Jim Slemp, principal of Berkeley High School, said today he plans to retire at the end of this school year. The announcement was made at this morning’s public announcements at the school.

Slemp has been at the center of this year’s controversy over the future of extra time for science labs at BHS. He proposed in December to eliminate the 0 and 7th period science labs and reallocate the funds to “equity grants”, designed to narrow the large academic achievement gap at the high school. When the proposal was passed by the BHS School Governance Council, Slemp declared he did not need BUSD School Board approval for the change. That set off a heated debate, which has been extensively covered here on Berkeleyside (click here to access all of our BHS science lab coverage).

Slemp is in his sixth year as principal at BHS. He has been a consistent and vocal supporter of the small school program at the high school. The idea of the small schools germinated before Slemp’s arrival, but he oversaw the launch of the reorganization in 2005.

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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  1. 2009 grad,

    Ghetto is spelled with a H.

    Since you were a freshman in 2005, you missed the transition of the “ghetto gate” and the actions that were undertaken to change that environment. During your BHS years was the basement of C building referred to as the dungeon? I think that changed too.

    2nd chance, try 3rd or 4th chance ! It is not up to the principal to play favorites or chose which students get a pass after committing a serious crime. State law and BUSD policy directs the principal in these student conduct matters. By choosing to protect some kids Slemp practiced discrimination against others. Thanks for backing me up on that assertion, since I have long said Slemp practiced arbitrary and unfair discipline, cooked the books, failed to properly document suspensions and expulsions data, and is the reason the district wasted so much money administratively due to the consent decree. And you think we should be proud of his leadership?

    I will avoid responding to the rest of your rationalizations, which are not unfamiliar to me, but reminiscent of the twisted, confused “logic” in the students’ postings following the Express expose about “out of control” parties showing a serious lack of ethics and morals.

  2. Laura,

    The speakers you refer too that gave the speech got second chances. I know one student turned his life around and is going to college Trust me i know both individuals and they have come a long way. Slemp has done a lot for the school for BHS. Your not a student so you don’t understand. There is no such thing as the getto gate. And for selling drugs come on you its berkeley its everywhere not just in the so called “getto side”. And for the WSB gang shit happend. Im sorry reality is harsh you cant expect everything to be perfect. I feel like you need to get informed more. If you were a student you would understand. Being in Berkeley high has prepared me for the real world. Talk to students from different ethnicity. your just looking out for your kid (which is understandable)but you cant do that. Theres many students and parents that like slemp for what he has done. Now ask your self could you do the any better? i know if were the principle and told both of the students they could not speak, hell would go down. The students in berkeley have a mind of their own. They would retaliate against you riot and cause hell. I know his because i was one of the student leaders and i spoken to many students bout situation like this. Once slemp leave i wish BHS good luck cause its not gonna be the same without him.

  3. Kate,

    I missed clarifying about the gate in the previous response. The new painted metal gate was not installed prior to the completion of campus green, and during 2003/04 the safety committee parents continued to push for the improvement since the backside of campus was still easy to access with the damaged chain link fence and gate.

    I mentioned the gate since it was another environmental improvement reducing security problems. Jim did not consider securing the perimeters or keeping non-students off campus important. Yet non-students routinely entered campus.

    Another fact,
    In 2006 the police started a new practice of collecting names of non-students trespassing on campus. Only one of safety officers would participate. Cross checking of the names with crime incidents revealed at least 5 young people over a two month period arrested for armed and strong armed robberies along Milvia and in south Berkeley.
    In other words, non-students trespassing are a definite threat to students, read my 2007 commentary Berkeley Daily Planet for more information.

    Kate, I remember when you ran the etree and Jim Slemp selected you to replace the PTSA newsletter editor. I had previously consider you to be a democratically oriented parent volunteer.

    The comment about the campus green was in response to the district claim that Jim Slemp lead the campus beautification projects. As you correctly state, he was not on yet here.

    I stand by my statements.

  4. Kate,

    Read the district noticing claiming Jim Slemp was responsible for the campus beautification.

    And yes I know all about the grand opening, remember I transported the food for the grand opening.

    I also organized with Cynthia the PTSA Welcoming reception for Jim Slemp.

