Berkeley PTSA - Building Our Community

The Berkeley High PTSA works to positively impact the school climate by:

  • Supporting meaningful and fun student activities
  • Hosting parent education events and networking opportunities
  • Providing information and advocating for students and parents

Wecome Back, Everyone! The 2018-19 School Year Begins

Looking forward to the school year and the launch of the Universal Ninth Grade (U9).
Back to School Night is Thursday, September 27.
We will have food trucks in the courtyard from 5:00-7:00.  Come hungry!
We will publish our meeting schedule soon.  
Please join or renew your membership online. 
Here's to a good year!

April 18th Math Discussion Summary

Meeting Summary of Berkeley High PTSA Math Discussion on April 18, 2018

This meeting was attended by the Vice Principal for math, Felicia Phillips, math lead teachers Nakia Baird and Dr. Kate Garfinkel, the PTSA President Maria Rohlsson, PTSA Treasurer Mimi Pulich, PTSA Vice President of Equity and Inclusion Ramona Coates, PTSA Vice President Orlando Williams, and approximately 45-50 parents.
For the benefit of many parents who could not attend but are interested in Berkeley High math, Donna Storey, the AC Advisory Council Secretary from 2014-2017 provided this summary based notes she took during the meeting. “During the meeting I endeavored to record the main points mentioned by each speaker to the best of my ability, but I may have missed something. I invite any speaker who would like to make a factual correction to contact me.” Donna Storey,
The meeting began with Donna Storey, who also moderates the Berkeley High Parent Advocate website announcing a SurveyMonkey survey that is soliciting feedback from parents about their students’ experiences in math at Berkeley High:  The PTSA encourages all parents to take this survey.

To give parents a perspective on the current situation, Donna distributed a handout with two tables of D/F Rates in Math for the past 2 semesters at BHS, which was included in BUSD’s March 22, 2017 Report to the School Board (this handout is included at the end of this summary). Donna then shared information about an EdReports review of the curriculum used at Berkeley High, the Mathematics Vision Project (MVP). More information about it is at the end of this summary:

Mimi Pulich, who represents Berkeley High School on the LCAP PAC, said that to help implement the Common Core curriculum, in recent years LCAP has funded the BHS math coach, which is a TSA (teacher on special assignment) position. The current recommendation is to apply these LCAP funds towards a new 2-year Universal 9th Grade "Math Coordinator" position instead. Having an administrator instead of a TSA one should empower this Math Coordinator with the authority to establish uniform teaching practices and support methods across the 9th grade math teachers.  

The Q&A period began:

Parent #1 noted that the failure rate in math was high (according to the handout) and asked if specific teachers or specific math units had a higher failure rate than others. She asked if the math department was concerned and what they were doing about it.

Mr. Baird replied with a summary of the previous situation in math before the 2015-2016 school year with many different levels of entry, including freshmen repeating Algebra I and accelerated students taking Honors Algebra II. Teachers prefer having all freshmen together in Math 1 or Advanced Math 1 for equity. In his view, the sorting system in the past was inequitable because of the huge spread that led to a “cycle of failure,” especially for students of color. The removal of peers from the classroom with the previous diversity of classes leads to lack of success, in his estimation. The shift to changing the curriculum was a major undertaking. Teachers aren’t happy about the failure rate, but it’s difficult to implement a new curriculum. He stated that embedded assessments show students are improving; in his experience in the classroom things are improving. He asked, “What are we going to do together to help students?”

Parent #2 explained that both of her students enjoyed math in middle school and felt they had a helpful website and a roadmap to follow. She said that parents need a roadmap to help students at home. Her 9th grader was an A student in middle school and can’t get it (math 1) now. It is not just students of color failing, all students are failing. At Berkeley High, they have no roadmap to give them some level of confidence in math. Where are the resources? She teaches statistics at the college level and creates an environment where the students are excited about the material and find it relevant to their lives. She spends most of her college class time getting students to believe they CAN do math after and because of their high school experience. She praised one Berkeley High math unit that used the movie Hidden Figures as an inspiration for the lesson—hopefully there would be more of that.

Mr. Baird told the audience to try to get 30 teens motivated: how do you do that? He said that Common Core hasn’t “changed math.” He encouraged students to go to the tutoring offered by math teachers after school, embrace the struggle, and let parents let their students fail and deal with that. Parent #2 replied that her students do attend after school tutoring and visit their math teacher at lunch and it hasn’t fully addressed their issue.

Parent #3 said there's a lot of inconsistency in math classroom instruction. Based on what parents say about their kids' experiences, it appears that if you have a good teacher your kid excels, if not, they struggle. Math tests are "formative" (meaning that the teachers create them) and they are individual to each teacher. Consequently BHS doesn't have objective measures of student performance; only one standardized test is taken during high school, the SBA test in 11th grade. Mr. Baird said that the teachers give common pre-assessments and a common assessment at the end of the year. Parent #3 clarified that she was referring to tests in class that form the basis of student grades vs those used for diagnostic purposes.
Dr. Garfinkel said that the final exam in math is the same for all classes in a course (to be verified). Parent #3 suggested that these final test scores are a better and more objective way to assess actual student performance than student grades, which are subjective.

