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February 8, 2013

In this issue: “Teachers Across Berkeley” on March 7th, Tax Information for Teachers, Grants and Fellowships Available to Teachers, and More….

BFT and BCCE Stand Together for Fair Compensation

Members from both the certificated and classified unions showed their strength and unity at the January 23rd School Board meeting. With 85 BFT and BCCE members in attendance, we sent a clear message to the Board that the best way to maintain critical programs in Berkeley schools is to invest in staff. As we continue our contract campaign, the more visibility we have, the more successful we are in showing the School Board our unity and strength. If you can, please attend the first portion of the School Board meeting on February 27th (7:15-8:15.) You do not need to speak; your presence in your BFT t-shirt is enough. If you can attend on February 27th, please email 

March 7th- Teachers Across Berkeley Action-Please Plan to Participate

Mark your calendar for a fun and collaborative action. Please give one hour of your time with your colleagues after school and reach out to the community to gain their support for our struggle for a fair contract. Site teams of teachers will approach businesses and ask them to display the BFT placard in their windows, in support of our contract campaign. For now, put Thursday, March 7th on your calendar and look to your site rep for more information to come. 

General Membership Meeting- March 14th

Please join us at the Berkeley Adult School (1701 San Pablo) for a general membership meeting Thursday, March 14th, at 4:00pm. All BFT members are encouraged to attend for an update on negotiations and our contract campaign. Snacks will be provided. 

BFT Gains Support for Special Education Teachers

BFT successfully negotiated an agreement with BUSD for financial support for teachers who wish to get the new Added Authorization in Special Education-Autism Spectrum Disorders. Special Education teachers who wish to do the coursework to gain the AASE will now be reimbursed up to $1500. If you are eligible, you will have received information from BFT and BUSD.

BFT Offers Social Justice Service Learning Grants

As the César Chávez commemoration period and Harvey Milk Day approach in the spring, we encourage teachers to take advantage of BFT’s Social Justice Service Learning Grant. This grant funds materials that teachers may need to teach lessons about social justice. Please see our website for the very brief and easy-to-complete application.

AFT Grant for Higher Education for You or Your High School Senior

Are you continuing your education? Do you have a child who is a senior in high school with plans to attend college? AFT can help! As part of the Robert G. Porter Scholars Program, the AFT offers four $8,000 scholarships to high-achieving high school seniors who are the dependents of AFT members. And 10 grants of $1,000 each are available to AFT members from all divisions who are seeking continuing education in their field of work. This is a great way to move over on the pay scale. The application deadline is April 1st and applications can be found at:

Community Forums for Superintendent Search

As BUSD moves forward in the search for a superintendent, they will be engaging the community through a survey, community forums, and several key stakeholder focus groups to develop interview questions and criteria for best-fit candidates. These will assist the School Board and the executive search firm, Ray & Associates, in identifying top candidates for the District. We encourage BFT members to attend the following community forums: 
  • Thursday, February 28th, at Malcolm X School - 1731 Prince Street, 7-8:30 p.m.; 
  • Friday, March 1st, at King Middle School - 1781 Rose Street, 7-8:30 p.m. (in Spanish); and
  • Saturday, March 2nd, BUSD Administration Building, 2020 Bonar Street Room 126, 9:30 – 11 a.m.

March 1st Deadline for Sabbatical and Leave of Absence Requests

If you are an eligible teacher and want to apply for a partially-paid sabbatical leave, or you plan to request a full-time unpaid leave of absence for the 2012-2013 school year, you must notify the Human Resources Office by March 1st .We strongly recommend that you check the FAQs on the BFT website for more information. Both FAQs can be found on our website under “Resources-Forms”.

Change (and Error) in Benefits Deductions

Please note that changes in health benefit deductions, including increased benefit deductions, were supposed to take effect beginning in the January 31st paycheck. However, they were incorrectly made in the December check. BUSD compensated for that mistake by deducting your 2012 amount from your January check. Starting with your February paycheck, the 2013 rates will be deducted. A chart of benefit deductions for 2012 and 2013 can be found on BFT’s website. 

BPEF Summer Fellowship Opportunity

Berkeley Public Education Foundation (BPEF) is pleased to announce its 2013 Summer Fellowship program to encourage teachers to undertake a significant summer learning project of their choosing, one that will add greater depth, understanding, and breadth of perspective to their teaching practice. To learn more about the Fellowship, eligibility requirements, and application procedures, go to and click on the “Grants” tab.  The application deadline for the Fellowship is March 4, 2013.

Deadline for Filing 2012 Flexible Spending Account Reimbursement

Reminder: Those with money still left in their Flexible Spending Accounts have until March 15, 2013, to submit claims for reimbursement for expenses incurred in 2012.

Free Tax Filing Services Available

The IRS offers free online tax filing at if you made less than $57,000 in 2012. The United Way’s “Earn It, Keep It, Save It” program also offers free tax assistance to low- and moderate-income households at  As a reminder, your BFT dues are 1.4% of your gross income. 

Berkeley Community Mourns the Loss of Tamra Kesler

Retired teacher Tamra Kesler passed away in January after a struggle with cancer. She recently taught at BHS as well as Malcolm X, Willard and BAM. Tamra was devoted to her students and was a very active BFT member, serving as a site rep and Grievance Committee member. 

Calendar of Coming Events

February 15th Lincoln’s Birthday Holiday - No School
February 18th President’s Day Holiday - No School
February 27th School Board Meeting, 7:15-8:15 p.m., 2134 MLK Jr. Way - Wear your BFT t-shirt!
March 7th Day of Action - Teachers Across Berkeley (after school)
March 14th General Membership Meeting - 4 pm Berkeley Adult School