Tag Archives: Bill Huyett

Superintendent Huyett apologizes to BHS football team

The Yellowjackets are now ranked in the top 20, despite playing all games away and having no weights room
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Last week’s sudden closure of Berkeley High’s Old Gym puzzled and angered many student athletes and their supporters. Last night, at the Berkeley Unified School District board meeting, Superintendent Bill Huyett apologized for the disruption, but said that his decision was forced by the unsafe condition of the building.

“We do recognize the problems that have been put upon the [football] team,” Huyett said. “I don’t think anybody wanted this to happen, especially in this way. It happened very clearly out of a lack of information on my part.”

Huyett said that he had spoken to the BHS football team and coaches after practice on Wednesday to apologize.

The superintendent was responding at the school board meeting to Richard Boyden, a parent of a current member of the Yellowjackets. … Continue reading »

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Closure of BHS gym rattles athletes, angers parents

The Old Gym at Berkeley High School was abruptly shut this week because of seismic safety concerns. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The unexpected and abrupt closure of Berkeley High School’s Old Gym this week has thrown some of the school’s athletic programs into turmoil.

On Monday, members of the football team were told they could not go into the locker room in the Old Gym to suit up for practice or to retrieve their belongings. Since then, the team has not had a place to change, store personal items, use weights, or watch films to prepare for upcoming games.

“It has caused a lot of confusion and it is having an effect on how we practice,” said one member of the varsity football team who did not want his name used. “It has a detrimental affect on the team.”

The abrupt closure on Monday October 3 came about because Superintendent Bill Huyett only recently learned of reports that the structure may not be seismically safe, and decided to take action.

“I am a very prudent and cautious person when it comes to student safety,” said Huyett.

Huyett was referring to an engineering study included in a 2006 environmental impact report that raised – but did not answer — questions about the seismic stability of the Old Gym. The structure was built in 1922 based on a design by architect William Hays. In 1929, an addition housing what is now known as the Warm Pool was added. The complex is slated to be torn down in 2012 and replaced with a $35 million, three-story building that holds 15 classrooms, a new gym, and a fitness center. … Continue reading »

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Students see security changes at Berkeley High School

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As Berkeley High students returned to school this week, they weren’t permitted to enter by the Allston Street door leading into the main office. Instead they were directed to a nearby gate.

“Visitors Entrance Only,” read the lettering on two new signs posted by the office. “Students Please Use the ‘A’ Gate.”

Five and a half months after two students discharged a gun in a portable bathroom, spooking students, parents, and administrators, change has come to Berkeley High. Access to … Continue reading »

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Citizen’s good turn prompts school district investigation

Some of the school records that were inadvertently discarded in a dumpster at Le Conte School. Photo: Alicia Abramson
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The discovery on Saturday of a stash of school records in a dumpster on the Le Conte Elementary School playground has prompted the Berkeley Unified School District to initiate an investigation into how school documents are stored and discarded.

“We need a clear policy and higher security,” said BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett.

Berkeleyside revealed on Tuesday that a large number of school records had been left in a dumpster at Le Conte after reader Alicia Abramson got in touch … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High harassment case heading to settlement

Berkeley High School. Photo: Lance Knobel
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The long-running case concerning alleged sexual harassment by Berkeley High counselor Anthony Smith came to Federal Court today in San Francisco and now looks likely to be settled by the school district.

Judge Maria-Elena James considered the Berkeley Unified School District’s motion to dismiss the federal suit against Smith, the district and Superintendent Bill Huyett (the full text of the suit is here). The judge denied the motion to dismiss three state law claims in the suit and dismissed a claim of negligence without prejudice, providing an opening for the plaintiff to refile with a more specific complaint of negligence.

Berkeleyside broke the news that Smith had been accused of sexually harassing a junior at BHS in April 2010. In September 2010, at the beginning of the student’s senior year, a temporary restraining order was granted ordering Smith to stay at least 100 yards away from the student. An out-of-court settlement was reached on the restraining order in October, when Smith agreed to stay at least 50 yards from the student. The federal case considered today seeking unspecified damages was filed in April this year. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school board considers weapons safety report

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High
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While Berkeley High should tighten its perimeter, enlist its uniformed police officer to patrol its edges and nearby park, have its security officers wear identifiable uniforms, and teach students about the impact of guns, it should not require students to wear a visible identification badges and use them to get on and off campus – at least not yet.

