Proposals to restructure Berkeley Technology Academy criticized by BUSD staff, parents

Yiran Chen/Staff

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At its meeting Wednesday, the Berkeley Unified School District board discussed proposals to change the structure of Berkeley Technology Academy after a steady decline in enrollment in the program over the past 10 years.

Berkeley Technology Academy, or BTA, is a continuation high school diploma program for students 16 or older who are at risk of not graduating. The program currently enrolls about 50 students and staffs eight teachers, with many students eligible for BTA remaining at Berkeley High School.

In an attempt to increase enrollment, the first option proposed to the board would involve the adoption of an involuntary transfer policy, by which students at BHS would be required to attend BTA for attendance issues or not meeting behavioral standards. The policy would allow BTA to maintain its current level of staff and resources. The second proposal would cut down on BTA’s staff and resources by combining its administrative system with that of Berkeley Independent Study, or BIS.

Staff, parents and students from both BTA and BIS spoke during public comment at the meeting, urging against the merging of the programs’ administrations. Under the second proposal, one administrator would run both programs, in contrast to the current structure, in which BTA and BIS have separate administrators, though they are located on the same campus.

Parents and staff emphasized that BTA and BIS serve different populations and therefore require their own coordinators. By reducing the two separate administrator positions to a single position, some students would end up not receiving the attention they need, parents and staff said.

“The thought of losing a coordinator, although we are hearing the argument a capable person might take care of both campuses, is not really well thought out,” said Candida Silva, a French and Spanish teacher at BIS, during the meeting. “There really aren’t enough hours in the day for one person to take care of both campuses. They both require a lot of time.”

The second proposal would also involve the clear redefining of BTA as a high school diploma program, as opposed to a UC/California State University prep program. In 2006, the board approved a revision to BTA that included an A-G pathway (referring to UC- and CSU-wide admission requirements) to help students become eligible for four-year institutions. But because most students who attend BTA only earn high school diplomas, resources allocated to the program to allow students to meet A-G requirements — such as staffing — would be reduced and reallocated under this proposal.

A refined proposal is expected to be presented to the board in December in order to implement the changes by the 2018-19 school year.

“Do we protect (BTA) the way that it’s staffed, or do you want to take away from those who have already lost so much already?” said Dawn Williams, a teacher at BTA, during the meeting. “Option two means the loss of staff, teachers, security, resources and love.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.