Berkeley High School newspaper cuts cause concern for students

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The Berkeley High School student newspaper will no longer be able to support its staff of more than 100 students due to modifications in faculty time commitments — a change that prompted dozens of students and supporters to appear at the Berkeley Unified School District School Board meeting on Wednesday night.

The Berkeley High Jacket will face severe reductions beginning in the fall semester, including fewer staff members and print issues. Because the faculty advisor of the newspaper took on an increased course load, the amount of students who can participate in the journalism class responsible for producing the newspaper will be drastically reduced.

“I find it appalling that the school would not provide a faculty advisor to 130 students for two full periods,” said Annie Alcott, parent of a former Jacket writer, at the school board meeting. “Anyone who knows BUSD knows that if there is a will, there is money that can be found.”

According to Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi, there are currently 42 students enrolled in the journalism class — less than half of the 92 students who had requested the class last spring. According to Scuderi, an increase in funding to support 40 percent of the advisor’s time would return the paper’s capacity, something the school cannot support.

The student-run newspaper is independently financed outside of the faculty advisor’s pay and currently publishes 18 times a year, though students said the current cuts could limit the paper to printing only four times this school year.

The reduction in both staff and time available to work on the paper will have consequences in production such as publishing under half as often and placing more writing responsibilities on the editors, said managing editor and senior Abbey Chaver.

“Our priority is that production is as great as it is now,” Chaver said. “We just want to be able to keep our staff.”

However, Scuderi said the faculty advisor for the class, Dharini Rasiah, will still continue to devote 20 percent of her allocated work time to managing the newspaper. What is actually changing is that extra time the advisor had last year for media production — not specifically dedicated to the paper, but often so — was shifted to another staff member, creating space for the advisor to teach another class and reducing the capacity for the adviser to supervise as many students as before.

“I wouldn’t call this a cut, but an inability to fund an increase. It comes down to funding the paper or funding a credit recovery class to help a student,” Scuderi said. “We will have to be creative and artful in keeping the paper where we are accustomed to having it.”