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BHS Officials Hope to Quell Back-to-School Chaos

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday August 28, 2007

When Berkeley High starts on Wednesday, school officials are hoping there will be no need this year for “zoo time,” as the beginning-of-the-school-year pandemonium at Berkeley High is commonly known, with students clamoring for books, calendars and lockers. 

When students get back from summer break this time, they will saunter straight to class and get to work. Or at least that is the way it is supposed to work. 

Vice Principal Pasquale Scuderi’s new rules dictate that students should have picked up their back-to-school classroom essentials during registration days last week. 

“So that when the first day of school starts, we can be ready for class and not waste a single minute,” said Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp during senior registration Friday. “We’ve wasted a lot of time standing in queues in the past, but not anymore. The new school year will start on time.” 

The new idea was implemented for the first time last year. 

“This is a slight improvement on last year,” Scuderi said. “I was given a clean slate to try and see that kids don’t wait in long lines and don’t get their time wasted. So we looked at the layout of the campus and divided them into small groups. It’s a lot of hard work for four days but it’s worth every minute.” 

He added that the latest addition to Berkeley High was a talented group of 24 new teachers. 

“That, and the success of our athletic team,” he said. “Coach [Alonzo] Carter has doubled the participation in football. He also keeps his players’ transcripts with him which will help the athletic program have a bigger take on academics.” 

Although only 47 percent of sophomores and 48 percent of juniors at BHS scored proficient or advanced in English in the recent STAR test results, the numbers are above the statewide scores. The STAR program tests proficiency levels in English and math for every student in California according to one of five levels of performance on the California Standardized Tests for each subject tested: advanced, proficient, basic, below basic, and far below basic.  

“It’s important to keep in mind that STAR is a nice method but it’s one of several methods,” Scuderi said. “There are lots of assessments that we do on campus that test students more intimately. That gives us more relevant data than state tests. Students in our core humanities programs are now doing self assessments.” 

Slemp added that an advocacy program would start at Berkeley High from fall 2006 where every student would have an adult to go to for advice. 

Hundreds of Berkeley High seniors picked up books and ID cards on Friday. 

“It’s been extremely smooth since morning,” said Jun-Ko Kenmotsu, a parent volunteer who was handing out yellow monogrammed organizers. 

“The organizers cost $2 for every student,” said former BHS parent Linda Perry who has been volunteering during registration day for the last 15 years. 

“It’s a fraction of the actual cost. The rest is paid for by donations. Principal Slemp is very enthusiastic about using them as it helps to keep track of class and their social lives as well.” 

The lines moved as if by clockwork, guided by the ever-watchful eyes of the parent-volunteers. 

Berkeley High volunteer coordinator Janet Huseby said the 130 volunteers helped make sure the school year began smoothly. 

“These people gave up work and squeezed in their last hours of vacation to contribute to the community,” she said. “That is just amazing.” 

Corinne Koster, a portrait photographer with the ABC School’s Project, said that things had moved quickly. 

“I was able to take a hundred portraits since morning,” she said, “and apart from concerns about their hair and looks, the students have been just great.” 

Seniors Giana Cirolia, Kara Murray and Samantha Carter were up next. 

“It’s exciting,” said Giana, 17. “You’ve been waiting your entire four years in high school for this and now it’s here. [The class of] ’08 has always been the best class and this is going to be the best class ever.” 

“I am looking forward to Dance Production,” said Samantha. “I am not looking forward to college applications but it’s a goal.” 

As friends found each other during the day, discussions generally focused on the challenges of a new school year. 

“I am looking forward to moving on to better things,” said incoming senior Zoe Janackek. “Senior year is always stressful but it’s also the best. I really want to keep my grades up and work towards getting into a good college.”