The People Must Be Heard About Nancy Johnson

Bad News Bruce - Posted on 12 March 2013

We Need the Community to Speak Out about the Termination of Homeless Coordinator Nancy Johnson

On September 19, 2012, low-income parents at the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) spoke out against the cutting of funds for the McKinney-Vento Act from $34,000 to $17,000.  The McKinney-Vento Act is a statute to assist families facing housing issues because of a lack of resources in the education of their children. The proposed cut came amidst an economic depression.

In the following months, many community members came to the BUSD School Board meetings, and sent numerous emails to the Co-interim Superintendents (Javetta Cleveland and Neil Smith) requesting the BUSD increase the funding for the McKinney-Vento Act and to continue the contract of Ms. Nancy Johnson.

Ms. Johnson has been the Homeless Coordinator for the BUSD for the last 15 years, and has been a valuable asset to families and students receiving assistance under McKinney-Vento Act.  As a retired teacher, employee at Berkeley Oakland Support Services, and resident of Berkeley, she has a vast reservoir of knowledge pertaining to issues of class, race and homelessness. Her institutional knowledge on the McKinney-Vento Act in the BUSD is unparalleled.

As a result of the community's voice and vigilance, the BUSD Board Members decided that the District Staff should meet with the community that receives McKinney-Vento assistance to decide how services are provided. Many of us were adamant that Nancy Johnson's services  are greatly valued by the community.

In a disingenuous move of bureaucratic duplicity, the District hired two half-time positions, and unilaterally terminated Ms. Johnson's contract.  She was given until the end of March 28, 2013.  This move by the BUSD was beyond the boundaries of our wildest imagination. We did not request Nancy Johnson's termination as the Homelessness Coordinator.  We requested the opposite. This action goes against the spirit and intent of the McKinney-Vento families, students, and community.  We are requesting the BUSD cancel this irrational response to our call for additional resource for the McKinney-Vento Act.

The community of  BUSD students and families are devastated by the District's move to terminate Ms. Johnson's contract.  Her first hand knowledge of the familial history of the many of the BUSD students receiving assistance under the McKinney-Vento Act, combined with her unequaled institutional knowledge are irreplaceable to the community. The termination of Ms. Johnson's services goes directly against the wishes of the students and parents at the School Board meetings. The parents and families know what services they need. Therefore, we are requesting that Ms. Johnson be retained until the end of the  2012-2013 academic year. 

According to BUSD's own statistics, approximately 10 percent of BUSD students are identified as eligible for assistance under the McKinney-Vento Act, and most of them are students of color. If the BUSD is serious about shrinking the well chronicled “Racial Achievement Gap," people like Nancy Johnson are needed to assist the BUSD in providing a free and quality education to all of it students.

We are asking that you support us in this goal by emailing Board Members stating that you would like Ms. Johnson's contract extended until at least the end of the 2012-2013 academic year. Contact them at: Karen Hemphill,, Josh Daniels,, Judy Appel,, Beatriz Leyva-Cutler,, Juliette Mueller,, and Co-interim Superintendents Javetta Cleveland, and Neil Smith,


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