Damage Control

By Meredith Maran — August 17, 2001 27 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print
Last December, the parents of 150 freshmen discovered that their kids were destined for failure at Berkeley High School. Some of them decided it was time for action.

When the bell rings at the start of fifth period, there’s one teacher—young, white, and female—and seven students, all African American boys, present in Heather Skibbons’ freshman English class. Seconds later, three black girls dash into the classroom breathlessly, stopping to sign the “tardy” list posted at the door.

“Hurry up and write down tonight’s homework, you guys,” Skibbons instructs her students. “Your mentors will be here in a minute.”

“I can’t! I broke my nail,” one girl moans.

At 23, the fresh-faced, willowy Skibbons looks more like a high school senior than a teacher, but her stern glance leaves little doubt as to who’s in charge on this February day. Duly warned, the girl and her classmates pull out their notebooks and start copying what’s written on the board:

“Read to p. 49 in Betsey Brown. Write 3 questions you have about the reading. EXTRA CREDIT: 1 page—what is RESPECT?”

Ten Berkeley High School seniors who volunteer as tutors file into the room. Each takes a seat beside a freshman. “We’re going to do a getting-to-know-you activity. I want you to write questions back and forth to your mentor,” Skibbons instructs. “It’s a silent activity,” she adds firmly.

“Do you like Berkeley High?” Kandis Session, a plump, round-faced freshman, writes in perfectly formed purple letters. She rips the page out of her binder, smiles at the tall, blond, crew-cut senior beside her, and hands it to him.

“Yes I do, the work is hard but when you get passed that, I have a good time,” he scrawls with a stubby pencil. “What is your favorite kind of car?”

“Eclipses and Navergator,” writes Kandis.

As students and mentors exchange notes, Skibbons circulates with grade book in hand, stopping to confer quietly with each freshman. “How’s it going at your dad’s this week, Kandis? Have you spent any time with your mom?” “Great job on your journal, David. You should try writing poetry—you’d be great at it.” She speaks to her students intimately, lovingly, her hands resting on their shoulders, her eyes meeting theirs.

At the back of the room, I sit stunned, thinking, How can Heather be a teacher already? I’ve known her since she was a freshman at Berkeley High herself: a friend of my older son, a high-achieving student horrified, as many of their crowd were, by the disparity in resources available to the school’s white, middle-class kids vs. its poor kids of color. It seems just yesterday Heather went off to UC Santa Cruz to study psychology, vowing to return to Berkeley High someday to make it a more equitable school. And now—equipped only with a hastily arranged emergency credential and the best of intentions—here she is, doing just that.

I’m thrilled to see the kids being given what study after study has shown they need: a student-teacher ratio that makes learning not only possible but likely.

But what shocks me even more is that I’m witnessing something I’ve never seen in my 15 years of observing and volunteering at this school—first as a journalist, then as a mother of two students, most recently during the 1999-2000 school year, when I was here every day researching my book, Class Dismissed, about the inequalities at Berkeley High. The kids in this room precisely fit the profiles of the students this country has never quite figured out how to educate: Most are African American males; many live in the harshest of family situations or not with families at all; and each one is at risk—already, as a freshman—of flunking out of high school.

Over the years, I’ve seen this school throw one failed remedy after another at kids like these: after-school tutoring, buddy systems, stricter attendance policies, waves of zero-tolerance expulsions. So I’m thrilled to see the kids in this room being given what study after study has shown they need: a student-teacher ratio that makes learning not only possible but likely and enables teachers to know and care about students and their families—broken nails, messy home lives, multiple guardians, and all.

Still, I wonder, Will what I’m seeing here eventually prove too good to be true? And can a novice teacher like Heather Skibbons—whose job description adds to the standard overload such extras as home visits, frequent phone calls, and providing access to support services for 10 families in varying states of need—do for these kids what veteran teachers have failed to do? Kandis, for instance, has flunked more classes than she’s passed in her 14 years, and her troubled home life has her moving from house to house.

