Tag Archives: BUSD Superintendent

Address verification work continues for Berkeley Unified

The Bonar Street headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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The Berkeley Unified School District has continued its stepped-up efforts to cut down on enrollment fraud during its second year of widespread home visits and address verifications prompted by a new policy adopted by the School Board last year.

Wednesday night, the board got an update from BUSD admissions manager Francisco Martinez about how enrollment and address verifications have gone so far in the 2016-17 school year.

Martinez was charged by BUSD last year with keeping a closer eye on school enrollment. As part of the new board policy, students in certain grades are required to provide proof of residency — such as a utility bill and additional documents — before being allowed to re-enroll.

This year, the families of all students heading into middle and high school had to provide proof of Berkeley residency if they wished to continue to attend BUSD.

Of nearly 700 students who attended fifth grade in Berkeley last year, 33 did not provide the documents, and went elsewhere for middle school, according to Wednesday night’s enrollment update. Of approximately 740 rising ninth-graders, 28 did not submit documents and they, too, left for other districts.

District staff also visited 503 homes as part of the address verification process “when the staff believes this is necessary to ensure compliance with the Berkeley residency requirement.” As a result of that process, 89 students were not enrolled in Berkeley for the current school year. According to the report, home visits took place in Berkeley, Oakland and West Contra Costa County. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school superintendent worked 18 months with lapsed credentials

Donald Evans. Photo: Hayward Unified School District
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For much of the last two years, Berkeley School Superintendent Donald Evans has been working without credentials required by his contract.

In July 2014, a year after his appointment, Evans let his school administrative services credential and his teaching credential lapse. He finally renewed them on Jan. 4, 2016.

The Berkeley Unified School District Board is considering giving Evans a pardon for his inattentiveness. The board is scheduled to take action Wednesday to waive the district’s requirement that its top manager hold valid credentials. The action, presumably, would only apply to Evans.

“I am so embarrassed,” Evans said Tuesday. “I didn’t know my credential had lapsed. The state used to send reminders. It stopped doing it and left it up to school districts. Berkeley Unified doesn’t do it (send out reminders).” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board rejects school officer grant

Berkeley High police cruiser. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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The Berkeley School Board said a resounding “no” to a proposal to add a second police officer to its campus roster during a discussion earlier this month about ways to address safety and racial tension on campus.

The proposal, from Superintendent Donald Evans, was among a group of ideas collected from the community in December following several race-related incidents at Berkeley High in recent years, including the hanging of a noose on campus, disparaging statements that were slipped into the school yearbook last spring, and racial threats posted on a school computer in the fall.

Scroll down to see what’s on tonight’s School Board agenda.

The Berkeley Police Department had won a Department of Justice grant for $125,000 over a three-year period to help fund an additional school resource officer position. There is just one school resource officer in the district, stationed at Berkeley High on weekdays.

Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Sheila Quintana has lobbied in recent years for an officer who could also be present on her campus, the district’s lone continuation school. The grant would have helped provide funding for that position, said Capt. Dave Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department.  … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board primer: Campus racism, Thousand Oaks portables, help for ‘high-need’ students

BUSD held a town hall in December about how to address racism on campus. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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The Berkeley schools Board of Education meets tonight, Jan. 13. On the agenda: The superintendent will share his plan to address racism on campus, the board may vote to call off plans for portables at Thousand Oaks, and there will be an overview about the types of intervention help and support the district’s high-need students receive.

Plan to address racism on campus

There’s one item on the action calendar, which is a follow-up to a Berkeley Unified School District town hall meeting in early December focused on racial threats last fall directed toward black students and staff at Berkeley High. The meeting was a collaboration between the district and community group Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD).

According to the agenda item, “That meeting generated a rich array of input from the community that resulted in suggestions and requests for commitments from the District to better safeguard the physical, emotional, and educational interests of our African-American students.” 

Two days after the town hall, the Berkeley High School Black Student Union presented to the board a “list of demands designed to address the issue of racism on campus.” … Continue reading »

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BHS student to be disciplined after racist statement

Photo- Jackson Grigsby
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The student who posted an inflammatory and racist statement on a Berkeley High School library computer last week was a student of color, according to a school district spokesman. But the student, a male freshman, was not black, according to a city staffer familiar with the case.

BHS Principal Sam Pasarow told the high school staff that the student was “a student of color,” but did not specify which race, according to Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley Unified School District. Authorities have said they are not releasing identifiable details about the student because they fear retaliation.

Coplan also revealed new details about how the racist, threatening message was discovered Nov. 4, the process Pasarow took to determine the culprit, and the timing of the message Pasarow sent to the community about the incident.

A parent volunteer in the library spotted the image while the student was sitting at the computer since the font was so large and the words captured the volunteer’s attention, said Coplan. The volunteer immediately notified library staff, and the student was detained and taken to Pasarow’s office, said Coplan. This was around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4.

