Page One

School Board Gets Back to Work After Summer Recess

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday August 25, 2006

The Berkeley school board met Wednesday for the first time after summer vacation. Mateo Aceves took the oath of office as the new student school board director for the coming school year. 


Warm water pool 

Advocates of the warm water pool urged the board to work with the city manager’s office to build a new pool for the city. 

The City Council has authorized the city manager’s office to look at developing a project for the relocation of the warm pool to the Milvia Tennis Court site, which belongs to the school district. Superintendent Michele Lawrence said that she has given the city an outline of the steps the district must take before it can consider handing over the property to the city. 

Anne Marks, a user of the warm water pool in Berkeley, told the board that community members as well as users of the pool were ready to be part of the solution in order to prevent the pool from being demolished in the next two years. Tom Ross, a disabled advocate and user of the warm pool, read aloud a poem he had composed on the warm pool. 

Mark Hendrix told the board that he was concerned about rumors that said that the community might end up without a warm pool and requested the board to look into the financial issues involved. 

Terry Doran, board president, reminded the public about the school board’s vote for the improvement of the Berkeley High South Campus, which included half of the land on which the warm pool exists. 

“We want to build a stadium on the property and not touch any of the buildings, which includes the building that houses the warm pool,” he said. “But this is a three-step program and it will take time. We are currently in the second step where we need to hire an architect, get a budget and do all kinds of planning. However, there are other issues to this—such as the safety issues of the building which houses the warm pool and how stable it is— which need to be considered.” 

Doran added that although he would be stepping down from the board in November he would remain committed on working with the community on solving the warm water pool issue. 


Student issues 

Francisco Martinez, manager of enrollment and attendance, read aloud from a student assignment report and discussed with the board such issues as student assignment, residency requirements and permits. 

Recently there has been a lot of talk about students who are illegally registering as Berkeley residents to get into Berkeley Schools. 

“Berkeley schools are viewed by East Bay parents as one of the last opportunities for their children to succeed and so it’s understood why they want to send their children there,” said school board member Shirley Issel. “But it is not possible to give a child a successful education if it is based on lies. Registering your child illegally breaks the chain of trust among the parents, the child and the school itself. I urge everyone to be honest and to go through a legitimate process.” 

The school district has stepped up efforts to verify proof of Berkeley residency. Currently, the parent or guardian must submit three documents showing residency in the city out of the following four options: 

• a California Driver’s License or ID; 

• a current bank statement; 

• an action letter from Social Services, a letter from the State Office for Medi-Cal, a letter from the employer on company letter head or a paycheck stub; 

• a PG&E bill, phone bill (non-cellular), EBMUD bill, garbage bill or cable bill. 

Martinez informed the board that lease agreements were not accepted as proof as they are easily forged. He also added that asking for additional forms of proof proved to be cumbersome for a lot of parents in this electronic age since most made bill payments online which did not leave a paper trail. 

A district employee will look into whether students reside at the addresses where they are listed during the year. Superintendent Michele Lawrence said that while the school district did not want to be an INS-sort of system, it was important to maintain a balanced check on the students. 

“We do not respond to anonymous calls because we don’t want families to snitch on one another,” she said. “Only if the caller leaves her name with us do we follow up the case.” 

School board member Joaquin Rivera said that main problem was whether there was any kind of overdue strain on the system as a result of the illegal students. BUSD currently has around 400 approved inter-district students, of which a third go to Berkeley High School. District officials said there was no way of gauging how many students were attending city schools illegally. 


Other matters 

Barry Fike, president of Berkeley Federation of Teachers, urged the board to better regulate how teachers are paid. 

“Restoring the Reserve Fund in order to use any further new money for compensation of teachers would put to rest the suspicion that it was being used for discretionary funding purposes instead of teacher compensation,” he said. 

The board also passed a motion to authorize Board President Doran to sign ballot arguments for Measure A. Measure A involves the renewal of two existing special taxes in the November elections that fund a large number of Berkeley teachers as well as other school activities.