The Berkeley school board held its first meeting of the new academic year Wednesday, Aug. 31. Find the agenda here, and the full packet here. The next meeting will be held Sept. 14. Meetings can be viewed live on local channel 33 and are also broadcast live on radio station KPFB 89.3 FM.
[Update: 11:15 p.m.]
The board approved the extension of the contract between the district and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers. (2.1-A)
The board approved the financial memorandum of understanding between the district and REALM Charter School. Huyett emphasized that there is no cost to the district for any of the services they are providing. (4.1-A)
Regarding a potential advance payment of property taxes to REALM (4.2-A), Selawsky voiced some concerns about providing REALM with cash in advance and asked why they need the money. "They have a couple cash-flow issues," said Cleveland. "They did not get one of their start-up grants for the high school." Selawsky then asked if Cleveland thought REALM will get these issues under control. "I'm not confident that they will be okay," replied Cleveland.
The board approved the request for advance payment of property taxes for REALM Charter Schools, with Selawsky voting against the motion. Student Director Maddy Roberts abstained.
[Update: 10:35 p.m.]
Board members agreed that Berkeley High School's API scores are troubling. Proficiency levels drop dramatically in 9th, 10th and 11th grades. "Are they taking it seriously?" asked Huyett. Selawsky added that Berkeley High School "obviously needs some work."
Berkeley High student Maddy Roberts said that in her experience at Berkeley High, the culture has been one of dismissal about academic achievement. "I think that a lot of it is about not taking it seriously," said Roberts. "I think that's something we can definitely improve on."
Roberts added that there is an attention drop when you become a freshman because of peer pressure.
"Somehow we have to change culture as well as academics with the 9th and 10th-grade kids," said Huyett.
"When you're young, it's hard to see the end of the road," said Roberts.
[Update: 10:25 p.m.]
The school board discussed ways the district is addressing the achievement gap, including the focus on the transition between schools (from elementary to middle to high school) and ensuring effective administration and principal training.
Looking at the racial subgroups by school site, said Hemphill, it seems that some schools may not be targetting resources to students who have not traditionally done well in the school. "Our top elementary schools do not have the top scores for African American students and that concerns me," said Hemphill. The middle schools have shown much improvement, however, where there once was great variance. Hemphell added that she would be interested in tracking 8th, 9th and 10th grade students and seeing how those students do once they get into high school.
Huyett agreed, and Hemphill suggested tracking current freshmen and sophomores who are due to graduate in 2014-15.
[Update: 10:05 p.m.]
D'Angelo showed the board a presentation, including graphs that suggested AYP growth in both English and math. Racial achievement gaps persist, although the percent of students tested has an impact on the results, said D'Angelo. "With that in mind, we're doing very well," she said, compared to the state. AYP targets are increasing in increments of 11 percent. Four schools remain out of PI status, which is higher than the state average. The achievement gap is closing, said D'Angelo, and many schools are excelling with their API scores.
Bill Huyett pointed out that the achievement gap is substantial with African American students in particular in high school and the district needs to focus its efforts on this issue. African American students are 53 points below the statewide average for API scores. "Our African American students are underperforming and there is an achievement gap," said D'Angelo.
In the next meeting, the board will consider the district's graduation and drop-out rates.
[Update: 9:50 p.m.]
Debbi D'Angelo, the Director of Evaluation and Assessment for the Berkeley Unified School District, presented the board with the results of the 2011 Accountability Progress Report. A total of 63 percent of California's schools are in Program Improvement (PI) for not reaching Adequare Yearly Progress (AYP) targets, said D'Angelo, and the number is increasing. D'Angelo reminded the board that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson blames the decline on "our politics, not our public schools.” (.)
[Update: 9:12 p.m.]
The board discussed the contract with BACR to run the Jefferson JAZ after school program. Board President Bill Huyett emphasized his support for the BACR contract. Javetta Cleaveland, Deputy Superintendent of BUSD's Business Services Division, said the district would continue to share quarterly financial reports, as well as revenue and expenditure reports. "I would definitely make sure that BACR steps up the plate," said Cleaveland. "And if not, we have a clause in this contract that we can terminate it at any time."
