Tag Archives: Malcolm X Elementary School


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

Kids on the Malcolm X playground
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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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Enrollment surge necessitates three new kindergartens

BUSD officials informed the principal of Rosa Parks Elementary School, Paco Furlan, just nine days ago that he would have to add another Kindergarten class. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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So many new students have unexpectedly enrolled for kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year that the Berkeley Unified School District has to add three new kindergarten classrooms.

BUSD has seen steady growth in enrollment in recent years and had projected for larger numbers of kindergarten students, but an additional 66 students unexpectedly signed up, according to a letter sent out this week and signed by Superintendent Donald Evans and Neil Smith, assistant superintendent for educational services. … Continue reading »

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Mobile asthma clinic makes its debut at Berkeley school

Outside the Breathmobile at Malcolm X Elementary School, Oct. 18, 2012. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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A mobile asthma clinic designed to keep kids in school and out of the hospital debuted Thursday at Malcolm X Elementary School in south Berkeley.

The Breathmobile, a 33-foot-long Winnebago RV, drew inquisitive looks and questions from students throughout the day. The vehicle was parked in the school courtyard to offer easy access to families that signed up for its first day ever in Berkeley. The program, which provides free asthma and allergy treatment, has ties to ongoing city-wide efforts to target the achievement gap and bring more accessible healthcare to a high-risk population.

Dr. Washington Burns of the West Oakland-based Prescott-Joseph Center for Community Enhancement brought the Breathmobile program to the East Bay in 2009. It began in Emeryville and has since expanded to serve 18 sites around the Bay Area. It’s the only one of its kind in Northern California, according to Burns’ staff, though there are also about a dozen other Breathmobile RVs that operate across the nation. … Continue reading »

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School edible programs get reprieve from the feds

Photo: Students shuck corn at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley.
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As the academic year winds to a close this week there is welcome news for next year. Schools are to get a one-year reprieve on the funding front from the federal government for the gardening and cooking programs at three of Berkeley Unified School District‘s elementary schools.

Earlier in the year it was feared that the schools — Malcolm XRosa Parks, and Washington  — were going to lose these federal funds, due to failure to meet existing guidelines that require a school to have at least 50% of its students enrolled in the free and reduced-lunch programs.

In April — following a series of school board meetings where parents and community members made an impassioned case for the importance of keeping such curricula — the BUSD Board voted to authorize funding up to $350,000 for edible programs at the three elementary schools in question for the following year.

Now comes word that won’t be necessary. The Network for a Healthy California, the state program that administers the federal monies to local school districts, recently informed the BUSD of its intention to extend the funding for an additional year, according to Leah Sokolofski, program supervisor for the BUSD Cooking and Garden Nutrition Program. The scope of work and budget must remain the same at each school, and no additional schools will be able to use the funds, noted Sokolofski in an email sent to school principals on Tuesday. … Continue reading »

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Community rallies to get pool measure on ballot

Students, parents, and community members rally on Sunday to reopen Willard Pool. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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About 75 people rallied on the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Derby Street in Berkeley Sunday afternoon to convince the City Council to put a pool bond measure on the November ballot.

Holding signs that read “Save Willard Pool,” and “Honk if you like to swim,” the group of students, parents, and community members yelled, chanted, and encouraged people to sign a petition that called for the reopening of Willard pool, which was closed and filled with dirt in 2010. (The petition is also posted at Change.org.)

“I would like to see Willard Pool open again,” said Amelie Melde Fontenay, a parent of a Willard School student. “My only son got here just in time to see the pool filled in with dirt. I don’t think it’s fair that the other two (middle) schools have pools and Willard doesn’t.” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley district votes to fund at-risk edible programs

Edible schoolyard Malcolm X
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Late last night, the Berkeley Unified School District School Board voted to authorize funding up to $350,000 for three elementary schools — Malcolm XRosa Parks, and Washington — that were in danger of losing their gardening and cooking programs for the next school year.

The move came as welcome news for all those involved in the programs and anyone who champions teaching children to eat, grow, and cook their greens.

“The Board showed a remarkable commitment to edible education by continuing to fund the garden and cooking programs at Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Washington next year,” said Leah Sokolofski, who supervises the program for the district. “The decision is dependent on the district receiving Network for a Healthy California funding. We are still waiting for more information to be released about the Network funding. The district’s current Network contract continues through September 30, 2012.” … Continue reading »

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Community seeks life support for school edible programs

The end of salad days for BUSD students? Photos: Rivka Mason
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This week, Berkeley parents and community members rallied to find ways to secure funds to save the gardening and cooking programs at three local elementary schools.

The programs at Malcolm XRosa Parks, and Washington, whose combined budgets are  $372,000, are threatened because, under existing guidelines, the schools no longer qualify for federal monies as they have fewer than 50% of their students enrolled in the free and reduced-lunch program.

At a meeting at Malcolm X on Monday night, about two dozen people representing the three schools and the South Berkeley community hashed out ideas to find money in the short-term — and discussed the bigger-picture concern of making these programs sustainable,  as well as available to all BUSD students over the long haul. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley school gardening, cooking programs face cuts

Sharing the pleasures of an outdoor table: The delicious revolution at Malcolm X.
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Three of Berkeley Unified School District‘s elementary schools – Malcolm XRosa Parks, and Washington — are in jeopardy of losing their entire cooking and gardening program funds beginning in October this year.

Under existing guidelines, the schools will no longer qualify for federal funding because they have fewer than 50% of their students enrolled in the free and reduced-lunch program, according to Leah Sokolofski, who supervises the program for the district.