But the program in which they’re both participating, at least for now, provides the levels of care, attention, and funding normally reserved for the elite—in other words, the wealthy, white kids—at Berkeley High. And, as I’ll discover later this year, such resources do make a difference in the lives of students historically left behind. Those resources, however, are limited, and just how hard a school, or a school district, advocates for them depends on who’s fighting for these kids and how loudly they’re yelling.

In Berkeley—perhaps the nation’s most famously multicultural, politically correct city, which sits just across the bay from San Francisco—the movement for change began with Parents of Children of African Descent. PCAD was formed at the end of the first semester of the 2000-01 school year, when a group of Berkeley High parents learned that half the school’s 300 African American 9th graders were failing English, math, and/or history.

For those who’d done the research, this statistic wasn’t surprising. Calling the racial achievement gap “the most important educational challenge for the United States,” a 1999 study by the College Board concluded that only 17 percent of the country’s black high school seniors were proficient in reading, 4 percent in math and science, and not one black student was advanced in those subjects. Other research has shown that black males are four times more likely than white males to be suspended or expelled from school and nine times more likely to be placed in special education classes. The consequences of these statistics are grim: In the United States today, one in three young African American men is in jail, on probation, or on parole. The Department of Justice projects that one in four black males born in the 1990s will end up in prison at some point in his life.

Black males are four times more likely than white males to be suspended or expelled from school and nine times more likely to be placed in special education classes.

The Berkeley Unified School District was the first in the nation to voluntarily desegregate its schools in 1968, and the New York Times has labeled Berkeley High “the most integrated high school in America"—with a 3,200-student population that’s 37 percent African American, 37 percent white, 11 percent Latino, 10 percent Asian, and 5 percent multiracial. But black students don’t fare better there than in any other school. In June of 2000, what had been considered a “dirty little secret” for decades was made public in a study by the UC Berkeley-sponsored Diversity Project. Four years of research revealed that the rates of student achievement at Berkeley’s only public high school varied significantly between low-income African Americans and affluent whites.

For example, while 87 percent of those in honors geometry (the highest 9th grade math track) were white, 83 percent of the students in math A (the lowest track) were African American. Of the 140 black male freshmen and 140 white male freshmen in the class of 2000, 18 blacks graduated with qualifications for admission to a four-year college, compared with 111 whites. And while many white graduates headed off to Ivy League colleges, 60 percent of the black male students had dropped out, flunked out, or otherwise disappeared before their senior year.

Armed with these statistics and the knowledge that their children would be the first graduating class to face California’s exit exam in 2004, the PCAD Steering Committee approached principal Frank Lynch just before Christmas break. We can’t let this happen again—not for one more semester, not to our kids, they told him. So Lynch challenged the parents to come up with a plan. They spent Christmas break doing exactly that.

On January 15, 2001—Martin Luther King Jr. Day—PCAD convened its first community meeting, a “stone soup luncheon” featuring a shared meal made from the carrots, yams, and onions contributed by those in attendance: an animated crowd of 75 African American, Asian, Latino, and white parents, grandparents, students, and teachers. Also on hand were the mayor’s chief of staff, the county’s superintendent of schools, and representatives from the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the school board, and the city council.

While the stew simmered in the kitchen, parent Katrina Scott-George summarized the PCAD Intervention Plan. Freshmen failing two or more core subjects would be invited to apply to an “alternative learning community” within Berkeley High, where they’d reenter 9th grade, this time in small classes supported by student mentors and taught by teachers hand-picked for their commitment to improving the achievements of at-risk students. Their school year would be extended through the summer, so they’d have a chance to catch up with their peers and be ready for 10th grade in September.

‘We want to build a network of parents reaching out to parents—supporting their kids’ education, making the school respond to their kids’ needs.’