Dr. Garfinkel said the teachers all work hard and want the students to succeed. She spoke about the extra funding when Math 1 and 2 were launched which gave teachers a daily extra free period to meet, collaborate, and change instruction based on what they were seeing in class. She said the module exams are similar. She said that BHS was not given this funding to help launch Math 3 (2017-18 is the first year its being taught). Teachers do discuss the new Math 3 curriculum in their professional development meetings, but weeks can go by between meetings. The state dictates what they teach and at what rate. Teachers are seeing huge growth in pre- and post-assessments even if the students don’t pass the class.

VP Phillips added that they are trying to make sure that Math 1 and Math 2 build the skills appropriately for Math 3. They’re trying to figure out where the holes are. They are in the midst of a transition and the state only assesses students in math once in high school (in 11th grade according to

The meeting then changed to hear all parent concerns and questions at once with an answer section after.

Parent #4 said that we know it’s hard for teachers and they are working a lot, however, she is concerned about Math 3. The class of 2019 is a guinea pig class. Her student is failing and is not a challenged math student. She came to the meeting as a representative of her student and five other families. The students are devastated about their college futures because of the grades they’re receiving in Math 3. They have lost their self-confidence in math. Is there any way to help them?

Parent #5 is a ninth-grade parent in AC. Her student’s math teacher is working well with her and they like him. Failure is important, but success must follow. Each math teacher at Berkeley High evaluates students in different ways: tests, group projects, individual projects and homework. Some offer extra credit if you do test problems you missed at home, others do not. In order to support the “failure to success” trajectory, students should be allowed to test to mastery. She suggested that various methods of measuring learning and mastery be used equally across teachers.

Parent #6 agrees that it would be an improvement to equalize the information, materials, and resources that students have. Right now some students have more support from teachers. Some have much less.

Parent #7 supported mastery learning as well as consistency. Her student had over 100% on tests but got a much lower grade because the teacher counted “participation” as 75% of the grade. Longfellow was very good at promoting a growth mindset, but her student stopped loving math in high school. There is a local tutoring industry built around particular BHS math teachers. A lot of students drop down from advanced math and then are bored in regular math.

Parent #8’s student was enthusiastic about math until 10th and 11th grade. He needs examples that he can review. He needs written materials that he can review. This parent spent 3 or 4 hours a week on Khan Academy to teach him. This year he has a good teacher, but still misses having resource materials such as fact sheets. The videos on the math department’s website help, but Parent #8 worries about calculus. Is there a textbook? (As of now, Berkeley High calculus classes use textbooks.)

Parent #9 says the main sticking point in helping her student is that the terminology has changed. There is no glossary, explanation or help to look it up. This parent asked the teacher how to look things up when you have a problem, and he said, “You don’t. It’s an experiential learning process.”

Parent #10 said that student performance in math is a longstanding problem. When Pasquale Scuderi was principal in 2011, he identified math as the top issue needing improvement at Berkeley High. We need leadership to assess pedagogy. We need student evaluations, which are the most constructive tool for a teacher. We need a standardized way to assess what is going on in the classroom. We need transparent data. Whatever it takes we need to come together, not make apologies, and turn this around.

The PTSA Vice President, Orlando Williams, noted that the attendance at the meeting was a record high. Parents clearly care deeply about this issue. He said that parents need accountability from teachers and the administration. He hopes they will listen and act.

Teacher and VP responses to Parents #4 through #10:

Dr. Garfinkel said teachers have had conversations about grading and retake policies, but teachers cannot make other teachers do things differently. They try to convince others, but they have no power to mandate anything. Dr. Garfinkel also said that Math 3 does not have test retakes or corrections because retakes are often not allowed in college. In response to parents asking to see consistency in grading, VP Phillips said that the California Education Code clearly states that grading is the teachers’ domain and standards cannot be imposed on teachers.

A Berkeley High student commented that he was in 11th grade, not college, and that some college classes allow retakes and corrections. He said that in his Math 3 class they are frequently tested on new material introduced only 24 hours before the exam. He said it is not fair to have different policies for different classrooms.

Mr. Baird said that there is inconsistency because there are a lot of teachers (24). He has heard some of these things before and is trying to solve a lot of problems.

The PTSA president asked if the teachers liked the curriculum and felt it was working. VP Phillips said the School Board chose MVP as Berkeley High’s Common-Core-aligned curriculum; the state did mandate that schools use a Common-Core-aligned curriculum (Donna Storey will follow-up with the School Board on the selection process for a specific curriculum and if selecting MVP involved any recommendations from teachers). VP Phillips stated that BHS is sticking with the curriculum and further stated that MVP gives students the opportunity to struggle with real-world material and said they ask themselves “How do we support students at varying levels?”
Dr. Garfinkel reviewed the “Ready, Set, Go” approach and said the teachers are putting a lot of thought into what they are doing. She knows they need to be more aligned and would “love to do that.”

