June 16, 2016
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!
February 11, 2015
Before you take off for a well-deserved four day weekend, I wanted to be sure that you are aware of an important series of “Community Conversations” we are holding across the district in February and March, and I hope many of you will participate.
Did you know that our school district receives 20% of our funding from a local special tax measure? The Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) was first passed by Berkeley voters in 1986, and is up for renewal by voters in Berkeley in 2016.
BSEP funding provides many “essentials for excellence,” including one of three Berkeley teachers which allows small class sizes, music and libraries, support for students, professional development, and much more.
There are five “Community Conversations” in February and March to discuss ideas and priorities for the next BSEP measure, as well as a longer Community Workshop taking place at the School District Board Room on February 25, which will go into more detail on BSEP budgets and programs. I encourage you to join the conversation, and bring your thoughts and ideas about the future of BSEP.
Here’s more information:
Budget Workshop and Community Conversation about BSEP
Thursday, February 25th from 7:00-9:00 p.m.
BUSD School Board Room, 1231 Addison Street.
- Learn more about how BSEP supports our students
- Consider elementary class size options and other community priorities
- Share your ideas for how to make BSEP-funded programs even better
We’d like to know how many people are coming!
RSVP online at: http://tinyurl.com/RSVP4BSEP
Childcare and Spanish translation available
You can choose instead to attend one of the shorter “Community Conversations”, if you would like to join a table talk about priorities rather than spend a lot of time on budget details. You don’t need to have a child or work at the schools listed below – we want to have people across Berkeley talking to each other about priorities for our schools!
February 17, 5:00-6:30 pm
King Middle School Faculty Lounge, 1781 Rose Street
March 2, 7:00-8:30 pm
Berkeley High School Library, 1980 Allston Way
March 10, 7:00-8:30 pm
Rosa Parks Elementary School Multipurpose Room, 920 Allston Way
March 14, 4:00-5:30 pm
Malcolm X Elementary School Library, 1731 Prince Street:
March 15, 7:00-8:30 pm (en español)
LeConte Elementary School en la biblioteca,2241 Russell Street:
Thank you! Enjoy the long weekend.
November 13, 2015
Dear Berkeley High Students, Parents/Guardians, and Staff:
The peaceful protest led by Berkeley High School’s Black Student Union on November 5th, supported by many allies, was a powerful and united response against the racially-motivated, hateful language found on the Berkeley High campus last week.
In a strong display of unity, BHS students came together to protest racism, and command attention to the real hurt, pain, and distress experienced by our African American community. As I witnessed the student-led walkout, I felt fortunate to be part of a community in which our young people are standing up against terror and racism. I respect the young leaders of our Black Student Union for their courageous efforts, and commend Principal Pasarow and the teachers and staff for coming together in support of our students. I also appreciated the chance to meet with the entire Berkeley High staff last Friday as we deepened our commitment to work together.
As we know all too well from the reports we hear daily in the news, this recent threat to the safety of African Americans in our community is not an isolated incident. It comes on the heels of violence against and threats to black lives across the nation. I am thankful that the national Black Lives Matter movement has renewed public attention to the continued inequities and unfair treatment Black Americans face every day in our country.
There are not many communities in America that can boast the degree of diversity of our schools and broader community, and I believe the diversity of our community is our greatest strength. We must work together across our differences and through our shared community to ensure our schools are inclusive and free from stereotypes, bias, and racism, so that all students can reach their full potential.
In spite of this dark moment in our community, I do see a silver lining. Education is the most powerful tool for change, and together we have the ability to address the inequities our students face every day. We must guarantee that each and every day our students of color have equitable access to the same opportunities to succeed in our schools as all our students. To that end, we will strengthen our efforts to:
- Provide social-emotional and academic support needed to uplift our students;
- Invest in positive school climate initiatives and in the cultural competency of all teachers and staff through professional development and opportunities for courageous conversations;
- Change discipline policies and practices to keep our students in school and engaged, recognizing that we disproportionately suspend African American students; and
- Recruit and retain teachers of color so that our faculty and staff reflect the diversity of our student body.
Moving forward will require ensuring that all of our students feel safe and supported to be successful at Berkeley High School. In keeping with Berkeley’s long tradition of championing equal rights, we must commit to this equity work with a renewed urgency, as a united community. We have an obligation on behalf of our students, and to future generations. I am grateful for your partnership in supporting and strengthening our community so that our African American students are seen, and see themselves, as undeniably deserving of the highest of expectations, opportunities, care and respect. They have spoken out courageously, and we can listen and act with equal courage.
Donald Evans, Ed.D.
October 9, 2015
Happy Friday! Today I want to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to you for all you have done to make this a great start to the new school year.
