Berkeley school district says goodbye to superintendents, reviews math curriculum

Ella Langenthal/Staff

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The Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, board meeting Wednesday marked the final meeting of the year for the school board and the last meeting for Superintendent Donald Evans and Associate Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi. Next year, Evans will be retiring, while Scuderi will be taking on the position of superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District. Aside from these goodbyes, the majority of the meeting was spent in discussion of the district’s math program.

While many acknowledged the two officials leaving the board later in the evening, the meeting began with a recognition of the new permanent vice principal of Longfellow Middle School, Doreen Bracamontes.

Scuderi expressed his excitement over Bracamontes’ new position, thanking her for the interim roles she took on for the district in the 2018-19 school year, first at Berkeley High School, then as interim vice principal at Malcolm X Elementary School.

After a short round of public comment, the board turned to recognize and express gratitude to Evans and Scuderi.

“Mr. Scuderi, I’ve known you since I was 14 years old,” board director Ka’Dijah Brown said at the meeting. “Thank you so much for your commitment to students like me and all of the students here in Berkeley, and you’re definitely going to be missed. It was great to know both sides of you — as a vice principal and now as a colleague.”

Evans also thanked Scuderi and said how much he admired Scuderi’s charm, quick wit and passion for education. Evans said he knows that AUSD will be lucky to have Scuderi and thanked the rest of the school board for their “accountability, passion and integrity.”

The meeting took on a more serious tone as the board turned to a review of the districtwide math program. Scuderi presented to the board, along with leaders of math programs at each level of schooling: elementary, middle and high school.

Presenters spoke about the problems the district is still facing in regard to math and, particularly, how the “elitist constructs” of math are still reflected in BUSD schools. Scuderi shared some of the goals that the district has for the math program’s future, such as reviewing the math curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade, helping students change their perceived abilities in math and prioritizing professional development.

Presenters shared about meetings between teachers who are teaching at various grade levels and schools and the insights gained from them.

According to middle school math coach Ryan Keeley, many of the meetings focused on how to create more fluency in curriculum throughout grade levels. Keeley expressed how “valuable and incredible” these cross-grade meetings were and how excited the teachers were to be able to collaborate and learn from each other.

When we get teachers together in the room, they’re ready to go,” Keeley said at the meeting.

Later discussion focused on the achievement gap in math, particularly for Black students. Brown asked the presenters if they had any targeted solutions to help change the trend, which she described as “beyond alarming.”

Scuderi said the gap meant that they had to think in “appropriately radical ways” and particularly emphasized changes that were needed in classroom structure.

“I think we do still have some kind of antiquated and very procedural ways about approaching mathematics that does not engage kids, particularly kids most affected by those elitist constructs of mathematics,” Scuderi said at the meeting.

Contact Ella Langenthal at [email protected].