    Challenging facts? I doubt it.

  5. Laura,
    Your posts are continually factually-challenged.

    “It was parents who ensured the campus green was built, thanks Cynthia Papermaster. It was parents who ensure the gate went up on Bancroft entrance, (known as the ghetto entrance and easy access for drug sales on campus)”

    Both of those things (the campus berm and the gate) happened BEFORE Jim Slemp was hired — or indeed, even applied for a job. Yet you imply that he somehow tried to block these things. Yes, Cynthia Papermaster was a driving force in getting the green elements added to the campus. But that had nothing to do with Jim Slemp.

    He arrived in time to be part of the grand opening but as he was only hired until mid-August of 2003 and all the landscaping was completed by the opening of school. It’s just not possible that he was involved with that.

    Fact-checking is a good thing

  6. Porcelina,

    Slemp does not deserve any credit for improved security at BHS, despite the district and high school public relations campaign. People are entitled to their opinions but the not their own facts. And the facts of Slemp’s administration of BHS security describe a trail of negligence, obstructionism and pandering to criminals.

    It would have been wonderful if when Slemp came on board in 2003 he actually cared about school safety issues, then maybe us mere parents would not have had such a horrible time.

    Beyond the public relation, on the ground even in the first few years Slemp was viewed as an principal who preferred to delegate. But as the failures mounted, he was seen as someone who punted and was protected by the previous Supt.

    During Slemp’s tenure the state dept of education was prepared to audit BUSD in 2008 because of discrepancies in BHS incident data reporting, lack of compliance with school culture programming and school safety plans. Did you know Slemp had security officers remove a parent from an open school safety meeting? He did not want that parent talking; she did not want other family to experience the nightmare they did. After her teen returned to school following a hospitalization from an battery committed by a group of students/non-students, the victim saw the group leader, a known WSB gang member, daily on campus. Slemp refused to meet with the parents of this victim at all. So we took a half dozen parents to a 2×2 meeting and spoke at public comment to humiliate the district, thus forcing Supt Lawrence to make Slemp meet with the parents. During the meeting Slemp told the six mothers they were liars.

    Did you know he tried to take over the parent funded newsletter since he did not like articles that exposed students drug and alcohol data from the CHKS? Again we sought outside help to address his abuses, in this case the county PTA president.

    To clear up just some of the confusion:
    It was the installation of the surveillance system in 2000 that shifted the violence off-campus and made cases against offenders stick with video evidence. Not Slemp!

    The reestablishment of city cops policing the downtown and park was the result of our desperate pleas at 2×2 meetings and targeted advocacy. Again, news stories cover these efforts and developments, because we always used the media in our advocacy. Always missing from any effort to address improvement was Jim Slemp.

    The other major reason was also environmental, D building. Former Supt Jack McLaughlin can explain one of the intentions of the building design was to change the pattern of problem activity on Milvia side. Prior to the construction mob fights and muggings mostly occurred on Milvia St.
    Slemp’s nickname by cops who had firsthand experience with him on administrative security issues was “good news only”. It was parents who ensured the campus green was built, thanks Cynthia Papermaster. It was parents who ensure the gate went up on Bancroft entrance, (known as the ghetto entrance and easy access for drug sales on campus) Believe me, we were all greatly disappointed to be stuck with a principal who was actually working against school security and did not see to connect what is commonly known about school reformers, that environment affect achievement.

    And before anyone thinks I am too strident in my views, try putting in a decade of unpaid volunteerism and advocacy. And then watch the public relations lies cover up what this community needs to face if they ever intend to actually correct the failures. As one school board members said recently, “things are getting worse, and I am tired of banging my head against the wall, since there are so many incompetent people in key positions”.

    Transparency would go a long way in this regard. For instance we don’t need a federal grant (yes they are applying for one) to get the lazy safety officers to supervise students truant in the park. I have already resolved this policy conflict three times in front of three police chiefs, three different high school principals, three different Sgt youth services, three Supt and the two Mayors. The education code is very clear on this. Yet under Jim Slemp, none of dozen or so security officers go downtown during lunch or bother to monitor the park in any routine manner. And we are paying for this.

