Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

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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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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Obituaries

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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Crime

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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Crime

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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Schools

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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Schools

Deer jumps into Berkeley pool, disrupts kids’ swim class

Deer in King Middle School. Photo: Jeff Johnston
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A deer leapt into the King Middle School swimming pool Thursday morning, narrowly avoiding landing on young children taking a swimming lesson there, according to a pool staffer.

The deer ran across the pool deck and jumped into the deep end, said Jasper Solomon, a lifeguard at the pool, who said the children, around 3-6 years old, were attending a summer camp swim class. Solomon and his boss, Adonis Boyd, both leapt into action as soon as the fawn landed, he said. They asked everyone to leave the pool and then, using a lifejacket and a floater as buffers, they steered the animal to the shallow end. The fawn then scrambled out of the water and ran away.

Solomon said the incident surprised the kids, but that fortunately nobody was hurt. He described the deer as small and male, probably a fawn.

“The kids got a kick out of all the excitement!” Jeff Johnston, whose son was part of the swim class, wrote us.  … Continue reading »

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After initial stumble, police and schools aim to team up

Representatives from BUSD and the School Board — Superintendent Donald Evans, Susan Craig and Ty Alper — ask the community for feedback about its policy related to sharing information with police. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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It wasn’t exactly “Kumbaya,” but Monday night’s meeting between Berkeley residents, police and school officials was described by several in attendance as a significant step, and the culmination of more than a decade of grassroots work by parents and neighborhood activists.

The goal of the meeting was to begin to hash out how the Berkeley Unified School District will approach sharing information with the Berkeley Police Department to keep the community safe while also protecting the rights of those on campus.

The school district currently has no board policy to guide those decisions. Two members of the Berkeley School Board, Ty Alper and Josh Daniels, began trying to outline a policy earlier this year.

In May, when a draft version of the policy came to the attention of the Berkeley Police Department, sparks flew. Officers said at that time they felt the board’s approach looked like an attempt to block police efforts to solve crime, and prioritize the rights of those on campus suspected of committing crimes over the rights of victims. In several cases toward the end of the school year, police said teachers and the district refused to share important information with them about active cases, including a reported sexual assault involving students. … Continue reading »

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Petition to fire Berkeley teacher garners 500 signatures

yvette felarci featured
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A petition to oust a Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School teacher who was involved with a counter-protest against a white supremacist group in Sacramento has gathered more than 500 signatures

The middle school teacher’s involvement at the protest prompted threats of violence against students at King.

Yvette Felarca — the middle school teacher and a member of the group By Any Means Necessary, which says it’s “building a new civil rights movement” — was filmed in Sacramento on June 26 taunting and hitting a neo-Nazi attending a rally led by the Traditionalist Worker Party, a white nationalist extremist group. The violent altercation made headlines across the U.S. after seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized during the pandemonium.

Robert Jacobsen, a former student at King Middle School, launched a petition drive on Change.org after learning about Felarca’s involvement in the Sacramento altercation. The petition demands that the Berkeley Unified School District fire Felarca. It argues that citizens of the U.S., regardless of their political views have the right to free speech. Felarca’s interference with those rights are grounds for dismissal, according to the petition. Continue reading »

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Anonymous email threatens students at Berkeley school after Sacramento rally tied to local teacher

A police cruiser was parked outside Martin Luther King. Jr. Middle School on Monday. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Local and federal authorities investigated threats Monday targeting youth at a North Berkeley middle school by a group that demanded the termination of a teacher who protested against a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento over the weekend.

The rally Sunday made national headlines due to violent clashes between the white supremacists who took out a permit to rally at the state capitol and the counter-protesters who showed up to confront them. According to some news reports, members of the counter-protest appear to have initiated the violence. The LA Times reported that seven people were stabbed and 10 hospitalized.

Read Berkeleyside’s July update.

One of the people who took responsibility for helping organize the counter-protest was Yvette Felarca, a teacher at North Berkeley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, at 1781 Rose St. Felarca is an organizer with the activist group By Any Means Necessary, which helped lead a series of Black Lives Matter protests in Berkeley in December 2014.

Parents of day campers were told Monday morning that one of the counter-protesters from Sacramento had been linked to the Berkeley school where the camps were located. The public outing had prompted an influx of emails to the principal demanding that the teacher be fired. … Continue reading »

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Blondies’ coming-of-age album addresses sexual assault

The Blondies lead singer Simon Lunche and lead guitarist Isaac Roth. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
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Bay Area rock band The Blondies have grown up together, working their way up from summer camp stages to venues like the Stork Club in Oakland and Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. The members, some freshly graduated from high school, are navigating the adult world, and it’s reflected in their music.

The Blondies released “Just Another Evening,” a self-described “coming of age album,” earlier this month. The title track is a comment on rape culture and the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment.

“Unfortunately, I see that kind of stuff going on around me all the time and I was really fed up with it,” said lead singer and songwriter Simon Lunche, who graduated from Berkeley High School this month.

The band members who are already in college were disturbed by the level of sexual assault and harassment on their campuses as well. The five members of The Blondies, all male, felt compelled to make a statement about it. … Continue reading »

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Schools

Hundreds hold vigil in Berkeley to remember Efe Ustenci

Saturday's vigil for Efe Ustenci drew hundreds of people. Photo: Ted Friedman
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Several hundred community members came together at Berkeley High School on Saturday evening to remember 17-year-old Efejon Ustenci, who drowned Wednesday in Placer County less than a week after he graduated from BHS.

The theme of the vigil, said photographer Ted Friedman, who attended the event on behalf of Berkeleyside, “was to ‘live Efe’s legacy.'”

One friend told Friedman that Efejon, known to many as Efe, would be remembered as someone who was nurturing, humorous and fair-minded. Others have described him as a natural leader looked up to by many, a talented athlete, and a kind and loving young man.

A fundraiser to help collect money for burial costs has raised more than $16,000 since it was created Friday evening.

Wrote Chris Young on the memorial page, “In my work with BIHS [Berkeley International High School] I see students names a lot and meet most of them as seniors. After visiting me once, I noted that Efe carried himself with maturity and kindness. At graduation he thanked me, though I hadn’t done much to directly serve him. Efejon Ustenci! His name jumps off my list of graduates. Yes, Efejon Ustenci. That’s that humble young man who stands out as a beautiful example of strong character for his peers and teachers. Surely, he will inspire us into the future.”

Several photographs from the memorial appear below. … Continue reading »

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Fundraiser, vigil planned for drowned Berkeley student

Efe is remembered as a talented athlete. Photo: Ustenci family
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The Berkeley Unified School District has announced a vigil and fundraiser for Efe Ustenci, who drowned earlier this week in Placer County while on a trip with friends.

The fundraiser to help pay for the 17-year-old’s burial costs has already raised more than $3,600 in approximately an hour. Its goal is $10,000.

A vigil at Berkeley High School has been planned for Saturday, June 25, from 5-6-30 p.m. in the courtyard. The school district had counselors on campus Friday to help offer support.

Wrote BHS Principal Sam Pasarow in the email about the vigil and fundraiser, sent Friday at 9 p.m.: “Please join us as we mourn the loss of Efejon Ustenci, and also celebrate his life.” … Continue reading »

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