2020 Vision to Launch Citywide Equity Task Force This Week

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday January 27, 2009 - 06:06:00 PM

The 2020 Vision, initiated in June as a collaboration between the City of Berkeley, the Berkeley Unified School District and community organizations to close the achievement gap in the schools, will launch an All City Equity Task Force during a three-day retreat at the Berkeley Yacht Club starting Thursday. 

Organized by the non-profit Berkeley Alliance, which entered into a one-year $61,800 contract with the city in October to provide services for the 2020 Vision and other partnerships between the school district and UC Berkeley, the private workshop will bring together more than 50 people from the city, Berkeley Unified and several organizations to brainstorm strategies before sharing them with the broader community. 

The contract states that the Alliance—which began in 1996 as a result of cooperative efforts between the City of Berkeley and UC Berkeley, with the school district taking part as well—will work with the city to develop and implement programs for the new citywide initiative, which “emphasizes a coordinated school, agency and community approach that leverages and weaves school and community resources in a comprehensive manner and focuses on tangible outcomes for all students.” 

The district is recommending that the school board approve a $50,000 grant on Wednesday for the Alliance to lead the new city-wide task force. 

In August the Berkeley Alliance formed the 2020 Vision Planning Team, comprising 19 members from the city, the school district, United in Action, BayCES, UC Berkeley, Berkeley City College and the Alliance itself to craft an action plan for the 2020 Vision, including putting together the citywide equity taskforce. 

No information about the retreat, its participants or agenda is available on the Alliance’s website, which lists all meetings related to the 2020 Vision. 

Calls to the Alliance’s outgoing director Tracey Schear and to its Berkeley office for comment were not returned. 

Schear resigned from the Berkeley Alliance late last year after working there for three years, and continues to work on the 2020 Vision as a consultant while the organization’s board of directors manages the transition. 

The Alliance has begun its search for a new executive director—estimated to earn $85,000-$96,000 annually—and hope to have someone on board by the end of March. 

Michael Miller, director of Parents of Children of African Descent and a member of United in Action, said that 80 invitations had been sent out for the retreat, even though there are places for only 50. 

“The goal is to come up with some specific strategy and then go to the community and discuss what we have,” he said. 

“We want to have a deeper conversation about the economics of it and the relationships. There’s some push back in the community about who’s involved and who’s not involved and what it means for students who are already successful. There are some controversial issues and some confusion. We want to clear all that.” 

Santiago Casal of United in Action, the multi-ethnic community group which first proposed the 2020 Vision to the district, said that plan was to “involve everybody.” 

“To mobilize the entire community is a big endeavor,” he said. “The sheer energy of us coming together and talking is quite exciting. In terms of actually implementing something, it probably won’t be until next year, when the class of 2020 will be in 2nd grade.” 

The Alliance, according to the contract, is also responsible for developing the funding blueprint for the 2020 Vision program, including a targeted strategy to tap private foundation contacts in the Greater Bay Area and nationally and submit at least three citywide grants by the end of the financial year 2008-2009. 

At a community meeting at Berkeley Technology Academy last week, Bill Huyett, superintendent of Berkeley Unified, briefed more than 50 parents and community members about the progress made in drafting strategies to eliminate the achievement gap. 

Miller acknowledged that there was no silver bullet that would solve the achievement gap in standardized tests, explaining that a student’s academic success was possible only with a “total community approach.” 

Huyett said that it would take the city, the school district and the community at least six more months to come together and start working as a group, adding that once the strategies for the 2020 Vision were finalized, all 16 public schools in Berkeley and their staff—including classified workers—would have to work it into their daily schedule. 

Some district educators said that the Berkeley High School redesign plan—which would implement block schedules and advisory periods if approved by the Berkeley Board of Education—would be an important part of turning the Vision 2020 into reality, although some parents continue to question the loss of instructional minutes that would result from it. 

One of the strategies outlined in the 2020 Vision update includes developing a more robust and coherent curriculum, instruction, assessment and intervention, and identifying problem areas and alternate structures that would help educators relate to children better. 

The superintendent also talked about training Berkeley Unified staff in a way that would help them cope with a diverse student body, including providing them with professional development to improve culturally responsive teaching and initiate a positive behavioral support system, which would increase student engagement and achievement and reduce inequities in discipline. 

Other ideas include strengthening early childhood education and hiring and retaining teachers and administrators of color, something the district has been trying to do this past year by sending out teams to scout for talented African American teachers and trying to offer them attractive enough packages to encourage them to work in Berkeley. 

Miller said that some of the major concerns from parents included questions about raising performance levels for teachers who were underperforming, having parent liaisons at schools and easier access to information for families who did not have Internet or e-mail at home. 

“We can’t say we are on target because we don’t quite know what our target is,” Miller said. “It’s shifting depending on our priorities and our economic climate. One of the things folks don’t understand is that it’s difficult to come up with strategies with a large group of people.” 

School board member Beatriz Leyva-Cutler echoed his thoughts. 

“It’s taking a lot more time than anticipated, but it’s still going forward,” she said. “At this point a lot of parents are concerned about how the 2020 Vision will affect their children. We need to look at data to come up with strategies and the schools have to plan their activities around it.” 

For more information on Vision 2020 visit: www.berkeleyalliance.org