The Berkeley school board approved the hire of three new principals Wednesday and expects to announce the appointment of two more early next week.
The three appointments announced Wednesday were for Thousand Oaks, Rosa Parks and Jefferson primary schools.
Jesse Ramos, currently vice principal at Shore Acres Elementary School in the Mount Diablo Unified School District, will take over for Kevin Wooldridge as principal at Thousand Oaks School.
Ramos has taught English as a second language in San Francisco for the last six years. In 1997, he was voted Humanitarian of the Year by Contra Costa and Alameda County teachers unions for his work in helping to bridge cultural differences in local schools.
Betty Delaney, who has served in Daly City’s Jefferson Elementary School District since 1992, has been appointed principal of Berkeley’s Jefferson School starting next year. She served as the first principal of the district’s new Susan B. Anthony school since 1998, helping to create policies for academics, discipline, safety and budgeting.
At Rosa Parks, Alison Kelly, who came to the school six years ago to lead the school’s Dual Language Immersion program – today one of the most popular programs in the district – will replace Andrea Colfack. Kelly has been a key member of the school’s leadership for years, helping to implement the school’s early literacy program, its Federal Science Magnet grant and its innovative Family Resource Center.
At a time when there is a national shortage of principals, the Berkeley District lured 22 candidates to apply for the five positions – a respectable number, said Associate Superintendent for Administrative Services David Gomez.
The search began with committees of teachers and parents at each of the five schools working to determine what characteristics each school community would like to see in its next leader. Finalists were interviewed the week of May 28.
Gomez and other district administrators visited the schools of each finalist to interview parents, students and others in an effort to make sure the individuals would be a good match with schools in Berkeley.
School board director John Selawsky said the appointments have the added benefit of making the district’s administrative leadership more representative of Berkeley’s ethnic diversity. Both Ramos and Kelly are bilingual (Spanish and English). Delaney is African American.
Child Nutrition Services Program under fire
Also at the Wednesday meeting, the board’s last regular session of the school year, a citizens’ advisory committee delivered a sweeping criticism of the district’s Child Nutrition Services Department.
In a report, the committee said a lack of coordination and leadership in the department has severely hampered the implementation of the district’s 1999 Food Policy, widely hailed as a model in the state for its ambitious goal of “(improving) the health of the entire community by teaching students and families ways to establish and maintain life long healthy eating habits.”
The advisory committee report says the district’s breakfast program is not working as intended because buses deliver students to school just as their first class begins, allowing little or no time for students to eat the “healthy” food provided for them.
The district’s lunch periods are so short that “large amounts of food is thrown away and wasted” because students simply don’t have time to eat it, the report said. The fact that students often have to wait in long lines for food compounds the problem, the report claimed, particularly at the high school.
“There is no point pretending that lunch is offered to everyone if there is not enough time for everyone to eat or even purchase food,” the report concluded.
On the positive side, the report noted that the passage of two new bond measures last year will provided funds to renovate the district’s kitchens, many of which are in terrible condition today. Furthermore it noted that a new grant from the California Endowment is financing the preparation of a business plan to determine how the district can do a better job providing food services for its students.
BSEP says budget information unclear
In a separate report Wednesday, another district oversight committee complained that the district’s failure to provide clear explanations for expenditures in next year’s budget has made it difficult for the committee to provide meaningful oversight.
“We can’t play an oversight role if we’re not given the information,” said Carol Wilkins, a member of the Berkeley Public Schools Educational Excellence Project (BSEP) Oversight Committee, which reviews expenditures of parcel-tax funds.
At issue is the question of whether the district is spending money specifically earmarked for class size reduction for that purpose. Wilkins said the committee would also like to see a clearer justification for the district’s decision to cut teaching staff at the high school next year, a move that Wilkins and others fear would lead to larger class size at the school.
The BSEP committee report asked the school board to meet as soon as possible after the state passes its final budget this month, and after the BUSD business office has time to come up with more accurate budget information, to reevaluate the question of whether the high school’s teaching staff truly needs to be cut.
Many board members have indicated a their eagerness to comply with this recommendation.
“I think they’re asking questions that are serious, legitimate and very sophisticated,” said School Board Vice President Shirley Issel. “We have to be in a position to give them some answers, and currently we’re not.”