Election Section

New: Re-Elect Karen Hemphill for School Board 2010

By Karen Hemphill
Thursday October 21, 2010 - 06:01:00 PM

As current School Board President, what distinguishes me from the other candidates is that I have proven leadership in what it takes to advance student achievement in these difficult economic times. During my tenure and leadership, through careful fiscal oversight and fostering of creative partnerships with the City and other public as well as non-profit agencies (and with the continued support of our community school taxes), the School District has maintained a balanced budget every year for the past four years, while retaining small class sizes; art and music programs; and student support services. Most importantly, with the adoption of the first District-wide student achievement plan (which I championed and led in developing) overall academic achievement has risen, while the District has started to make real progress on the achievement gap that has historically existed among racial groups in our schools. With the decision not to seek re-election of two long-term Board members (Shirley Issel and Nancy Riddle, who both endorse my re-election, as well as do continuing Board members Beatriz Levya-Cutler and John Selawsky), my experience and proven leadership in conducting an open and transparent budget process and advancing data-based, systematic academic growth strategies will be particularly important in continuing the good work, we as a Board have accomplished in the past few years. 


And, we have accomplished a lot - just this past year, fifteen of our schools met or exceeded growth targets on the State’s Academic Performance Index (API) scores – which uses a multiple ways of measuring academic achievement. Nine out of eleven of our elementary schools now surpass the statewide goal of scoring at least 800/1000 on the API, with Rosa Parks being just three points away from this goal after jumping a remarkable 60+ points this past year. In the past two years, Jefferson and Oxford elementary schools have been designated California Distinguished Schools, and Malcolm X and Washington elementary have been designated Title I Achievement Schools, a recognition for achieving exemplary academic excellence in schools with significant numbers of lower-income students. 


Our middle schools have also shown amazing academic growth this past year as well, with both King and Longfellow now surpassing the statewide 800+ API goal and Willard being just twelve points away, after jumping more than 40+ points, two years in a row. After adopting a middle school math improvement strategy, Algebra I test scores have increased 50% this past year – with 100% of our 8th graders now enrolled in Algebra I (statewide only 50% of middle school students take Algebra). And, just this past month, Longfellow was visited by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as a model of achieving math excellence in a school with a diverse student body (Longfellow has the highest math scores of any Berkeley middle school and African American students are achieving above statewide averages for ALL students in math). With this success, our middle schools are now offering Geometry (previously just offered at the high school) for our highest achieving 8th graders. 


As Board President, I was on the selection committee for Berkeley High’s new principal, a principal who will be an educational leader, focusing upon basics, such as teacher training and accountability, while bringing together the various student, teacher, and parent groups to focus on common interests of advancing academic excellence for all. I have championed raising the bar on educational opportunity at our high schools, through supporting the establishment of International Baccalaureate, Mandarin Chinese, and Green Academy Programs at Berkeley High (where my son is a sophomore) as well as supporting the first college preparatory program at BTech, our continuation high school. And, I have led efforts to partner with our City, university and community college, non-profit, and other community groups to increase resources for academic and social support services to bolster student achievement. 


If re-elected, my first priority will be to foster a collegial relationship on the new Board, that will incorporate the ideas and energy of the newly elected while building upon the experience of continuing Board members, so we can continue the remarkable overall student achievement progress that has been achieved over the past four years – while facing some of the most difficult economic times ever. My second priority will be to make sure that we have an open and transparent budget process, based upon data and evaluation so we can focus our increasing scarce resources on what is core to our students’ continued academic growth. I also plan to continue leading efforts to partner with the City and other agencies to maximize our academic and student support service resources - especially to continue early and consistent intervention for struggling elementary school students and to support the new, this year, program to address truancy, alcohol and drug issues at our high schools. My last priority in the next few years is to work with our community college; non-profit organizations; and our local information, media, bio-tech, and green private industries, as well as our trade unions to build upon the groundwork laid by our Green Academy, Biotech Academy, internship, and other high school programs to develop a strong career-technical program – to inspire and give real-life experience to our students to continue after high school to become our next innovators, entrepreneurs, artisans and technicians – as a pathway to a fulfilled career. 


My widespread endorsements symbolize my commitment and leadership in bringing together our entire community to support our children’s academic and personal success. I have been endorsed by the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the Alameda County Central Labor Council, the Alameda County Democratic Party, several regional Democratic Clubs, the entire current Berkeley School Board, State Senator Loni Hancock, State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, the Mayor and the entire City Council as well as numerous individuals, including, but not limited to, past School Board members Pamela Doolan and Miriam Rokeach; Dan Lindheim, co-chair of the school parcel tax oversight committee; Judy Appel, Executive Director of the Our Family Coalition; Pastor Emeritus George Crespin; Mark Van Krieken, Berkeley High School PTSA co-president, Margit Roos-Collins, Santiago Casal, Michael Miller, Liz Fuentes, and Irma Parker,