequate and the sound system makes hearing the meetings very challenging for both the council and the public.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s 16 schools welcome students back for new year, Pasarow starts as principal at BHS

New BHS principal Sam Pasarow meets with parents. Photo: Mark Coplan
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More than 9,000 students returned to Berkeley’s 11 elementary, three middle and two high schools schools today. Detailed enrollments will be announced by the school district in the coming weeks, but spokesman Mark Coplan said that district administrators believe the total will be very close to forecast.

The major change in the district is the arrival of Sam Pasarow as the new principal at Berkeley High. Pasarow, formerly principal of Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland Unified School District, started at Berkeley High on July 1, succeeding interim principal Kristen Glenchur.

“He is a taskmaster. He will get things done,” said Superintendent Donald Evans, describing Pasarow to parents at a public meeting on Thursday last week. Evans pointed out that Berkeley High ranked in the nation’s top 200 high schools. “His job is to get Berkeley High into the top 100.”  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: Berkeley Technology Academy review, council asks to move to Bonar, more

The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight, Aug. 26, beginning at 6 p.m. See the agenda packet here.

There are two back-to-back board meetings Wednesday night. The first, at 6 p.m., is a training to go over the district’s new online agenda packet system.

The regular meeting is set to begin by 7:30 p.m. There’s one action item, regarding the Berkeley City Council’s request to move its meetings, on a pilot basis, to the school district’s board room on Bonar Street. There are also three discussion items, focused on a progress report for Berkeley Technology Academy (which Berkeleyside took an in-depth look at in early June); the Local Control and Accountability Plan; and a review of the district’s school naming policy.  … Continue reading »

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