Berkeley Schools Failing Our Black Children

Tuesday May 04, 2004

At the end of April 2004, I resigned as president of Berkeley High School Parent Teacher Student Association because I got fed up with being called names and threatened because I have been preaching to the district that something should be done about the high percentage of black children behind at our elementary schools in math and reading. I have been called anti-Semitic, a racist and other names that cannot be printed here. The most recent one is that I am too emotional to be president of the PTSA. 

Since I have succeed at making some of the whites in the community angry with me, I may as well get the blacks teed off at me too. I say that because my criticism has mostly been directed at the school district for black children having such poor grades. The bottom line is that no matter what the district does, if black parents don’t get off their butts and get involved in the schools, nothing the district does will matter. We have black children coming out of our elementary school one to two grades behind in math and reading. The district and the schools cannot educate these kids alone. If black parents don’t go to the schools and take a part in their children’s education, what on earth do you expect? About four years ago a few notable blacks in our community went before the school board and demanded that a moratorium on retention be put into place. If a child leaves the elementary school on a third grade reading and math level, what do you expect of them at the high school level?  

Did you happen to hear the figures from Cal concerning the freshman class this year? More than 7,000 students, 900 of them Latinos and a grand total of 194 black children. Where is the outrage among black people? Where has the togetherness of the black community gone? Where is the hunger for education that the parents of my generation preached to us? When did we get to the point where we became so complacent because of our cell phones and nice cars that we forgot about our children? Do you realize that at the start of this year there were about 800 students at BHS with a chance of graduating? That figure is down to about 500. I wonder how many of those are black children. I wouldn’t be surprised if it is less than 100. This is ridiculous. And please don’t blame the high school for these figures. For the first time in a long time, we have a man at the high school that genuinely cares. Don’t even try to drag him down because we have neglected our duties as parents. 

We have teachers without the proper tools and supplies to teach. We have a district and black parents that are not willing to sit and talk about why we have this problem. We have a community that is willing to yell “racism” at the drop of a hat. We spend a ton of money on programs at the high school to try and recover children that we ignored at the elementary levels. We have a nation that is outsourcing jobs because our children are less educated. What is going on here, black folks? Why are we allowing our children to fall further and further behind? Why are we using our schools as baby sitting agencies? That is not what they were meant for. If nothing else, I hope I have angered enough of you to flood your child’s school and demand that you be allowed to get involved in your child’s education. 

Lee Berry served as president of the Berkeley High School Parent Teacher Student Association from June, 2003 to April, 2004.