There are still too many unresolved issues on how to implement the mechanics of closing the campus and requiring ID badges to move forward quickly, school board members decided Wednesday night. The board directed Superintendent Bill Huyett and his staff to more closely examine those items and return with a more detailed and workable plan.

“We don’t have to do this by fall,” said Board member John Selawsky. “I just want to see us working on it.”

Huyett agreed that rushing into a new set of requirements might not be the best idea. … Continue reading »

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Student voices are missing from gun safety report

One of the inner courtyards at Berkeley High
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Some significant voices are missing in the 11-page report the Ad Hoc Safety Committee prepared on how to reduce guns in Berkeley high schools: that of the students.

While two Berkeley High students sat on the committee — at least until the end of the academic year — efforts to find out and understand why students brought guns into school did not go far.

Susan Craig, the director of student services for the Berkeley Unified School District, interviewed almost all of the six Berkeley students who were caught with guns and asked them why they brought weapons on campus. None of them were particularly forthcoming about their reasons, she told the safety committee.

The district also enlisted the aid of Pastor Michael McBride of BOCA, a faith-based  action committee, to hold focus groups with students to discuss guns on campus. While those conversations happened, McBride did not provide a summary of those discussions to the committee, despite repeated phone calls asking for the information by Craig and Superintendent Bill Huyett.

McBride was not paid for his efforts, but in late May the school district approved a  $15,0000 contract with Lifelines to Healing, an anti-violence mentoring program promoted by BOCA. (Note 7/1/11: McBride said BOCA will not benefit financially from this contract and is in fact, donating $10,000 to the overall project.)

A survey conducted by the safety consultant Al Bahn of Edu-Safe Associates only garnered one student response. … Continue reading »

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School safety committee issues weapons report

Berkeley High School
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Three months after two students accidentally discharged a gun in a Berkeley High School bathroom, a task force empaneled to study the issue of weapons has concluded that the school should not install metal detectors or close the campus during lunch, but should require students to carry – but not necessarily display — identification cards.

In addition, the school could improve safety by more closely controlling who comes in and out of the campus. To do that, the high school should reduce the number of entrances to campus to four and hire monitors to stand by the gates. The school should more strictly enforce its visitors’ policy to make sure everyone on campus has a legitimate reason to be there, according to the report.

The school should also retain the 12 safety officers currently on staff – up from 10 in previous years — and hire a second full-time police officer for the campus, if financially feasible. All security personnel should be required to wear uniforms that plainly identify them to students, staff and the police, concludes the report, which will be presented to the school board on June 29.

The eleven-page set of recommendations is the culmination of three months of work by the Ad Hoc Safety Committee, which was appointed by Superintendent Bill Huyett in April to review policies and procedures in the city’s high schools after a spate of six gun incidents in a two-and-a-half month period from January to March 2011. The large number of weapons found on campus deeply distressed the community and the school board and led to emotional community meetings, student focus groups, police training, a flurry of online comment, and a sense of urgency that the district had to quickly address a growing problem.

Right after the sixth gun incident on March 25th, the school district took a number of immediate steps to try and improve the situation and asked the 15-member task force to examine some long-term policy questions on how to eliminate – or at least minimize – the presence of weapons at school.

The district bumped up its security detail by hiring two more school safety officers and increasing the presence of a uniformed police officer on campus from four to five days a week. Berkeley High closed some entrances to the massive campus, positioned security guards at the gates in the morning and after lunch, and stepped up patrols in out of way portions of the campus. It installed an anonymous hotline to report weapons. There have been no other guns discovered on the Berkeley High or B-Tech campuses since the security upgrades.

The report, and discussion among committee members, provide some new details on the six gun incidents, which included six Berkeley students and one non-Berkeley student.

  • All of the on-campus incidents happened in the morning while the off-campus incident happened after school was dismissed.
  • A total of seven Berkeley students and one non-Berkeley students were involved in the six gun incidents.
  • Six of the seven students were not on probation prior to the incident
  • One student was a senior, three were juniors, one was a sophomore, and one was a freshman.
  • Three students had not had prior discipline incidents this year before they brought weapons to school.
  • All the students were male.
  • One student was homeless.
  • All resided in Berkeley
  • All have been expelled from the district

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Plans dropped for controversial community school

BUSD is dropping effort to establish community school at the Berkeley Adult School. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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The Berkeley Unified School District is dropping its efforts to place a school for expelled students inside the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue.

Superintendent Bill Huyett thinks “the District has other more pressing issues and needs that require staff time,” according to a press release that was sent out at 12:40 a.m. Sunday “The District will continue to encourage the Alameda County Office of Education to locate services for expelled students in the northern part of the county.”

