I am a 40 year Berkeley resident, a parent and a parent advocate for parents of children enrolled in BUSD. For the past five years I have worked with the principal, Kristin Collins, at the school site of Berkeley Arts Magnet at Whittier to address numerous issues of cultural competency (in relationship to African-American and/or Black families). Within these five years I and other parents (and their children) that have chosen to address these issues have been ostracized, retaliated against (overt and covert) and belittled. This year the President of the Black Parents organization(United as Family at BAM) Ms. Artura Brown and the secretary (myself) worked all year to address the current achievement gap amongst Black students at this site. Out of the aggregate population our Black students are the lowest with only 35% of our students proficient in Math and Language Arts and with only 18% of our students proficient in Science.
Instead the principal, Kristin Collins, encouraged us to participate in every meeting, training and committee, none of which we felt addressed our issues. We have observed that every program we support at this school are all being restructured by Ms. Collins in an effort to address a need identified by the community. We find this interesting that the [principal] Ms. Collins has told us directly that she has NOT received any feedback from the Black Community at this school site. We know this is not true, we have reached out to the community who have entrusted us with their concerns. Per our information Ms. Collins has carefully 'handled' the issues raised by families on an individual level while not addressing it in the larger context of Black community as a whole,simply stating to us that "Unless parents bring their concerns to me I can't do anything."
We have tried to address this issue through the administrative process only to have our concerns readdressed by Ms. Collins who is apathetic, condescending and continues to view our families and our children through the lens of white privilege. When I say white privilege I mean racism, racism that there has been no effective outreach to Black Families, different discipline policies for OUR children and a lack of cultural understanding from this school and a majority of it's teaching staff. There have been incidents of bullying, sexual assault and children disappearing from the school site as well as inappropriate parental notification based on the BUSD Student/Parent handbook.
We want answers, we are tired of our voices being quieted, marginalized and silenced. Programs and systems are in place at this school that make it almost impossible for a Black parent to communicate with their child's teacher or support staff. Our beloved Before/After School program is currently being dismantled and redesigned by Ms. Collins with NO INPUT or NOTIFICATION of the Black Parent community. Our children ask all of the adults what is going on, but we don't know because everything be done is happening behind closed doors and in back rooms.
There is a lot of money coming into this school. For the past five years United As Family at BAM (Black Parents assoc.) have asked for the programs, financial allocations and reports to show the benefits of the services being offered to our community. We have yet to receive any of the requested information and are unable to inform the Black parents of what is working and what isn't working. Ms. Collins has dropped the ball altogether and isn't effectively communicating to our Black Community.
We are supposed to be partners, we are treated as adversaries and it must stop.