Fund: 30 years of boosting, supporting Berkeley schools

Tamara Friedman, English Language Development Teacher at Berkeley High, who comes from a family of teachers, was honored at the Schools Fund Luncheon as a Distinguished Educator. Photo: Emilie Raguso

In its 30 years of operation, the Berkeley Public Education Foundation has raised more than $12 million and channeled more than 750,000 volunteer hours straight into Berkeley’s public schools, directly supporting the district’s 550 teachers. On Friday last week, in a single luncheon, it raised another $210,000, honored a select group of educators and administrators, along with a former Berkeley High student, and also marked two significant changes to its organization.

New leadership is in place with the recent appointment of Erin Rhoades as the fund’s executive director. Rhoades, formerly a principal planner for Urban Planning Partners and the executive director of Livable Berkeley, replaced Molly Fraker on April 8.

[View a gallery of photographs of the Schools Fund Spring Luncheon by Emilie Raguso.]

The Schools Fund luncheon, the organization’s main annual fundraiser, included moving tributes and acceptance speeches. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The second shake-up is a name change: From now on, the organization will be called the Berkeley Public Schools Fund. The old name was apt to be confused with other Berkeley Unified groups such as BSEP, staff said, and it is hoped that the shorthand for the new name, if there is one, will be “Schools Fund.”

“Over the years, the board recognized that the name was hard to say and even harder to remember — and often confused with other local organizations,” Berkeley Public Schools Fund Board Chair Chris Hudson told the lunch crowd at HS Lordships on Friday, May 10. “It was even difficult for the teachers receiving our grants.”

Stefon Dent, Berkeley High class of 2003, was honored with a “Special Recognition” award for educational success. Photo: Emilie Raguso

The luncheon — which was compered with great aplomb by Councilman Laurie Capitelli and attended by a host of officials, including outgoing UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Mayor Tom Bates, Assemblymember Nancy Skinner and Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan — raised $210,000 through donations made in the room, tickets and sponsorships.

“At our 30th anniversary luncheon, the Berkeley community took its support to a new level … helping to create an extraordinary public education for every child in Berkeley,” Rhoades told Berkeleyside. “We’re off to a great start to support teachers and schools for another 30 years.”

At the heart of the event were the five people who received special recognition.

Stefon Dent, Berkeley High Class of 2003, received a “Special Recognition” award for educational success. Introducing him, Dave Stevens, educational specialist at Berkeley High, said Dent had struggled for years at school with learning disabilities and below-grade reading ability. With the help of the Schools Fund, Dent was given support and went on many inspiring and educational field trips. “They were the gateway to the world,” Dent said, accepting the honor and praising the teachers who recognized his potential. “I got the chance to learn about myself.” Dent graduated Cal State East Bay last year.

Janet Huseby, Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at Berkeley High School, was honored for Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools. In her acceptance speech, she said she had “a lot of experience saying thank you.” Photo: Emilie Raguso

Janet Huseby, Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at Berkeley High School, was presented with a “Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools” award by Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi. Scuderi said he is always amazed at Huseby’s ability to marshal armies of volunteers, and thanked her for her help when he is tasked with crafting sometimes difficult letters out to the community. “She is standing right there,” he said, of her commitment and availability in tough times. Huseby, who has given her time to Berkeley schools for more than 30 years, praised the volunteers who come in regularly to act as proctors or chaperones. “These are the foot soldiers, the real heroes,” she said.

Belinda McDaniel, program assistant (and much more) at Berkeley High School, was honored for her Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools. “What would we do without Belinda?’ asked Berkeley High Principal Pasquale Scuderi. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Belinda McDaniel, program assistant at Berkeley High, was also presented with a “Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools” award by Scuderi, who spoke of how McDaniel embodies the spirit of Berkeley High. “People come to Belinda and they trust her and confide in her,” he said. McDaniel said how grateful she was that the community could see how much she loved her job. She spoke of the pleasure of registering kids at the school who were themselves children of a previous generation she had also registered.

Teri Goodman, chair of the Counseling Department at Berkeley High, and described as the school’s “moral compass,” was honored for her Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Teri Goodman, chair of the Counseling Department at Berkeley High, was presented with a “Distinguished Service to Berkeley Schools” award by Alameda County Arts Learning Coordinator Ray Cagan, who spoke of Goodman as being the “moral compass” of the school. “She’s a fierce advocate for Berkeley High students,” he said. Accepting the honor, Goodman said someone had asked her mom why she thought her daughter enjoyed her work so much. The answer: “She genuinely likes teenagers. Go figure!”

Tamara Friedman, English language development teacher at Berkeley High (pictured top), was named a Distinguished Educator and was introduced by Mark Lee, Berkeley High Class of 2003, a former student and proctor for Friedman. Friedman, who comes from a family of educators, spoke of her early desire to be a teacher. “I used to beg my mom to take me to the teacher supply store on Solano Avenue when I was nine,” she said. Friedman also spoke movingly about the unparalleled instruction happening every day at Berkeley High, and the privilege of “working with people daily whose life experience is so different from your own.” “Public education is the great equalizer,” she concluded.

Learn more about the Berkeley Public Schools Fund on its website.

Berkeley Public Education Foundation announces latest grants [12.07.12]
Berkeley teachers honored for dedication and innovation [05.14.12]

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside. Email: