Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, discussed changes it is making in the district and addressed community concerns at a board meeting Wednesday.
The board meeting began by bringing community members, administrators and students to discuss reparations, student mental health, a teacher shortage and high school graduation coinciding with Sabbath.
A recurring issue brought up in public comment was how Berkeley High School’s graduation falls on the Jewish observance of Sabbath. Parents, teachers and students — as young as second graders — expressed feelings that nothing has been done about this for the past five years, and they want to see change being enacted now.
Vice President Ana Vasudeo commented on the issue and said the school’s administrators “have my support to make these changes for next year.”
After public comment, the meeting continued with a variety of presentations, one being by Assistant Superintendent Pauline Follansbee, who presented on the second interim budget report and asked the board for approval.
The presentation consisted of the use of unrestricted general funds to decrease the cost-of-living adjustment percentage throughout the years, along with a $2 million mid-year budget reduction in the Arts Music and Instruction Materials Discretionary Block Grant. The board unanimously voted yes on the report.
The following presentation discussed Comprehensive Coordinated Early Intervening Services, or CCEIS. The initiative seeks to “improve academic outcomes” for students in specifically identified groups, the BUSD website reads.
“Black and African American high school students were approximately seven times more likely to receive a D or F than a white student per the UC Transcript Evaluation Service,” the CCEIS presenter said.
In the presentation, six root causes for inequity were identified, while the plan looks at various outcomes that are linked to anti-racist activities. Out of the four-phase program, the third phase means to implement these plans and make improvements. The fourth phase examines the plan’s “effectiveness.”
The meeting ended with final public comments where students reiterated their concerns about graduation on Sabbath and let the board know why they should do everything in their power to change it.
A parent at the end explained it was “frustrating that the process in order to do this was radio silence,” but hopes that more change will be implemented for the future.