Tag Archives: Karen Hemphill

Soda tax, school board race, open council seat bring campaign cash to Berkeley

The proponents of a tax on soda kicked off their campaign on Aug. 2. Photo: Berkeley vs Big Soda
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The lure of an open Berkeley City Council seat has turned the race to replace Gordon Wozniak in November into a big bucks proposition.

The District 8 race for Wozniak’s position, the city’s proposed sugar-sweetened beverage tax on distributors and the Berkeley School Board race — with four people vying for three seats — are already bringing in significant campaign contributions as the November 2014 election approaches.

Read Berkeleyside’s 2014 election coverageContinue 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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Julie Sinai appointed to Berkeley school board post

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Julie Sinai, former chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates and now director of local government and community relations at UC Berkeley, was unanimously appointed to a vacant school board seat on Wednesday night. Sinai emerged from a slate of nine candidates in a quick, non-contentious vote by the four sitting members of the Berkeley Unified School District board.

“I’ve been a parent, I’ve been past staff, I’ve been a partner,” Sinai said in her three-minute presentation at the special board meeting. Before her position with Mayor Bates, Sinai had been director of school-linked programs for BUSD. “I’m ready to help get the work done with the board.”

The vacancy was created when board president Leah Wilson resigned in March because of her appointment as Court Executive Officer for the Alameda County Superior Court. Sinai will serve the remainder of Wilson’s term, which expires in November, 2014.  … Continue reading »

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Schools

Hayward chief is finalist for BUSD superintendent spot

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A national search for a new Berkeley schools superintendent has ended practically right next door in Hayward with the announcement Friday morning that Donald Evans has been chosen by the School Board as its preferred finalist for the position.

Evans has been superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District since 2011, and has previously worked in Compton, Oakland and East Palo Alto. He started out as an elementary school teacher in San Diego in 1988.

Karen Hemphill, Berkeley School Board president, said Evans’ range of experiences — with elementary and secondary students, and struggling students as well as high-performers — and his long history in California set him apart from the pack. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school board seeks replacement director

BUSD headquarters on Bonar Street. Photo: Kaia Diringer
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Berkeley Unified School District’s board Wednesday night agreed on the procedure to appoint a replacement director for Leah Wilson, who resigned earlier this month. The board has posted an application for directors on its website, with responses due by April 15. The board plans to make an appointment at a special May 1 meeting, with the regular board meeting on May 8 as a fallback in case agreement can’t be reached.

The Berkeley city charter allows the board make an appointment within 60 days of a vacancy occurring. After that point, the County Supervisor can order a special election.  … Continue reading »

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Two interim superintendents to take reins at BUSD

The new headquarters of the Berkeley Unified School District
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The Berkeley Unified School District may have new leadership as early as next week, but it will only be temporary.

The school board voted in closed session Wednesday night to hire two administrators to serve as tandem superintendents. The idea is to have the pair lead the district for two to three months while the search for a permanent superintendent continues, according to Karen Hemphill, a member of the BUSD board. The current superintendent, Bill Huyett, is retiring.

The board voted in closed session on the concept of hiring tandem superintendents, but did not vote on any individual contracts, so the names of those under consideration do not have to be released, said Hemphill. She added that two have stepped in for Huyett in the past when he went on vacation.

“We don’t have a contract signed,” said Board President John Selawsky. “It’s premature to name people.” … Continue reading »

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Truancy high, but improving, at Berkeley High School

Berkeley High School. Photo: Charlotte Wayne
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In the last two weeks, Berkeley High officials have sent out close to 2,000 letters telling students they have been truant, but they are regarding the number as an achievement.

While it might seem worrisome that 60% of the school’s 3,300 students are routinely skipping class, the situation is actually better than last year thanks to new programs on preventing truancy, according to Daniel Roose, the dean of attendance.

While in 2010, only about 90.7% of the students attended regularly, the number is up this year, said Roose. Attendance in September, October, and November of 2011 was more than 94%, he said.

“It’s still way too high,” said Roose. “The state of California would like all California schools to be in the high 90s. We are below average for our peer schools in California.” … 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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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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Debate on future of two city libraries sparks concerns

Todd Jersey's vision for a renovated West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library.
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A special joint meeting of Berkeley’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) and the Landmark Preservation Commission tonight will consider the final environmental impact reports (EIR) on the South and West branch libraries and their planned demolition. The plans approved by the Board of Library Trustees for new branch library buildings are the subject of a lawsuit between the city and Concerned Library Users (CLU), which has called for renovation of the existing buildings.

The staff reports to the ZAB recommend … Continue reading »

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