Katrina Scott-George
PCAD member

Crucial to the plan, Scott-George explained, was the role of adults. “We want to create parent demand for education,” she emphasized. “We want to build a network of parents reaching out to parents—supporting their kids’ education, making the school respond to their kids’ needs.” Toward that end, each student in the PCAD program would be assigned an adult “learning partner” recruited from his or her family, school, or community. Parents and guardians would sign contracts requiring them to respond promptly to teachers’ calls home. A “We Care” campaign would be launched to counter what PCAD calls “the subculture among African American and Latino students that often penalizes success.”

All of this, Scott-George announced, must happen by the start of the new semester, which was just two weeks away. Oh, and one other thing: Half a million dollars must be raised, somehow, to pay for it all.

The PCAD spirit proved infectious. As the savory soup was served, parents, politicians, and neighbors volunteered their services. A few days later, the school board, declaring Berkeley’s achievement gap an emergency, allocated $100,000 from a reserve fund. The city kicked in $40,000 more, and private donors brought the total up to $184,000—far less than PCAD needed, but enough to get started.

Operating with limited funds and even less sleep, the PCAD parents spent the next two weeks recruiting students, hiring teachers, and finding classrooms. To get the kids, they had to contact each failing student’s home, then convince an adult to sign on as a learning partner. Five new teachers were hired, three of them, including Heather Skibbons, uncredentialed Berkeley High graduates. And because of the chronic space shortage at the school, those teachers were told they’d have to change rooms every period. But by the end of January, they were ready to go.

Hard to believe, but true: On the first day of Berkeley High’s second semester, the 50 9th graders who’d applied for the program showed up at 8 a.m., ready for class. Many were on time—and accompanied by parents, grandparents, or guardians—for the first time since the school year had begun. Greeting them with hugs, forms to fill out, and clearly stated ground rules were their teachers, who were eager to get started. Back in Berkeley after a post-college stint as a teacher’s assistant for at-risk kids in New York City, Skibbons had heard about the PCAD program from a former classmate who was one of its first recruits. “I got a lot out of Berkeley High, and I always thought I’d come back,” Skibbons told me soon after taking the job. “I really enjoy working with this particular group of kids. So when the opportunity presented itself, I took it.”

The details were explained to Skibbons during her only interview for the job: Along with the other non-credentialed teachers, she would need to apply for emergency certification. The salary would be based on the $28,000 standard for a starting teacher. And although class sizes would be small, each teacher in the PCAD program would be responsible for the lives, as well as the academic needs, of 10 students. That meant she’d have to build relationships with families and spend out-of-school time with kids as necessary. The progress and problems of all 50 students would then be discussed at weekly staff meetings and with families over the phone.

“I know that it takes that much to help kids who come into high school with so little,” Skibbons said. “I don’t think I could work at this pace forever—and I’m not sure I could do it at all if I had kids of my own. . . . But all the PCAD teachers are committed to giving it everything we’ve got, to see if we can make a real difference with these kids in a relatively short period of time.”

The students eventually named their program Rebound, comparing themselves to a basketball player who goes after a missed shot and gets off a new one.

The students spent their first week in orientation sessions attended by visiting city officials, community well-wishers, parents, and guardians. Whenever a student disrupted a class, an adult would take the child aside and deal with the problem as the class continued. Fights precipitated discussions about values, leadership, and what it means to create a new school culture. The students eventually named their program Rebound, comparing themselves to a basketball player who goes after a missed shot and gets off a new one.

“It’s like a new start for 9th graders who messed up,” 14-year-old Kandis Session tells me during her fourth week in Rebound, as she heads for lunch with Skibbons, her favorite teacher. “A lot of kids got up here to high school and started cutting school and stuff. I did that. But since I got in this program, I want to go to school!”

Kandis attributes her lifelong history of D’s and F’s to problems at home—adjusting to her parents’ separation, an uneasy relationship with her stepfather—and what she calls the “black kids’ social scene at school.” “The white kids are more serious about going to college,” she explains. “Their parents are big doctors and stuff like that, so they’re thinking, ‘Let me go be a big doctor.’ A lot of African American kids’ parents are on drugs or in jail, so they think they have more interesting things to do than going to college—like selling drugs, making quick money. That takes us off track of our schoolwork.’

