Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

Berkeley schools implement $2M safety plan

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When gun violence in the school’s neighborhood forced LeConte Elementary School to go on lockdown earlier this month, second grade teacher Pamela Diebel and her colleagues weren’t able to lock their own classrooms, and students in bathrooms and hallways missed the announcement on the loudspeaker. But the next campus in the district to go on lockdown may not face the same challenges.

The Berkeley Unified School District will immediately begin to implement a nearly $2 million school safety improvement plan approved by the school board to install new PA systems, increase the use of surveillance cameras, conduct armed intruder training for staff — and replace classroom locks so that the doors can be bolted from the inside.

“All of those improvements were ones we desired,” said Diebel. “I would’ve liked to be able to lock my door from inside.” … Continue reading »

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New school policy protects transgender students

Felix Beaudry, a senior at Berkeley High who has transitioned from female to male, told school district directors Wednesday night why he thought BUSD should adopt policies protecting agender and transsexual students. Photo: Mark Coplan?BUSD
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Just weeks after an agender student was set on fire in Oakland while riding an AC Transit bus, the Berkeley Unified School District has adopted new policies to protect those who are transgender, gender fluid, or do not identify as male or female.

The school board adopted the new policies, which will go into effect immediately, by a 5-0 vote at its meeting on Wednesday Dec. 11.

The new rules will allow people born into one sex but who identify with another to use whatever bathroom or locker room they prefer. They can join the athletic team of their choice and dress however they want. They can use whatever pronoun they prefer to refer to themselves. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley raises funds for schools’ edible program

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On Tuesday night hundreds of locals turned out for A Taste of North Berkeley, a collaborative initiative held in the city’s Gourmet Ghetto neighborhood to raise funds for Berkeley Unified schools’ threatened gardening and cooking program.

The event was a success, according to the head of the BUSD program, Jezra Thompson. (Read our interview with Thompson published earlier this week in which she outlines her vision for the lauded program and spells out why it needs support).

“We were able to connect with a lot of community members and visitors, talk about the program, and get people excited about what we’re teaching the Berkeley students,” Thompson said speaking of the Taste event which saw more than 20 local merchants offer food and craft samples. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board members to hold office hours

Berkeley School Board. Photo: Mark Coplan
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Members of the Board of Education will hold office hours in an attempt to make themselves more available to the community, the Berkeley Unified School District announced recently. Scroll down to see an interactive map of the locations and schedule.

Karen Hemphill, board president, will be at Café Leila, 1724 San Pablo Ave., on the second Saturday of each month from 10–11:30 am. … Continue reading »

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Tamara Friedman is 2013 Berkeley Teacher of the Year

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Berkeley High School teacher Tamara Friedman was named a “teacher of the year” on Thursday when the Alameda County Office of Education honored 20 teachers representing 20 Alameda County districts at the 2013 ACOE Teacher of the Year Awards, held in the Castro Valley Center for the Arts.

Friedman, a Berkeley High School teacher and proud product of the Berkeley schools herself, was BUSD’s representative. … Continue reading »

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Schools superintendent to hold Town Hall meetings

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Donald Evans, the new superintendent for Berkeley schools, has scheduled three community Town Hall meetings in the month of October.

Evans, who used to hold similar gatherings in his previous post as superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District, said he hopes to use the get-togethers to talk about his ideas for the city’s public schools and to hear from the community about “how to take our schools to the next level of excellence for all students.”

The meetings are in line with Evans’ self-described collaborative management approach. Speaking to Berkeleyside in July, he said: “Before I make a decision, I want to hear everybody’s voice. Some people don’t like that. But I feel like you might bring out something that I probably have not thought about that could be critical for me in making a major decision. It’s really important for me to understand why you think and how you think in terms of how we move this organization forward. … Continue reading »

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City closes school pool after kids show serious symptoms

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The City of Berkeley shut down the swimming pool at Berkeley High School on Wednesday saying the level of chemicals in the water significantly exceeded normal operating conditions. The decision came on the heels of concerns expressed by parents that students on the water polo team were displaying alarming symptoms, including burning eyes, bleached hair, and, in some cases, the disappearance of body hair.

On Tuesday, several parents of water polo players delivered a letter to the principal describing the problems their children were experiencing and asking for something to be done. The city came in the next day to test the pool, according to Mark Coplan, public information officer for Berkeley Unified School District.

