Berkeley High Opens Scheduling Committee Meetings to Public

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday May 26, 2009 - 04:35:00 PM

Berkeley High School will allow the public to participate in meetings held by a committee charged with planning a new schedule for the high school, Berkeley Unified School District Superintendent Bill Huyett said Tuesday. 

The first public forum will be held Wednesday, May 28, at the Berkeley High School Library, giving parents a chance to ask questions about the process, Huyett said. 

The Scheduling Committee was formed in April under direction from the Berkeley Board of Education, when the board approved an organizational redesign for the high school at the beginning of the year. 

This overhaul—which will introduce advisory programs for smaller learning environments, a new small school, new bell schedules and late-start Mondays geared toward teacher development—is part of the citywide 2020 Vision program, which seeks to close the achievement gap in Berkeley’s public schools. The changes would be implemented for the 2010-11 school year. 

A report by San Francisco-based School Wise Press shows Berkeley Unified as having the highest achievement gap in the state. 

Huyett said the decision to include community members in these scheduling meetings was made by Berkeley High Principal Jim Slemp after the Scheduling Committee’s May 13 meeting in response to parent concerns. 

Now, “anyone can participate,” Superintendent Huyett said. “Of course, the committee will need to do its work and come up with a schedule, but it will be a participatory process.” 

A group of parents, including Berkeley High Parent, Teacher and Student Association President Mark van Krieken had complained about the lack of transparency and parental involvement in the redesign process. They had said during the formation of the scheduling committee—essentially the second phase of the redesign—that despite promises from Berkeley High administration about a more open approach in the future, school officials were still leaving parents out of the process. 

In a letter to PTSA members Tuesday, May 26, van Krieken described the recent development as “good news.” 

“We would like to thank the principal and superintendent for making the process more open for the BHS community,” he said. “It’s much appreciated.” 

Krieken informed parents that from now on, all meetings organized by the scheduling committee will be announced in advance, and that the minutes and agendas from the first three meetings had been posted on the Berkeley High website. 

The committee will be looking at various different scheduling models over the summer and submit a proposal to the board in the fall, Huyett said. 

Although the high school had initially been interested in pursuing a block schedule, under Huyett’s recommendation the board told school officials to investigate a different schedule from the current six-period model, which would incorporate more courses annually and provide time for advisory programs and academic support. 

Van Krieken also said that he was pleased with the diversity on the 14-member committee, which is comprised of Huyett, Slemp, district Director of Student Evaluation and Assessment Rebecca Cheung and several parents and teachers. 

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers said she was hopeful that a more “open transparent process would benefit everyone.’ 

“The last time some people were surprised because they saw the end of the process and missed the earlier part,” Campbell said. “As a result they were not aware of the urgency, the intricacy of some of the problems. But this time, with more information out there, even if they don’t agree with whatever decision the school board makes, at least the process will get more support.” 

The public forum on Berkeley High’s schedule changes for the 2010-11 school year will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 28, in the Berkeley High School library. 

• The agendas and minutes of the Scheduling Committee’s first three meetings can be found on the Berkeley High website at bhs.berkeley.net/index.php?page=berkeley-high-redesign-plan, and on the PTSA website at bhs.berkeleypta.org/docs/redesign/redesign.htm.