Friday October 08, 2004

Board Approves After School Fees  

The Berkeley School Board this week unanimously approved fees for the district’s middle school after school programs after board member concerns about the effect of the fees were alleviated. 

Students will now be charged based on a sliding scale for the program, with fees ranging from $75 to $25 per month. Families with more than one child in the after-school program will be given discounts for each additional child. 

Parents who cannot pay the fees will be able to make other arrangements with the school site coordinator, according to the staff report on the issue. 

The after school program includes academics, homework tutors, enrichment classes, and recreation. Competitive and non-competitive team sports are provided. 

The superintendent’s office said that the fees were necessary because the federal reimbursement for the programs is not adequate to meet the costs. 

At its Sept. 22 meeting, the board postponed voting on the fees after Student Director Lily Dorman-Colby expressed concerns that some students would be turned away from the program because of inability to pay the fees. 

But Superintendent Michele Lawrence has assured the board that lack of payment will not bar any students. 

Board President John Selawsky, who said he also had previous concerns, now calls the implementation of the fees a good thing. 

“If we didn’t charge anything, it would limit the programs,” Selawsky said. “People who can afford to pay will pay, and I’m confident that with the fees, we’ll be able to serve more kids and be fair at the same time.” 

Selawsky noted that parents are already paying fees for their children to participate in similar after school programs at the district’s elementary schools. 

BFT Endorsement 

The Berkeley Federation of Teachers has endorsed challengers Kalima Rose and Karen Hemphill in their drive to attempt to unseat two incumbent BUSD School Board members. 

The endorsement followed a candidates’ forum held this week at the Berkeley Adult School. BFT President Barry Fike said that the two challengers won the union’s endorsement by “a decisive majority.” 

He said that BFT’s Election Committee had decided not to reveal the exact vote count for each candidate received from the approximately one hundred union members attending the endorsement meeting. BFT represents some 700 BUSD teachers. 

Rose and Hemphill are challenging School Board incumbents John Selawsky and Joaquin Rivera in the Nov. 2 election. 

Fike said one reason Rose and Hemphill won the endorsement was because they “addressed the accountability issue head-on, both board accountability and accountability district-wide. That’s one of our concerns.” 

He also speculated there may have been some frustration with Selawsky and Rivera by union rank and file members because of the present teachers’ contract impasse. BFT-board talks have been ongoing since March of 2003. The old teachers’ contract expired in June of last year.