Equity in Action: The Schools Fund’s Second Annual Grantee Showcase

In early December, the Berkeley Public Schools Fund held our 2nd Annual Grantee Showcase, spotlighting some of the most impactful equity grants from the ’22-’23 school year. The gathering, on a cold winter night, was brimming with warmth: over 150 educators, administrators, and partners from across the district enjoyed a rare chance to reconnect while a some select ’22-’23 grantees shared stories of their grant journey, from vision to impact. Everyone in the room felt the lift of inspiration.

We kicked off the evening with a special recognition of the district’s BPACT (Berkeley Pathway to Achieve Credentialed Teachers) program. As the district’s “classified-to-certificated” pipeline, BPACT is also the Schools Fund’s first-ever multi-year grantee. Featured prominently in last year’s Grantee Showcase, the program was this year re-invited to bring up their students, both current and graduated, for recognition. These well-loved staff members, hard-working-educators-by-day and hard-working-students-by-night, received rousing applause from the house. 

Representing Elementary, Middle, and High School Grants

At the elementary level, and representing the Schools Fund’s priority area of Culturally Relevant Learning, Becky Lum of Rosa Parks took the audience on a journey through her classroom’s approach to social studies learning. Supported by interactions with fiction and nonfiction reading, informational writing and poetry, Lum and her grade level partners eventually brought their students to the Immigration Station at Angel Island. Touching on themes of migration, identity, justice and belonging, Lum recounted how not only did all types of students from all walks of life relate to these themes but that her own family’s immigration journey was etched in the walls at Angel Island. (Read more about Lum’s story HERE)

 For BUSD middle schools and in the Schools Fund’s priority area of Recruiting and Retaining Educators of Color, the spotlight was on Longfellow Principal Salita Mitchell, and the work she is doing to better support Longfellow’s Instructional Assistants (IAs). From equipping them with Chromebooks so that they can better track their students’ IEP progress to providing increased collaboration time between IAs and their Special Education case managers, Salita earned ecstatic applause for her action to better resource, develop and integrate these valuable but often under-recognized staff members.

In Focused Academic Intervention & Support at the high school level, we heard from two staff members, Jasdeep Malhi from Berkeley High and Sandra Maldonado from BTA, who work tirelessly with their teams to incentivize attendance for the high schoolers facing the greatest “headwinds.” Through detailed attendance tracking, constant communication and a tiered system of rewards, these counselors are making a profound difference in ensuring students are in class, ready to learn.

Honoring District-wide Grants

The Showcase featured two district-wide projects. The first, representing the priority area of Equitable Family Engagement, was a spotlight on the Latinx/e Family Engagement project. Originating in BUSD’s Office of Family Equity & Engagement (OFEE), led by OFEE Specialist Alejandra Frias, and in partnership with Latinos Unidos de Berkeley, this project focuses resources on better engaging Latinx/e families district-wide. After a comprehensive and well-attended “Listening tour,” a core team of staff and caregivers set out to design parent workshops in response to voiced caregiver needs. In parallel, they are training a new generation of Latinx/e caregiver advocates through a partnership with CABE’s Project 2 Inspire. One of those BUSD caregiver advocates, Mayra Ochoa, joined Frias on stage. (Read more about their work HERE)

Last but not least, the event featured Tanisha Walton of Black Girls United (BGU), supporting the Schools Fund priority area of Positive Racial Identity Development. After describing her Black Girls affinity groups that now run at all 3 BUSD middle schools, she played a short documentary titled “Our Features,” created by former BGU student (and current BHS student) Carina Thomas. The transformative power of BGU’s identity and belonging work rounded out a beautiful evening of inspiration, reminding us that we all have a role to play in ensuring that every child in BUSD thrives.

In addition to our vibrant grantee community, the Schools Fund was honored to have so many friends and community partners in attendance. Thank you to RT Fisher Educational Enterprises, the City of Berkeley’s Youth Equity Partnership, UC Berkeley’s Public Service Center, LUNA Dance, Scientific Adventures for Girls, New Style Motherlode Dance Company, and Intelligent Minds Positive on Purpose, among others.

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