VP Phillips talked about Math 3 remediation, which is her purview. She is working with the guidance counselors to understand how the failure rate in Math 3 will work with the UC requirements, called “validation.” If a student has a grade below a C in the first semester, if s/he gets a C or higher the second semester, that validates the student having taken and passed a third year of math. However, this doesn’t change the fact the student has a D or F and it will tank his/her GPA. Thus, the class is valid as a requirement for college admission, but the student’s GPA is still significantly lower.

VP Phillips is looking at holding a Math 3 summer school on the Berkeley High campus, and exploring courses for next year or at Berkeley City College that will be the equivalent of Math 3. They are trying to better align the math curriculum with math at the community colleges. Ms. Phillips said there are actually written materials for the MVP curriculum: the MVP packet. There are no answers with the MVP packets. There an in-class supports and out-of-class supports such as tutoring on campus by math teachers. They cannot mandate how teachers are evaluated or how a teacher splits his/her grades. They make sure teachers are using best practices.

VP Phillips admitted that the math department could better articulate how to interact with resources. VP Phillips is also discussing with Dr. Garfinkel what they can do to help Math 3 students. She introduced Zeph Landau who would speak on ways parents can get involved.

Comments by Zeph Landau, Math-Parent Liaison

Dr. Landau is trying to improve the math department’s website:

He’d appreciate parents telling him what is working and not working with the website. He also created his own website, Berkeley High Math Assist (

Berkeley High Math Assist has materials for Math 1 and 2, but not Math 3. Dr. Landau offered to help anyone who is struggling in Math 3. You can contact him through the Math Assist website. It is hard for parents, who only have to consider their children, to appreciate the huge range of students that Berkeley High teachers have to deal with. Dr. Landau added that because of the lack of funding, the math teachers have to do triage.

The meeting ran late and ended around 8:50.

Information on EdReports review of the Mathematics Vision Project used at Berkeley High:

EdReports identifies key problems, in particular, lack of guidance for remediation of differing entry levels of mastery and a weakness in providing differentiated instruction for different learning styles.

This is the specific report on MVP in full:

In the Usability section, Gateway 3, items 3m, 3o, and 3p.ii explain how the program partially meets expectations to gather information about students’ prior knowledge and providing guidance for remediation. Obviously with the achievement gap, this is a crucial concern for Berkeley High.

Item 3u says MVP materials “do not meet the expectation for providing support, accommodations, and modifications for English Language Learners and other special populations that will support their regular and active participation in learning mathematics.” The other main area is 3r-y, which “doesn’t meet expectations for differentiated instruction for diverse learners.” Both areas are  key for a diverse community such as BUSD’s. 

Donna Storey distributed a handout at the begining of the meeting that showed that 25% of Math 1 and Math 2 students have gotten a D/F for the past 2 semesters.
D/F Rates for Math at Berkeley High (Semester 2 - 16-17 and Semester 1 - 17-18 from Charles Burress)



Semester 2, 2016-17

Semester 1, 2017-18

Math 1



Math 2



Math 3

--- (not yet offered)


DF rates are based on all students enrolled in courses regardless of grade level and include students repeating courses.



BHS staff cuts are included in BUSD’s proposed 2018-19 Budget

Click here to send a letter to all School Board members and District Decision makers.

The PTSA urges you to express your support for Berkeley High’s Safety Officers, Academic Counselors, and Dean of Attendance by writing (link above) and coming to the School Board meeting on February 21st, from 7:15-8:15, 1231 Addison Street (park in lot on Browning, fill out speaker card by 7:15.

Scroll down to read PTSA Interviews with Safety Officers Walter Mitchell, Steve Saunders, and Eric Riley, Academic Counselor Teri Goodman, and Dean of Attendance Allen Boltz.    

PTSA Interview with 3 BHS Safety Officers

The intent of these PTSA interviews is to inform the BHS community about the many roles that safety officers perform on campus because the proposed Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) budget for 2018-19 will cut 4 of BHS’s 15 Safety Officers.

Interview #1 with Walter Mitchell

How long have you been a Safety Officer at BHS? I’ve been here 18 years. I’m also the Vice President of Security and Operations for the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees.

Why did BHS add 4 Safety Officers? When Pasquale Scuderi was principal, there were issues with firearms on campus and unrest off campus. A consultant was brought in to assess safety; the entrances and gates provided easy. With the additional staff we’ve had more coverages and protected entrances. We’ve been down 1 safety officer for 2 years, which means that if 4 more are cut we’ll be down 5 from what is optimal.

Do Safety Officers have special training? We’re all trained in de-escalation, disaster handling, and search and seizure for situations such as fights, drills, actual shooters, and first aid. The safety officers are on top of any incident on campus. We can secure the situation, handle the problem, and notify the chain of command. We make sure that all involved are safe. When a fire alarm goes off, we make sure everyone goes where they're supposed to go and that the rest of the staff understands the importance of following the written Safety Guidelines on clipboards in all campus buildings.

How is your relationship with the Berkeley Police? We have a good relationship with them. A police officer conducted our last training, and there have been suggestions that we get more training from them.

Where are safety officers distributed? There’s an officer at the A gate and 2 on the perimeters, 1 in the courtyard, 2 in locker rooms and athletic fields, and officers in the G, H, C and M buildings. The officers are always on the move, checking bathrooms, and stairwells, and they’re available to back each other up in there’s a need for assistance. Being down one officer means we don’t have anyone to secure the cafeteria door, and that’s a problem.

