Berkeley Unified School District approves $860K in budget additions

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Doug Smith/Staff

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The Berkeley Unified School District board voted to approve several programs that will add $860,009 to the budget for the 2018-19 academic school year at its meeting April 25.

The board approved the addition of a districtwide bilingual substitute teacher, who will speak both English and Spanish. The approved programs also include a $25,000 Berkeley High School African American Studies 50th Anniversary program and a $300,000 Structured Literacy Instruction program, among others.

“I feel really proud of the decisions we made. It was very deliberate. We had a lot of input,” said BUSD Vice President Judy Appel.

To meet the proposed $1.8 million budget cut to the BUSD, the board has agreed to reduce staff and program funding. The board was expected to discuss reducing or eliminating eight positions in the district — including three physical education instructional specialists and three nutritional services assistants — but no decisions related to these staff reductions were made at the meeting.

During public comment, several community members, including two third-grade students from LeConte Elementary School, spoke in favor of employing a bilingual substitute teacher. Many audience members held signs that read, “Bilingual ed deserves bilingual subs.”

LeConte Elementary School math teacher Yusef Auletta said at the meeting that he supports a permanent bilingual substitute — although he isn’t a substitute teacher, by the end of the school year, he will have spent 91 out of 180 school days serving at least part of the day as a substitute teacher.

“I’ve had to explain to a child who I promised to read with until the end of the school year that I have to break that promise,” Auletta said at the meeting.

The board ultimately decided that the substitute will be available to work across the district, but LeConte Elementary School will take priority if need for the substitute arises.

“We do get more offset cost savings if we have a substitute who can replace a teacher at multiple school sites rather than just one site,” said board President Josh Daniels at the meeting.

At the meeting, Thousand Oaks Elementary School Spanish teacher Megan Abramson Ward stressed the need to provide more equitable funding for Longfellow Middle School, which she said is at a disadvantage compared to other schools in the district.

Longfellow Middle School teacher Jen Johnson said the school has a high concentration of at-risk youth and advocated to “direct funding to students who need support.”

The meeting also addressed the timeline for the Local Control Accountability Plan, or LCAP, which provides funding to implement services for high-need students, including literacy coaches and on-site mental health counseling. The final approval for LCAP will occur June 27.

Contact Sri Medicherla at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sri_medicherla.