Kandis is equally clear about why Rebound is helping, citing smaller classes and stronger relationships with teachers. Of Skibbons, she says: “We have the same birthday, so we have a special bond. She’s more like a friend than a teacher. I can talk to her about anything. Plus she’ll come to me and say, ‘You need to come in after school to work on your essay.’ Then she’ll just walk away, so I can’t argue—I just have to do it.’

Kandis is one of several Rebound students whose living situations have changed since joining the program. A few students, whose previously undisclosed abuse or neglect came to light, have been sent to foster care or group homes. Some moved in with relatives. Kandis moved from her mom’s house to her dad’s, in the hope that she’d be better able to focus on schoolwork.

“When we first signed her up, it was a commitment for all of us: me, Kandis, the teachers,” Kenneth Session tells me. “Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to be as involved as I’d like. I’m exhausted from working most of the time. But Rebound has helped Kandis tremendously. Her study habits are better. Her homework is always done now. She gets a lot of help, even when I don’t have time to help her.

“Kandis is a very intelligent little girl,” he says. “She may not be book smart, but she gets things figured out. If you keep the pressure on her, she’ll come out with flying colors. That’s what Rebound does for her—even when I can’t.”

By the end of Rebound’s first month, it’s too soon to measure results. Much of what takes place isn’t pretty. Some kids get distracted, get in fights, get suspended; some parents distrust the teachers, don’t show up for meetings, don’t return teachers’ calls. The PCAD Steering Committee, exhausted by its efforts even before Rebound’s first day, is still working late into the night to keep the program afloat. Teachers spend their days struggling to engage kids who’ve never been taught successfully, their nights and weekends building relationships with families who’ve had reasons not to trust them. And the upper-class mentors have been sent away because the classrooms are too chaotic, the curriculum too undefined for them to be of use.

“It was really hard and really depressing to be there,” says 17- year-old Ramona Gonzalez, a Berkeley High junior who volunteered to be a mentor because “I wanted to see if I should get my friends to protest the program or not. I thought it sounded like typical Berkeley crap: militant parents who weren’t taking responsibility for their kids demanding stuff from the district.”

A few days in Rebound not only changed her mind, but Ramona also says she was shocked by the level of need. “The kids didn’t have any study skills or writing skills,” she explains. “I don’t know how the junior highs let them go when they’re reading at the 4th grade level! The Rebound teachers are really cool, ambitious, and smart, but there was no structure. We’d just go in there and read to the kids every day. Finally the teachers told us we should come back in a couple of weeks, after they get their classes in hand. At first we were mad, but now they’re teaching us cool stuff: how to find out the grade level of a book, how to do a reading record. We’re learning a lot, so we’ll be prepared when they’re ready for us to come back.”

The teachers spend their days struggling to engage kids who’ve never been taught successfully, their nights and weekends building relationships with families who’ve had reasons not to trust them.

One month in, Skibbons acknowledges that her job is more challenging than she’d expected. Like Ramona, she’s shocked by the academic and emotional deficits of her students as well as the ways in which they continue to feel let down by the school. “When I ask the kids what’s needed at Berkeley High, the answer I get is more discipline, more security. My students say, ‘The school makes it so easy for us to fail when we walk out past the security guards and no one stops us.’” Skibbons grins wryly, then adds: “When I was a student here, I hated any kind of discipline. But to teach this group of kids, to make them feel like the adults care if they go to class or not—that’s exactly what’s desperately needed.”

Although she calls her job “the most rewarding work I’ve ever done,” it’s also extremely time-consuming. When several of her female students seemed especially depressed one week, she took them to the local marina that weekend. When Kandis was having a hard time at home, Skibbons took her for a Sunday hike. “The payoff is, I’m having relationships with people I never would have otherwise met at all,” Skibbons says.