How is this a problem? Students can leave the campus. BHS has an attendance issue with students who prefer to be outside of the classroom. Safety officers have a good relationship with these students, we try to engage and reach out to them. We focus on getting them back to their classes, but we can’t impose any consequences. We don’t have the power to change their behavior beyond redirecting and de-escalating. We’re most effective at de-escalating before disaster strikes.

Is there anything safety officers can do to prevent sexual harassment? Young men and ladies play, they may grab each other or pull each other’s clothes. We try to explain to them the potential harm that can come out of this. When I started working here, lingerie wasn’t considered a blouse and young men always wore shirts, but there’s no dress code at Berkeley High. A male safety officer comment to a female student could be taken the wrong way, so it’s better to look away and only make eye contact and involve a female administrator if there’s any sense of potential harm, such as an adult on the outside.

What are the safety challenges at BHS? There’s so much going on, there many are opportunities for things to happen. Overall, it’s good with the safety officer numbers we have, each person has an assignment. If you cut 4 positions, you leave a huge gap. What does district plan to fill it with? When things happen, who are students and other officers going to turn to?

Interview #2 with Steve Saunders

When did you start working at BHS and what were the challenges then? I started in 2005. There were a couple of bad years. There was a huge fight, and there were Spirit Week blow-ups on campus. There was an incident with a firearm and one where an adult chased a kid onto campus and needed to be controlled. We needed people at the doors.

What’s been the impact of having 4 additional Safety Officers?  It wound up being an amazing thing. We have people at stations who can say “this is what I see, there’s an erratic person coming towards campus”, so we get advance notice. It made a big difference, our being able to come out and face the threat enabled us to take protective measures. We have children here, they’re precious, we need to keep them safe.

What is the safety officer’s role in the BHS community? We play many roles. We are safety officers, uncles, mentors, counselors. Kids come to us before they go to their parents, peers, and real counselors. That’s why I’m here, I get to help these kids. I talk to kids like I’m their uncle; they see ‘this guy is talking to me like I’m one of the family.’ They respect me much more because I talk to them straight. I get results. Seeing kids walk across the stage when they graduate, kids coming back and telling me I’ve helped them, this is why I’m here, it’s not about a paycheck, it’s about love.

What about the kids who aren’t motivated? BHS can be an overwhelming place. There’s too much opportunity for other kids to get in their ear. Some kids are not built for this kind of space, they need a smaller place but they’re here. I’m at my lowest points of frustration when I see some of these kids walking around. Why is this happening in Berkeley? Is it because we allow our children more independence? Does it have to do with what goes on at home? We have to have parents participate in their kid’s education and sometimes the staff, myself included, is not consistent. Kids won’t follow the rules if the rules aren’t consistent. As long as kids feel that they don’t have to do anything, they’ll never succeed without a strong platform beneath them. It frustrates me to no end that we haven’t found a solution for a small group of kids that create 90% of the problems.

Has social media increased safety challenges? Definitely. Chaos that begins on a Saturday leads to kids coming to school on Monday to do something about it. Almost half of the fights we break up start on weekends. When there is going to be a fight, kids contact each other on social media. A much larger audience is told what’s going down and where.

Tell me about Spirit Week? I went to BHS, we had Spirit Week, it was the greatest thing ever, and when it was over it would just end; it was a normal thing, kids weren’t riled up. But that was then. Now I think that as long as we have all the kids in one place at the end of school, there’s going to be a problem because the kids are all fired up. You can’t stop Spirit Week, even if it’s cancelled, the kids will make it happen on their own.

Why do you think kids are fired up? I’m not sure what it stems from, but today there’s all this energy, kids want to destroy things. I really don’t have the answer, but I think some kids want the attention; they want other kids to see them. I believe it’s a generational thing and it goes back to social media. It’s a completely different thing now, a student can text 400 kids and say he’s going to do a crazy thing, and if someone posts a video of him in the act it can get thousands of views. It’s all about wanting the most attention, they want as many views as possible. This is just scratching the surface of what could be a really deep conversation

What do you want parents to know about safety officers? We take it home; we worry about these kids; we ask ourselves ‘what can we do?’ I want to help a child who has come to me and said “I don’t trust anyone except for you Steve.” I’ll give that kid my all. Kids come up to me and say my friend told me you can help me with my problem. Kids know they can always come to me. A lot of these kids call me Uncle Steve, and they’re not just Black; they’re White, Asian, Hispanic, all colors and cultures. They’ll introduce me to their parents as “Uncle Steve.”

Interview #3 with Eric Riley

How would you describe the BHS safety officer role? I started in 2004, and our role has always been more than just being about safety. Kids can fall through the cracks because the school is so big. We safety officers do a lot of counseling in the process of conflict mediation. We know a lot about kids that their parents don’t know because we’re on the front lines; we know it first. I’m involved in a mentoring program here to show a group of kids that people are behind them.

