Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What do you want in our next Superintendent?

The School Board is reaching out to the community to find out what we want in our next Superintendent.  It's critical that we find a leader for our district who's as committed to achieving the 2020 Vision as our school board.

Here are a few simple ways for our voices to be heard: 

1. Take a brief online survey

2. Join one of the following community forums:

Community Forums for Superintendent Search/Foros comunitarios para recopilar la opinión que aporte la comunidad
  • Thursday, February 28th / el jueves, 28 de febrero – Malcolm X School – 1731 Prince Street, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • En español/in Spanish: Friday, March 1st / el viernes, 1 de marzo  – King Middle School – 1781 Rose Street, 7-8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 2nd / el sábado, 2 de marzo -  BUSD Administration Building, 2020 Bonar Street, Room 126, 9:30 – 11 a.m.

All forums will have English/Spanish interpretation available. En los foros se ofrece interpretación del inglés al español, o en el caso del foro que se ofrece el viernes, habrá traducción del español al inglés.
Childcare and light refreshments will be provided.  Please assist us in planning by sending your RSVP to:
Learn more about the Superintendent Search.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

'They score better, but they're not smarter'

This is the third in a series of posts on the 2020 Vision inspired by Michael Miller and Santiago Casal, Members of United in Action, Latinos Unidos, and Parents of Children of African Descent.

Santiago Casal and Michael Miller shared the following quote in a letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet on March 18, 2008:
"According to a CEOs for cities briefing paper on “How Business and Civic Leaders Can Make a Big Difference in Public Education," “Everybody who lives or works in a big city has a stake in the performance of the local public school system. Businesses and cultural institutions suffer when thousands of young school graduates are unprepared to do productive work or take a full part in civic life.”" This reminds us about the importance of the role that we can all play in helping to achieve the 2020 Vision for Berkeley's Children and Youth

The 2020 Vision sets out to eliminate race-based predictability in student performance by the graduating class of 2020 (this year's current 5th graders).

As Casal and Miller explained, "The concept of the “achievement gap” has become so culturally pervasive, it feeds on itself as it fuels the stigmatization of children of color and the reinforcement of racial stereotypes.  
"One of our UIA members was in tears recently as she shared that she was thinking of taking her child out of Berkeley High. She was struggling hard to keep her daughter engaged, looking to the future, to college enrollment only to find that her daughter seriously doubted her college potential. 'White kids are smarter than us, Mom. They score so much better on the tests, don’t they?' 
"Yes, they score better. But they are not smarter. Rather they have more 'opportunity,' and they are expected to achieve at higher levels than black and brown children."

Let's continue the momentum built by Casal, Miller and many other leaders in the Berkeley community. 

For more from Casal and Miller, check out the posts 2020 Vision is our Collective Responsibility and  School Failure is a Whole Community Problem.

To learn more about the work of 2020 Vision, visit Berkeley Alliance

Monday, February 25, 2013

'School Failure is a Whole Community Problem'

In previous posts, we've taken a look at graphs that show how students in BUSD are performing academically. But as we do so, let's remember these powerful words by two of our community's leaders: "These scores are not just numbers, these are real children and families failing in our community, and it is profoundly hurtful. How does a young person or a parent internalize the stigma of the message? – a message that represents the daily loss of potential, slipping away across ground that cannot be easily made up – like trying to catch a train pulling out of the station. That slippage, that distance, is like a wound aggravated by the regular comparison to those who excel through their advantage – those on the train. To the parents and children left behind, it creates resentment, division and a profound loss of hope.  One ugly outcome of the disparity, which is not so uncommon among those who set the style standards for youth culture today, is to wrap it all up into a self-fulfilling rationalization to not only stop trying, but to even ridicule effort and intelligence."

These are words written by Santiago Casal and Michael Miller, members of United in Action and Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD) on December 11, 2007, in "A 2020 Vision for Berkeley Education" in the Berkeley Daily Planet.  In it, they explain the reason for the need for the 2020 Vision for Berkeley's Children and Youth, given the gap in math and English test scores between white students and African American and Hispanic or Latino students in Berkeley Public Schools.

They go on to say,  "Because school failure is a Whole Community problem not just a school problem, we will ultimately need to challenge and systematically mobilize all sectors of Berkeley into the effort – the city, our local colleges, the teachers' union, our profit and non-profit organizations and businesses, and the parents. We do not need to look backward for blame, but rather forward at solutions to the real culprit.  That culprit is failure and we need to urgently prioritize the issue, see it for the crisis that it is, and mobilize the entire community to invent or import the proven programs and leaders that can convert failure to success." 

In a recent post on 2020 Vision is our Collective Responsibility, I shared an excerpt from another public comment written by Casal and Miller during the time of 2020 Vision's launch. I will share the third letter in the series tomorrow. As we continue to work together as a city, school district and community to provide all youth in Berkeley with an excellent education, this series of posts will provide some context about the history of 2020 Vision and the important role that it plays for us all.

To learn more about the work of 2020 Vision, visit Berkeley Alliance.