Despite its flaws, Rebound is also showing other hopeful signs: Not one student, for example, has left the program, and every parent is talking to at least one Rebound teacher at least once a week.

“Our plan really is working,” Katrina Scott-George tells me in early March. A former engineer, mother of two, and one of the two African American teachers Rebound was able to recruit on short notice, Scott-George stepped in as the Rebound algebra teacher while continuing to serve on the PCAD Steering Committee.

“There’s such a history of distrust of Berkeley High by African American parents,” she adds. “They haven’t felt the school is interested in educating their children, so it’s been hard for them to present school positively to their children. Rebound is causing parents of color to believe that with their own advocacy of their own children, a school can work on their behalf. Long-term, that’s where our greatest hope lies.”

Three months later, on a warm night, 30 parents, students, and teachers are gathered in the same room where PCAD held its first meeting. Pacing herself, Skibbons is taking the night off. Kenneth Session is still at work, and Kandis is at her aunt’s house, doing homework and waiting for Dad to pick her up. “Before we start working on our students’ class schedules for the fall,” Scott-George says, “tell us: What’s going well? What’s not?”

“I’m getting a lot of contact from the teachers,” a mother says. “That’s working really well for me.”

“It seems like [my daughter’s] trying harder,” says another mother. “She’s doing her homework. And she expresses herself better. She thinks before she talks.”

“I’m at the point of frustration,” says a young man, the uncle of a Rebound student. “My kid gets dropped off [at school] at 8 a.m. every day, but he’s missing first and second period every day.”

"[My son’s] teacher called me and told me he’s goofing off in class,” says the only Latina in the room. “I told him, ‘If you don’t shape up, your dad’s gonna go sit in that class with you.’”

Laughter ripples across the room. “It’s hard, ‘cause we all work,” says a mother. “But maybe the parents need to take turns in the classes, make sure the kids know we got our eyes on them.”

“You know you’re always welcome,” Scott-George replies. She glances at her watch, then says, “OK. Let’s get to work on our students’ schedules.”

She distributes class-request forms, projects a sample onto the wall, and leads the parents through the complex process of choosing the right classes and teachers from among the hundreds listed in the inch-thick Berkeley High catalog. “We need to be very careful that our students get the credits they need to graduate,” she warns. “If we’re not, the counselors will fill their schedules with easy classes—proctoring, ethnic cooking, stuff that’s fun but doesn’t meet graduation requirements. You must demand time with a counselor to make a four-year plan for your student. Doing that sends a message to the student and to the school.

“You need to choose your student’s teachers,” she continues. “The students who are ‘connected’ at Berkeley High talk among themselves. You should know that their parents are having this conversation right now.” She passes out a sheaf of papers. “This is a list of the teachers who took part in the Diversity Project. We know these teachers are concerned with the issues that face our kids.”

An hour later, with the teachers’ help, the parents have completed and signed their kids’ fall schedules. “I know we’re all tired,” Scott-George says, “but before we go, I want to give you a progress report on our program.” The parents sit up, expectantly.

All 50 students are still participating in the program, she reports, but 15 are failing two or more classes and half a dozen have major attendance problems. “The good news is, we have 35 students who were failing and are now passing,” she adds. “We have several getting straight A’s. Some students have made a complete turnaround.”

She emphasizes the bonds that have been formed between Rebound families and the larger community. “We’ve been able to connect [students] with the services they need: housing, psychological support, eyeglasses, treatment for medical problems,” she explains. “We’ve had two incidents involving the police and four significant interventions in our students’ homes—one in the middle of the night. Two students have been placed into foster care.”

“The teachers have been exceptional,” Scott-George adds. “The way they’re working is not sustainable, but it’s worth it. I had students on Friday getting down on their classmates for not doing their homework!” She lets this bit of good news sink in. “We’re turning them around,” she says, “one by one.”

