Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

City Council seeks to move meetings to West Berkeley

The BUSD Headquarters on Bonar Street. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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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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Schools

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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UC Berkeley’s student-run garden offers urban oasis

Kate Kaplan (left) and Sara Cate Jones are two of several SOGA garden managers. They are anxiously awaiting the first figs to ripen, which will happen in a matter of weeks. Photo: Alix Wall
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by Alix Wall/Bay Area Bites

Whenever UC Berkeley student Sara Cate Jones has felt the blues coming on, she’s relied on the same remedy: she goes to the student garden on the corner of Walnut and Virginia streets and picks herself a bouquet of flowers.

“The garden is always here for you,” said Kate Kaplan.

Jones and Kaplan are two of several student garden managers for the SOGA (Student Organic Garden Association) garden.

Established in 1971 by a group of students shortly after the first Earth Day, the garden has offered students and the community at large an urban oasis in North Berkeley for over 40 years. … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: Berkeley Unified Superintendent responds to story on Berkeley Technology Academy

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Last Friday, I stood in line to congratulate our graduating students at the Greek Theatre, including students from our continuation high school, Berkeley Technology Academy (BTA). As I watched them walk confidently on and off the stage, I reflected on the article published on Berkeleyside (June 3, 2015), and felt it was important to share my view of our students and staff at BTA.

Berkeley Technology Academy is an alternative high school comprised of students who have not … 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

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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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District, teachers agree on teacher contracts through 2017

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The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) have reached tentative agreement on teacher contracts for 2015-16 and 2016-17. As a result, teachers should see a total compensation increase of 8% over two years.

The 8% hike comprises a 5% increase that includes a 1% increase to the district’s contribution to health benefits, and a 3% one-time bonus paid in 2016-17. An additional 2% increase will occur in the second year of the agreement, contingent on state funding, according to a press release jointly issued by BUSD and BFT on Friday, May 29.

The agreement also provides for renewed discussion in 2016-17 regarding issues of teacher instructional time and support, as well as compensation.

“We’re really happy with the agreement,” BFT vice-president John Becker told Berkeleyside on Monday. “It’s the kind of agreement that will help keep BUSD competitive.” … Continue reading »

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BUSD poised to adopt tougher school enrollment policy

Berkeley High School has 3,300 students, most of who travel off-campus for lunch. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Berkeley school board officials are considering tougher enrollment requirements to curb illegal enrollment in the district, following the initial success of new registration requirements this year.

Stricter enforcement in recent months led the Berkeley Unified School District admissions office to reject 11% of applicants from private middle schools to Berkeley High School for 2015-16 after it was determined they did not actually reside in Berkeley, according to Francisco Martinez, the BUSD admissions manager. About 150 students applied. Thirty-seven students were flagged for follow-up and officials found that 17 of them did not reside in Berkeley, he said.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 story on fraudulent enrollment in Berkeley schools.

BUSD, for the first time, also required all currently enrolled fifth graders to prove their Berkeley residency before being accepted into sixth grade, he said. About 8% of the 684 students did not reapply for admission, despite an aggressive campaign to inform families of new requirements. … Continue reading »

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