Alternative High School Proposed for Berkeley

Doug Oakley, Contra Costa Times (Contra Costa, California), October 9, 2009

The Berkeley school board is considering creating an alternative high school or charter school proposed by one of its high school principals for 500 kids who are falling behind.

Victor Diaz, principal of Berkeley Technology Academy, said the school would serve kids from grades six through 12 who traditionally fall behind: students of color scoring well below their white counterparts.

Berkeley schools have the largest gap between well performing white students and students of color in the entire State of California, according to schools spokesman Mark Coplan.

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If the school board decides to create a charter run within the school district, called a dependent charter, the new school would get money from state and federal sources and would pay the Berkeley school district for facilities and administrative services, he said.

That plan could face resistance from the school board because the district could lose money for each student who enrolls in the charter. And since charter schools are open to anyone, there are worries that it could fill up with students from outside Berkeley.

It also could face resistance from the teachers union. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers considered an official position on the charter proposal at its

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Diaz said low-performing students in Berkeley need an alternative place to call home for several years, something that is codified like a charter that the school district can’t change on a whim.

He said at his school under achievement is now deep rooted and multigenerational. Students with either academic or behavior problems are sent there to get help for about six months before going back to Berkeley High School.

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