“That’s our boy she’s talking about,” David White’s mother, Renee, whispers to her husband, David Sr. They exchange smiles as they gather their things to go.

“My mother signed me up for Rebound ’cause, at the end of the first semester, I just dropped,” says David White, a tall, lanky 14-year-old who continues to wear basketball jerseys over sagging jeans, though his first-semester grades disqualified him from the team. “I used to be good at math, but when I got to Berkeley High I even failed that. I kept tryin’ to tell my algebra teacher I’d already taken that class. I needed to move up to geometry. But by the time I got her to believe me, I’d quit doing my homework or paying attention in class. I got all F’s and C’s. I ain’t never had a bad report card like that before.”

“And now?” I ask. David’s handsome face glows. “Straight A’s,” he says proudly.

Although David has traditionally done well in school, he’s been prodded along the way. When his mom felt that his elementary school teachers were disciplining him unfairly, she became a presence at school. When his grades started falling two years ago, she sent him to Catholic school until he caught up. And she’s the one who got him into Rebound.

David attributes his success in the program to the accountability his teachers demand. “Katrina,” he says, “writes things on my paper like, ‘You makin’ careless mistakes.’ If I don’t turn my homework in to Ms. Skibbons, she makes me bring it the next day, then she gives me half-credit. They know I can do better work than I’m doing. That keeps me on track.”

Skibbons calls it “the particular challenge of Rebound” to teach a classroom full of kids whose skills vary dramatically. “Some of the kids are on par with 9th grade; others have huge gaps in reading and writing,” she explains. “The discipline is really tough, too. . . . The outside forces that influence these kids are so strong. A lot of them have friends who hang out on campus all day and never go to class. Some of them go home to families that are on drugs. I had one kid who was homeless for a while. A lot of them have to take care of their little brothers and sisters. By and large, the ones who do the best tend to be the ones like David, who have incredibly supportive families.”

‘It’s bad to have to say this, but there’s a racial thing going on in schools, especially for the boys.’

Renee White,
Rebound parent

Renee White, a Berkeley High graduate herself, says Rebound has given back to her son what previous experiences took away. “It’s bad to have to say this, but there’s a racial thing going on in the schools, especially for the boys,” she claims. “David went from a highly confident, I-can-do-anything kid to a quiet, withdrawn, not-wanting-to-do- anything kid. But since he’s been in Rebound, he’s walking taller. He comes home and actually talks about school.”

“Even those hard-life kids can succeed with this program,” she says later. “My only worry is, what’s going to happen when they go back into the mainstream next year, when they’re back with the large classroom sizes and the people who don’t care about them?”

As the school year draws to a close, this is the $64,000 question. Because it’s not only this year’s Rebound kids who will be thrown back into the school that has already failed them. Next year’s crop of 9th graders—and all of Berkeley High’s 9th graders to come—will be, as well.

“Rebound will not continue next year,” Katrina Scott-George tells me in late May. “That was the original plan, and that’s what PCAD wants.”

She takes note of my surprise, then explains: “The PCAD Intervention Plan is not about a single program like Rebound. We were working to try and change how students are educated, to provide a model for student-family-school collaboration. We provided that model. What the district will do with what we’ve given them remains to be seen.”

After all the work Scott-George has put into Rebound, I’m taken aback by her sanguine response to the program’s demise. “Doing programs for small groups of students doesn’t fundamentally affect the school’s failure to educate all of its students,” she says. “Change on a bigger scale can only come about through creating parent demand for education. That’s why our plan for next year is to build on this group of parents we’ve established strong connections with.”

Maybe if the school had embraced Rebound as its own, she adds, PCAD could have focused on its primary task: turning parents into activist advocates for kids. But that, she says, didn’t happen. Despite repeated invitations to visit Rebound classes and to draw on its teachers as resources for working with at-risk students, administrators didn’t show up and mainstream teachers didn’t ask questions, Scott-George claims. Despite (or perhaps, because of) its successes, Rebound remained an isolated island in the big sea of Berkeley High.

