Berkeley school board sets several policy priorities at Wednesday meeting

Frances Fitzgerald/Staff

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At its Wednesday meeting, the Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education discussed several new priorities for the upcoming school year.

Superintendent Donald Evans presented to the board six districtwide initiatives, such as further implementing Common Core curriculum standards, expanding professional development, coordinating services for students and families, increasing technology access, supporting high-need students and developing a process with the school board to renew the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program, or BSEP.

As part of a local tax for Berkeley’s public schools, BSEP provides about $25 million in revenue for school libraries, family outreach programs, the visual and performing arts, the reduction of class sizes and other discretionary funds. The BSEP measure is set to expire in 2016.

According to Evans, the district plans on coordinating student services by bringing together service teams, composed of Response to Intervention coordinators, principals, literacy coaches and more, to better close the equity gap among students and end racial predictability of student success. The district will also improve the project accounting system for facilities and develop a new online system to track absences.

Additionally, the board set its own policy priorities, including the creation of a guideline for renaming district schools and reforming the district’s disciplinary policy. At the meeting, board members voiced interest in dismantling or reforming the practice of suspending students.

“I don’t believe in suspension,” said Angelo Paraiso-Arroyo, the board’s student director from Berkeley High School. “(Students) shouldn’t have to miss curriculum — there are better ways to teach people consequences.”

The board also plans to update its enrollment policy, specifically those concerning interdistrict transfer students and homeless students, according to school board member Josh Daniels. Last year, the school district board also adjusted its enrollment policy by strengthening the process to verify Berkeley residency, Daniels said.

Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, the board’s vice president, also suggested that the board consider a gender-neutral bathroom policy. The current policy allows students to use the bathroom with which they feel most comfortable, but does not discuss the possibility of separate neutral bathrooms, said Judy Appel, president of the board.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Contact Frances Fitzgerald and Pressly Pratt at [email protected].