School District Committee Searches for African-American Teachers

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 01, 2007

The Berkeley School Board received information on the Black College tour that took place in February to recruit more teachers of color at historically black colleges in Washington D.C. and Atlanta, Ga. 

This was the first time BUSD sent out a group to search for African-American teachers for the Berkeley public schools, said BUSD spokesperson Mark Coplan. 

Joette Al Hakim-Hall, a sixth-grade teacher at Longfellow Middle School, told the board that she had visited Howard University in Washington D.C. and Morgan State University in Baltimore with Longfellow principal Rebecca Cheung. 

“We found out that it’s not just Berkeley who wants African American teachers. Schools all over the nation are vying for these teachers,” said Al Hakim-Hall. “It made us think that what is so special about Berkeley that would make these young graduates leave the East Coast and move to the Bay Area.” 

Robert McKnight, who teaches at Berkeley High, said that his trip to Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, with King Middle School Vice Principal Jimette Anderson had been positive. 

“It gives me a boost to see so many young students of color going to school and getting good grades,” said Anderson and offered herself for future discussions on the issue. 

Board members agreed that planning was required to offer new recruits a comfortable start in their careers in Berkeley. 

“The Bay Area is a very expensive place to live,” said board member Nancy Riddle. “We have to ensure that these young people have proper housing and a support system ready before we bring them in.” 


MLK track 

The board approved an advertisement to solicit bids for resurfacing the track at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School over the summer. Gelfand Architects were hired on January 17 to design the project. The design is scheduled to be completed on May 4. 

The track, which is also largely used by the community, will remain closed from June 15 to the end of August.