Beatriz Leyva-Cutler, Candidate for Berkeley School Board
Beatriz Leyva-Cutler is an incumbent. She was endorsed by the Democratic Party. Find out more about her at http://reelectbeatrizforschoolboard.nationbuilder.com/
1 – What have been the biggest challenges facing your School District and how did you tackle them?
Our biggest challenge when I first came on board was how the district serves English Language Learners (ELL) the district had an outdated Master Plan for English Language Learners and no consistent plan for instruction for K-5 Teachers on what our model for bilingual/dual language learning. BUSD has now a plan for how the district promotes students from ELL to being English Proficient, training for teachers on the models of instructions for ELL.
Chronic Absence and Truancy — improving and providing funding for an Attendance Officer at the high school where we had chronic absences and no follow-up and/or monitoring of students absences/tardies. This has improved our student attendance greatly
Safety Plans – our safety plans from school site to school site varied and were differently formated and infrequent training happened at our schools sites and as a district. Now our elementary, middle school and high schools have complete templates that are uniform and school sites have had emergency drills and the district has held emergency scenarios in the event of a major disaster/event.
2 – Do you believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based or other discrimination in your district’s schools? What have you done to address them and how will you address them in the future?
Unfortunately, I do believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based discrimination in our community — however, our Berkeley schools, teachers, staff, school board and district work very hard to create welcoming and supportive learning communities for our students/parents and create a climate that is fair and equitable. Our school board works to provide guidance through our policies and procedures and adopted curriculum to educate and support students in being responsible, respectful and safe. Ongoing training, professional development and townhalls/meetings with staff, school board, parents and teachers need to be held continually to ensure that we are all responsible in upholding the policies of fairness, equity and equality in our schools.
3 – Do you believe the school-to-prison pipeline is operational in your School District? What have you done and/or propose to do to close it down?
In California sadly the school to prison pipeline is operational – but in BUSD it is not. BUSD has a board that is very much aware how suspension, expulsion and chronic truancy/absence are the direct pipelines to prison and we have greatly reduced and practically eliminated expulsion from Berkeley Unified to only one student in this 15-16 school year, we have improved attendance and providing more academic support programs during the school day for our students. The one expulsion case was by education code a mandatory expulsion. With Restorative Justice now in the middle and high schools we will see even greater outcomes and more student ambassadors in our schools. Our work is to intervene early, provide support and monitor student progress and ensure that ALL of our students have someone in the school that is their advocate and/or counselor; and more importantly students feel connected to their teachers/schools.
4 – Have you supported having police officers on campus? Why or why not?
We have Safety Resource Officers (SRO) and at this time I support a police officer as part of community policing – and police knowing our students by their 1st names and students knowing the names of a police officer — and taking the stigma away from each other. Our Safety Resource Officer also sits in our Student Attendance Review Board that meets with chronically absent/truant students and their parents – and oftentimes, it has helped both the district, parents and students see an officer at the table along with community programs, public health department — all around the table reaching out to the student to break down barriers and provide support. I was opposed to putting an additional officer onto Berkeley High School or our continuation school and instead supported the district to put any additional resources to programs that would directly support our students, like mentors or tutors.
5 – What limits to students’ freedom of expression and privacy do you think are appropriate for public schools?
I believe in freedom of expression but not the expression of bigotry towards race/sex/gender or age that is hateful and hurtful by student, adult or any person- hatred has no place in our schools or our community.
6 – What do you think the School District should do to offer support to homeless, foster and impoverished children and children coming from violent homes?
I believe homeless, foster youth and low income children in the district – their families should have priority in low income housing in the city. People that were formerly large families living in 3-4 bedrooms and whose children have grown should be relocated with assistance to smaller apartments to free up rent control apartments to families and be placed in one bedroom rent control apartments. More housing for low income families is needed regionally, and more housing for unaccompanied youth, youth that couch surf because they don’t have family or home to go to or for foster students need to be developed.
7 – What should the District do to tackle problems of truancy?
Parent Liaisons are at each school, helping the teachers, principals and secretaries – 1st checking in with parent at the home to see if there is anything that is preventing the family from attending. Follow up with student/parent and first find out what is the student’s or parents barrier and what can be done to help. Helping students to create a plan to recover credits, homework and receive support. Reward and recognize students who greatly improve their attendance and parents who have made efforts to address lateness.
8 – Given the explosion of autism diagnoses, what is your plan to make sure children and their parents are getting the proper support?
Teachers and principals need training in identification and how to diferentiate teaching practices to support diagnosed autism and students who are on the spectrum. This is important and very much needed.
9 – Are you running as a Berniecrat?
I am running as a Democrat.