Berkeley High School students voted in a runoff election on October 19 to appoint the student representatives for this year’s School Site Council (SSC). The student representatives had already been elected last spring, but an additional election was recently called due to downsizing.
“The state of California couldn’t get enough people on SSC boards across the state, so they reduced the number of (student representatives) necessary,” said sophomore Emma Kittredge, a BSEP student representative.
Each spring, the site council that Kittredge serves on outlines the use of the Berkeley Schools Excellence Program (BSEP) funds for the following school year. BSEP accounts for about 20 percent of Berkeley Unified School District’s annual budget, according to the BUSD website, and BHS typically receives over one million dollars annually from the program.
BSEP was created following Ballot Measure E1 in 2019, which meant that BUSD would receive 28 million over the next eight years from local tax funds. BSEP funds finance a variety of programs and services, including teacher salaries, school libraries, the African dance program, and the music and jazz programs. A significant portion of BSEP funds are not initially distributed every year, so the site council decides where those extra funds go during the spring for the following year.
Last year, the site council allocated 45 thousand dollars towards hiring a “staff member that will support students who inquire about, or complete, a Title IX report,” according to the BSEP School Site Program Fund Plan. Since the fund plans are made for the following year, the Title IX funds went into effect at the start of this semester. The site council also previously directed BSEP funds towards college and career advisors, the college preparation class Responsibility, Integrity, Strength, and Empowerment (R.I.S.E.) Program, and instructional materials, to name a few.
“With any luck, this will be a pretty typical year, I hope that we will be able to look at the new programs we funded last year like the Title IX advocate and see that progress is being made,” said Aaron Glimme, a BHS chemistry teacher and member of the site council. Glimme has been on the site council for several years, serving as co-chair as well.
Members of these site councils were typically required to consist of the principal, four staff members, three parents or community members, and three students. The BUSD school committee handbook also states that there should be two alternates for staff, students, and parents/community members on the committee. But, this year, due to the downsizing, the number of representatives for each school site council has been reduced, according to Kittredge.
“Generally student voice is very important to the committee and it’s common that a student is the co-chair, which helps to ensure that students get equal representation. Additionally, students are full voting members on the committee and have been active participants in all our discussions, bringing a variety of viewpoints to the committee,” Glimme said.
The site council met on October 20, following the runoff, for the first time this school year. During the meeting, the council discussed the possibility of having meetings in person, as they are currently virtual. The council also discussed the committee co-chairs election, which will happen during the following meeting next month.
“Especially for meetings that are only once a month, I feel like they should be in person,” Kittredge said. “So that we can really openly discuss.”