December 21, 2020
A+ News
As all of us in the BUSD community stay home and spend time with our family and housemates during Winter Break, we can follow in the example of these educators at Berkeley High School and reach out and remind each other that we are in this together. #BerkeleyUnified
Emerging Stronger. Together.
December 18, 2020

Dear BUSD Community,

(Excerpted from the Superintendent's full message which can be read here.)
On this final day of instruction for 2020, I write to wish you and your family as happy a holiday as possible. I hope that these coming days of school vacation offer some respite and a change of pace.
While we are passing through yet another tough time in this epidemic, as the surge continues both locally and across every part of our country, there is at least some light ahead, as vaccines have been delivered this week to some of our local health care workers, and we look forward to the possibility of more widespread availability of the vaccine in 2021.
I continue to be very thankful to everyone in our BUSD community for your diligence in protecting the health of our community. It is particularly hard to enter the holiday period, when we would ordinarily look forward to gathering with friends and family, under another Stay at Home order, but I know we are all determined to continue to do our part to slow the spread of the virus.
Looking Ahead
The Alameda County Stay at Home Order, which was imposed on Wednesday of this week, will remain in effect until at least January 7. We don’t know when the County will be re-designated from Purple to a lower, less restrictive Tier. However, since COVID-19 transmission rates continue to rise in an alarming way, and as a result of the mandatory public health orders, the Board of Education’s January 13th target date for reopening Pre-K and Grades TK-2 program is simply not possible to meet.
This means that we will return in January to Distance Learning, for all grades, and that we cannot say at this point when our schools will reopen. All public school districts in Alameda County are in the same situation. 

We’re going to persevere through this challenge together, as a community. For the next two weeks, please accept my very best wishes for the well-being of your family.


Brent Stephens

Berkeley High School Librarians Recommend Books for Winter Reading
If you are looking for a good read over your holiday, consider these winter reading recommendations for young adults and adults from Berkeley High School Librarians. At a time when so many local businesses are struggling, the librarians encourage us all to shop locally and do our part to keep our local book retailers alive and thriving through this challenging time.

Follow the BHS Library on Goodreads and Instagram.
Two BUSD Teachers Receive ACOE “Bridging the Distance” Awards
The Alameda County Office of Education (ACOE) presented John Muir Elementary School teacher Andy Thomas and Sylvia Mendez Elementary School teacher Greg Martin with Bridging the Distance awards at its annual Teachers of the Year ceremony on December 9. The Bridging the Distance award recognizes teachers who have demonstrated innovation, creativity, compassion, care, and a commitment to equity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andy Thomas is a Kindergarten teacher at John Muir Elementary School and has been in education for over twenty years. As a teacher who truly honors his support team, he credits the success of his distance learning program to his amazing students, his ever-supportive principal Marco Taylor, his esteemed colleagues, and the parents and families who have partnered with him to ensure every single student is thriving, every day. Thomas articulates that another major factor in keeping engagement and learning at optimal levels was his ability to loop with his class this year--having the same class for more than a year--as well as Principal Taylor purchasing a literacy program that really connected students to reading. “My principal provided so much support with curriculum, technology platforms, and seeking out materials for my students to make sure things ran smoothly and we had what we needed.” He also credits his families who have coordinated regular drop-offs and pick-ups of materials to students’ homes. 

“Allowing students more time to share who they are is the key," Thomas concludes, as that element of making intentional space for knowing students opens the door to learning and keeps engagement high.  We are proud to celebrate this achievement for BUSD educators Thomas and Martin.
November 11 marked the first National Letter of Intent Day for scholar athletes across the country. We are thrilled to honor the Berkeley High School athletes of the Class of 2021 who have signed and committed to take their athletic journey to the next level. Congratulations to our BHS signees, our coaches, and to the village that supports the entire journey.

Ava Zlatchin: Women's Soccer, Columbia University

Jake Hilton: Baseball, Pomona Pitzer

Ben Morgan: Baseball, Pomona Pitzer

Gil Gvishi: Men's Water Polo, University of the Pacific

Alex Chang: Men's Tennis, University of California, Berkeley

Noah Millikan: Baseball, University of Pennsylvania

Transforming in Challenging Times: How Willard Middle School Thrives
As we entered the summer of 2020, after a spring of COVID, shelter-in-place, and a reimagined school system, Willard Middle School staff got to work. Determined to create the optimal middle school experience given the continuing pandemic, principal Chris Albeck and the leaders of Willard accepted and embraced the challenges ahead. 

Thinking about every piece of the puzzle through the lens of their students and families, the leaders created three committees in order to ensure a seamless entry into the fall of 2020.

The Consistency Committee, led by Willard Middle STEM and Leadership Teacher Debbie Lenz, focused on creating a unified approach to making all systems work. From Google Classroom to the creation of the Willard Middle School Distance Learning Site, Lenz and her team made sure that every student knew how to navigate their classes, find what they needed, and had easy access to materials.

