This has been an amazing year of collaborative work and significant progress, as we have rallied together towards a number of important initiatives and improvements in our schools. Here are a just a few of the areas in which I know we have made great strides:
- We used professional learning communities and teamwork to share best practices and provide a rich, collaborative learning environment for students. One achievement in particular has been the strong transition to Common Core math in the middle schools and in the 9th grade.
- We improved school climate by building on our successes with the Toolbox curriculum in grades K-6, providing sexual harassment prevention education for students and staff, expanded the use of restorative justice practices in ways that are helping to change our discipline practices, and further reduced the number of suspensions.
- We continued opportunities for teachers and staff to develop effective teaching strategies that promote equity and worked to develop our cultural competence to more fully engage our students and families. In support of the Black Lives Matter movement, we worked with Parents of Children of African Descent (PCAD) families, the Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), and the Black Parent Affinity Group to develop strategies and dedicate funding to directly improve educational outcomes for our students of color. Among other positive outcomes, this work led to the formation of our Anti-Racist Task Force.
- We worked collaboratively with our community to develop the next iteration of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) special tax measure. The measure language was approved by the School Board, and will be put before Berkeley voters on the ballot in November. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass. The BSEP local tax provides about 20% of our current budget, including funding one-third of the teachers in our district, all of the staff and books in our school libraries, the music program in grades 4-8, technology, professional development, school discretionary site funds, and much more.
As I reflect on our accomplishments, I feel we have taken a few of the best plays from the Warrior’s playbook. Each of us brings our own inner Warrior; we are willing to do the hard work over the long haul, because we know it’s for the benefit of all of our students. We showed this year that as a community we believe in the power of Strength in Numbers. At this year’s Classified Employee Recognition Ceremony we counted and honored the 905 years of service to students provided by the 64 classified employees who reached 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, and 35 year milestones. What a powerful testament to the many dedicated employees who have given so much to serve our community!
I am extremely pleased that to top off the year, we reached a Tentative Agreement with the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees (BCCE) that the School Board has approved and that is pending ratification by the union’s members. I look forward to being able to implement the Classification and Compensation Study that better aligns the job description and compensation of many of our classified staff with the work they perform. My sincere thanks goes to the BCCE leadership and to my negotiating team for finding the common ground that brought us to what I believe is a win-win for our employees and our school community.
Just as I’ve shared some of my thoughts with you, I hope you might let me know what you are most proud of – please feel to share with me your top accomplishments from the 2015-16 school year, and what you’re looking forward to for next year.
Thank you so very much for being on our team. I wish you a wonderful summer!
Donald Evans, Ed.D., Superintendent