In its first meeting since students returned to school, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) board pointed to several encouraging administrative developments, including an enrollment increase after several years of declining numbers.
During the current academic school year of 2023-2024, 3,085 students were enrolled in BHUSD schools. By comparison, 2,882 students enrolled in 2022-2023 and 2,983 enrolled in 2021-2022.
“These are the kinds of number we want to see,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said during the Aug. 22 school board meeting. “We’ve previously been trending down, but this is exciting that we are actually in an uptick.”
Bregy attributed the spike in enrollment, in part, to an increase in the district’s Transitional Kindergarten (TK) students.
The superintendent also praised his colleagues on the school board for their handling of the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Hilary, which prompted the closure of LAUSD schools on Aug. 21. While BHUSD officials closely monitored the situation, the superintendent, ultimately, determined to keep schools open.
“We took this very seriously,” Bregy said. “Every day of instruction counts. We knew we were safe, and that’s why we made that decision.”
The school board approved updated language to district policies and regulations, including the outlining of high school graduation requirements. The board approved making a one-semester ethnic studies course required beginning in the 2029-2030 school year. The topic of ethnic studies has been controversial, with state elected officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, weighing in to ensure curriculums are inclusive and without hate speech.
Based on a state law passed in 2021, high schools must begin offering ethnic studies courses in the 2025-2026 school year, and students in the class of 2030 will be the first subject to the requirement.
The board also approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between BHUSD and the Beverly Hills Education Association regarding Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher pay scale. With the approval of the MOU, any CTE teacher who has not earned a bachelor’s degree but possesses a California CTE credential shall be placed in Group I of the Teacher Salary Schedule beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
Midway through the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Dustin Seeman gave an informational update about the Norman Guide, which includes language addressing the ethical use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in school. According to the updated guide, “academic dishonesty includes submitting work written by another person or generated via Artificial Intelligence technology.”
The district sought to create an environment where AI is supporting student learning, not replacing it, Seeman said.
“We’re working with our students to make sure we aren’t kicking AI out of the equation but teaching our students to use it in an effective and efficient way,” Seeman said. “It’s a very helpful resource, 100%, and so we don’t want to deny that resource to students.”
Last year, the district purchased AI detection tools that can distinguish between original student writing and work created using ChatGPT, an AI-powered language model. Those detection tools include Turnitin.com.
Board Member Rachelle Marcus was encouraged that district staff members have taken steps to address the rapidly changing nature of education as AI usage becomes more widespread.
“I’m particularly pleased at the level of understanding and how [plagiarism using AI] will be treated,” Marcus said.
The school year is in full swing. Student board members highlighted upcoming events in the district, including a Beverly Vista Middle School carnival scheduled for Aug. 25 that’s organized exclusively for students at the school. Marcus said it will be “a fun day provided by the PTA.”
Additionally, BHUSD was preparing for the Aug. 27 “Beverly Hills Reads!” event, featuring retired Beverly Hills educator Julie Goler interviewing author Bonnie Garmus about her bestselling novel, “Lessons in Chemistry.” The event is taking place in person and virtually. While in-person tickets are sold out, those who’d like to watch the discussion online can tune in at Beverlyhills.org/live.
The Aug. 22 meeting wrapped a busy day for the school district officials. Before the evening meeting, the BHUSD board convened for a Study Session that outlined its goals as well as its strategic plan for the years ahead.
“It’s really gratifying to see the evolution of our strategic plan and how much focus and how clearer we’re getting each year,” Board Member Mary Wells said.
Upcoming BHUSD board meetings are scheduled for Sept. 12 and 26.