Another Point of View on BUSD Laundry (Commentary)

By Kristen Lono
Thursday May 26, 2011 - 08:42:00 AM

I teach at Berkeley Arts Magnet and the portrait painted by parent Ms. McCleary in a recent letter published by your paper bears no resemblance to the school as I know it. To post this under a "BUSD Dirty Laundry" headline was irresponsible and divisive. Ms. Collins has worked hard since she came on board to pull Arts Magnet out of its academic tailspin. She inherited a school which had been identified as a program improvement school under the federal mandate of No Child Left Behind. Under her guidance, the school has made steady and statistically significant gains based on the California Standards Test results, which state and federal agencies use to measure school success, whether we like it or not. Ms. Collins has had to make difficult decisions, most driven by fiscal imperatives or District directives. She has often had to bear the brunt of uninformed community voices who assume she has more authority than in fact she has to allocate resources or determine site priorities. She works closely with a school site council and is under the authority of the school board and district administration. The school has not met all of its goals, and the work continues. This entire staff is dedicated to the idea that all children can and should be able to succeed . 

Our school is devoted to offering a rich arts program, and in a time of debilitating school cutbacks across the state and the country, Arts Magnet has been able to offer, with the support of Berkeley voters and our own PTA, in addition to the music and science programs underwritten by the District, full and part-time percussion, dance, and visual arts. We have a full-time library technician, counseling services in partnership with the City of Berkeley, a vibrant and active PTA and site council, YMCA trained P.E. teachers, and yard supervision staff, as well as a host of other committees and programs with staff and parent participation. 

Finally, Berkeley Arts Magnet, under the leadership of our principal Kristin Collins, has been a willing and active participant in the District sponsored effort to close the achievement gap through staff development and training as well as outreach and communication with all of its cultural communities. Arts Magnet has hosted four Meetings on the Bridge, facilitated by Pamela Harrison-Small, to build relationships, encourage participation and franchise, and further the goals of equity at our site and in our district. This District-wide program was well-promoted at our site through school newsletters, flyers, and our website. Ms. Collins participated along with several staff members and families. 

Ms. McCreary has every right to speak her mind and advocate for children, so I respect her activism while disagreeing with her conclusions. I have taught for 30 years, in BUSD for over twenty years, and have worked at three separate schools in this district. I have never worked with a more conscientious, supportive, and ethical administrator than Ms. Collins. Whether one agrees with Ms. Collins' administrative style or not, it is just plain wrong and hurtful to characterize her as apathetic. 

Your reporters can access Berkeley Arts Magnet data through the state database to see our recent achievement record. I hope you will hear from my colleagues and other community members who support our wonderful school and the work we all do to make it a safe, empowering, and enriching place for children. 

Kristen Lono is a 3rd Grade Teacher at Arts Magnet School