Each and every staff member, whether in a role of teacher, school secretary, principal, instructional assistant, administrator, counselor, after school coordinator, custodian, bus driver, food service personnel or other school/district specialist, has been a part of setting our schools up for success this year!
I feel truly blessed to be working with you and to see the kind of teamwork and professional excellence that I know is positively impacting the lives of our students every day.
I’ve been out talking to parents and others in our community who are equally appreciative of your good work. They respect the heavy lifting we are all doing to provide an excellent education for every child and youth in Berkeley. In particular, parents have been telling me that they have observed a growing alignment of teachers, staff, and the community around many shared educational and organizational priorities. It’s great to have that positive response and appreciation being shared by our families and community!
Please pat yourself on the back, and know that your work is deeply appreciated.
I hope you are looking forward to this Monday’s Professional Development (PD) Day as much as I am. I know that our PD staff and Human Resources team have worked hard to put together a dynamic program for you. Our professional learning has a powerful impact on student learning, and is essential to the vision we share for our schools.
With that, I’d like to wish you an awesome weekend!
And, thanks again!
September 1, 2015
Dear Teachers and Staff,
Welcome to the 2015-16 school year!
Whether you have been working steadily over the summer, or are just jumping back in, I hope you were able to take some time out for yourself to reflect and rejuvenate. The quieter summer weeks were a chance for me to pause and appreciate our achievements before embarking on our next steps toward a world class education for every student.
I want you to know of some exciting initiatives in the year ahead. We’ve expanded opportunities to build upon our greatest resource, which is each other. Finding new ways to partner within and across our departments, and across our community, has direct benefits for our students.
- Professional Development – Opportunities for all employees to participate in professional development continue to grow. Teachers and staff are taking advantage of workshops, trainings, and peer coaching offered by experts in our own district. Meanwhile, principals and several teacher leaders are beginning a series of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) design workshops, with the goal of establishing effective PLCs in every school. Our professional development and PLC focus is always on how to better serve our students, and yet along the way, we discover ways to improve our own learning and growth. That’s an exciting idea!
- New BHS Orientation – With the help of survey input from last year’s freshmen, the annual BHS Freshman Orientation was revamped this year to include a peer mentor program called Link Crew. This new student leadership component pairs freshmen and upperclassmen with the goal of promoting a positive student experience at Berkeley High all year long. Reports are very positive from this first implementation of this peer to peer initiative!
- Special Education Parent Event – Our new Director of Special Education, Lisa Graham is holding a breakfast gathering on Saturday, September 12 to meet and greet families. The event will also give parents/guardians a chance to connect with community partners offering support to Special Education students and their families.
- Coordination of Services – The entire Educational Services Team is working to ensure greater consistency in the support services available in all of our schools, and early and effective identification of students who need additional support. We’re delighted that Longfellow’s Rosina Keren, a licensed clinical social worker and certificated school counselor (LCSW, PPS), has taken on the crucial role of working with principals and our community partners to bolster the systems and supports in place for students.
- Getting to Know BSEP: Orientation and Workshop – Did you know that BSEP (Berkeley Schools Excellence Program) is a local tax measure which provides $25 million to our schools, about 20% of our budget, and it’s up for renewal in November 2016? There will be a year-long process of engaging with staff, parents, and the broader community in planning the next measure. Mark your calendars for October 22, when there will be the first BSEP budget workshop, in conjunction with our annual School Governance Council/Parent Leadership Training.
- Technology Upgrades – Internet connectivity in every school was boosted over the summer! We have improved access to the work of the School Board with live streaming of school board meetings on YouTube, and new online agendas. It’s easier than ever to connect across the district and across the community to tap into information and resources.
- Facilities – You will notice that custodial, maintenance, and facilities staff were very busy over the summer completing upgrades to every school facility. As we worked to increase school safety, new/refurbished security cameras and/or public address systems were installed at eight schools. LeConte Elementary, in particular, benefitted from a number of infrastructure upgrades, and larger projects at Willard, King, and Longfellow made good progress. Berkeley High School has new landscaping and outdoor areas developed for student use, along with improvements to the Donahue Gym to be completed this fall.
I am excited about the year ahead, and grateful for the positive impact our work together is achieving. Thank you for all the progress we made last year. As we embark on this new school year and the new challenges and opportunities ahead, I know we can do so much because:
- I’ve seen a growing commitment to work in teams, engage in professional development, and share best practices;
- We have created a district-wide focus on providing direct service and special programs for our highest need students;
- Our sustained focus on equity and cultural competency is helping us to build stronger relationships with students and families, and we have created a more welcoming and positive learning environment for all students;
- Our district departments continue to improve our service to schools. Staff in every department is working hard to fulfill the WE CARE principles, and as we’ve seen from recent survey results, there is a great appreciation for that hard work!
Let’s keep the momentum going!