On September 21, the Berkeley Unified School District School Board assembled for the third time this school year. Topics included Title IX, safety, healthcare and financial compensation for teachers, and upcoming events.
Berkeley High School teacher and math department chair Monique Duncan-Harris spoke on behalf of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers’ proposal regarding pay for individualized education program (IEP) meetings that occur outside of the regular school day. She shared that teachers currently aren’t being paid for IEP meetings that they have to attend, even when they occur outside of regular school hours.
“Many of these meetings I have to attend while driving to pick up my own children from daycare,” Duncan-Harris said. She added that she is unable to attend IEP meetings during the school day due to a lack of substitute teacher coverage in BUSD, and explained that other districts provide teachers compensation for meetings that occur outside of their workday. BUSD does not.
Later, multiple BUSD teachers shared concerns regarding the current cost of healthcare, including Mollie Blustein, a teacher at Cragmont and a BHS graduate. “I pay $1,100 a month for health insurance, for myself, my husband, and my three year old daughter,” Bluestein said.
“Healthcare takes about 16 percent of my gross salary and a much larger proportion of my actual take home pay,” said Alex Day, a BHS Ethnic Studies teacher, also noting that high rent costs in the Bay Area are making the issue even more difficult for teachers.
Student School Board Director Ian Segall mentioned upcoming events at BHS. These included a student-led reproductive rights protest on September 28, and a student-run climate summit on October 12. Superintendent Enikia Ford-Morthel briefly spoke about upcoming Latinx heritage month events, including a reading night and Longfellow community event.
Ford-Morthel also gave a brief update on COVID-19, sharing that BUSD COVID-19 cases remain low. The district will continue to provide testing for close contact cases, and all staff and students may receive testing at the Curtis Street entrance of the Berkeley Adult School.
Additionally, the Board held a presentation on wellness and safety at BUSD, beginning with a few words from Dr. Philip Shelley about mental health and wellness support. Shelley explained that the district is planning on bringing back the Mental and Emotional Educational Team at BHS. He also announced that the district is partnering with Claremont EAP, a social services organization, in order to provide confidential mental health services for BUSD staff.
Later in the presentation, John Calise shared that the district is actively trying to make campuses less accessible from outside due to safety concerns. “Berkeley has a lot of very old and a lot of very beautiful campuses, and they were all built as open campuses. And through modernizations, we’re making concerted efforts to make our campuses more safe and secure,” Calise said. The district is actively adding security measures across campuses, including more security cameras and classroom doors that lock from the inside.
The presentation finished with the district’s Title IX Coordinator and Compliance Officer, Jasmina Viteskic, giving a brief update.
“We did have a massive training for all of our staff at the high school which included a training on sexual misconduct,” Viteskic said. She shared that the office is currently facing a staff shortage, and are hiring for several open positions: Title IX investigator, Title IX student support counselor, and Coaching Boys into Men liaison.