Berkeley - The University of California, Berkeley, hopes to lure back K-12 teachers - long absent from its Summer Sessions -through a special program called "100 Scholars."
The program will allow that number of teachers from four select San Francisco Bay Area school districts to take summer courses at UC Berkeley at a substantially discounted rate.
"I think it's wonderful," said Cathie Kosel, an administrator in the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, as she headed into a meeting to discuss a district shortfall due to rising energy costs and other factors. "It's filling a very clear need when we need to train teachers and they don't have the money, and we (districts) don't have the money."
Not only are 100 Scholar teachers exempt from course and lab fees that often run from $100 to $400 per class, but they also get a $50 discount on their regular summer enrollment fee of $325. The $50 is being paid for the first time this summer by UC Berkeley's Office of Undergraduate Affairs.
That means teachers can take one class, or more, all for just $275. Considering that the average Summer Sessions student pays about $900 for five units, 100 Scholars offers teachers a big break.
Gary Penders, director of Summer Sessions, said the campus offered its first summer classes in 1900. Then, and for decades, teachers made up the bulk of summer students. But in the aftermath of tax-slashing Proposition 13 in 1979, teachers' salaries seemed to drop while other workers' pay increased, and some school districts that had subsidized teachers' summer classes instead launched cheaper in-service training to make do with less revenue.
"We lost the (teacher) market," Penders said of UC Berkeley's Summer Sessions.
So, he said, the 100 Scholars program is a way to "give something back to teachers who were our major market for so long. The Berkeley Pledge gave us the opportunity to do that."
The 100 Scholars program extends to teachers in the Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and West Contra Costa County unified school districts, which participate with the campus in the Berkeley Pledge. That nationally-recognized program focuses on strengthening K-12 education, improving teacher training and providing curriculum support.
Cal's Summer Sessions run from May 29-August 17. The eight-week session that starts June 25 and the six-week session beginning July 9 are the ones most likely to fit teachers' schedules, Penders said.
With approximately 14,000 students expected to attend Summer Sessions, he said he originally hoped that 100 Scholars would attract 1,000 teachers when it began last summer. But "what I suspect is that teachers are paid so poorly," he said, "that they have to work in the summer."
About 80 teachers signed up for the program last year, and if 100 Scholars draws 110 to 150 teachers this year, "that would be fine," Penders said. However, he hopes that a large mailing about the program being sent this week to teachers in the San Francisco and Oakland school districts will generate even more awareness and more students.
There are four sessions altogether - three, six, eight and 10 weeks long. More than 500 courses are offered in 65 academic disciplines.
Curious teachers can take general interest courses or classes that help them return to the classroom with a keener understanding or appreciation for their usual coursework, Penders said.
Several of last summer's scholars returned to their K-12 classrooms to share information they learned in a popular UC Berkeley course on Native American crafts, he said.
Kosel said more than 50 teachers from the West Contra Costa County district have signed up so far, a number of them with emergency credentials who are using the classes to make progress toward certification.
Kosel is taking two classes herself, one in acting and another in marketing. A UC Berkeley graduate from the Class of 1968, she said she's happy to come back. "It's a great place to be in the summer," she said, "hanging out, learning."