Tag Archives: Berkeley Unified School District

Berkeley School Board set to vote on slashed budget for cooking and gardening program

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UPDATE, 03.27.14: As expected, the Berkeley Unified School Board last night voted to commit $485,000 for the coming year to its gardening program, under the terms outlined it the proposal that called for gardening classes for pre-kindergarten through grade 7. [See the full proposal on the BUSD Board meeting agenda packet, starting on page 54.] Commenting on the move, Martin Bourque, Executive Director of the Ecology Center, said Berkeley was showing leadership in finding money from its budget for the pioneering program after losing nearly $2m in federal funding. “Who else is stepping up like that on their own dime?,” he said. “Berkeley is leading the way.”

ORIGINAL STORY: For the past few months the Berkeley school district has been struggling along with funding for its beloved cooking and gardening program. After some back-and-forth on proposals this winter, the board is now expected to vote March 26 to approve very reduced funding for gardening classes only in the 2014-15 school year.

Supporters – teachers, students and parents – pleaded with the school board at its March 12 meeting not to make further cuts to the cooking and gardening classes, which lost an annual $1.9 million in federal funding last fall. The program is already operating on less than half its former budget this year – about $850,000 — with bridge funds. Next year’s budget would be under $500,000.

“This has been a very difficult process for all of us,” Superintendent Donald Evans said. “This is a nationally recognized program. But that was when we had $2 million. We can no longer retain that type of program.” … Continue reading »

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Op-ed: The 2020 Vision and the next election: Is the goal in sight?

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What evidence do we have that the 2020 Vision for equitable outcomes in Berkeley schools will reach its goal by the year 2020?

The photo, left, shows 10 members of the 2020 generation when they were in kindergarten. They are now in the sixth grade. Have they advanced significantly? Are they on target for outcome equity?

The 2019-2020 school year is just five years away. And we are nearing the point where the promise of the Vision will either … Continue reading »

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‘Beloved’ Berkeley schools leader to retire after 25 years

Neil Smith will retire after 25 years of service. Photo: Berkeley Unified School District
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A 25-year veteran of the Berkeley public school system will retire later this year, officials announced last week at the Berkeley School Board meeting on Wednesday.

Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Donald Evans announced the upcoming retirement of Assistant Superintendent Neil Smith, who is set to step down in four months. Smith may continue on in a consulting role with Berkeley Unified, though details on that have not been released.

Evans said he had received the news from Smith reluctantly.

“This has been very, very difficult for me,” said Evans, “because he has been my right hand, and I truly do not know what I would have done without him as I transitioned into Berkeley. He’s always been there.” … Continue reading »

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Construction company fined $23K after employee death

A Cal/OSHA inspector speaks with members of the Berkeley Police Department and Berkeley Unified School District during a fatality investigation involving a construction worker at King Middle School on Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 27, 2013. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The San Jose-based construction company that employed a man killed during a work-related accident last August in Berkeley has been fined more than $20,000 for two related safety violations authorities said led to the man’s death.

The state Division of Occupational Safety & Health, OSHA, concluded its five-month investigation into the man’s death Jan. 30, Berkeleyside learned Wednesday.

OSHA issued two citations totaling $23,200 to the Robert A. Bothman Construction in connection with the alleged safety violations, which include not keeping under “positive control” the three-axle dump truck that crushed 62-year-old Oscar Marquez of Livermore on Aug. 27 while he was working on the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School track renovation project. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High suicide victim’s family mourns

Michael Babe Hamilton. Courtesy: Family photo
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The family of the young man who died of an apparent suicide at Berkeley High School on Monday told Berkeleyside this week they were not sure how he had ended up there, and said he had been struggling in recent years with drug addiction.

Authorities identified the 21-year-old as Michael B. Hamilton, whose last known address was in Placerville. Police said Hamilton’s family is based in Oregon.

Hamilton’s mother, Erma, shared a photograph of her son with Berkeleyside on Thursday.

She said his family in Oregon is struggling with his death, and isn’t sure why he chose Berkeley High as the place to end his life.

