BHS Small School: Academy of Medicine & Public Service (AMPS)
Editors' Note: AMPS was formerly know as Community Partnerships Academy (CPA)
Hi! I’m wondering why you are limiting your child's small school options simply to CAS? You state that your ''son, African-American, needs relatively quiet classrooms, with well-behaved students, to be able to concentrate because of ADHD.'' I'm writing to suggest that you widen your possibilities -- to AMPS (''Academy of Medicine and Public Service''). Our child, who has severe ADHD, is in her junior year at AMPS, and it has turned out to be the perfect school for her. We have found the AMPS program to be wonderful in every respect except mathematics, which wouldn't apply in your son's case.
AMPS has received a bad rap over the years, but the current situation is vastly improved. For one thing, they have more computers available to them than do AC students, but more importantly, the students are graced with some of the very best teachers at Berkeley High... or anywhere! They were lucky enough to have two, very gifted teachers -- Ms. Guzman (who has powerful classroom control) and Mr. Dopman (who has opened up our child's mind to the world) for Literature and Sociology/History, respectively, for both 9th and 10th grade, and the AMPS juniors are looking forward to being in their classrooms again during their senior year. However, their current, 11th grade, teachers -- Ms. Korber and Mr. Tobias) -- are excellent as well. Our child loves them all!
Moreover, the counselor for AMPS, Dwayne Byndloss, is readily available and has gone to bat for our kid on multiple occasions. Since she has ADHD, this has meant organizing a 504 Plan meeting every year and making sure that all the teachers are up-to-date on her modifications. (If your son doesn't have a 504 Plan or an IEP, please ask his current V.P. to get one in place before he leaves middle school.)
The junior year in AMPS, by the way, is something special: all juniors find an internship that they work at for three hours every Wednesday afternoon (they have no classes 4th-6th period on Wednesdays), and it lasts for the entire school year. (Preparation includes resume-writing, cover letter, etc., instruction, and they must turn in their signed timesheets, with their own reflections, every week.)
I'll close by noting that as I write, our child is on the ''AMPS Junior Retreat,'' being held at a Jesuit retreat center well northeast of Sacramento. They are spending all day Thursday and Friday doing team-building exercises, and preparing for college (writing the first draft of their college application letters, as I understand it). Words cannot express HOW EXCITED our kid has been about this retreat! (And it's 100% free to every student.) ~ another option to consider
Re: How can I get more information about the BHS small schools?
CPA has been great for our own bright but undisciplined child. The classes have been challenging and every freshman core class can be taken as a honors option for even more challenge. Students can take AP classes in the big school or take college credit classes at Vista through a special partnership. The teachers have generally been quite good - our son's math teacher is one of the major authors of the IMP project based math curriculum and is wonderful - at teaching and at providing structured feedback for students and parents (homework packets and graded and then must be signed by parents every week!!). And, CPA has one of the best freshman seminar history teachers at BHS.
In addition to providing academic rigor, CPA really sees school as a partnership between teachers, administration, parents, and students. Most teachers are very responsive and the administrative staff, especially Flora Russ is AMAZING. I don't think its possible for a kid to fall through the cracks and the small community environment also helps to counter the ''big school'' distractions. Our son also likes the community involvement emphasis. And we are excited about some of the internship possibilities - ranging from Children's Hospital where students as observers do the same rotation as 3rd year medical students as well as volunteer - being lawyers in the binding peer Youth Court based in Oakland -KMEL Radio - and the Cheeseboard (this was a student interested in culinary school). I think the real world connection helps students visualize the ''why'' of school and makes classwork more relevant - also helps students get a sense of what type of professions/careers they may be interested in.
CPA is in its first year as a small school - this is a great opportunity to be part of its evolution. The CPA website should be up and running soon - check it out - in addition to general info - it's going to have weekly homework assignments!!!