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Be cautious with changes at BHS

Noriko Nishizawa Parent of two BHS students Berkeley
Wednesday December 19, 2001

The Berkeley Daily Planet received this letter addressed to the Berkeley School Board: 


Five years ago BUSD spent a huge amount of energy and money into what was called “reconfiguration” the idea that K-5 schools are better for children than the previous K-3, 4-6 configuration. The whole process was very stressful for everyone caught in it, especially students and teachers who had to move to other schools apart from friends and colleagues. 

Now we are going though a similar thing, "small schools" at BHS, which has been tried 30 years ago. There seems to be a perpetual need for change for change’s sake in Berkeley. However, there is no evidence that these changes have improved the students’ academic achievement. The same problems seem to remain every time: truancy and achievement gap.  

We need to address these issues but has anyone stopped to think how these drastic changes might have negative affect on the students? The very same students tossed about in the reconfiguration are caught in this current turmoil. What are they seeing? Here they go again, parents arguing and teachers and community divided over issues. After having three principals in four years and many policy and schedule changes what the BHS students need is stability. How can we ask them to learn anything when things keep changing?  

Small schools are not for everyone. While they may be good for some students they are not for others. If they are forced they are bound to fail. The students in BHS have a choice, which other schools cannot afford. If there is a need for more small schools one or more could be created with willing teachers. There is no need to divide the whole school into small schools now. 

Change in itself does not always solve the problem. In some cases it enables one to elude responsibility for failure. Lets keep what is working now and work on improving what isn’t.. 



Noriko Nishizawa 

Parent of two BHS students