How has keeping BHS safe become more challenging?  The campus has expanded, the M building has added 3 extra floors, and there’s the new stadium and field, and kids do go there. So, there’s more land to cover, but the kids have changed as well. Everybody has phones. The climate of the world is changing, and kids have become more vocal about issues like sexual harassment and racist incidents and politics. With Trump, we’ve seen debates among students, some kids have advocated for Trump or building a wall. All in all, there’s more tension.

Can you describe how staffing levels impact safety? We had 12 safety officer positions; one who left has never been replaced. We always had issues with the doors until we added 4 safety monitors to watch the doors. At some point these positions were reclassified as safety officers. We’re at 15 now, and if there are only 11, everybody will be in different buildings. If I am the only person in the G & H building, there will not be anyone close by to respond to a fight, we’ll be running distances that are crazy. There was a time when I had to rely on teachers to help me break up a fight, and teachers used to get hurt. At our current staffing level, we have 4 officers in highly populated areas; losing them will create a lot of strain. Plus, a lot more is going to happen without more eyes, for example, there will be more marijuana use on campus.

Is pot a problem on campus? We’ve caught lots of kids distributing pot from their lockers, and when we catch them we call an administrator and give the kids a chance to give up what they have before we search their backpack and locker. Then we write a report and pass them on to authorities. The new law will definitely make pot more available. As it is some kids have cannabis cards. Kids smoke on campus in hidden spots, the A building used to be notorious until we got a safety officer monitoring the A gate.

How has social media changed what you do? It’s had a huge impact. For example, I had a case where something came up between 2 girls, threats were made on social media, and a group of kids used social media to organize to gang up on one of the girls. We got there first and got the girls to the office, and the whole time one girl’s phone was constantly lighting up with snaps from kids letting each other know where they were, like “I’m at this door if she comes this way.” Social media lets kids get more creative and do stuff under the radar, but if we have good relationships with kids they will let us know. They show us snaps and videos and let us know what’s going on. Kids usually come to us when they’re upset about a situation.

Tell me more about kids coming to you? I look at all of them as if this kid could be my child. If you come at them as an authority figure, they’re not going to listen. I give them respect so I’ll get their respect and they’ll listen to me. I’m the guy they can relate to in between classes. They’ll talk to me about their issues and teachers. I try to mend bridges so they can succeed. I can stop a lot of fights before they happen. I can bring kids into the same room to work it out. They need that extra support.

What’s most satisfying about your job? The other day after an incident I sat with a girl and her mother and helped them come to agreement. This lessened the high tension that had been in the room; everybody was calm and cool at the end of the day. Later the student thanked me for my insight. Helping kids get over what they see as a huge obstacle increases my self awareness and confidence in my ability to help them.   


PTSA Interview with Teri Goodman, Counselor

Proposed 2018-19 Budget Cuts Will Impact Berkeley High
Facing a $1.8 million budget shortfall in 2018-19, BUSD has proposed cutting at least one academic guidance counselor, the Dean of Attendance, and four Safety Officers. These resources serve ALL student populations, and losing these staff members will overburden the remaining staff. The PTSA is calling on on BHS parents to become informed and take action. We encourage you to write the District’s decision makers and Board members. The following link has a sample letter and mailto link:

PTSA Interview with Teri Goodman, Counselor

The proposed Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) budget for 2018-19 will cut at least one of BHS’s eight academic counselors. The intent of this PTSA interview with counselor Teri Goodman is to inform the BHS community about the many roles that academic counselors perform on campus.

BHS is likely to lose counselors to budget cuts again, what happened last time? Prior to 2008, BHS had 10 academic counselors. When the District had to make budget cuts, it proposed cutting 8 of them and leaving us with only 2, but thanks to community efforts we managed to hang on to 8 counselors.  Unlike other cut positions that were eventually restored, BHS never got its two counselors back, so we've been at 8 counselors ever since.  

You were a math teacher. Why did you decide to become a counselor? I knew how valuable counselors are to students. I loved being a teacher, but as a counselor I can have a bigger impact and positively change students lives more than I could teaching one subject.  
What sorts of impacts do academic counselors have on students? Students benefit from adult guidance, and academic counselors have the skills to steer students towards good choices that improve their future prospects. Research shows that having more academic counselors in a high school will increase its students’ success in high school and college as well.

If research supports their value, why do you think BUSD undervalues its counselors? A big part of the problem is that people don’t know what we do. They’re familiar with what teachers do; they know someone has to run the school so they have some idea of what administrators might do; but what counselors do is more mysterious. Academic counselors’ critical role in student success is not well understood, and there are misconceptions about what we do. It’s easy to assume we mostly hang out with kids and spend time talking to them, but what we’re really doing with students is solving problems. People think kids should be in class, not realizing that the time kids spend with counselors enables them to remain in class and to be successful in class when they’re there.

Many of us never interacted with our high school counselors. Has the role changed in the past 20+ years? The role has been continually changing over the past 30 years. It’s changed since I became a counselor 18 years ago, and at that time it had significantly changed from the time I was in high school.

How has the counselor role evolved? I don’t know everything that counselors did years ago, but they scheduled kids, had higher caseloads, and were more involved in discipline. The shift in their role has come with an increased understanding of the barriers kids face and their need for on-campus support to overcome them. Counselors have evolved to be the ones who help kids so they don’t drop out, help them handle the traumas in their lives, help them do better in school if that’s what they want, and we address their emotional needs so they can focus in class when they’re there.

Can you shed more lights on their emotional needs? The world is becoming more complicated and kids are increasingly more aware of its complexities. Every study is showing that social media is increasinging kids’ anxiety and depression. Because information is so available now, our kids are not sheltered the way kids were in the past. They’re aware of the dramas and traumas in the world and their community. The realities they’re navigating have an impact on them. There’s more drama in their lives and that of their peers, they see more disparities among their peers, and some of them are experiencing real trauma in their lives on a daily basis.

Do counselors address mental health issues and are they trained to do so?  Counselors are doing more because mental health services at BHS have decreased. Academic counselors have a masters degree in counseling and a State counseling credential, so we have training to respond to student crises when they occur. Of course we don’t have the time to provide any students with ongoing mental health therapy because we have hundreds of students in our caseloads. But when something comes up, like a suicidal student or the death of someone students know, we drop what we have have planned for the day and address the students’ needs. Any time something big happens, kids come to us and talk about it. This year national politics has been on a lot of students’ minds.

What about students that don’t come to you?  Our goal is to do outreach to all of our students, but our caseloads are so big that most often we’re triaging the referrals we get from parents, teachers, administrators, and other students. My goal is to call in every 9th grader during the first two months of school, and I failed to do so this year because it’s been so chaotic and more students have needed emotional support.

Can you describe a situation where as a counselor you’ve changed a student’s life? I work closely with undocumented students and help them transfer to college. It’s an incredibly complicated process and it’s important everything be done accurately. And it’s not just the applications, many complications arise along the way. It would be next to impossible for the students to manage it all without experienced help. We counselors work as a team to identify and support these students, but it’s my area of expertise so I know all of these students. Counselors get them information about the colleges, help them get their applications off, help them get the money they need, and these students go off and succeed because of the work we do here.

Thank you Ms. Goodman, and may the Force be with you.  

This 2016 article in The Atlantic describes how high school students greatly benefit in schools whose academic counselors have smaller caseloads. Unfortunately high school academic counselors are undervalued nationwide.  



Interview with Dean of Attendance



PTSA Interview with Mr. Boltz, Dean of Attendance

BHS may lose its Dean of Attendance in the 2018-19 BUSD budget. This PTSA interview with Allen Boltz is intended to inform the BHS community about this staff position’s role on campus.

What experience do you have at BHS? I came to BHS in 2009 and taught Forensic Science in AMPS. I became the Dean of Attendance this year. This is also my first year as an administrator of the science department. Previously I co-lead one of the academies.  

What are your thoughts on the District’s recommendation to eliminate your position? Students are the end clients and the position should serve them. If I can’t justify the position, it shouldn’t be here, so I’m very reflective on what I do. If this position is eliminated, someone else will have to do the work.

How does the Dean of Attendance foster relationships with students? The 10-15 kids missing class on any given day doesn’t really affect the Average Daily Attendance (ADA) but it can have a big impact on the culture of the school. I focus on these kids. We don’t want administration to communicate to kids that we don’t care or give them the message that it’s OK to miss class. I spent my initial weeks talking to kids, finding out where they hang out, and talking to them to shift their thinking, to show them that administration cares. I circulate, walk kids to class, give them rewards, and encourage them.

What makes you effective in this role? I understand truancy from the inside because I was truant in high school; I didn’t have family support and didn’t see opportunities for my future. So I understand some students' reluctance and can speak from my personal experience. Kids are adults in training, positive relationships will get them to class. Historically school administrators are enforcers who dole out punishment, but if we stay in our offices we’ll only see kids on their worst day. So I’m all over this campus, I know every secret place, The entire BHS Admin team moves around campus and talks to kids.

If having a Dean of Attendance is unique to Berkeley High, why isn’t it expendable?  The title might be unique, but the work isn’t, eliminating it gets rid of an administrator. The Dean of Attendance contacts parents for SART (Student Attendance Review Team) meetings, coordinates with Counselors, sets up SSTs (Student Study Team), attends SARB (Student Attendance Review Board) meetings at the District office. Daily I check in with teachers, validate their attendance numbers, support staff to track down what’s unverified and reconcile them so that there are no loose threads, and I sign off on what goes to the State. At TK-8 schools clerical staff track attendance. Berkeley High has one-third of all BUSD students and takes attendance 18,000 times a day. I call parents to determine if there’s an oversight or an error or to problem solve what’s going on with the student. The position was created in 2009 to have someone watching attendance and holding everyone accountable. The BHS Average Daily Attendance (ADA) was 91-92% in 2009 and has gone up school wide to 94% for the year (we have higher percentages in the beginning of the year; it's currently 97%, but attendance tends to drop off towards graduation). Every ADA percentage at BHS brings BUSD $230K in annual revenue. With the Dean of Attendance position, BHS has sustained the ADA gains it’s made and continues to climb; Without this position our ADA may slip. This week alone I have to contact 81 families to schedule face-to-face SART meetings.  

