the Grounds at Berkeley High

April 2001

To all it may concern: I returned to BHS after spring break, expecting to find a trash free campus given the previous week's vacation. On the contrary, I saw trash along MLK, next to the track, that had been there since well before the vacation. Since I have picked up this strip myself many times, I know that it is a job which takes 10 minutes at most! I refuse to believe that the custodial staff is incapable of this task, for whatever reason or excuse, which will inevitably be the response of those at the helm. As is customary, the main courtyard was fairly clean, that is if you don't peer too closely into the vegetation, where you will find a veritable garbage dump. However, venture into Memorial Grove or, better still, walk through the upper Allston Way gate around the side of the Community Theater and what you will find is truly shocking. It looks as though someone has taken a couple of full to the brim trash cans ( examples of which are all over) and emptied them on to and behind bushes, into flower beds and all over the pathways. Although night-time security has been instructed to remove the homeless from campus, they have once again set up shop outside the stagecraft shop on Allston Way. They urinate, defecate, drink and use hypodermic needles here and discard the latter right there where students work on sets. Whenever we complain, security is vigilant for a while and then surveillance slackens off and we have to complain again. We are simply asking people to do the job for which they are paid, often very well! The campus at BHS is a disgrace. It is time to stop relying on volunteers to do the job which able bodied men and women are being paid to do. It is for this reason that I am not calling a work day to clean the school of garbage in time for the annual Arts Festival. I was asked by an administrator to do this and I apologize for going back on my word, but I am unable with a clear conscience to pretend to the citizens of Berkeley that the high school normally looks the way it would if we were to come along and clean it up for this event. The Grounds Committee and Adopt-a-Plot programs already look after the landscaping. It is too much to ask us to also pick up the trash. Corinne Eno, Chair Grounds Committee.

[Editor note: the preceding letter was sent to BHS school officials, the School Board Directors, Berkeley mayor, and others. I sent a separate request to BoardofEd at asking for a response to Corinne's letter as this topic has come up so often in our newsletter. Principal Frank Lynch replied that the BHS campus would be cleaned for the festival, and a reply was also received from Gene LeFevre. No response was received from School Board Members.]

Dear Corinne, I agree with you 100 %. It is completely unfair to ask parents & other volunteers to do the custodial staff's work for them and then have to see their efforts ignored and undermined by indifferent staff and students every day. This situation is a complete disgrace. How can we expect our children to do their best in an environment that continually tells them that they're trash? Thankyou for taking the time to write. Yours, Amy March 2001

On Saturday, Berkeley High hosted a series of Lacrosse games. I was embarrased for Berkeley because of the amount of garbage around the field and Berkeley High . I am not talking about construction debris but bottles, cans, newspapers and just plain trash, piles of it. Is there not a program to clean these areas? Alan

As chair of the Grounds Committee and Adopt-a-Plot programs at BHS, I and many of the parents and students at BHS share your sense of embarassment. In fact, I am frustrated and angry as well as embarassed. Picking up trash at the high school is always a bone of contention among the custodial staff and it is carried out in a haphazard and lackadaisical fashion. Even then some areas are never touched. The beds around the Community Theater are full of trash. I have pulled mattresses, kerosene stoves, liquor bottles and syringes from these areas. It is not only an issue of aesthetics but one of hygeine and safety.

The school needs to address the problem from several angles. First, we need to ask them to have a consistent policy regarding students who litter in the first place. At lunchtime, it would be very easy for security to ask kids who litter to pick up their trash. Right now security does nothing. Secondly, the administration needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy towards custodians who refuse to do their jobs. Thirdly, night-time security must be vigilant regarding people carousing on school property. Finally, we as parents and members of the community must stand up and refuse to accept this sad state of affairs. E-mail the following people and demand that something be done: Frank Lynch, Principal, BHS flynch [at] Dorothy Dorsey, Head of Maintenance, BHS ddorsey [at] Gene Lefevre, Head of Maintenance, BUSD gene [at]

I don't have the superintenedent's e-mail, but we should really lobby him too. In the meantime, come to the work days sponsored by the Garden Committee. If you prefer, you can simply pick up trash. Many people do. There is one scheduled for this Sunday at 10 a.m. Enter via Allston Way, lower gate or gate on MLK and Bancroft. I'll supply garbage bags and latex gloves. Nothing will change until enough of us refuse to put up with it any longer! Corinne

January 2001

I am puzzled at the request for parent help to maintain the grounds at Berkeley High School. While I understand at the moment it may be necessary on an interim basis, why is this not a class at Berkeley High: Horticulture and Landscape Gardening with credit? And also, why are the students not, (or maybe they are and I don't know about it) scheduled to clean up grounds, pick up trash, etc.?

This seems obvious to me but it must not be obvious. Many of the Berkeley public schools are now part of the Food Systems Project in which students, parents and teachers are preparing gardens. These are related to food issues. But in a few years Berkeley High is going to see some sophisticated gardeners arrive as students. Why can't this become part of the curriculum so Berkeley High could have lovely landscaped and well maintained grounds via student energy and learning.


We are currently sending to the Board a proposal for a series of classes in Ecology that would allow us to have students tend many of the area of the school grounds. Also, beginning in February students will be assigned to Saturday School as part of our detention process. These students will be working to tend the grounds as part of their "service" time at school.

Theresa Saunders, Principal

A reply to the person enquiring about the grounds at BHS:-we all wonder why parents need to take over the gardening at the high school, but after 5 years of watching it get worse and worse, I decided to enlist the help of parents. There are not enough gardeners in the district to maintain all the grounds and so I am hoping that the Adopt-a-Plot program will maintain and enhance those at BHS. Parents are ready and willing to do this. It builds community in a very large place and makes parents feel better about the school. There is an eco-literacy program at the school and I think you will soon see an expanded program similar to the ones you described. For more info. on that aspect, you could contact Dana Richards, the teacher of this program. He is on the ground floor of the B building.

Corinne Eno