BHUSD Board of Education Meeting Hears Varied Agenda
The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education meeting touched upon a wide range of issues on May 11. Discussion largely centered around a new academic block bell schedule for the 2021-22 school year. The Board heard updates on the search for a new Beverly Vista Middle School (BVMS) principal and recognized the 2021 Apple Award winners.
The Beverly Hills Parents Association also made an impassioned plea before the Board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy regarding the district’s hiring of Community Works Institute (CWI) to assist with BHUSD’s diversity, equity and inclusion program.
New Bell Schedule and Search for New Principal
On May 13, the District announced a new block bell schedule for high school students with an 8:30 a.m. start time, per California Senate Bill 328. Signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom in Oct. of 2019 and effective starting the 2022-23 school year, the new law requires public high schools begin no earlier than 8:30 am. The objective has also been outlined in the District’s Strategic Plan.
“We acknowledge that the average class length will be reduced in this schedule by approximately six minutes per class per day,” reads a May 13 email addressed to BHHS families. “However previously, when seven classes met each day (at most) pre-pandemic, instructional time was lost in greeting students, taking roll, and beginning class. By moving to a solidified block schedule, students will experience longer, more in-depth instructional conversations with fewer disruptions by moving between fewer classes. This helps with lab work, assessments, and classroom presentations.”
In his Superintendent’s report, Bregy reported that the district is still actively searching for a new principal to take over next year at Beverly Vista Middle School. While 48 applicants were reviewed, Bregy said, “we did not find the exact fit that we were looking for. We are not going to settle on the best of the six that were in the finals. We know that finding this perfect fit is out there, and it’s worth the time to reopen the process.” The next round of applications will be due on May 28.
Community Works Institute
Objection to the hiring of CWI was the topic of an impassioned plea during the meeting. One parent, Jasmine Rastegar, called in to read a letter circulating as part of a Change.org petition. The letter, entitled “BHUSD Stop the Bias Now – CWI Must Be Removed,” gathered over 500 signatures in less than three days. Rastegar read from the letter:
“We, as parents, guardians, grandparents and community members, welcome and encourage our district’s recent commitment to fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion as an integral part of our district’s strategic plan. However, we are extremely concerned regarding the manner and method in which our district intends to implement this goal.”
The letter added that parents were “appalled by the public statements that the founders and associates of CWI have made regarding our community….As an example, Mr. Zach Ritter, the lead associate for diversity, equity, and inclusion at CWI, stated in his commencement address at the University of Redlands, that wealthy Germans supported Hitler not because they hated certain people, but because they loved themselves and money over everything else. He further stated that one does not have to go as far back as 75 years ago to Nazi Germany because ‘…Beverly Hills voted for a certain presidential candidate, not just because they hated Mexicans and Central Americans, I don’t know, maybe they did, but because they wanted that tax break for the wealthy.’”
The letter continued:
“To liken our community to wealthy Germans who joined the ranks of the Nazis is preposterous, given that a great number of us have parents and grandparents who perished in and/or survived the Holocaust,” Rastegar read. “In closing, ‘we demand that you cease affiliation with CWI immediately,” she added.
While the Board took no official action on the matter at the meeting, Board Member Mary Wells underscored that “there is a very real issue that must be addressed with the community regarding CWI and CWI’s associate, Zach Ritter.”