Berkeley High Reconsiders Governing Structure

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The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education is exploring alternative models of governing Berkeley High School that may give parents more sway on the school's governance council.

A meeting of the high school's Parent Teacher Student Association was held Tuesday, where board members presented models currently under consideration to parents, according to Shirley Issel, the board's director and the chair of the board's policy subcommittee, which is charged with the review of the current structure.

The state mandates every public school have a governing body, commonly called a school site council, with parents or students and school staff each comprising half of the membership. But the Berkeley High School Governance Council, which acts as the site council, is composed of four students, four parents and 20 staff members.

"There are so few parents in

proportion to the number of staff," said Julie Holcomb, a parent and co-chair of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program Planning and Oversight Committee. "It really diminishes the weight that is given to the parent voice."

In 2008, the board approved a rewritten version of the bylaws for K-8 schools, but chose not to change the high school bylaws, according to John Selawsky, a member of the policy subcommittee.

"We had all agreed that the high school, which has a very complicated structure, was not exactly analogous to the K-8 structure, since those are smaller and easier to manage," Selawsky said.

The board readdressed the high school's bylaws in 2009 and commissioned the policy subcommittee to ask students, parents and teachers for input, Selawsky added.

"We reviewed what was going on, (and) found some irregularities with the procedures," he said. "Practice has to follow the bylaws, not the other way around."

The board discovered inconsistencies in procedural practices such as those proscribing the keeping of minutes and voting processes, Selawsky added.

The high school-which is larger than other schools in the district and contains five "small schools" within its structure-faces other issues of representation because of its sheer complexity, Issel said.

The next step is for the subcommittee to review surveys and come up with several options for the board to consider, Selawsky said.

The subcommittee hopes to present a proposal to the board in April, according to Issel.

Peggy Scott, a parent representative on the council, said she hopes parents will have greater representation after changes are made.

"It's too confusing, the way (the council is) set up right now," she said. "I'm thankful to the board that they're working on this."


Contact Denise Poon at [email protected]

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