Classism & Racism in Berkeley Schools Pt 2 in a series

Tiny - Posted on 29 November 2012

Leo Stegman/Poor News Network

On November 14, 2012, I spoke before the Berkeley Unified School District on behalf our contingent McKinney-Vento. Families and students at BUSD demanding that services at BUSD not be cut. My daughter and a BUSD employee asked me why I spoke with so much anger, as poor and an African-American parent, the District see us as invisible. They make plans for us, about us with consulting us.  Many times this plans are ineffective, inefficient and to quote my daughter “stupid”.  Power concedes nothing without a demand, and this demand better be load and unequivocal or they will pat you on the head like a poodle and send you on your way.

         On September 19, 2012, I spoke at a BUSD Board Meeting in the public comment portion of the meeting about the continuing decrease in McKinney-Vento Act funding over the past three years from $45,000 to $17,000. The Board requested that the District explain this at the next meeting on October 24, 2012. The District Staff postponed their presentation until November 14, 2012. However, me, my daughter Iris Stegman, Don Kwon (a McKinney-Vento Parent), and Irma Parker (the Parent Liaison at BHS) spoke on the inadequacy of the services provided by BHS.  The Co-Interim Superintendents in their informed the Board that assistance was not being cut. Even though the funding for McKinney-Vento position at the District Office Central Enrollment was reduced by more that 50 percent.
        The Staff at BUSD has performed that classic bureaucratic disingenuousness manner. First they act as if they don't know what you are talking about, then they lie and they try to confuse the rules and regulations, and then they put this veneer of expertise while violate our right to free and quality education.

        Before the November 14, 2012, Board Meeting the District Staff presented a proposal that  no longer spouted that lie they weren't cutting funds. Now the District was “decentralizing services’.  They proposed to hire a new full-time counselor at BHS to assist 394 the McKinney-Vento Students and Families at BHS and the 130 students at BHS that were at identified as disruptive students.  According to Western Association School and College (WASC) BHS Self Study 130 students accounted for 40 percent of the all-incident reports at BHS.   

        This would create not just unrealistic but also an unsustainable caseload for that position. If this were truly a half time position, individual performing these duties would be only able to meet with each of these student a half an hour per month.

        In addition, the Counselor would be assigned to provide McKinney-Vento eligible 394 students and families. The position was created to satisfy (WASC) because the BHS is in danger of losing their accreditation for its failure to serve it most needy students. The creation of the large caseload with students with diverse needs is unrealistic to expect our children receive the assistance they are entitled to under the McKinney-Vento Act.

        The BUSD’s proposal is unlawful. The McKinney-Vento Act specifically prohibits the segregation services at any school site.  The combining of services with this one position stigmatizes McKinney-Vento families and students which is also unlawful.   More than 10 percent of students at BHS are eligible for assistance under the McKinney-Vento. Many of our kids are just like other students. Some are high performing, other low performing and other in the middle.  So why are they sending our kids to the Counselor for the disruptive students?   

        As a low-income, African-American parent sometimes I wish I could tell when bureaucracies were just plain negligent or incompetent, or whether the actions are because of their white supremacy and/or discrimination against poor folks.  As it pertains to its obligations under the McKinney-Vento the BUSD Staff proposal is lacking.  The Act states that School Districts can’t stand idly by wait for McKinney-Families to walk into the District Offices for enrollment. Districts must conduct outreach. The BUSD proposal has no plan for outreach.

        In addition, District Staff proposes Family Engagement Coordinators dispenses McKInney-Vento services at the elementary school. Yet, they fail to mention that out of the 11 elementary school only 6 are assigned a Family Engagement Coordinator who works part-time at each school site; and that the Family Engagement is currently a two-year pilot program and just began two months ago. The BUSD wants to shift many of the McKinney-Vento Act responsibilities to already overworked Middle Counselors after a brief training. This proposed decentralization by the BUSD is a lessening of the services. Again, the Act mandates that School District enroll students immediately. One more aspect of the Act is that they are to educate parent of rights under the Act, and give them immediate services.  Without trained staff at the District Office this is impossible.

        The proposal is full is unlawful propositions and inadequate services to the McKinney-Vento students and families. The issue of the Achievement Gap and disparity performance BHS is an injustice. Yet, Berkeley High School is not just the teacher, principals or counselors, nor is it the just the BUSD Staff, or the students and parents.  It is all of us, and we all of play a part.

        However, do you think if sons of middle class white families were performing at a level in any academic quantitative metric, someone at the school would get terminated?  An emergency session would call and plan and would construct with input from the parents, because middle folks know what is the best interest of the kids but not us because we are poor.  The plan by the BHS is a top down. If WASC had not called BHS to task for lack of services to those disruptive students would the BHS Staff and District Staff come with any plan to service those students? We can only guess what is the racial and ethnic make-up of those disruptive students, I am assuming that many of these students are low-income and/or students.  I referred to the District’s Plan as doubling down on mediocrity, because Black, Brown and low-income students are receive mediocre service. Until, District and School views the parents of equals and stakeholder in their solutions, and look what policies and procedure have negative impact on low-income students and students of colors  

        As poor people we used to having service that are inadequate and having are rights violated.  The BUSD District plan does this it violates our families and us right to privacy, and stigmatizes our children. We know that this Counselor position will not have the necessary time to serve our community.  As the old saying goes “you a put lipstick and wig on a pig, but its still and pig”.

        Most Board Members have been respective to our message and in its wisdom that ordered that the District Staff meet with McKinney-Vento families and students and discuss how this McKinney-Vento Act families and students. We are organizing groups of parents and students to inform the District Staff what are our needs.  In additionally, we have made contact several law firms and nonprofits have informed us that they District proposal is unlawful and will assist in our fight.   

        It has been said that the American Educational system is serving a pipeline to the penal system for our children.  It has also been said that one can look at a student’s zip code to predict their academic achievement.   This has created a Caste System in the BUSD, in which we can look at a student’s race an effective predictor of a student’s academic achievement. Like America, the City of Berkeley has too much and many resource to continually under serve it low-income students, but do we have commitment.   On December 12, 2012, at 7:30pm at 2134 Martin Luther King Way, Berkeley, here will be a school board meet to discuss this issue.





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