Berkeley school district board discusses goals, considers sharing space with City Council

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At a Wednesday meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education tracked progress on its local funding plan and discussed a potential pilot program in which Berkeley City Council would use the school board’s room for meetings.

The school board discussed in greater detail the implementation of its three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan, or LCAP, a framework in which local educational agencies across the state determine funding priorities to realize the district’s overall vision. The board checked in with two of the three LCAP plans: a goal to end racial predictability of academic achievement and a goal to promote campus inclusiveness.

One of the school district’s goals in the 2014-15 school year was to recruit and retain black and Hispanic teachers so that they exceed 15 percent of the total teacher population. According to the school board’s Director of Evaluation and Assessment Debbi D’Angelo, the district hired 69 new teachers last year: 10 percent were black, and 13 percent were Hispanic.

Last year, the district also focused on improving language acquisition for English learners, with hopes to exceed statewide goals of achievement. According to D’Angelo’s presentation, while English-learning students made less progress than those last year, the district nevertheless performed better than the goal set by the state: 62.8 percent of Berkeley’s English-learning students evaluated made progress, compared with the state’s 57.5 percent goal.

The district also shared progress on a social-emotional toolbox curriculum and the work of family liaisons to improve school and parent communication and inclusiveness, as well as its efforts to reduce chronic absenteeism and disproportionate student suspensions.

Earlier at the meeting, the board summoned an advisory committee, tasked with making recommendations about City Council’s request in June to use the school board room for a three-month pilot program.

Since November 2011, the council has been seeking an alternative meeting location after growing concerns among council members and the public that Old City Hall is unsafe and archaic. Councilmember Laurie Capitelli said the board room is accessible by public transit and has better technology.

While Councilmember Darryl Moore, who represents the district in which the board room is located, spoke at the meeting about how the board room would be an appropriate place because of its capacity, he raised issue with its location in the city and its effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

“We have serious issues of noise brought forth. … There are concerns of how people will be filing in and out of this place,” said Moore, who advised the board to consider other facilities, at the meeting. “I just ask that you have some concern for the neighbors in this community who have expressed their concern about the noise, about the sound, about the traffic congestion, about people parking and blocking their driveways.”

School board President Judy Appel suggested adding community members and board members to the advisory committee to determine possible mitigations, costs and criteria to assess a pilot program.

“If there is a way we can make this work that works for the city, works for neighbors, works for us, then it would be a worthwhile thing to do,” said school board member Ty Alper.

The school board hopes the advisory board will share recommendations at the next scheduled board meeting Oct. 14. Additionally, the school district shared updates on ongoing efforts to renew funding for the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program, which expires in 2016.

Contact Jason Tran and Bo Kovitz at [email protected].