Friday, February 22, 2013

"First Generation" film screening and discussion March 1 at Longfellow

On Friday, March 1, 5:30-8:30 PM, there will be a film screening and discussion of First Generation at Longfellow Middle School, 1500 Derby St. The film is about individuals who strive to be the first members of their families to attend college and the challenges that they face. This event is part of the College and Career Day, hosted by UC Berkeley, Center for Educational Partnerships and the Berkeley Alliance.

According to this week's edition of A+ News from the district (which you can sign up for on the district webpage): "Families are encouraged to join an evening of dinner, film, and discussion of a documentary focused on the issues of college access for first-generation and low-income students."

This is an excellent opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion with other members of our community. 

Here's the trailer for the film:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

16 year old missing- possibly seen in Berkeley

Berkeleyside published information today on 16-year-old Gaijin Holquin, who was last seen by his family in August 2012, and may have been seen in Berkeley.

Please read the article, 16-year-old missing six months, possibly seen in Berkeley and contact the numbers provided if you have any information.

Berkeley School Board Launches National Search for Next Superintendent

The following is an update on the BUSD Superintendent search from School Board Vice President, Josh Daniels: 

As you may have heard, the School Board has renewed its search for our next Superintendent.  The full statement is available in the A+ News at
In summary, recruitment of potential candidates has already begun based on the Leadership Profile developed last year with substantial community input.  The Board will be soliciting additional input on how to screen applicants to determine who to interview and on suggested interview questions.  This will take place through an online survey, stakeholder meetings, and three community forums.  The information on the forums is below:
  • Thursday, February 28, at Malcolm X (1731 Prince Street) @ 7:00p-8:30p
  • Friday, March 1, at King Middle (1781 Rose Street) @ 7:00p-8:30p (in Spanish)
  • Saturday, March 2, at BUSD Admin Building (2020 Bonar Street) @ 9:30a-11:00a
We hope you will be able to attend one of the forums.
For regular updates regarding the superintendent search, please visit  To view the superintendent application, please visit
As always, please feel free to contact the School Board with any questions or comments.
Berkeley School Board Director
Website: (not ".com")

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Parenting Is the Secret Weapon Against Bullying

This post has been contributed by guest blogger, Susan Raisch, of Tangled Ball

Bullying is a big, complicated issue, which is why I decided that the only way to come up with sustainable solutions is to help untangle the contributing factors one string at a time.

I became interested in the subject of bullying after Columbine.  I was a consultant at ABC News and I realized that, like so many other stories, once the news interest passed, so would people’s willingness to drill deep and find out why kids assumed that this horrific tragedy was rooted in bullying.

When I started to devote most of my time to this issue several years back, I came to the conclusion that it’s a tangled ball.  I decided that I would spend my time on four different aspects:  1.)  Early prevention; 2.) Parenting; 3.) Parent-school relationship and 4.) Role of the “Upstander,” i.e. nurturing leadership.

The common string?  Starting early and focusing on building interpersonal skills and confidence.   

Leadership is the “anti-bully.”

Tangled Ball’s Top Three Tips

1.) Teachable moments come in many forms.

The most well balanced classrooms have an overwhelming majority of students who know the basics of respect.  This comes from the home.  Correcting a child when they lash out or disrespect others, including siblings, is preparing them for that school experience.  Complimenting them when they show kindness is equally important.

2.) Encourage Assertiveness

Young children will really benefit from learning how to stay, “Stop.”  Even shy children can learn how to be appropriately assertive. If they know where those lines are at home, it builds their confidence to stick up for themselves or others without feeling hurt or getting aggressive. 

3.) Swap Out Screen time for Talking Time… and Nurture Compassion

Nurturing compassion takes face-to-face conversation.  It breaks my heart to see children desperately trying to get their parent’s attention but can’t because the parent is glued to their cell or iPad. 

It’s critical that children feel that someone is listening to them.  The biggest advice experts give children when they feel they’re being mistreated is to “tell a trusted adult.” Kids learn from an early age who they can trust to give them undivided attention.  Bullying becomes dangerous emotionally and physically when children keep things to themselves.

If you’re reading this, it means that you’re already a caring parent with wonderful instincts and a desire to make your child’s school experience a happy one.  I applaud you for preparing your child to be someone who adds to the joyful mix of a positive classroom. 

(These are my top tips but for more on the subject, I recommend going to Sesame Street.)

Bravo.  You’re creating little leaders. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Highlights of BHS

There's a great Berkeley High promo video on the BHS website, which gives an overview of the six small schools and variety of programs, classes and extra curricular activities offered at the diverse school of over 3,300 students. The video was made by members of the small school Communication Arts and Sciences.

You can learn more from the 2012-13 BHS Profile, also found on the BHS website:

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Board meeting topics for 2013 include emphasis on African American Achievement

It is my hope with this blog that more students, families, educators and community members, will remain informed and involved in working collaboratively to provide ALL of our students with an excellent education.  

The BUSD school board priorities and topics for 2013 are posted below.  I'm thrilled to see the emphasis on accelerating the achievement of African American students. The African American master plan is an ongoing topic at meetings throughout the year.