Recently you were arrested, can you share what happened? I was detained, but not photographed or processed.Two students were thrown onto the ground and the officers had a knee on their backs. I approached an officer who was standing on the side and said “these are my kids, I know them, can I talk to them?” The officer said, “no you need to get back.” After the students were cuffed and removed I left to talk with another administrator. Later an officer came and handcuffed me for interfering with an officer.

If you had been allowed to talk to the students, what would you have said? I would have told them to calm down. They were scared and resisting. A survival instinct kicks in when you’re in a prone position with a knee in your back. I hoped to talk to them and to de-escalate the situation and help them understand that the police were responding the way officers are trained to handle situations.

Describe how you interact with students? When I step in, what’s most valuable is to assume positive intent versus react. High school students’ prefrontal cortex is not fully developed, it won’t be until the age of 25. We can’t always expect rational thinking. As adults we have the ability to cool off; kids don’t know how to do this. When they act out towards me, there’s something else going on. I don’t want my interaction with them to be a continuation of the negative. I want our students to have positive relationships with authority figures at Berkeley High. It’s safe here, but out on the street it’s very different.


Thank you Mr. Boltz and good luck reaching 81 families this week!








Proposed BHS Staff Cuts Warrant Parent Involvement

Proposed BHS Staff Cuts Warrant Parent Involvement

Facing a $1.8 million budget shortfall in 2018-19, the Berkeley Unified School District must make cuts, and what’s currently proposed will significantly impact Berkeley High. The PTSA is calling on BHS parents become informed and take action.

The District proposes to eliminate 1.5 academic guidance counselors, the Dean of Attendance, 4 Safety Officers, and the Independent Study Coordinator. These resources serve ALL student populations, and losing them will affect the entire student body and overburden the remaining staff. The PTSA is concerned that cutting these positions will compromise student services at the high school (more information about these staff member roles follows).

The PTSA encourages you to be informed and understand how the proposed 2018-19 Budget will impact BHS.

If you'd like to write District decision makers and Board members, Superintendent Donald Evans, Associate Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi, Interim Assistant Superintendent Pauline Follansbee, and School Board Directors Alper, Hemphill, Appel, Daniels, and Leyva-Cutler:,,,

Click here to send your message to to BUSD decision makers.


Stay tuned for future developments.
Staff positions impacted in District's 2018-19 budget proposal


The Budget Shortfall

Berkeley Unified School District is facing a budget shortfall of $1.8MM for the 2018-2019 school year. This is due to California mandated increases in funding to school employee pension funds. The District has proposed cuts which have been discussed in the Superintendent's Budget Advisory Committee and at some School Board meetings. It’s now proposed that the School Board vote to eliminate some Berkeley High staff positions at the December 6th School Board meeting (other cuts will not be voted on until later).

It is important to know that all budget cuts must come from the District’s General Fund, which is the largest of the numerous sources of District funding. Other sources, such as the BSEP parcel tax and LCAP supplemental funds, may fund resources that provide services for specific student populations. In contrast, the Berkeley High staff positions that the District proposes be eliminated are resources that serve ALL students.

Guidance Counselors

Every student has a Guidance Counselor who serves as the entry point to all student services. Counselors act in many capacities in addition to their creating student schedules, assisting students with course selection, and writing college letters of recommendation. Increasingly at Berkeley High, guidance counselors are being called upon to act as mediators or mental health crisis interventionists. These sorts of unanticipated situations may consume weeks of their time while they still must meet the ongoing needs of the 400 students they serve.

The District’s rationale for cutting 1.5 counselor positions is that Berkeley High’s student to counselor ratio of 400 to 1 is less than the State's average ratio. Even so, Berkeley’s current ratio is well below the recommended 250 to 1 student to counselor ratio born out of research that shows that low student to counselor ratios increase students’ college acceptance and postsecondary success.

Currently Berkeley High’s 8 guidance counselors serve approximately 3,200 students. The proposed cut will add 100 students to each counselor’s workload. Prior to the last budget crisis in 2007, BHS had 10 guidance counselors. The current proposal to cut 1.5 positions will lower the number of guidance counselors to 6.5, which would be an all-time low at Berkeley High.

Dean of Attendance

The Dean of Attendance works with students who are not attending their classes to keep them on track. When this position was created, increased attendance resulted in increased State funding that more than paid for the cost of the new position. In addition to performing this job, the current dean of attendance also is head of the BHS Science Department.

Safety Officers

Berkeley High currently has 15 Safety Officers, up from historical levels. The proposed budget cuts would bring this down to 11 officers. Many of these safety officers also serve as mentors and informal counselors.

Fewer safety officers at BHS may open up the campus to a greater outside police presence when situations, confrontations, and/or issues occur between students. Inappropriate police actions on October 20, 2017 were brutal and students, parents, and staff were traumatized. Protocols for Berkeley police conduct on the BHS campus must be identified and implemented if safety officer positions are to be eliminated.

Independent Study Coordinator

The Independent Study Coordinator is the sole administrator for the Independent Study (IS) program, which serves 145 students K-12 of which 122 are Berkeley High students. IS also includes the home/hospital program, where a teacher will visit hospitalized students to continue  their coursework. Every year, the IS program reaches capacity and must turn students away.

