On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the Berkeley Unified School District School Board met to discuss compensation for teachers writing letters of recommendation, speech pathologist evaluation limits, unaudited 2021-22 actuals, and draft Milvia Street.
During the public comment section of the meeting, several teachers spoke about the need to either financially compensate teachers for writing letters of recommendation or give them release days.
“By November 15, I will easily spend 30 hours writing letters of recommendation,” said Maths 3 and Advanced Maths 3 teacher Korianna Austera. “And where will that 30 hours come from? Much of my own unpaid time on weekends and after school.
Austera added that, since the beginning of this school year, she has already received 32 requests for letters of recommendation.
Biology teacher Johannah Bearg also commented that teachers not having enough resources to provide all students with a letter of recommendation creates an equity issue.
“If I were to limit the number (of letters of recommendation) I was willing to write, it would negatively impact my students and place a burden on other teachers,” Bearg said. “Students who don’t have the support of family encouraging them to apply first, in June of the previous year, have a harder time getting a letter because many teachers are maxed out. It is a matter of fairness. »
Throughout the public comments, several speech pathologists at BUSD expressed support for a proposal that would limit the number of speech pathology assessments speech pathologists would have to perform in a year. With each assessment taking 10 to 15 hours, speech-language pathologists discussed how the lack of a formal assessment boundary prevents them from completing many aspects of their work.
“(Last year) I had to perform over 20 assessments,” said Andrea Gallegos, speech therapist for BUSD. “For me alone, that was an additional 300 hours on top of managing up to 48 students, providing direct services, supporting students through the MTSS (Multi-Level Support System), and attending IEP meetings (plan individualized instruction).
The board also received a presentation on the 2021-22 unaudited actuals, outlining how much the district spent in expenses and earned in revenue last year. The presentation focused on the district’s unrestricted general fund, which holds the district’s operating revenues.
According to the tax team, the closing balance of the Unrestricted General Fund exceeded forecast by $1.1 million. This surplus was partially attributed to lower benefits spending, due to higher-than-expected vacancies and supply teachers last year.
Towards the end of the meeting, the council approved the removal of a district operations building from the Milvia Street project, the planned construction of a new car park on Milvia Street, its aim being to provide more spaces parking lot to BHS staff.
John Casile, Executive Director of the Facilities Division, recommended that the District Operations Building not be included in the parking garage, as it was revealed that the parking garage will require a “short span” structure, which which would prevent the use of the parking lot. garage as an operating building. Additionally, the operating facilities would produce additional noise, air and light pollution, which would require strong mitigation strategies.
The planned parking garage has 220 parking spaces and rooftop tennis courts, and is expected to cost $27.5 million. However, some board members have suggested that before BUSD continues to attempt to build a new parking lot, they should consider purchasing parking spaces at the city’s Center Street Parking Garage, which would allow them to use the space allocated to the new car park for other purposes. .
“I don’t want to have to walk past the community and not have an answer to this very simple question: what did we do to make sure we could partner with the city before we spent x amount of money building a new parking lot? And then tell them I don’t have space to do x, y, or z for your kid,” Vice President Laura Babitt said.
Casile pledged to continue exploring the possibility of purchasing parking spaces from the City of Berkeley.