The Community Committee, led by Willard Math and Science Teacher Ryan Chinn, ensured that Willard from a distance was the welcoming community it is on campus. Chinn and his team created virtual spaces and schedules so that every student was able to see every teacher and familiarize themselves with their spaces in those first weeks of school. He ensured that the already-robust Advisory program continued to make every student feel seen, known, and part of a community, even from a screen.

Finally, Willard Math Teacher Andrea Zavala led the Technology Committee, and created over thirty tech how-tos for students and families, so that nobody would feel lost in navigating the various and sometimes tricky platforms involved in distance learning. At the administrative level, Albeck and his team reimagined their traditional roles on campus, made certain that all families had equitable access to materials, monitored student health and wellbeing from home, and created a network of leveled support to support every student’s unique needs. 
Today, almost a full semester into our distance learning year, if you were to be a Zoom guest at Willard, you would see students joyfully competing in Advisory challenges, allowing students in the space to experience community, connection, and share current events. You would see students interacting with teachers on an individual level, as their model has been so thoughtfully created, to provide equitable access and support. You would see students on their grade level “hubs”, which is a larger community space where the little over 200 students per grade level can connect their bigger family. If you were to chat with Willard students and families, they’d commend the transformational leadership of the Outreach and Engagement Team, and the entire faculty and staff of Willard, whose love for their community propels it all. 

As Chinn articulates a future vision to create a Willard Information Network to broadcast various student creations, the goal is always to “help kids feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves”. What a perfect mission for middle school, 2020, and life.
Ruth Acty Elementary School Named: School Board Honors Trailblazing Educator
At its December 9, 2020 meeting, the Berkeley School Board unanimously approved the name “Ruth Acty Elementary School” for the school formerly known as Jefferson. The new name recognizes an inspiring educator, the first teacher of color in Berkeley Unified School District, who dedicated nearly 50 years of her life to teaching students in Berkeley, from Kindergarten through Adult School.
Despite earning multiple teaching credentials, Ruth Acty could not find a teaching job in 1939. She persevered, taking a starring role in a play in San Francisco while continuing to search for a teaching job. (Photo Credit: Berkeley Historical Society)
Ruth Acty has been described as “a tenacious, committed, dedicated, caring and loving educator, trailblazer and history maker.” Her importance to the history of Berkeley schools has long been recognized, including earlier proposals as an eponym for a school facility. In 1998, when she passed away at the age of 85, her Celebration of Life included a tribute from the senior curator of the African American Museum and Library, where the Ruth Acty Papers are archived, who stated, “Miss Ruth Acty’s significance in the history of the Bay Area is unparalleled. She represents the best in excellence, elegance, refinement, commitment, determination, perseverance and persistence. She was a superior mentor and role model for planning and reaching goals, despite the odds.” 

In 1943, Ruth Acty was hired as the first teacher of color at the Berkeley Unified School District. She was assigned to teach Kindergarten at Longfellow School, where 30% of students were Black. (Photo Credit: Berkeley Unified School District)
Retiring BUSD Board of Education President Judy Appel and Director Beatriz Leyva-Cutler Honored
The Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) community honored retiring Board of Education President Judy Appel and Director Beatriz Leyva-Cutler for their distinguished efforts and accomplishments over many years of service to the District at the December 9 School Board meeting. The meeting was attended by colleagues, dignitaries, and community members who honored the retiring School Board members, including California State Senator Nancy Skinner, and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín, and former School Board members Josh Daniels and Karen Hemphill, among others.

Senator Skinner shared that the California State Senate issued a Uniform Resolution in honor of Appel and Leyva-Cutler, something she indicated should only be considered as a partial honor, noting that both School Board members deserve much more for their service to the District. 

Speakers noted the impressive backgrounds each Board member brought to the work and honored them for their commitment to equity that was always a part of their work. Mayor Jesse Arreguín praised both retiring Board Members for their many years of service to the Berkeley community as well as the School District. The City of Berkeley also issued a Proclamation in their honor. The Mayor shared that many of the significant accomplishments for the District occurred because of their leadership. 

BUSD schools are closed through January 1 for Winter Break. School resumes on January 4. Please enjoy this holiday safely with your family. If we all stay home as much as possible, and if we wear a face covering and socially distance when we must be out, we can collectively help stop the surge of COVID-19 cases we are experiencing.
Keeping Up with District News
Recent School Board Meetings
BUSD is seeking community members to serve on the Facilities Safety and Maintenance Oversight Committee for Measure H. Learn more.
Recent Town Hall Meetings
Events and Meetings Online
School Board Meeting
January 6, 2021

All Board meetings are now held via Zoom. Details can be found on our webpage.

School board meeting agendas/materials are posted at least 72 hours before meetings on the School Board Meeting Information page of our website.
BUSD public meetings will begin again after the Winter Break.