Board Member Karen Hemphill said that BUSD has had a good relationship with BACR and that the district has worked hard to ensure it remains sound. The district has also strived for transparency and accountability, added Board Member Josh Daniels. "If it comes out that BACR has been doing something shady... we can terminate it," said Daniels. "That's another reason I feel comfortable with moving forward."
The board then unanimously approved the contract with BACR for Jefferson Elementary's JAZ after school program.
[Update: 9:12 p.m.]
The board discussed the Derby Field Project design with architects and unanimously decided to move forward with the plans and an additional $150,000 in funding, pending more options on the outfield fencing issue.
[Update: 8:29 p.m.]
Some concern was raised by Jefferson parents and teachers about the Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) contract to administer the jazz program at . Former BACR Treasurer Ruth Rubalcava explained that she resigned because she did not think BACR could manage the finances for the after school program. A recent article published by the Bay Citizen outlined some of the concerns about BACR's financial management, including the claim that BACR hid unspent state and federal grant money.
Parents and teachers emphasized the importance of the program continuing uninterrupted. Beth Trevor, teacher at , offered up her "whole hearted support" for the jazz program at Jefferson. Greg King, long time resident and former student of King and Berkeley High School, said he was "very happy" with the jazz program that his daughter participated in at Jefferson.
Another Jefferson parent asked the board to better communicate with parents who are concerned about financial inconsistencies with the after school provider at Jefferson. A teacher at Jefferson then also acknowledged the value of the jazz program. "It's essential to keep that program going," he said. He also added that it is a problem that the jazz employees aren't unionized.
"Nobody wants to see this program shut down," said another supporter, suggesting that the board approve the contract on an interim basis until the appropriate people can be brought in to serve the program.
Paula Phillips, President of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, said that the jazz program employees should be unionized. "These employees need the same protections as all of the rest of the classified employees." Phillips also noted her concern about employee morale; health care cost increases, in addition to a heavier work load, means that BUSD employees are "struggling to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families as well."
On a different note, an employee at B-Tech encouraged the board to come and see the school's garden, which is thriving aside from some recent vandalism. "It is one of the few gardens in the district that has no fencing," she said. She also asked the board for a surveillance camera, which she said should be no big deal considering that the district is spending millions on Derby Field across the street. She said the school would also like assurance that Derby Field won't impact the garden in a negative way.
[Update: 7:54 p.m.]
The school board welcomed a number of new administrators:
Audrey Amos – Principal, John Muir
Jen Corn – Principal, Oxford
Lisa Graham – Program Supv., Special Ed
Burr Guthrie – Principal, Adult School
Janet Levenson, Principal, King Middle
Sonya Martin, Vice Principal, Willard
Ashley Milton – Vice Principal, BHS
Randy Perez – Director, Classified Personnel
Sheila Quintana – Principal, B-TECH
Daniel Roose, Attendance Coord., BHS
Leah Sokolofski – Program Supv., Network/Healthy CA
Veronica Valerio – Coordinator, Prof. Dev.
Raymond Young – Supv., Custodial, BHS
[Update: 7:39 p.m.]
The meeting started with a welcome from Board President Beatriz Leyva-Cutler and a report from closed session, in which one student's application for readmission was approved and another's was denied pending review at the end of the semester. The board also welcomed Daniel Roose as the new attendance coordinator for Berkeley High School, as well as Veronica Valerio as the new coordinator of professional development for the district.
The new student director, Maddy Roberts — a senior at Berkeley High School — was sworn in.
[Update: 6 p.m.]
Tonight's agenda includes:
- The recognition of new administrative leaders, including new principals and vice-principles for seven schools
- A potential approval of a one-year extension of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers
- Consideration of a financial agreement between REALM Charter School and the Berkeley Unified School District, in addition to a request from REALM for advance funding in lieu of property taxes
- A possible approval of the final design of the Derby Field Project
- The consideration of updated Measure AA and Measure I costs for BUSD construction projects, resulting in a $17,417,139 increase in available Measure AA funds and a $21,666,924 decrease in available Measure I funds
- Discussion of the , which includes Berkeley's newest API scores, student participation rate, high school graduation rate, and student proficiency levels in math and English
- And, of course, public comments