I am writing to ask for your vote in support for Measure B, “Protecting Quality Education in Berkeley’s Public Schools.” Measure B would bring $8.3 million of critically needed funds into the schools for each of the next two years, reversing the most dev astating impacts of recent budget cuts.
When I was re-elected to the Berkeley School Board two years ago, along with Nancy Riddle and Terry Doran, our School District was in severe fiscal and organizational crisis. Berkeley High School was without a pr incipal and the campus environment was poor for teaching and learning. All of those elected in 2002, as well as the two serving trustees, Joaquin Rivera and John Selawsky pledged to correct these serious deficits.
Two years later I am pleased to tell you that we have achieved these goals. Working together, with our superintendent, we now have a budget that is balanced and an organization that is more accountable, frugal and effective. Berkeley High School has a new building, a strong principal and a rene wed sense of pride. In fact, BUSD is now viewed as one of the stronger school districts in the county.
In Berkeley, we have high expectations for our schools: to provide support for students that need it; ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach their personal best; to address achievement gaps. I know that each school director and our superintendent wants to meet these expectations, but as we strive to do so, we must confront the real facts about our financial circumstances. In order to br i ng our budget into balance we have had to increase class size, eliminate teaching positions, reduce library hours, and dilute our music programs. These actions have affected teaching and learning. That is why the School Board voted unanimously, to place M easure B on the November ballot. Measure B would reverse the worst impacts of these cuts: those that affect the classroom.
I realize we are asking a generous community to give again, but it seems to me that these are times that call for sacrifice in pur suit of worthy goals. In my judgment, Measure B is a valid request for additional funds that will be properly spent to provide essential educational programs in our schools. Measure B will raise $8.3 million for each of the next two years which will b e us ed to reduce class size, keep school libraries open and staffed, restore music programs, and train teachers in curriculum and instruction. I hope that you will vote for Measure B and continue Berkeley’s proud tradition of investing in our schools. To learn more, please visit the Measure B website: www.yesonb.net.
Shirley Issel is school director for the Berkeley Unified School District.l