  7. Well if this was Chicago – Mr. Slemp could retire as planned and stay on as a consultant until a serious candidate was put into place. This is a great gig for administrators forced out. Berkeley hasn’t seen anything yet. I hope the powers that be have their criterea ready and volunteer panels go thru applications. This principalship is critical to this city.
    Good Luck!

  8. Never ending bickering over small schools? It’s only gotten worse over the past 7 years, as Mr. Slemp has taken money designated for the large school and given it to small schools, where teacher loads are drastically less than elsewhere. He has illegally packed the school governance council with small school advocates rather than follow state and local regulations. Academic proficiency rates of all BHS students have declined dramatically in every area under Mr. Slemp’s tenure while teacher turnover rates have increased significantly. I remember the fire, the revolving door of principals (how about the one who threatened to sue the student newspaper for liable?), and the triumvirate of vp’s that ran the school. And kids were learning more under those conditions, when there was double-period science and some small measure of commitment to academic standards. Mr. Slemp has bullied teachers who disagree with his ideas on equity, instituted ideological litmus tests, treated parental concerns with total disdain, refused to analyze data in the redesign brouhaha, forced kids to take a second semester of a course in which they failed the first semester, and operated the high school as his personal fiefdom instead of a public institution. Give me a revolving door any day.

  9. Made my day. It couldn’t have happened soon enough. Any school administrator who thinks “equity programs” are more important than science labs should go spend his retirement years in Kansas.

  10. It sounds like Mr. Slemp has not done everything right, but my kids were at BHS during the years before he came, and things were so very much worse then. Remember the fires? The parade of one-year principals? The neverending bickering over small schools vs. one school? The constant incidents of violence? Berkeley High School’s reputation has improved dramatically over the last few years, and I think Mr. Slemp deserves much of the credit. I certainly hope that by the time my youngest starts BHS in a few years we have not regressed to the pre-Slemp state.

  11. Right on Thomas,

    For a contrasting perspective on developing effective schools which actually support student success check out KQED Forum program this morning broadcast about a well ordered and administered high school in San Jose serving primary Latino students. Really nice to hear the kids tell it like it is, instead of mimic a bunch of stale inauthentic political posers statements.

    Question: Can be Berkeley get REAL? or is the deranged arrogance transmitted in the water?

  12. One quick thing for the record and then an observation:

    Somewhere in the earlier threads I commented that it would be a damn shame if the backlash against the quite plausible proposal to shorten the bell schedule forced Slemp out. For the record, I still think that *would* have been a shame but now don’t think that that’s what has happened. The bullet holes in Mr. Slemp’s foot appear to have come from a gun held in his own hand (e.g., Ms. Menard’s remarks above).

    The observation:

    Now there is an interesting crisis and opportunity. There is not much time between now and September to find, recruit, and vet a replacement. The budget is a train wreck. The board, besieged and struggling to make progress. The curriculum a palpable failure for far too many students. The faculty factionalized and entrenched along the lines of the small schools fight. The governance council mired and controversy and structural problems.

    Is 2010-2011 going to be a muddle-through, do little year? Or have the floodgates of changed opened up? If the latter, whence will leadership emerge?

    One interesting alignment of circumstances here are the governance council’s problems plus the now formalized leadership vacuum. On the one hand, there is an established need for more organized, energetic, and authoritative participation in governance by parents and students. On the other hand, there is a need for leadership. Hint, hint.

  13. Not Soon enough!

    The school board had actionable information years ago and failed to provide oversight. Slemp is leaving because his contract was not renegotiated.
    Jim Slemp’s legacy will continue to cause harm for years to come because he is only one head of the hydra he and his allies placed in key positions
    during his tenure.

    One more example of just how deranged Jim Slemp is:

    BHS Graduation speakers 2009:
    Slemp protected the student arrested in spring 2008 for armed robbery of another student in Civic Center park from expulsion in violation of state law. He allowed this felony offender to return the following year as a senior rather then send him to the continuation program, and then he rewarded him by choosing him to speak at the graduation ceremony.
    The student’s speech was full of inaccuracies.

    Another speaker was on probation for robbing my son. My son’s education and well being was badly affected when Slemp retaliated against us for bringing to the administrators attention violent threats against my son as the snitch.