Monday, November 5, 2012

Who will you choose for our school board tomorrow?

Everyone around me seems to be equally fired up and anxious about the outcomes of tomorrow's election.

Today’s post is dedicated to our four candidates for BUSD school board.  They each answered three questions posed by Berkeley Schools Report:
  1. What would be your top priorities as a school board member?
  2. What are 1-2 bright spots in Berkeley schools that should be replicated?
  3. In your perspective, how do we close the achievement gap in Berkeley?

Below, you will find each question, followed by excerpts of each candidate's response to that question.  You can download their full responses here
Thank you to each of the candidates for your contributions and best of luck in the final stretch of your campaigns.

Question 1: What would be your top priorities as a school board member?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

1) Making sure that our schools are working for ALL of our children, and that all students are engaged in learning and achieving success. I want to help BUSD become one of the most attractive in the state both to new outstanding teachers and to retain the best of our trained educators.

2) Being visible, accessible and transparent To foster community and family involvement, and create effective policy, it is important that elected officials be an active and present part of the community.   

3) Securing outside funding sources through grant  Until our State begins to fund education adequately, we must be creative and look to securing outside funding sources.  There are grants available for well-strategized and creative programs but we must develop the process by which we go after them.

 Judy Appel 
  • Quality Education: Our schools should be challenging and supportive for students at all levels of achievement, giving every student the opportunity to succeed
  • Spending Wisely: We owe it to our children and our community to make sure that we are spending district resources to attain the best outcomes for our students. 
  • Safe Schools: Each of our students does best when they are recognized as individuals and are learning in an environment that is safe and secure.
  • Parent Engagement: Our schools must create opportunities for all parents and caregivers to engage in their children's education.  
  Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

·      I will continue to address the achievement/opportunity gap by prioritizing:
o   Kindergarten readiness
o   All students being at grade reading level and/or proficient
o   Improving attendance of students in schools
o   Improving the Math and English Language development of African American and Latino students and;
·      Improve and prioritize Parent Engagement and Involvement district wide
·      Support a Master Plan for serving English Language Learners

  • build our ability to demand that we are all able to give us all lovely lives in gentle care of Earth.
  • build our understanding that communism and anarchism are devices which enable us to provide well for all of us, with ease and pleasure.

Question 2: What are 1-2 bright spots in Berkeley schools that should be replicated?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

Tracy Hollander
We can learn from the successes that we are seeing at Rosa Parks School-right here in Berkeley.  Under Principal Paco Furlan they have seen significant growth in their test scores among all sub-groups.  Mr. Furlan has taken some very concrete steps that should be looked at to decide if these are steps that could be affective at some of our other schools.

There are certain schools in our district that make a real effort to build school-wide community.  All adults feel invested in the success of all students, and certainly high expectations are expected of all students. This is something I have seen in practice at Longfellow Middle School under Principal Pat Saddler’s leadership, but also this comes from the dedication of all the staff, working together to help all students to feel safe and valued.  

 Judy Appel

There are many bright spots in the district that I would hope to replicate.  I will mention two:
1.     The integration of Response to Instruction and Intervention (RtI2) at Jefferson elementary school.  RtI2 recognizes that all students need supports to perform at their best potential and that it is important to help identify what interventions each student needs and that adults at the school site have their eye on each child’s progress.   

2.     The professional development plan at Berkeley High School. Dave (Stevens) and Susannah (Bell) (who coordinate the impressive professional development efforts at Berkeley High) shared with me the complex and nuanced plan for professional development across all of the learning communities and subject matter departments at Berkeley High. They are now doing recurring, standards-based assessments whose sole objective is to improve student outcomes.  
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler 
BUSD has many bright spots as is evident in that all of our elementary and middle schools exceed the state’s API (Academic Performance Index) score of being over 800. Here are just two of many examples in Berkeley:
·       Rosa Parks Reading Lab
o   Rosa Parks has had tremendous success in improving reading proficiency of children and this year Cragmont and other schools are replicating the model and have been trained by Rosa Parks’ Literacy coach. The results of Rosa Parks students excelling in reading is evident in that Rosa Parks after 8 years under Program Improvement has now been removed from the list.  

·       Longfellow Math
o   Students at Longfellow have excelled in Math/Pre-Algebra to the degree that it received the attention from the U.S. Secretary of Education. He visited Longfellow because of the strides being made in Math and with students of color making noticeable academic progress in this subject.

  Norma Harrison
"Bright spots" are deceptive; they are about making it look as though it is possible to 'correct', to 'reform' school. 

Question 3: In your perspective, how do we close the achievement gap in Berkeley?
NOTE: Any text emphasis in responses, such as bold or italics, was added by the candidate

 Tracy Hollander

First, we must have the highest expectations of all our kids.  It is essential that all of our kindergartners -- from the very first day -- are seen as potential college students, because that is what they are. 
Second, is to not operate in isolation and make sure we are using well-researched methods. 
Third, it is essential that the board operate as an extension of the community- working with our most affected communities to help solve these issues. 
The priorities I outlined in the beginning regarding teaching and learning environments is also a key component to closing the achievement gap. 
Closing the achievement gap will not be easy, but in contrast to what others may think I do believe it is possible. 

Judy Appel
We need to set up criteria to identify what practices are effective and replicate them district wide while exploring new and creative ways to deepen this work. Most importantly, it is critical that we invest in a cohesive and well thought out plan at the ECE, primary and secondary levels that is based on research and/or experience, and involves continuous feedback mechanisms that allow for consistent evaluation and tweaking. 
The investment in our children and youth must begin at birth and continues on through High School graduation. The newly thriving preschool program is critical to this scheme, as is working closely to engage parents.
The work over the past years has laid a solid foundation through which we have cultivated an expectation at the administrative and school site levels about the importance of educational equity. This represents a sea change in the District.  To be effective, the 2020 plan has to include ALL students, whether they are achieving at, below or above grade level. In order to do that, we need to support our teachers in offering a quality education, equip them with the ability to offer differentiated learning, and provide concrete and multiple supports with the goal of meeting the educational, social and emotional needs of each student.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler

I personally have maintained (a) lens of equity by looking closely at policies/practices and data that BUSD has for each school site and as a district.
I have maintained in all committees this lens and I have been asking repeatedly how BUSD is serving students equitably with all the resources that are at a district’s disposal and assuring that school sites are following the district goals and outcomes. I support professional development for our teachers throughout the district that has proven successful and has the greatest impact on ALL students like, GLAD, Academic Language, and Constructing Meaning.  I am supportive of services that serve students that are not proficient in academics and/or English Language and identifying practices to ensure that ALL of our schools, consistently and throughout the district students are afforded intervention services to support their learning.
I believe that the key to student success is also parent involvement in our schools. Parent Liaisons will be working to engage diverse parents in welcoming, meaningful and supportive practices as decisions makers in policy, budget and governance of school sites.

Norma Harrison

Why do you think 'the achievement gap' can be closed, is being worked on to be closed .... is anything but giving lip service to the problem endemic to capitalism?

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