Illustration by Gemma Fa-Kaji
The Berkeley Public Schools Fund (BPSF) held their annual spring luncheon, which is the organization’s largest annual fundraiser and gathering, to highlight BPSF’s contributions to Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) schools, on May 11 at HS Lordships.
This year’s luncheon theme was ‘Rising Voices, Rising Leaders,’ which was aimed at recognizing students who have displayed remarkable leadership in their school communities and the teachers who inspire them.
Attendees had the opportunity to speak with BUSD teachers and administrators. Additionally, nine former students from Berkeley High School (BHS) who have demonstrated leadership regarding a range of issues were invited to share their thoughts and memories.
Rosina Keren, a counselor at Longfellow Middle School, was invited to the luncheon as a guest speaker and award recipient. “It was beautiful and very well organized,” Keren said of the luncheon. “Great people were there, all of whom care about our students and are spending their time and/or money to support our educational system.”
Prominent figures that attended the luncheon included State Senator Nancy Skinner, State Assemblymember Tony Thurmond, and Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.
“[BPSF’s] annual luncheon is a great opportunity to get business leaders together in Berkeley to basically help celebrate the accomplishments of the Berkeley schools and give back to the kids,” said Allen Carr, a board member of BPSF. Carr became a board member in 2013 because of his passion for supporting children and Berkeley school programs.
BPSF Development Chair Locke Schultz Jaeger served as an emcee at this year’s luncheon. “The luncheon was wonderful,” she said, “Full of inspiration, energy and examples of how the community support for [BPSF] translates into supported inspired teachers and students that have opportunities to receive an enriched curriculum.” Jaeger said providing an enriched curriculum and well-supported teachers allows students to find their voices, explore their passions and exercise their leadership.
Executive Director Erin Rhoades said BPSF gives grants for everything from classroom supplies and materials to teacher professional development. BPSF funds many field trips at the elementary and middle school level, and in recent years the organization funded about one hundred thousand dollars for the BHS Redesign and thirty thousand dollars for the new BHS physics lab, in addition to individual classroom grants at BHS.
The BPSF Board has held discussions regarding some district-wide initiatives, and Rhoades has approached the board with a couple of initiatives that they were able to fund. According to Carr, the board is typically able to fund smaller teacher grants with their annual spring luncheon.
This school year, several BPSF Board members with children in BUSD schools went to their Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings, and discussed the differences between BPSF and their PTA, which supports their particular school.
“There’s a lot of support for the individual PTA programs at individual schools, but we are trying to create awareness of what the Schools Fund does for the overall school district,” said Carr.
Carr stated that BPSF essentially funds what BUSD cannot, and without BPSF, BUSD schools would be very different. For example, the organization provides significant funds for BUSD’s music program.
Jaeger often speaks with BUSD students she meets about memories from their school years, such as a fun event, project, or field trip.
“Most of the time it turns out that the Berkeley Public Schools Fund was the source of support. Most students will go through their time in Berkeley [pre-k through 12] and not even know that they were supported by so many,” she said.
Rhoades said BPSF would like to focus on math in BUSD and at BHS in particular to support better outcomes for students in the next few years.
BPSF also started a program called “Be a Scientist” that brings two hundred University of California Berkeley scientists into seventh grade classrooms across the district to guide students through the process of conducting a scientific experiment. “It’s a sixty thousand dollars a year project, and [BPSF] needs another annual source of funding to help cover the costs,” said Rhoades.