IS students have wide varying academic and emotional needs, all of which are met by this one-on-one model of teaching. The IS coordinator doubles as the program’s guidance counselor, advising on course progression and choices and writing letters of recommendation.

The District proposal eliminates the .5 guidance counselor position and has the current Berkeley Technology Academy (BTA) principal take on the IS administrator’s role and responsibilities. The small number of students (under 100) that BTA serves also require a non-mainstream teaching mode; however, the needs of these two groups of students are widely different, and they require completely different teaching approaches.  



PTSA Meeting Wednesday November 8, 2017

Nov 08, 2017 6:45 AM to 8:15 AM
BHS Library

Please join us Wednesday, November 8th, from 6:45 to 8:15PM for a PTSA meeting in the BHS Library. Light snacks will be available. 


Guest speakers at the meeting include:  


Superintendent Dr. Donald Evans, Dwayne Byndloss, BIHS & AMPS Counselor, Jasdeep Malhi, BHS Intervention Coordinator/Counselor


BHS students and parents alike are told that the school's counselors are essential resources for BHS students in good times and bad. Counselors Dwayne Byndloss and Jasdeep Malhi are coming to this meeting to explain their roles on campus and provide parents with the information they seek. Please use this Google Form to submit any questions you have for them


The BHS PTSA seeks to promote a whole school community by facilitating activities such as the food trucks at Back To School Night and parent/teacher education opportunities. You can support the PTSA by becoming a member this year. Here is a link to join online.





"The Mask You Live In"

Nov 02, 2017 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Florence Schwimley Little Theater Allston Way



The Berkeley HIgh PTSA is sponsoring a FREE screening of the 2015 Sundance Award-winning film The Mask You Live In.

Please join us Thursday, November 2 from 7-9 PM in the Florence Schwimley Little Theater on Allston Way.

Light refreshments and snacks will be served.

A facilitated audience discussion will take place after the screening. 


The Mask You Live In takes a look at the damaging effects of our cultures narrow definition of what it means to "be a man" and the unintended consequences this can create for young men as individuals and for our society as a whole.


The BHS PTSA seeks to promote a whole school community by facilitating activities such as teh food trucks at Back to School Night and parent/student education such as the screening of this film.


You can support the PTSA by becoming a member this year. This is the link to join online:  Berkeley High PTSA |




Food Trucks at Back to School Night

Sep 28, 2017 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
BHS Campus in front of the Community Theater

Grab a BITE on back to school night!
For your convenience and fun, the PTSA has arranged for the following 3 food trucks to be on campus from 5:00-7:00:
· Country Grill
· Fist of Flour Pizza Company http://wheresthefist.c om/
· Phil's Sliders -The new mobile unit.  
There will be pizza, chicken, salads, sliders, vegetarian and vegan options.
Prices will range from $5-$10 per person.
It's also a chance to celebrate that September "getting back to school month" is almost over and to enjoy some food that you didn't have to prepare!

The Sky's The Limit - Join BHS PTSA

It's likely that you are familiar with the PTA, you may have been actively involved in your elementary school's PTA, you may have helped at your middle school's PTA events, and now that your kids are at Berkeley High you might be thinking "I'm done!"

Berkeley High is a great high school. Its principal Erin Schweng is an impressive and collaborative leader. The BHS Development Group and Athletic Fund raise a lot of money, and along with the BSEP and LCAP committees, parents have a voice in bringing many resources and enrichment opportunities to our students.

So what could possibly be missing? What's the value of having a PTA at Berkeley High?

At the high school level, the PTA's mission is to build a whole school community. The PTA at Berkeley High is actually a PTSA, a Parent Teacher Student Association. The school's distinct learning communities afford our students great opportunities, but they fractionalize the student body and parent community. To provide effective advocacy for students and parents, Berkeley High needs a strong unified parent voice.

Many of us hear that Berkeley High is a great school for kids who are self directed, but the kids who aren't can easily get lost. Yes, kids who can recognize and voice their needs can hook up with resources independently and these kids thrive. But not all kids can steer their own course successfully, and often parents who need to assist their kids don't know where to go or they hit obstacles. Moreover, something unanticipated can land any kid in a situation that needs parent or guardian advocacy.

In addition to supporting the high school's students, parents, and guardians, the PTSA can sponsor whole school activities that are fun and safe. It can make current campus events more welcoming (like bringing food trucks to this year's back-to-school night) and it can sponsor parent and student opportunities for socializing, learning, and advocacy (like screenings of film "The Mask You Live In").

Right now our nation's public schools are under attack more than ever before. Berkeley’s become the battleground destination for Alt-Right and Antifa showdowns in the park across the street from the high school. We believe that a strong PTSA can help keep Berkeley High on the up and up and set a good example for our country. After all, working together in the public schools is perhaps the best opportunity in life for adults and kids to surmount the racial, cultural, and economic boundaries that separate us. So let’s embrace our diversity and be a team again and work together to make Berkeley High School a safe, equitable, enriching, and fun experience for our kids.

Join the PTSA this year. Bring your ideas, enthusiasm, passions, and commitment. Take the ball and run with it. The sky's the limit!

Join the PTSA

Membership Information