A meeting about the situation was held in the office of BHS Principal Pasquale Scuderi on Thursday, and the school’s water polo coach, Bill Gaebler, reported on its outcome to the water polo parents by email that evening. Gaebler revealed the results of the water testing which showed that an “exponentially high” pH level 0f 8.5 had been caused by a defective CO2 tank. He outlined the steps that the school would be taking to address the problem. … Continue reading »

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Tim Moellering Field dedicated on rainy day in Berkeley


The new Tim Moellering Field at MLK Jr. Way and Derby. Photo: Ted Friedman

A double header and a football scrimmage were cancelled by unseasonable rain on Saturday September 21, but that didn’t stop more than 250 people gathering at the new expanse of green at MLK Jr. Way and Derby in Berkeley to witness the dedication of the new Tim Moellering Field.

Moellering was the much-loved Berkeley High teacher and coach who died in 2011. Construction on the field began more than a year ago. The field is designed principally for use by the athletics programs at Berkeley High and Berkeley Tech.

Once the heavens had opened, the crowd moved inside to the BTECH auditorium next door. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students narrow achievement gap, work needed

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Berkeley students on the lower end of the achievement gap made critical academic gains in the past year, according to a report released last week by the California Department of Education. The Academic Performance Index (API) for Socio-Economically Disadvantaged students rose by 21 points, for African American students by 16 points, and for students with disabilities by 11 points. API scores increased for Asian students by only 3 points and for white students by 2 points.

But a comparison of actual scores shows the achievement gap is still painfully wide in Berkeley. The API for white students in the district was 925, while for African American students it was 675. Hispanic or Latino students are steadily making gains, but at 766 points their score still doesn’t hit the state benchmark.

“For the API as a district we did see an achievement gain because our white students only showed a 2 point gain, whereas our African American students had a 16 point gain,” said BUSD’s director of evaluation and assessment Debbi D’Angelo. “But that doesn’t mean the work is done. That just means we’ve made some gains.” … Continue reading »

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Authorities release name of man killed at King School

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The construction worker who died at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Berkeley earlier this week has been identified by authorities as 62-year-old Oscar Marquez of Livermore.

Marquez, an employee of Robert A. Bothman Construction, had been laying asphalt for a school track project on Tuesday at 12:35 p.m. when a big rig parked on a slope rolled over him and killed him, authorities said.

The Alameda County coroner’s office said the cause of death was listed as extensive blunt force trauma.

Cal/OSHA spokesman Peter Melton said earlier this week that the agency will conduct the investigation into Marquez’s death, which could take up to six months to complete. The agency enforces worker safety and health standards. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley students improve on 2013 STAR tests

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Berkeley students improved on the California Standardized Testing and Reporting assessments this year, according to data released Thursday by the state Department of Education.

State-wide, scores declined marginally, as the percentage of students who performed at the proficient level or above — the target level for all students — decreased by less than one percent in mathematics, English language arts, and science. But in Berkeley schools that percentage rose on average in each category: in math, the number of students meeting the target level increased by 2.3 percentage points; in English, it increased by 0.4; in science, it increased by 2.8; and in history, it increased by 4.5 percentage points since 2012.

In addition, the total percentage of target-level scores in Berkeley remained higher than the state average in all subject categories. … Continue reading »

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District announces new principals for LeConte, Oxford

LeConte Elementary School. Photo: BUSD.
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New principal appointments have been made for Berkeley’s LeConte and Oxford elementary schools.

Elizabeth (“Beth”) Rhine will assume the role of principal at Oxford, replacing Jen Corn, who transferred to Thousand Oaks this summer. Veronica Valerio will join LeConte as its principal after Kathryn Singh, the former principal, announced on July 1 that she would be moving to Massachusetts for family reasons.

New BUSD Superintendent Donald Evans emailed both school communities announcing the new appointments last week. … Continue reading »

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King Middle School to get new field, all-weather track

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Those who have tried to use the track or field at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School recently know that bulldozers have taken over the area, gates are locked, and temporary fencing is blocking the pathway coming from the school.

Shortly after King students left for summer, renovations began to replace irrigation and grass in the field and to make the track into an all-weather track. The plan laid out by the Berkeley Unified School Board in 2011 only involved improvements to the field, which has become uneven over time, but community members wanted to add track resurfacing to the project.

“There was a big push to get an all-weather track, and that’s what the top priority was,” said Lew Jones, maintenance director for the Berkeley Unified School District. … Continue reading »

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