Public Comment

Plea from McKinney-Vento Families: We Need the Community to Speak Out about the Termination of Services Homeless Coordinator Nancy Johnson

From Leo Stegman
Friday March 08, 2013 - 05:22:00 PM

On September 19, 2012, low-income parents at the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) spoke out against the cutting of funds for the McKinney-Vento Act from $34,000 to $17,000. Amidst an economic depression the BUSD staff cut funding to McKinney-Vento Act, a statute to assist families facing housing issues because of a lack of resources in the education of their children. 

During the next few months the many community member came to the BUSD School Board meeting, and sent numerous emails to the Co-Interim Superintendents Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith requesting that the BUSD increase the funding for the McKinney-Vento Act and to continue the contract of Ms. Nancy Johnson. 

As the Homeless Coordinator for the BUSD, for the last 15 years, Ms. Johnson has been a valuable asset to families and students receiving assistance under the McKinney-Vento Act. As a retired teacher, employee at Berkeley Oakland Support Services, and resident of Berkeley she has a vast reservoir of knowledge as it pertains to issues of class, race and homelessness. Her institutional knowledge on the McKinney-Vento Act in BUSD is un-equalled and un-paralleled. 

Through the community's voice and vigilance the BUSD Board Members decided that the District Staff should meet with the community that receives McKinney-Vento assistance to decide how service are provided to us. Many of us were adamant that Nancy Johnson's services are greatly valued by the community of McKinney-Vento Services in BUSD. 

In a move of bureaucratic disingenuousness and duplicity the District is now hiring two half-time positions, and has told Ms. Johnson her services were not being retained and her contract was unilaterally terminated. Ultimately, her stay was given until the end of March 28, 2013. 

The community of BUSD students and families are devastated by the District's move to terminate Ms. Johnson's contract. Her firsthand knowledge of the familial history of the many BUSD students receiving assistance under the McKinney-Vento, combined with the her unequalled institutional knowledge, are irreplaceable to the community. The termination of Ms. Johnson's service goes directly against the wishes of the students and parents at the School Board meetings. The parents and families are the people that receive; we know what services that we need/ 

Therefore, we are requesting that Ms. Johnson be retained until the end of the 2012-2013 academic year. In addition, according to BUSD's own statistics, approximately of 10 percent of BUSD students are are identified as students eligible for McKinney-Vento assistance under the act, and most of them are students of color. If the BUSD is serious about the shrinking the well-chronicled “Racial Achievement Gap”, people like Nancy Johnson are needed to assist the BUSD to provide a free and quality education to all of its students. 

We are asking that you support us in our goal by emailing Board Members Karen Hemphill., Josh Daniels, Judy Appel,, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler,, Juliette Mueller,, and Co-interim Superintendents Javetta Cleveland, and Neil Smith,, stating that you would like Ms. Johnson's contract extended until at least until the end of the 2012-2013 academic year.