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Superintendent meets with students behind closed doors

By Jia-Rui Chong, Daily Planet staff
Saturday March 23, 2002

A small group of Berkeley High School students met with Superintendent Michele Lawrence on Friday afternoon, after complaints that they had been left out of the district’s budget-cutting process. 

On March 6, 200 students marched from school to district headquarters to confront Lawrence. She agreed to come to a classroom at the high school to talk to a group of student leaders. 

But, Lawrence said, she had not come to talk to reporters. Lawrence cut off the conversation when the Daily Planet identified itself. 

“The conversation is going to have to change now. No one told me the press was going to be here,” said Lawrence. 

When students asked why the press had to leave, Lawrence said, “I came to this meeting with a certain understanding. Now that the press is here, that changes the understanding.” 

She also barred the high school newspaper covering their “intimate gathering.” 

Lawrence said that although she could speak to them in the presence of reporters, but warned them that her comments might be different. 

“I can play it either way you want, but the conversation is going to change dramatically.” 

Sarena Chandler, the student director on the Board of Education, suggested that the group vote to exclude the press on Friday, but allow the press back next Wednesday when they talk solutions. 

Maliyah Coye, however, protested that the students each represented constituencies that would want to hear about their discussion. 

“The information should go back to the students because she can only meet with a small group of students,” said Coye. 

“It won’t change what I say, but OK,” said one student. 

A majority voted in favor of Chandler’s proposal.