April 30, 2019
A+ News
In this edition:
  • Superintendent Finalist Selected
  • Six Employees Receive WE CARE Awards
  • Small Changes to Testing Environment Boost Student Performance
  • School Bus Drivers Thanks
  • Students Vote on Best STEM Picture Book
  • Battle of the Books - Year 4
  • Striving for Zero Waste Contest
  • BSEP Planning & Oversight Committee, School Board Meeting, and more!
Superintendent Finalist Selected for Berkeley Public Schools
The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education announced on April 16, 2019 that Dr. Brent Stephens has been selected as a finalist for the position of Superintendent. Pending final negotiations of a contract and site visits, it is anticipated that ratification of Dr. Stephens’ appointment will occur on May 8, 2019, at a regular meeting of the Board of Education.

Currently, Dr. Stephens is the Chief Academic Officer of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the eighth largest school district in California. A resident of Oakland and a graduate of Harvard University’s Urban Superintendents Program, Dr. Stephens has deep experience in public education, as Chief Academic Officer, and previously Assistant Superintendent in SFUSD; as both a secondary and elementary school principal; and as a Board-certified Spanish bilingual teacher, union representative, and Special Education paraprofessional earlier in his career. 

More information about Dr. Stephens is available in this post on the BUSD website .
Superintendent Finalist: Brent Stephens, Ed.D.
Six Employees Recognized with WE CARE Awards
Congratulations to the six new recipients of the annual WE CARE service awards for BUSD classified employees who were recognized by the School Board at their last meeting.

This year’s honorees are:
  • Jimmy Hoang, IT Specialist
  • Joseph Oduah, Special Education / Instructional Assistant
  • Joseph Olison, Nutrition Services Assistant
  • Victoria Teicher, Cooking Instructional Specialist
  • Stephen Thysell, School Bus Driver
  • Ben Zohar, Senior Budget Analyst

Recipients are chosen by BUSD management for demonstrating the WE CARE values of W illingness, E mpathy, C onsistency, A ptitude, R esponsiveness and E ffectiveness. 
Superintendent Donald Evans and Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Pauline Follansbee flank five of the WE CARE Awards winners as they pose with their certificates in front of the School Board. Awardees, left to right: Jimmy Hoang, Victoria Teicher, Joseph Olison, Ben Zohar and Stephen Thysell.
Small Changes in Testing Environment Boost Student Performance
Sometimes even small environmental changes for students can result in big gains in academic performance. In 2018 the Berkeley Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (BREA) department conducted a study that resulted in significant gains for students on California’s state test, the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBA). merely by changing the testing environment for some students. 

During the 2018 spring state testing cycle, a group of 11th grade BHS students who were identified as at risk for underperforming were randomly assigned to take the SBA test in a more comfortable testing environment in an academically homogenous group. The goal was to mitigate the impact of negative stereotypes students have about themselves based on their academic status relative to their higher achieving peers. It worked!

According to David Stevens of BREA, "The bottom line is that we created a testing environment that reduced psychological barriers to student success and allowed students to perform at a level closer to their actual ability."

You can read the full story and access David Steven's award-winning paper on the study on this page of the district website .

California's Smarter Balanced Assessment 2019 testing period is now underway in our K-12 schools (April - June, 2019). All students are tested in grades 3-8, and in grade 11.
Gratitude for Our School
Bus Drivers
It's not often that the entire Transportation Department team can be found in one location in Berkeley, but April 23rd was not just an ordinary day. In honor of Bus Driver Appreciation Day, BUSD's 22 bus drivers were invited for special treats and to receive expressions of gratitude for the important service they provide to our students, families, and community every day.

Please join us in thanking our school bus drivers for transporting our students safely and serving them with care.
Several bus drivers and members of the Transportation Department team gathered on the bus yard for this photo on Bus Driver Appreciation Day.
Students Vote for Best STEM Picture Book; Help Select Cook Prize Winner
The votes are in! This past month, our BUSD elementary school libraries helped choose which book would win the Cook Prize , a national award honoring the best Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) picture book for 8-10 year olds. 

During the month of April, our elementary school librarians dove into these STEM titles, reading each of the four semi-finalists aloud and leading discussions with 3rd and 4th grade classrooms. Our students - and students across the country - were then invited to vote for their favorite. 

The Winner of the 2019 Cook Prize:
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 
by Helaine Becker
Illustrated by Dow Phumiruk
Thank you to our school librarians, teachers and 3rd and 4th grade students for helping choose the 2019 Cook Prize winner - and for sharing your love of nonfiction books!

Thank you, Berkeley, for supporting public school libraries!
Each Middle School Takes Home a Win at 4th Annual Battle of the Books
Last week BUSD held its 4th annual Battle of the Books competition with teams from all three middle schools. The students had been preparing since September, reading, pondering and discussing 21 pre-selected books. Teacher librarians and library media techs led weekly book meetings with students who chose to participate.