“There is nothing that indicates that the student intended to post it,” he said. “The student was creating a document. A volunteer spotted the document because the wording was so big and brought it to the attention to the staff.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High student linked to racist ‘screen hack’

The 2015 Berkeley High yearbook is being recalled due to an offensive comment on one of its pages. Photo by Melati Citrawireja
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By Emilie Raguso and Lance Knobel

Berkeley High School administrators say they have identified the student responsible for a “screen hack” in the library Wednesday that displayed racist threats against African Americans.

Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow said, during a press conference Thursday afternoon, that a student, believed to have been acting alone, was responsible for the message.

The press event followed a peaceful protest and walkout undertaken by more than 700 students earlier in the day.

The identity of the student linked to the screen hack was discovered through “an in-depth technological forensic analysis,” Pasarow said.

The student has since met with the principal and other administrators, and reportedly took responsibility for the messages.

The consequences have not been determined, said Pasarow. They may, however, include expulsion. It’s possible, he said, that the student may not ever be allowed to return to Berkeley High.

Pasarow said school officials are concerned about possible retaliation against the student, and will not release any details that could be used for public identification, such as age, gender or race.

“My sense is the student acted alone,”said Pasarow. “The consequences are going to be pretty intensive.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley High students walk out, rally after racist threats

Demo Eric Panzer
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By Tracey Taylor, Lance Knobel and Emilie Raguso

Update, Nov. 10: Listen to Berkeley High Principal Sam Pasarow, Berkeley High Black Student Union co-president Alecia Harger, and Berkeleyside co-founder Lance Knobel discuss the walkout and what provoked it on KQED Forum. The 25-minute segment was broadcast on Friday Nov. 6 at 9:30 a.m.

Follow live coverage on Berkeleyside’s Twitter page, and at #BHSwalkout.

Update, Nov. 5, 5:10 p.m. Thursday afternoon, school officials announced they had identified the student responsible for the hate crime.

Update, 3:40 p.m. Thursday’s demonstration and march through Berkeley, from the high school up to the Cal campus, went smoothly and was devoid of disturbances or arrests.

“We didn’t have any problems,” said Officer Byron White, a Berkeley Police spokesman. “From our standpoint it was terrific.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley School Board to get student residency update

There are about 300 students at Berkeley High who live outside the city but have received permits to attend BHS. Photo: Mark Coplan/BUSD
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After approving a new admissions and enrollment policy in June aimed to curtail the illegal enrollment of out-of-district students, the Berkeley School Board is set to receive a report at tonight’s meeting that sums up district efforts this year related to residency and inter-district permits.

According to the staff report prepared for the Nov. 4, board meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District has enrolled 9,880 students for the 2015-16 year. That includes 1,525 students who enrolled in the district for the first time and had to comply with the new rules.

The new board policy requires students seeking admission to BUSD to provide three “proofs of residency” and a declaration form stating that Berkeley is the family’s home district.

Earlier this year, the new policy required the families of all fifth-graders to prove their residency before being allowed to register for middle school, according to the district. This school year, eighth-graders will have to comply with the district’s admission policy before being allowed to register for classes at Berkeley High, according tonight’s staff report. … Continue reading »

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City Council seeks to move meetings to West Berkeley

The BUSD Headquarters on Bonar Street. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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Update, Sept. 15 The neighborhood meeting has been moved to Sept. 24 because of a scheduling conflict, district spokesman Mark Coplan told Berkeleyside today. Coplan explained by email that “It is a neighborhood meeting like we conduct when there is going to be construction or something that will have an impact on the surrounding area. We are not posting it or encouraging a larger audience so that our neighbors have ample opportunity to discuss the impact.” The district will be posting fliers in the neighborhood, and inviting residents in Daryl Moore and Linda Maio’s districts around the West Campus “to come and share their questions, concerns and expectations with Daryl and Linda, facilitated by the superintendent and board president.” Added Coplan: “The impact of the city’s proposed pilot on our neighbors is the only issue that involves BUSD. Any town hall or larger discussion about the COB’s plans to move their meetings would be conducted by the city.” (See a meeting flier here.)

Original story, Sept. 2 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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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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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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Berkeley High students allege BUSD refused access to federal investigators over sexual harassment

Students from BHS Stop Harassing put up posters in campus, alleging BUSD has been refusing OCR investigators access to students. Photo: Jaya N.S.
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After BUSD officials allegedly refused to let federal investigators interview students about sexual harassment claims at Berkeley High, students plastered posters in campus hallways last month stating, “You are being silenced,” and “Your civil rights are being violated right now.”

Students and parents of the activist group BHS Stop Harassing, who alerted the Office of Civil Rights about alleged sexual harassment at the high school, contend that the school district has obstructed OCR’s efforts to collect materials and speak to students. The district has not turned over requested papers and documentation; refused to allow OCR to distribute an anonymous survey asking about sexual harassment in classrooms; failed to alert students that investigators were there to conduct interviews; and did not send permission slips for those interviews home, according to parents of BHS students. One of the parents was Heidi Goldstein, who filed the complaint to the OCR last December. … Continue reading »

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