She said he had been dealing with drug addiction over the past few years, adding, “He had an extremely hard hand of life. He was my shining star filled with some darkness!” … Continue reading »

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Update: Man who committed suicide at BHS identified

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UPDATE, Feb. 18, 3:55 p.m.: Berkeley Police say the young man who committed suicide on the Berkeley High campus was 21-year-old Michael B. Hamilton. There is nothing to suggest that the death wasn’t a suicide, said Berkeley Police spokeswoman Officer Jennifer Coats. Hamilton does not appear to be have connection to BHS, she added. Hamilton’s family, who are in Oregon, have been notified of the death. Hamilton’s last address was in Placerville.

ORIGINAL STORY: A man was found dead on the Berkeley High School campus on Monday, Feb. 17, when the school was closed for Presidents Day holiday.

Berkeley police said they responded to a report of a possible suicide at Berkeley High at approximately 2:14 p.m. on Monday.

BPD and the Berkeley Fire Department responded to the scene. A male, who appeared to be in his early 20s was discovered and it appeared he had hanged himself, according to a statement released by BPD at around 8:30 p.m. Monday. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Lazarus, football player, to Cal State Fresno

The Berkeley High BHS signing ceremony for Michael Lazarus took place earlier this week. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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Berkeley High School celebrated National Letter of Intent Signing Day 2014 on Wednesday with a signing ceremony for Berkeley High football player Michael Lazarus. Lazarus was awarded an athletic scholarship at a Division I university, California State University, Fresno.

The young man’s mother, Neesa Lazarus, is also part of the Berkeley Unified School District family, working at John Muir Elementary School and Berkeley High as an American Sign Language interpreter, said Mark Coplan, school district spokesman. … Continue reading »

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Opinionator

Op-ed: A Berkeley elementary school shows how it’s done

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When we first sent our two sons to Berkeley public schools in the mid-1970s, the debate about education was a little heated. Neighborhood schools were out, busing was in.  Tracking of any kind was a no-no. It seemed to some that in the name of equality, folks wanted to drag everyone down to the lowest common denominator. One by one, friends and neighbors were pulling their kids out and going private.

We stuck with Berkeley. Our experiences were mixed: some … Continue reading »

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2020 Vision: Skills improve, absences down, gap remains

Berkeley City Council and School Board special session, Jan. 28, 2014. Photo: Lars Skjerping
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A citywide initiative proponents hope will close the achievement gap in Berkeley public schools appears to be working, though significant disparities remain, according to data presented Tuesday night in a special session before the Berkeley City Council and School Board.

The 2020 Vision for Berkeley’s Children and Youth — called “2020 Vision” for short — is a broad collaboration dating back, in its earliest form, to 2008, and is designed to chip away at the achievement gap among racial groups in Berkeley schools by the year 2020.

According to organizers, African-American and Hispanic students consistently perform “significantly below their peers on state and district standardized tests and other measures that predict academic success, such as chronic absence, truancy, suspension, and dropout rates. By some measures, the disparity in the academic performance of Berkeley students along race lines, commonly known as the ‘achievement gap,’ is one of the widest reported in California.” … Continue reading »

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Cooking cuts loom at schools’ edible program

Washing off freshly picked asparagus at the Willard Middle School garden. Parents at the school are protesting suggested cuts to the cooking and gardening program. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The cooking component of Berkeley schools’ highly regarded cooking and gardening program may soon be eliminated for financial reasons, and the future of the entire program in middle and high schools is also at risk.

The Berkeley Unified School District board was scheduled to hear details of the proposal in a presentation titled ‘Re-envisioning the Cooking and Gardening Program’ at its regular meeting this evening. However the item has been postponed to a future, as yet undefined date, according to director of the cooking and program, Jezra Thompson.

Under the proposal, cooking classes would be eliminated for the 2014-15 academic year. The focus of the program would then center on gardening for pre-kindergarten through third grades. Gardening programs for middle school and high school students would be eliminated.

A major reduction in funds has prompted the need to re-evaluate the program and jobs will also be lost as a result. … Continue reading »

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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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