The quiz-style event, with three rounds for each grade level, resulted in winners from each school. 
  • 6th grade - Willard
  • 7th grade - King
  • 8th grade - Longfellow

Melanie Ford, Longfellow’s teacher librarian, appreciated how the program encouraged "our young people to be blatant and unabashed bibliophiles with a genuine curiosity for seeing the world in a variety of perspectives via the pages of books written by many authors from a variety of backgrounds."
Kids reported that the event and competition were fun and friendly, with one student admitting, "Participating made me read books that I wouldn't read normally, and then I enjoyed them." One enthusiastic participant “pledged to read ALL of the books for next year's battle!”

Tom Holmes, teacher librarian from King, summed up the event. “The evening was a great celebration of our kids, our community, and the way that books can bring us together.”

Battle of the Books is made possible with funding from Berkeley's education tax (Berkeley Schools Excellence Program - BSEP) and a grant from the Berkeley Public Schools Fund.

Berkeleyside was at the Berkeley Adult School for the final battle and ran this story .
BUSD's Striving for
Zero Waste Contest 
The Striving for Zero Waste Contest is encouraging individuals, classes and school Green Teams to find creative ways to practice the 4 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle and rot).

Design sustainability awareness posters!
Perform waste audits!
Create Earth Day celebrations!
Be creative to protect our planet!

The contest will award eco-friendly prizes to students and classes, scored on waste diversion, creativity and impact. Contest Deadline: May 17

Join Our Waste Reduction Efforts
Waste reduction efforts are underway at BUSD school sites including:
  • new compost and recycling bins, and
  • switching from plastic cups to compostable paper ones in the cafeteria.
We encourage you to review waste sorting at home ( Think Before You Throw! ) and to reduce waste by bringing zero waste lunches and reusable water bottles and utensils to school.
Contest details and other information about the BUSD Sustainability Plan and Striving for Zero Waste Initiative, including Green Team contacts at your school, are all on the district website.
Upcoming Events & Meetings
Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) Planning & Oversight Committee
May 7, 2019 at 7:00pm
2020 Bonar Street, Room 126

The P&O Committee, mandated by the BSEP Measure and comprised of representatives from
every school, meets regularly to:
  • Review the implementation of the many aspects of the BSEP Measure, ranging from Class Size Reduction to Music & the Arts, from Technology to Professional Development for Teachers, and much more;
  • Ensure that BSEP funds are spent in compliance with the Measure;
  • Make annual recommendations to the School Board for the use of BSEP dollars.
The BSEP P&O meetings are open to the public and include an opportunity for public comment. More information is available on the BSEP webpage .
School Board Meetings
May 8, 7:30pm

All regular Board meetings are held in the Board Room, 1231 Addison St., and are streamed live and archived on the BUSD YouTube Channel .

School board meeting agendas/materials are posted at least 72 hours before meetings on the School Board Meeting Information page of our website.
In Case You Missed It
Class for Law and Social Justice Students Held Inside San Quentin State Prison
Students are clamoring to sign up for James Dopman’s Law and Social Justice class, in part because of the extraordinary experiences beyond the classroom walls that are an integral part of the curriculum. Last week, class took place for 60 Berkeley High School students inside San Quentin State Prison. 

According to Dopman, “The trip for Law and Social Justice students to San Quentin shatters the media image of what prison is and what it can be. The experience teaches students that prisons should be about punishment and rehabilitation simultaneously, and that as human beings we are more than the worst thing we have ever done.”

Law and Social Justice students study the checks and balances built into the Constitution and legal foundations and are taught regularly by guest lecturers directly involved with the criminal justice system and social justice reform. As is the case with the visit to San Quentin, the ride alongs with the Berkeley Police Department, observation of courtroom proceedings in San Francisco, and lectures at Berkeley Law are all part of the field experiences at the center of deep learning for students built into the course. 

After three years of developing this class and building on its successes, Dopman will be teaching Law and Social Justice II for the first time in the coming school year. He's designed an advanced level course for 12th graders that's being added to complete the Career Technical Education Law and Social Justice pathway. 

Read more about the new class online .
Above, students hear inmates discuss their crimes and their paths towards accepting their actions and learning from those actions. Below, students are shown inside the prison to see how inmates are housed.
School Calendar
2019-20 School Year Calendar Released
The first day of school for the 2019-20 school year in the Berkeley Unified School District will be Monday, August 26, 2019.

The full academic school year calendar is posted on the district calendar webpage.
Berkeley Unified School District | 2020 Bonar Street | 510-644-8764 | www.berkeleyschools.net