BIHS Graduation Seeking Solutions For Funding Struggles
Berkeley International High School (BIHS), one of the Small Learning Communities within Berkeley High School, has been experiencing problems with funding, in particular funding for the BIHS Graduation Celebration that will take place on June 8. Every year, BIHS plans the graduation to celebrate the completion of the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, as well as to create a sense of support and community within BIHS.
Richard Conn, the senior BIHS advisor, also said that “the amount [Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD)] is chipping in is less, so now we have to cover that gap.”
However, each year since BIHS had its first celebration event, more people — students, families, and teachers — attend. Having a growing community creates problems for funding. Previous years’ requests for a certain amount of money from BUSD may not be enough to support this year’s event.
Camille Fenn, Secretary for the senior BIHS Leadership team, explained; “Last year, BUSD funded a large portion of BIHS graduation. They paid for the venue, which itself was a lot of money. This year it seems like we’re relying more heavily on ticket sales”.
This year, and perhaps every year, the BIHS leadership team mistakenly believes they are completely responsible for raising the money needed for the BIHS graduation. Every year they are reminded that the City of Berkeley, along with ticket sales, would help pay for most or all of it. However, with BUSD subsidizing less and less of the BIHS graduation event, perhaps BIHS Leadership will have to start raising money in order to compensate for certain losses.
Last year, tickets were priced at fifteen dollars. This year that price has been raised to twenty dollars.
“I feel like twenty dollars seems to be that psychological barrier for students”, stated Conn. Indeed, twenty dollars is quite a hefty sum of money for the typical BHS senior, especially considering the year’s additional costs of Senior Prom, college applications, Advanced Placement (AP)/IB test fees, regular graduation tickets, looming college tuition fees, and the many other financial burdens seniors carry.
Conn believes the ticket prices should be affordable to everyone, and preferred that they were priced closer to the previous years’ tickets prices of fifteen dollars. He explained that if the tickets were priced at fifteen dollars instead of twenty dollars, he would be willing to have BIHS Leadership make up for the five dollar gap per student. The lower price would put less stress on students and their ability to attend.
Eli Wilson, a senior within the BIHS community, also believes that the ticket prices this year “are a little pricey” and “a little too high”. Wilson wished that “BIHS could come up with a price that was affordable to everyone.”
Conn explained, “The ticket prices for the BIHS graduation should not be high; they should be proportional to the prices of the whole-school graduation held at the Greek Theater.”
Conn was not sure what the prices of the Berkeley High graduation were, but said that “BIHS prices should ideally be a third of that price.”
The ticket pricing issue also bothered Fenn. “It’s frustrating”, began Fenn, “because we want to encourage people to go, rather than not come due to high ticket prices.”
Fenn explained that, ideally, the tickets could all be free, that way everyone can go and bring their families without trouble. There still would be trouble — quite a large amount— even if the ticket prices didn’t matter. Seating arrangements proved to be a hard obstacle to overcome.
The June 8 BIHS event plans to take place at the Pauley Ballroom, located on the University of California, Berkeley campus off of Bancroft and Telegraph. With lecture seating, the place can hold up to one thousand people, which BIHS could easily fit into with room to spare. However, the idea of everyone simply sitting in rows of chairs was immediately thrown out. The senior BIHS leadership team has been working hard the past few months, collaborating with the BIHS Parent Action Group (PAG) to figure out the ideal seating arrangements.
So far, the best idea has been to completely fill the room with round tables that seat eight comfortably, which would cut the capacity of the ballroom to six hundred people. The BIHS senior class is roughly two hundred students, which meant each student could only bring two people, excluding the number of BIHS staff that would be attending.
Tickets for BIHS graduation are being sold through Brown Paper Tickets. Currently, a student can purchase two tickets (tickes for themselves are free) and any purchase after two tickets is considered a donation. Roughly ten parents— and more are expected— have called or emailed BIHS Leadership because they are wondering if they will be able to bring an aunt, cousin, or grandmother to their son or daughter’s graduation. With news about the “two ticket policy” spreading, many families feel blocked from the opportunity of seeing their young relative get a BIHS sash and have the BIHS community celebrate their accomplishments.
Fenn shared her thoughts on the issue: “It’s frustrating for a lot of families, myself included. I have a younger brother who really wants to go, but my mom and dad are also coming. Some families also have divorced parents so a student could have four parents. The two ticket policy is meant to only invite your immediate family, but some people’s immediate families can be like, five people, not two.”
The BIHS graduation, although limiting family sizes, is limiting for a purpose. The tickets are being restricted in number not only because of the size capacity issue, but because the BIHS Leadership team decided to have an event that was more of a small community, not a large graduation feeling. As Conn put it, “We wanted to have something that’s more of a commemoration, not a graduation.”