Berkeley has an international reputation for its edible schoolyards, where public school children of all economic means learn what it takes to grow a radish and sauté some chard. Such funding cuts to the program, whose total budget is $1.94 million a year, would represent a significant setback in the city’s pioneering efforts to date.

School gardening and cooking champion Alice Waters, whose Chez Panisse Foundation helped fund the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, expressed dismay at the potential budget cuts to programs. “It’s inevitable cuts will come — people think these programs are dispensable and the state of California is in a financial crisis — but it’s a tragedy,” she said. … Continue reading »

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What does Berkeley want from its new schools head?

Retiring BUSD Superintendent Bill Huyett: the search for his successor should conclude by May
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A series of public meetings and workshops with teachers, administrators and classified staff took place over the last four days as part of the search for a new Berkeley schools superintendent to replace Bill Huyett, who is retiring on June 30.

Interested members of the community are also being encouraged to complete an online survey as part of the search (the survey in Spanish is here).

Carolyn McKennan and Maggie Carrillo Mejia, from search firm Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, led the meetings and workshops which will be used to draw up the profile for the new appointment. McKennan and Carrillo Mejia will present the profile to the Berkeley Unified School District board at its meeting next Wednesday. … Continue reading »

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Students learn about the past, themselves

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By Robert A. Mills

Photographs from school dances and family reunions, shiny foam letters and fragmented family trees decorated posters throughout a crowded room at Berkeley’s Malcolm X Elementary School on Saturday. They were the work of dozens of African American and Hispanic youth from around the Bay Area and part of a four-month adventure into family history.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson created Who am I? Family Journeys: Alameda County Youth Testimonials with his staff and volunteers from the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California. Their goal: to help Bay Area youth better understand their family histories.

Carson, inspired by his own genealogical investigation, said knowing one’s self begins with knowing one’s past.

“When I think of who I am today, I have to think of who I come from and the person I’ve been,” Carson said. “I have a responsibility to my children and my grand children so they at least know who they are.”

The event kicked off at 10 a.m. with warm smiles, hot coffee and a select panel of youth who shared their personal journeys. Students from McClymonds High School Culture Keepers in West Oakland, Alameda County’s Beyond Emancipation program for former foster youth and Berkeley Technology Academy in south Berkeley made up the panel. … Continue reading »

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A planner who favors edible, eco education — and risks

Author a green schoolyard advocate Sharon Gamson Danks./Photo: Maia and Ayden Danks.
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In the course of her travels researching her new book Asphalt to Ecosystems: Design Ideas for Schoolyard Transformation, Sharon Gamson Danks was struck by two things: First, the United States is a world leader in school food gardens and Berkeley is firmly at the epicenter of that movement.

And second, the U.S. lags far behind other countries when it comes to building green schoolyards with eco-friendly aspects beyond a produce patch — in other words spaces that encourage play with potential risk. We’re talking less asphalt and metal structures, and more nature nooks and shaded ponds.

An environmental planner, Danks and landscape architect Lisa Howard run Bay Tree Design in Berkeley, which specializes in designing ecological outdoor play spaces. They incorporate ideas Danks picked up from her playground adventures overseas. … Continue reading »

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Malcolm X parents raise concerns over pedestrian safety

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Perhaps it’s because this particular school is located on a state highway, or perhaps it’s because one of its six-year-old students was run over on a crosswalk next to the school three years ago. Most likely both factors have contributed to a strong feeling among many parents at Malcolm X Elementary School that pedestrian safety needs to be improved on Ashby Avenue (State Highway 13), in particular at the point where it intersects with Ellis Street.

Promised improvements, they say, have been a long time coming and many problems have still not been addressed. In response, the city cites the particular difficulty it faces with green-lighting work on Ashby which, because it is a highway, comes under the jurisdiction of Caltrans. “It is very challenging for us, because any work we want to do involves submitting an encroachment permit to Caltrans, and, with state budget issues, Caltrans has been very slow to respond,” says Farid Javandel, Berkeley’s transportation division manager. … Continue reading »

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Parents cross their fingers in Berkeley school lottery

Erika Pollak hopes Zev gets into Malcom X Elementary
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By Chris Hammond

Ring the school bell. Today marks a day of hope and trepidation for hundreds of Berkeley parents. The deadline to submit applications for the Berkeley public school lottery is 4 pm.

For kindergartners, the lottery marks a crucial beginning. The results will determine which school they get. Parents and guardians wait to find out, will it be the neighborhood school? Or the school on the other side of town?

Then there are all the other considerations parents sweat: will we get one of the few seats in a Spanish language immersion class, or the school with the intensive music and dance program?

“I really, really do want my first choice,” said Erika Pollak, whose son will attend kindergarten next year. She visited all five schools the district listed for her child, based on where they live in Berkeley. The one she wants is spacious Malcolm X Elementary School, an arts and academic magnet school. “If I don’t get it, I’ll be disappointed, I’ll do what I can to change. I’ll go to the school administration.”

Parents and guardians receive assignment letters by mid-March. Melissandra Leonardos, Manager of Admissions and Attendance, said 68% of students received their first choice last year, and 11% got their second choice.

“Honestly, I don’t make exceptions,” Leonardos said. “Unless it’s truly for the health and safety of a student.” She described the school lottery as a controlled choice — parents get to choose first, second and third from a number of schools, but the school district puts controls on where students end up. Parents who are still unhappy with the choice they get can join a waiting list for the school they want.

Controls such as race, education and income influence the pick. The goal that both parents and school officials said they hope for: good schools for everyone.

The philosophy behind Berkeley Unified’s school enrollment is steeped in careful consideration and history. The path to today’s lottery began when Berkeley schools became the first in the nation to integrate voluntarily in 1968. For the next 27 years elementary students got on the bus in an effort to make sure all students shared schools equally.
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