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School committee finalizes report in wake of guns

A Berkeley High safety officer stands by a gate before the start of classess, part of a series of measures to reduce the number of guns on campus. PHoto: Frances Dinkelspiel
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In a small conference room on the second floor of old City Hall, a group of school administrators, parents, students, police and safety officers have met regularly over the past nine weeks to debate how to tackle the issue of guns at Berkeley High.

They have talked about the colors gang members wear – and whether gangs pose an issue at the school. They have argued about whether to close the campus, and how a cafeteria equipped to hold 500 would serve 3,200 students a day. They have talked about making school security officers more identifiable, how to encourage students to wear ID badges, and how teaching students about the dangers of guns might be critical to stopping the presence of weapons on campus. They have agreed that metal detectors just won’t work. … Continue reading »

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Community schools help kids but worry neighbors

Mary Fisher, principal of Hayeard Community School, talking to a student
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HAYWARD — Nine teenage boys and one teenage girl sat grouped around a set of desks arranged in a rectangle. Their eyes were focused on another boy standing in front of them, who was reading from his report on the effects of marijuana.

“People are introduced to marijuana usually by their friends, older sister or brother, or someone they know,” said the speaker, who looked up from his paper to flash a smile at his classmates, who then started to talk.

“You are doing very well,” said Annie Green, the teacher, who, without missing a beat, turned to the class and told them to tone down their chatter. “Save your comments for later,” she said. Green then turned her attention back to her standing student and started to probe some of the points he made in his presentation, particularly what marijuana does to pregnant women.

The scene could be one from any Bay Area high school with its mix of restless students and a teacher trying to tamp down their chatter. But this didn’t happen in an ordinary school. It took place recently at the Hayward Community School, a school run by the Alameda County Office of Education for students who have been expelled by their own school districts for truancy, bad behavior, repeated suspensions, and violent acts like carrying a weapon to school. Some may have served time in juvenile hall.

Nestled in the back of the bright yellow Eden Youth and Family Center on West Tennyson, right next to a pediatric clinic, a day care center and a day labor program, the Hayward Community School serves 64 of Alameda County’s toughest students, those, who, despite repeated chances, could not make it at their own high schools. They have been sent to the community school to sit out their expulsions, which may range from a semester to a year.

Four of the students at the Hayward Community School live in Berkeley, and soon, in the 2011-2012 school year, students like them might be able to attend classes in their hometown rather than have to travel to Hayward. The Alameda County Office of Education and the Berkeley Unified School District are proposing to create a small community school inside the Berkeley Adult School on San Pablo Avenue near Virgina. … Continue reading »

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New state budget is good news for Berkeley schools

The Berkeley Unified School District Board
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The final numbers haven’t been completely crunched, and the legislature hasn’t passed the budget yet, but the fiscal situation for the Berkeley Unified School District for next year looks much better than previously thought.

Gov. Jerry Brown released his “May revise” budget on Monday and it contained an unexpected $6.6 billion in new revenues. Brown applied $3 billion of the money to K-12 education, which means BUSD won’t have to cut as much as $330-$700 per student, the numbers … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school district faces deep cuts

Berkeley Adult School, Berkeley, CA, USA
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Dozens of teachers and staff from Berkeley schools are planning to leaflet local BART stations Tuesday afternoon to get out the word that planned state budget cuts will decimate the school system.

The 4 pm leafleting, and a planned march in San Francisco on Friday, are part of a week-long effort called “State of Emergency” to pressure lawmakers into extending expiring taxes. Governor Jerry Brown wanted to place tax extensions on the June ballot to close a $26 billion budget gap, but couldn’t get the Republican support he needed to do so.

“If you believe the funding is inadequate for public education, the practical way is to extend the taxes we have in place,” Bill Huyett, the superintendent of Berkeley schools, told a group assembled Monday for a hearing on the BUSD budget. “Your job is to talk to your legislator or if you know a legislator who is in a Republican district, talk to them.”

“We need to get the word out,” said Josh Daniels, a school board member. “I can’t urge you enough. Don’t just walk away. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your fellow staff. Get them involved.”

Without the tax extension, BUSD is facing a $3.7 million deficit for fiscal year 2012. That translates to a drop of at least $330 each student, although the numbers might get even worse. There is a chance the state will slash $700 from each student, according to Javetta Cleveland, the deputy superintendent for business. … Continue reading »

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