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Common Ground good program

Felicia Woytak
Friday October 05, 2001



I was saddened and dismayed to see the front page article of Wednesday’s Berkeley Daily Planet concerning Berkeley High’s Common Ground program.  

Saddened because, though Common Ground is filled with great kids who, along with their teachers are trying to do something incredibly positive and innovative for students at Berkeley High, the article presents the stereotypical Berkeley High student – loud and destructive.  

My experience with students in this program is quite different. I have witnessed the selfless giving of many of its students as they spend their lunchtimes and weekends planning for Common Ground events and activities.  

I have seen the blossoming of a beautiful organic garden on campus planned by the students and teachers of Common Ground where once there were only weeds and dirt. I have seen the exhilaration of students after they have returned from a six day snow camping trip in the High Sierras with the teachers of Common Ground.  

I have witnessed the development of young women and young men into thoughtful and caring citizens, aware of the world around them and their impact on it. This is my experience with the students of Common Ground. 

With very few resources and amazing dedication, the teachers in this new program are starting something very exciting and very special at Berkeley High School. The amount of time and energy that they spend with the students and with each other planning a new curriculum and a new way of learning is unbelievable. I have never seen a more dedicated group of teachers.  

Both of my children are students in the Common Ground program and I cannot imagine being a happier parent of two teenagers at Berkeley High. Though both attended private school for grades K-8, both of them have told me that the teachers in Common Ground are the best teachers they have ever had in school.  

I am thrilled to hear them talk about their experiences at Berkeley High in such a positive way. Yes, there have been some issues, but generally, I believe, they are a result of the newness of the program. Perhaps, if anything, the teachers err on the side of idealism. I would much rather have that than have them overcome by cynicism and hopelessness. 

I am also dismayed because, as a newspaper, it is your duty to provide information on a factual basis, not simply insinuations and allegations. The statement that “no arrests were made,” insinuates that perhaps the students were engaging in activities that might have required arrests. This stereotyping of Berkeley High students does nothing to promote support of our hardworking teachers and parents in this community, to say nothing of the students.  

There are several facts that definitely contributed to an already challenging situation. First, you can imagine what the scene must have been like for the entire group when they were told that they could not move into their cabins with their gear in the early afternoon as promised.  

I am sure that the entire plan for the afternoon had to be changed. Not an easy thing to do with 350 people. Then, they were told they were not going to be able to have their evening activity either, because the amphitheatre was not going to be available.  

Whatever the resulting behavior of the students was, I know that the circumstances must not have been easy.  

I hope that your next article concerning this program or Berkeley High in general presents a more balanced view of their students and teachers. Reporting only the negative does not serve to build community or support, two things that the Berkeley schools very much need. 


Felicia Woytak 

Berkeley High Parent