School District Approves New Rules For Selection of Five BHS Principals By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Friday April 22, 2005

With little discussion and only minor tweaking, Berkeley Unified School District directors unanimously passed a policy Wednesday night to modify the process of selecting new principals. 

Five principal positions currently need to be filled for next school year, including Berkeley Alternative, Willard Middle, and John Muir, Oxford, and Rosa Parks elementary schools. Berkeley Unified has already begun advertising for the positions. 

While the temporary hiring procedure modifies the makeup and duties of community and staff selection committees set up to screen applicants, Superintendent Michele Lawrence says that the intent is to make the process less cumbersome, and will not restrict input. Lawrence assured Student Director Lily Dorman-Colby that one to two students will be included on the Berkeley Alternative and Willard Middle screening panels. At Board Vice President Terry Doran’s request, she agreed to a modification that the district would solicit all parent applicants to the screening committees, not just from PTAs. Doran said he made the request to be more inclusive “because all parents don’t participate in the PTAs.” 

Director Joaquin Rivera said that the modified selection process was the same as the one used to hire Principal Jim Slemp at Berkeley High two years ago. 

In other action Wednesday night, the board: 

• Moved forward with a plan to reduce class sizes using Berkeley Schools Excellence Project (BSEP) funds and money from the 2004 Measure B class size reduction bond. The district is projecting average class sizes for the 2005-06 school year of 20 for grades K-3, 26 for grades 4-5, and 28 for grades 6-12. Board President Nancy Riddle noted that without BSEP and Measure B funds, and without qualifying for state reduced size subsidies, Berkeley’s average class size would be 39. “That’s California,” Riddle said. “That’s why we appreciate what Berkeley voters have done in these measures.” 

• In a continuing effort to bring the district out of “qualified” budget status, approved the elimination of eight classified employee positions, including three school bus drivers and two food service assistants. Director Doran called the decisions “tough.” Superintendent Lawrence said that “the food service positions are vacant, but there are real people attached to the other positions.” Lawrence said that more staff cutbacks will be forthcoming. 

• Approved a program that will allow summer school at the middle and high school levels that will be available only for students who have failed classes or, at the high school level, “are not making satisfactory progress toward high school graduation.” When Director Dorman-Colby asked if this was a change from the previous policy of allowing any student to attend summer school who wanted, Lawrence said, “yes. That’s one of the consequences of these budget cuts.” 

• Passed, on first reading, board bylaws. After several minutes of discussion, board members held off until their next meeting a decision on how board officers are chosen. One option would have board officers automatically selected based upon the totals given to them by Berkeley voters in elections to the board; another would have officers directly elected by the board directors themselves.ô