Our community is lucky to be led by School Board Members and district leaders who are committed to closing the race-based achievement gap in Berkeley Public Schools.

The information above can be found starting on page 45 of the packet for the February 13, 2013 school board meeting (on the Board Member Information page of the district website).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Percentage of Students who qualify for free or reduced lunches in BUSD shared with School Board

There will be a BUSD school board meeting this Wednesday, February 13. One item that is being shared with the board and is included in the packet are the percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches at each of the BUSD schools.

According to the National School Lunch Program, "Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals, for which students can be charged no more than 40 cents. (For the period July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, 130 percent of the poverty level is $29,965 for a family of four; 185 percent is $42,643.)"

The following information and tables are found starting on page 53 of the packet for this week's meeting: 

The full agenda and packet is available on the Board Member Information page of the BUSD webpage. 

If you're interested in attending the meeting or watching/listening to it live, the public session begins at 7:30 PM on the 2nd floor of 2134 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The meetings are also broadcast on local cable channel 33 and on the radio at KPFB 89.3 FM. You can also access the video links in the "update" section of the Board Meeting information page about a week after the meetings. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Free conference this Wed at BHS: Implementing Positive Solutions to Eliminate Inequities and Disparities

All are welcome at this wonderful free event!

Click on Link Below To Register: #

Tragic Shooting of Former B-Tech Student

Tragically, a 17 year old Berkeley resident was killed in Oakland over the weekend. Tyler Frank Jamison was a junior at B-Tech last year but wasn't currently enrolled in BUSD.

My heart goes out to Tyler, his family, friends and anyone affected by this tragedy. This is a time to grieve for all children who are impacted by violence. We must come together as a community to figure out how to make our streets safer.

For more information, here is Oakland Tribune's article Berkeley teen identified as victim in East Oakland Shooting.

Jan 23 School Board Meeting comments on bullying and MLK Jr celebration

At the January 23 School Board Meeting,  there were two comments made during the Board and Superintendent comments that pertain to addressing the achievement gap in our schools. The first is around keeping our students safe from bullying both on campus and off. The second is around celebrating the achievements of Martin Luther King, Jr, local leaders and students.

School Board Vice President Josh Daniels shared that students can now be disciplined at school for bullying students on social networking sites:
“Any activity, particularly bullying, that you engage in through a social networking site, such as Facebook, will have discipline consequences for you at school, assuming that this regulation passes.” 

Co-superintendent Neil Smith thanked the hosts of Martin Luther King, Jr celebration and congratulated the recipients of awards:
“I wanted to thank the city, the university and the Berkeley Alliance for organizing a tremendous celebration of Martin Luther King on Monday morning, which brought together community, civic and church leaders. And I want to congratulation Dr Marvis Peoples, the church leader at Mission Hill Baptist Church, who was given a Lifetime Achievement Award. And I also want to recognize the two students from Martin Luther King (Middle School) who were given awards: Anjuli Arreola-Burl and Allie Bailey. Both of them were honored for their essay and their artwork."  
You can see photos and read more about the event on the district website and Berkeleyside.

You can access all BUSD school board meeting agendas, packets and updates (which include links to videos of all segments of the public meetings) on the Board Meeting Information page of BUSD.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2020 Vision is Our Collective Responsibility

The 2020 Vision for Berkeley's Children and Youth is a partnership between key organizations and community members to close the race-based predictability in student achievement by the graduating class of 2020 (this year's current 5th graders).

I'll be writing a series of posts on the 2020 Vision, the key players and the progress that's been made. Let's start by taking a look at a public comment written by Santiago Casal and Michael Miller, members of United in Action and Parents of Children of African Descent, in the Berkeley Daily Planet from July 3, 2008, when the 2020 Vision was launched.

Here is a segment that particularly resonated with me. While this was written over 4 years ago, it still rings true today and helps to ground us in why the 2020 Vision is so critical and what role we can ALL play in helping to achieve it:
(emphasis added)

"The history of the concept of an “achievement gap” is one that places blame at the student’s and family’s feet. One belief is that there is something the student isn’t doing or a level of support the family is not providing that creates this problem.
"We are all part of the problem! We are all culpable! As we peel back this onion, it is important to reflect on what each of us is doing, as individuals or part of organizations or part of a culture that creates the conditions of disparities...
"Just as important, we are part of the solution! This is the point at which we are asked to suspend judgment and try, as best we can, to hear what is being said about the nature and history of disparities. It is not an easy conversation, but if we don’t have it, we are not doing the necessary work....As we peel these layers and unearth these issues, there will be pain, guilt, anger, shame and resentment; but there will be hope and triumph as well. Our commitment to our children will get us through these conversations. Our children and community are worthy of this journey together."

The 2020 Vision is a partnership between: City of Berkeley, Berkeley Unified School District, Berkeley Alliance, UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College, United in Action, Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT), Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA), Berkeley Public Education Foundation (BPEF), and the Berkeley Community. 

Stay tuned for a series of posts on 2020 Vision. Please leave questions and comments below, on Facebook, Twitter or via email.