Principal Frank Lynch denies that the school and district withheld their full support. “The Rebound folks are entitled to their feelings,” he says, “but the fact remains that the program is in existence and that without support from everyone things would have been difficult. Administrators have observed Rebound classes. The program will not be replicated as is, but a form of Rebound will exist next year.”

When I ask what form that might take, Lynch answers, “We’ll build a program into our 9th grade program that will identify students in need of help in the core curriculum areas.”

And, indeed, three weeks later he announces that Tracker, a scaled-down version of Rebound, will be available in the fall. Participating students, he says, will take the same kinds of classes. But one major ingredient—teachers hired specifically to run the program—will be missing. Why? Lack of funds.

Lynch’s announcement is made despite a positive report on Rebound’s successes. Speaking before the school board in late June, PCAD representatives explained that, as part of a control-group study, 30 Rebound students were compared with 30 failing students who had not participated in the program. While 29 students from the first group were failing English after the first semester, they reported, 11 were failing halfway through the second, compared with 26 from the control group. With regard to attendance, the 30 Rebound students accumulated 259 absences in math classes during the first half of the first semester, 121 during the first half of the second semester. Math class absences among the non-Rebound group, meanwhile, had grown from 268 to 464 during the same time periods.

“About 25 percent of our students have been significantly turned around,” Scott-George says of Rebound. “They have the tools that will allow them to be successful: the emotional ability, the study skills, the basic skills in math and English. Another group, about two-thirds of the kids, have made some kind of commitment to their own education. They might not have all the basic skills, but we can see huge changes in them. More than half of our students are going to be on track for graduation by the end of the summer.”

‘Unless I have teachers like Rebound teachers, I’m gonna have to keep going to my teachers till it gets on their nerves and they want to help me.’

David White,
Rebound student

But will that success carry over to next year? When I ask Kandis Session how she thinks the Rebound kids—most of whom are entering 10th grade this year—will do, she responds with characteristic optimism. “Everybody’s gonna do better, unless they get sidetracked,” she says. “We’ll have the techniques down. Plus, we got good and sick of doing everything over again this year. Next year is where it all counts to get into college. So I have to do good.”

David White is less positive. “Unless I have teachers like Rebound teachers,” he says, “I’m gonna have to keep going to my teachers till it gets on their nerves and they want to help me.” He doodles on a page of his journal, beneath where Skibbons has written: “Thanks for sharing, David! You totally made me laugh.” And then he sighs deeply and says, “I wish there was still gonna be a Rebound for us to be in next year.”

But there won’t be. And Heather Skibbons will not be back. After the summer’s over, she’ll travel to Mexico to become fluent in Spanish. “My new thing is thinking of my life in terms of theme, not career,” she explains. “My themes are youth and justice. I’ll try on a bunch more things, but I can definitely see coming back to teaching.”

And Scott-George will be a presence at Berkeley High, but not as a teacher. She’s going back to being an engineer, a parent, and a PCAD activist. Which, she believes, is not a bad thing. “For parents who believe that the school doesn’t have the interests of their children at heart, PCAD became the intermediary between the parents and the school,” she says. “We’ll continue to play that role next year.”


Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
English-Language Learners Webinar English Learners and the Science of Reading: What Works in the Classroom
ELs & emergent bilinguals deserve the best reading instruction! The Reading League & NCEL join forces on best practices. Learn more in our webinar with both organizations.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
Challenging the Stigma: Emotions and STEM
STEM isn't just equations and logic. Join this webinar and discover how emotions fuel innovation, creativity, & problem-solving in STEM!
Content provided by Project Lead The Way

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: February 7, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 31, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education Briefly Stated: January 17, 2024
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read
Education In Their Own Words The Stories That Stuck With Us, 2023 Edition
Our newsroom selected five stories as among the highlights of our work. Here's why.
4 min read
102523 IMSE Reading BS
Adria Malcolm for Education Week